Thoughts on solitude and the future

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Whoops.

I’ve been working on this post since 2020 and suddenly realised that I have not finished this piece.

2021 – 11 days in – how are you feeling about the year?

Not sure which part of the world you’re in but back in my home country (Singapore), it had been raining non-stop. The rainy days started from 31st and on the 1st, it rained almost the whole day. I ended up canceling my lunch plans as the weather was really lovely to sleep in. To be honest, the days have been pretty mundane and flat and I kind of need to rely on my IGS to remember what I have done.

Yay it’s another random post update again. Feels kind of funny that COVID-19 has revived authentic blogging content for me, where I write aimlessly without any intention or goals for the post. If we go back to the earlier days of blogging, this was what blogging had been about – not writing advertorial and marketing content or SEO-powered blog posts/listicles or articles.

Sad but true – if I continued writing the ’emotional outburst’ style that I used to 16 years ago – I’m pretty sure no one would be interested in reading and I would not have made enough ad revenue to buy myself a .com and paid hosting. Oh wells. As I look back upon the year, there had been many things that COVID has given me the opportunity to learn and to be thankful for – the chance to slow down in life, the opportunity to reminisce the past and the time to re-visit some of my old memories/thoughts; some of which I had long forgotten about.

There was a whatsapp conversation that happened over the weekend where my friend (a mother of 2) was jealous of me and my friend – for having the luxury of waking up at 11am. She said that for her, 9am is considered late and she is never allowed to sleep in as her kids will wake her up some way or another. Some weeks ago, one of my colleague mentioned that if she met me earlier and wasn’t married (young), she would have considered going on the New Zealand working holiday program. Most days, I feel thankful that my lifestyle, choices and luck has allowed me to lead the somewhat free life that I have right now – being able to do what I want to do, without considering the interests of any other half. Some day (in the future), I know I will regret, for not having a family unit, not having my own children to take care of me when I’m older and perhaps the lack of companionship when I’m older. I hope that I’ll remember my youth and freedom and not regret the decisions I made back in the younger days.

A few weeks ago, I had this sudden throwback in my memory of this ‘idea’ that my ex-ex-ex (i have a lot of jobs and boss changes) boss once told me after realising that I was single. He said that a woman needs to be a mother to feel complete in life and that I will feel it when I get older. It has been five years and I ain’t feeling any motherly instincts in me. Looking back, it had been a rather insensitive comment from him but I guess the ‘me’ back then was not strong enough to stand up against his words and I just brushed it away.

The older I grow, the more I feel distant from the idea of ‘love’, ‘commitment’ and wanting to ‘have my own family’. Despite attending so many weddings, watching my friends grow and have their own families, I still feel more comfortable alone. Though my friends like to comment that I don’t understand cause I’m never at that level but I still don’t see the need to make an effort to ‘look’ for love. I’m still pretty chill about this aspect in life, que sera sera.

Some years ago (can’t recall how many), I told myself that if I were to remain the same way (with the same thoughts on singlehood), I should be preparing myself for the future.

I started practicing to hang out alone. It started with dining alone in a public place (yes, it was uncomfortable for me in the past). I started off my solo dining at food courts/staff canteen and slowly moved on to restaurant dining with table service. It was the easiest in Japan – where solo dining was pretty common. My best solo dining memories was my kobe beef experience and self-declared omakase meal in Enoshima (in some French restaurant) cause I couldn’t read their menu. As I get older, you’ll start to learn that no one judges you for dining alone, and even if they do, the ‘judgment’ belongs to the person who made the judgment, not the person being ‘judged’. Try it, you might enjoy it.

The next step in my list was to watch movies alone. When I was younger, going to the movies seemed more like a social activity, to be enjoyed between two or more people. I do enjoy the chance to discuss the ‘live’ plot with the person beside me. Challenging myself to watch a movie alone was deliberate and I saw it as necessary to cement my decision on singlehood. I can’t remember what year it was when I did it but I think the first movie I watched alone was Minions or perhaps Despicable Me 2 or something along that line. I concluded that it was easier to watch something that wouldn’t take up too much of my brainpower, so I wouldn’t feel deprived of the in-movie discussion. I can’t recall what were the movies I watched alone (probably less than 5), but the ‘lastest’ movie I watched alone was Frozen 2, in Dunedin on Boxing Day. My friends did not want to watch the movie and I wasn’t keen on boxing day sales my luggage was full.

Another thing that went on to my list was to take a plane ride alone. I did it in 2012 (Singapore to Ireland) for my grad trip and it wasn’t exactly a choice as my friend was already at the destination. I remember being so conscious about it (smart phones with data was not really common) and I kept looking around the departure waiting area, hoping to make eye contact and strike a conversation with someone. I did end up talking to an indonesian lady, flying halfway round the world to meet her LDR/online boyfriend. Couldn’t remember the details and the conversation ended the moment we board the plane. That was my one and only plane talk I had my whole life. Life beyond 2012 was just people being on their smart phone all the time. Of course, ‘people’ included myself. I’m always on my earphones these days – highly unlikely that I’ll small talk anyone in the next plane flight (god knows when).

After learning to ‘fly’ alone, the next step was to travel alone. For my grad trip in Ireland, I did a day trip alone as my friend was having her examinations. The tour group was full and I sat beside an italian guy who was traveling with his parents. The only memory I had was that he commented that the ‘fish and chips’ should be called ‘shark and chips’ because of the humongous fish fillet. Ha. Weird things I remember despite being so long ago ><

After my Ireland trip, my next solo travel opportunity came when I started having media invitations (because of this website)! When I ‘won’ my first overseas media trip in 2013, everyone around me was skeptical and couldn’t believe how ‘blogging’ could land me such an opportunity – especially when I do not show my face at all. (Do you guys feel a lack of ‘touch’ while reading my post because I do not show my face?) I’m quite sure no one in my family thought that the free trip opportunity was true until I received my air ticket and they sent me off at the airport. I was really thankful for my first opportunity, as it brought me many more opportunities to travel for ‘free’. As I got older and more mature, my traveling friends were more willing to go separate ways (when we each have different agendas) and I got more and more comfortable (and confident) in traveling solo abroad. Prior to my 9-month escape to New Zealand, I went on a 1 week solo trip to South Korea as I wanted to give myself a teaser of how it would feel to travel and live alone. I made it a point to book a hostel stay as it had been a long while since I last had to stay in a hostel >< , but I knew hostels (and sharing of rooms) were the way to go in New Zealand. Thankfully, I survived South Korea well for that one week and there was this funny feeling that I exprienced.

In my week-long solo trip, I found myself being deprived of having conversations. The only times I had to open my mouth was when I had to check-in to my accommodation, ordering food at restaurants, buying train/bus tickets and telling the taxi driver where I wanted to go. It felt really awkward deep within me as I am chatty and talkative by nature. If you know me well enough, you would probably know how hard it is for me to keep my mouth shut; but there I was in South Korea, not speaking the language and not having anyone to hold any conversation with. No one spoke to me when I was in the hostel (the beds had blinds to increase privacy) and I did not maintain eye contact with anyone too. Most of the time, to prevent me from feeling awkward, I will scroll social media on my phone or upload a 1001 IG stories to speak out my emotion. I started taking photos with my traveling bears whenever I cafe hop, as an attempt to do an ‘evidence’ shot that the photo was taken by me.

Because of all the solo-training I did above, New Zealand was kind of a breeze. Then again, I never felt too lonely in NZ as I was lucky to have met people and more people who were introduced to me along the way. There were people I met from work, from online group chats and most people were pretty friendly and enjoyable to hang out with. The rare lonely moments I had were mainly the few long drives that I had (Tekapo to Wanaka, Queenstown to Te Anau).

Anyway, my extended stay in New Zealand made me realise that I think I can live alone comfortably. At least that’s what I think right now, at this point in my life.

So the semi conclusion is that if I have no thoughts about introducing someone into my life, the next best thing I should be working on is to prepare myself for singlehood. Now that I’ve overcome the aspect of ‘solo travel’, the next step is to figure out how I can make my life comfortable.

When I talk about ‘adulting’ in one of my older posts a few months ago, I mention that ‘insurance’ was really important. However, I realised that if I’m single with no offsprings, I only need to have enough money to pay my hospital bills, assuming that I get sick or live very old. My life wouldn’t need to be ‘worthed’ a lot of money as there’s no one that I need to support after I pass on.

Next, I will have to fund my own place to stay and it should be a size which is good enough for me to tidy up (and not hoard). Given the prices of real estate these days, I’m not even sure if I can afford anything yet but oh wells, I’m still on the lookout for something suitable.

Another thing that I had to get used to is to be comfortable around my friends and their family members. At the end of the day, I am not a loner and I still crave and need companionship on some days. As I grow older, it’s pretty certain that my single friends will dwindle too and my married friends will get busy with their own lives. The next ‘quick fix’ is that I need to ensure that I can still be ‘adopted’ to join their family gatherings/outings, whenever I need to. I need to make sure that I can enjoy hanging out with my friends husbands and kids, so that I will be welcomed whenever I need to. Sounds a little sad but I guess it is necessary for survival.

[Update to my latest ‘ideal life’]

I hope to retire by 50.

It doesn’t mean that I am going to save up enough money for a comfortable retirement. It simply means that I’m gonna figure a way to set aside funds to pay off my insurance debt in the years that I stopped working. I am also trying to figure out what’s a side hustle that I can pursue that can support my early retirement. Also, I need to keep my health in check, in order to continue to travel frugally when I’m 50.

Am I gonna make it? My website has been around for 11 years and will you still be around for the next 20 years?

^ Happy 2021 and may you find peace within yourself, no matter how turbulent or flat this year may be 😀

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  • Wow! I wish I had found your blog earlier in my life. But I guess we all stumble upon something when we need it the most and your words, in this post, right now are all I needed to “hear”, comforting, made me think about life in a new perspective. But most of all it feels so good to find someone with the same thoughts about family-life, travel, the future.. a kindred spirit.

    In a couple of months I will turn 30 and six months ago I decided I wanted a small career change which led me back to university for another three years.. while all my friends are in serious relationships or married and have kinds, we have drifted appart and the pressure from others (read my family) to settle down and start my own family are getting greater by the day. And all I dream about is to travel..

    While reading this post I started crying, not because I was sad but I could read what I was feeling/experiencing and finally I don’t feel so out of place, so thank you for putting this out and I look forward to reading more.

    • Hi there, no idea how you found my blog but I’m glad that it has given you comfort and I’m also really proud that you had the courage to made a decision you really wanted! It is really fine to live the life that you want! Nobody but yourself can judge your own life, and even if they do, it is up to you to decide on whether to ‘accept’ their judgement or not. I hope that you will continue to find happiness in your decisions, and even if you don’t and decide to pivot halfway, it is really fine to change your mind and head any way you want, as long as it makes you feel good. It’s really sad these days to see people giving in to ‘peer pressure’ and ‘societal norms’ and end up feeling miserable half the time. I feel that life is too short to live it for others. You’re doing great :))

      • Thank you for the sweet and encouraging reply!

        I actually googled my way to your blog, and I’m so glad I did! I was looking for inspiration and travel tips to Singapore and New Zealand. I’m dreaming of doing exchange studies in Singapore and maybe someday work in New Zealand. We’ll see where life takes me, in the meantime I’ll dream myself away thru travel blogs and instagram pictures.
        Your posts are inspiring, especially the solo-travel parts.

        • You’re so brave to be thinking of traveling in times of pandemic~~ I’m feeling pretty hopeless about travel (at least in 2021) and I’m trying not to expect much to reduce the disappointment.
          It would be great if you (wherever you are) if you do visit Singapore and New Zealand! Singapore is pretty boring though, it’s pretty small and you’re get done with it in a few days. However, if you have the chance to stay longer term, it would be a good ‘base’ for you to explore southeast Asia as we do have very cheap flight tickets (pre-covid times). New Zealand is really nice too~~ i can share more with you when you do visit!
          Thought that you might like this old post of mine where I wrote after I quit my job – https://www.flyhoneystars.com/2019/05/03/the-brave-career-break/
          ^Cheers

          • I have experienced the same thing, hopelessness about travel. My 2020 travel plans.. well didn’t go as planned.. didn’t go at all.. and I was afraid to even think about traveling in 2020. I don’t have anything planned for this year but I let myself dream about some day visiting new places. And just exploring thru the internet and reading others travel stories give me excitement, that and k-dramas (I was happy to see your posts about some of the k-dramas I’ve seen so far and the beautiful filming locations) are the only thing getting me thru Scandinavian winter, exams and this pandemic.

            Thank you for the tips and for wanting to share more!
            I’ll definitely reach out again if I make it to either country.

          • oh wow it’s pretty cool that you’re from Scandivania~~ it must look really pretty in winter but I can also imagine how cold and comfortable it is~~
            Thanks for scanning through my blog. Glad that you have found more things to your liking!

            All the best for your studies and do reach out again ^^