This article is the first among the four-part series on “Travel Solo in Singapore”.
Sitting on the plane at about 10 at night, I took a gulp for what it took to let my parents allow me to be on the plane; to let me travel all by myself. I had my colleagues along with me but not friends, I mean my go-to-gang. This gulp definitely deserves a short backstory. And so do my mates.
After reading articles on other blogger’s solo travel experiences, I wanted to opt for one as well. Also, I craved for getting the time to just be all by myself to know myself more than then. I got this opportunity from my university’s study abroad programme. It was just generally mentioned to my mom once. The next day I had received her call while in college that my dad had agreed to the trip. I was amused way more than happy.
In school itself, I had realized that traveling is essential for me. It is something I would work for, and something I need before I can start to work with passion. It’s more than just a caffeine addiction. I have traveled a lot with my parents, but never alone. I believe being the one-in-eleven single child has also served a bit to their over-protective love for me. They solve my problems way ahead of its arrival. Parents are such, they do as much possible to not let us compromise, keep us happy and ensure our security.
I hadn’t ever been away from mom more than 2-3 days, that too not more than five times. I have been highly dependent on her for these nineteen years. Consequently, my parents wanted to stay with me; added to it their awareness of the minimal interaction I had with my roommates-to-be classmates. Yet I wanted to experience staying with them to know how well could I go along with someone with a totally different lifestyle and preferences. My parents’ concern did gain confirmation when the girls wouldn’t cooperate in packing until it was time to leave for the airport (literally? yes). I had to convince them.
Finding an apartment isn’t as easy as I had imagined. Especially, when three people put forth their varied budgets. While I wanted to ensure all the basic facilities were being offered indeed, my to-be roommates cared about the apartment’s aesthetics in the pictures. They also looked into its proximity to Little India where they planned to eat Indian cuisine every day. This wasn’t my preference as I planned to try varied cuisines instead of sticking to one.
So after a lot of hustle and bustle, I was there in flight. Unaware of the upcoming adventures of life, I completed the tradition we always followed. I quickly called my parents and my grandmom to inform I had safely been seated; 8 minutes until its flight which I was informed of not by any in-flight announcement but my aviation-lover friend who tracks the flight of everyone he knows. (He gets tensed when flights delay).
Meanwhile, my roommates at the back called their parents. One of them broke down as her mom did on the phone. I was glad I hadn’t had to see my mom cry, I don’t know how I would have reacted. She was prepared for it. She is the strongest women I have ever known; my inspiration to gather the courage to pursue my ambitions. She was also busy in taking dad’s care as he had twisted his leg pretty severely the previous night.
That moment I had no feelings in specific. I wasn’t nervous, scared or excited, nor there was any feeling of void inside. It felt too normal to be normal. It was probably for I have always but today been the restless one. I was calm. I was observing around and felt the presence of known faces but those with whom it had been years’ interval from an interaction. Arnav had said this to be a sign of being stressed; though I wasn’t. I decided to sleep after attempts of watching movies from a limited and out of preferred genre collection offered.
I woke up to realize that there still remained an hour for my flight to land. As I tried to sleep back in happiness, there came an announcement.
“Kindly fasten your seat belts. The flight is going to land”
What? Why? I look at my the time on my watch for about 10 times and I’m still not sure is it my dire need to sleep or the reality. The flight was going to land at six instead of seven, its supposed time. This was fun as I moaned for going into Air India which is known for its delayed flights. Though, today it was a Dreamliner A380. Expectations were definitely high.
It was officially the start of my week 1 in Singapore, and the week I made my first big choice. Being a lover for scents, I went to shop for perfumes at the duty-free while others preferred to make thier first cash flow on alcohol. Everyone else was clearly looking forward to the house parties that would have been otherwise curfewed upon by their parents in their home country. It was their expression of freedom, extremely different from mine. The difference was my first choice, the lifestyle to choose.
With a late check-in time on the cards, we had decided to stay at the pre-arrived guys’ penthouse of eight. There started our nights of endless house parties with initial few days devoted just on shifting to a new place as the previously booked reminded us not to judge a book by its cover. While my Uber bills increased exponentially, I had a feeling of losing on my days in Singapore as if it were the sand in my fist.
Apart from college, I was here to travel. I wanted to wander if possible then, wander on every street. I was also looking for some peace that I felt lost temporarily, within me or somewhere else was still to be figured out. If my mornings were for college, nights for get-togethers where others enjoyed their drinks and cigarettes, and rest of the day in watching them cure their previous night’s hangovers; this was definitely not going my way. I made my choice in favour of what I craved. I chose to be all by myself and travel the way I want.
It wasn’t as easy as said. From being accompanied or looked after all my life, I had reached somewhere where my choices, preferences and decisions were just for me and by me. No one was there to be my influencer or advisor. With the increased amount of money in hand, I felt a responsibility to use it judiciously. My reflexes had naturally made me adopt the mantra to check where I was spending and if my expenses were worth it. Not initially rather gradually I realised managing money needed an adequate recording of all my economic transactions. Maintaining a ledger on Google Sheets got my job done without any stress on where my money was flowing indeed.
Also, getting a NETS card lowered my burden as it works everywhere one may go. Whether it’s eating, commuting or shopping. In fact, there are places where VISA payments weren’t accepted, but only NETS worked.
When basic necessities came in, food was acing the list. I had never cooked regularly. I just knew how to prepare desserts, about 2-3 basic Indian curries, rice, rotis and parathas. But, I couldn’t have devoted a lot of time to cooking, given my current on-going division of schedule. Making an Indian meal for one felt time-consuming and tedious. I survived on instant noodles like Maggie, pasta and McD’s $5 Veggie Crunch meal in week 1, but it was alarming for my health. I needed a balanced diet for the long run. Also, I had just brought along with me my Hershey’s chocolate spread, Taj Mahal tea bags, almond powder, masala tea powder, and Haldiram’s Bhel puri packets.
Since I lived near Orchard Road, I found two Cold Storage(s) where I purchased my weekly ingredients. One in Plaza Singapura, near Dhoby Gaut MRT station and another in Orchard CentrePoint, near Somerset MRT Station. I made sure to buy two litres of Meiji pasteurized milk, a loaf of multi-grain bread, a box of any berries (Cranberries/ Strawberries/ Blueberries/ Raspberries), a few cans of flavoured low-fat yoghurt, butter and at least one snack that ensured my sodium intake and one chocolate to serve as an energy booster. I had also purchased a packet of quick-rolled oats from the Mustafa Centre in Farrer Park, Little India. So, I had a well-planned menu set up for my breakfasts and some dinners as well. You can see my recipes [here]. I always went to eat-out for lunch. [Hawker Centres] turned out to be the go-to options for cheap but decent-tasting food for vegetarians. Non-vegetarias apparently had wider and tastier variety available with tSingapore’s local food available as well. Since, Singapore’s actual menu consists of only non-vegetarian options like their famous chili crabs, there were restaurants that were not offering vegetarian at all. However, Thai cuisine turned out to be my saviour there.
In Singapore, one may find 7-eleven easily available as well, but shopping there is pretty expensive as compared to supermarkets like Cold Storage and FairPrice. Mustafa Centre is also a great choice to shop for daily necessity items. I found the groceries being sold in Little India be far cheaper than the supermarkets I mentioned. The astonishing element during my first grocery shopping ever was to notice that the tomatoes being sold in Little India were actually cheaper than those being sold in India itself! Haha. I witnessed there a wider variety of quality-rich products in Singapore as compared to those in India. The Singaporean markets comprised products from the American market as well. The higher cost of living seemed a less of an issue.
With so many plans at hand, I started trying all the possible ways to commute to Singapore and find the best suit for me. But I ended up loving all of them for they were super convenient! I loved the LRT buses though. Its routes took me to places I might not have thought of checking out myself or just would never know about their existence. Still, I opted to walk up to most destinations while I enjoyed the scenic views and a healthy air to breathe in. I picked up a few maps along the way to assist me in my journey.
Traveling is an addiction of good. It helps one to see the world beyond social media. Of course, you would have to once push yourself initially to stop using social media to travel, but wouldn’t it be worth the effort?