It is funny that travelling alone for me is such a BIG DEAL! If you are a seasoned traveller, you must be laughing at how deeply I feel about my first solo travel. I really encountered so many things in my trip, I feel I need to share my learnings here.
1. Missed connecting flight
As much as I feared about missed connecting flights, it really happened to me! What luck I had! My stopover at Hong Kong airport had the entire plane grounded for 2 hours! Calculating time difference of 13 hours to my intermediate destination in the United States, I only had less than an hour to clear the US customs to make it to boarding the domestic flight!
Even though I had a connecting flight and was about to miss it, there was no short cut to the long snake queue to clear immigration. I did run from the plane to immigration, but seeing no chance of jumping queue, I just had to accept it and get the next available connecting flight.
The next flight was 5 hours away and would see me reach my destination at 12 midnight. Luckily the person who was coming to pick me up was unbelievably nice! He waited for 5 hours to fetch me at the airport and then drove me 1 hour to my hotel with no complaints.
I realized that missing connecting flight is really not such a big deal although it causes inconvenience and delay to the entire schedule. One important thing to remember is to have the phone numbers of your contact persons readily in your mobile and on hard copy for double assurance. Before you go, always check with your mobile operator for roaming activation. Know how to make calls from overseas. For instance, if you are in US calling a mobile phone number, you need not dial the country code. Check your Skype credits and useful apps before you go too.
2. Be aware of your surroundings
When you travel with someone, you tend to let your guards down and know that you have each other to look out for. I rely alot on Kel whenever I go overseas with him. But now that I am on my own, I have to know everything and turn on all my senses. I am constantly aware of my belongings and stay alert to all announcements, notices and signs. I tend to be wary of people who walk too near and always have my travel documents and wallet by my side, never on the table or chair.
3. Tuning your biological clock to actual destination time
This tip is a very useful one. In my trip to the US, it is a 12 to 13 hours difference to Singapore which will cause any biological clock to go haywire. I would first turn my watch to the transit destination time to allow me to catch the next flight at the correct time. Then, after boarding the flight to final destination, I would sync my watch to the destination time. After that, I would adjust my sleeping time on the plane to match the destination night time.
In my case of 12 hours difference, I cannot switch to the sleeping time immediately as that would almost mean I cannot sleep at all. I had to do it bits of catching naps and adjusting gradually while on the plane. I need to look at my watch and tell myself now it is a waking time or sleeping time, and I realize my body will follow suit. It is amazing how this works for me and I had no problem sleeping in the US night time and waking up in the morning which is the exact opposite in Singapore time. However, I still doze off in the day. But what’s more important is able to sleep at night when night falls.
4. Talking to your flight mates
If you are sitting alone in the plane, chances are you will meet people sitting beside you to be similarly flying for business or alone for some reasons. They are usually friendly or at least those I met are. You need not talk all the time but it is good to have someone to talk to especially on long flights. You can hear many stories and learn many things from them. It makes your flight more pleasant and bearable.
In one of the hotels I stayed, I met an Asian who was there for a business trip. We talked in the lift and I felt especially homely when people tell you they’ve been to Singapore and can connect through some common language and terms.
5. Have fun during business trip!
The thought of travelling alone in a foreign country, to me, is scary. I thought I would not be capable to get around myself and would most likely stay in the hotel room. I was lucky enough that my host offered to show me around. Although it was a short one, it will bring back good memories for me other than just work memories. I learnt from many seasoned business travellers that you work hard, travelled far, you should have fun too, or at least check out some great attractions or explore around within ability. After all, the place that you go to, you may not go back there a second time for the rest of your life. You should explore the country since you are already there. It would be a shame if there is only all work and no play.
6. Get back to your hotel before the sky turns dark
This one may have many who raise their hands in disagreement. But, considering I am a woman travelling alone in the US, I think this advice is appropriate. On the last night of my travel, I went to a shopping mall 20 miles away from my hotel to buy some things for my children. It was the first day of rain which I thought was no big deal. What I did not realize was that the rain was from the hurricane. I tried to call a cab at 8pm from the mall and thought that the cab would dutifully arrive at the entrance to pick me up. After waiting for more than an hour and calling 4 times for a cab, and with the pouring rain outside, there was no cab in sight. I started to panic and imagined the mall to close with me stranded out there with the rain and darkness. Just as I was about to give up hope, my cab arrived. Whew! I thought! When the cab started its journey back to my hotel, we realized that many exits, including the highway, were flooded! Many car engines died on the road and tow trucks were seen at every exit. Some came out to push their cars and I was starting to worry about if I could get back to my hotel.
The cab took a big detour, stucked in traffic jams, made u-turns, reversed out of closed exits and at last came to a stop about 2 blocks short of my hotel. The cab was emitting smoke and the cab driver told me there was no way her cab was going to risk the high water levels. I had to walk in the rain out there on the street! I did not mind at all as long as I could reach my hotel in one piece. So, there I went, lugging my shopping bags, walking carefully with every step I took. I could not see the ground with water which had reached knee high deep. I was totally drenched in the rain with thunder streaks across the sky and chilled in the howling wind. I chose the slopes and grass under the trees to walk on. Finally I saw my hotel and the moment I stepped into the lobby, I was so relieved I may have teared! Not sure though if it’s from the rain.
The lesson taught to me was not to be wandering alone when night falls. I had taken for granted the ease of taxis on Singapore streets and used to shopping till late night, walking alone on the streets and not to mention, used to the frequent rain here too. It was a terrifying experience but at least I have more stories to tell my children now.
7. Duplicate details
As I was scared of unexpected situations that may arise in my trip, I did a few things before I go.
– I took a picture of my passport in my mobile and sent to an email account. It will come in handy if it ever got lost.
– I send my itinerary to Kel and wrote on a piece of paper to my parents on my flight nos. and hotels if I already know.
– I told Kel what my luggage lock pin number is just in case my scatterbrain forgets and I am stuck with a locked baggage.
Kel knew that I worry alot about this trip. He told me that as long as I have my credit cards and money with me, there’s nothing to be so afraid of and just fly back if somehow things do not work out. That really helps to take some worries off me knowing I have an ultimate plan. I told myself I can do this and I am capable of taking care of me. Since I can do a good job of taking care of my kids, I sure am able to take care of 1 person. I am literate and can get around, no worries!
What tips do you have for travelling solo? Teach me!!