4 Ways I Traveled - Winging It (Part 4)Uncertainty is something that can be very unnerving. The list of if's, and's, or but's that could happen is just too lengthy to list. Learning to let go of the scariness of not knowing is difficult. We, well maybe just some of us, are told since young that there is one path in life: being born, growing up, going to school, getting a stable job, settling down, etc. The chances to stray from the path isn't common nor recommended. But, what if?
Being carefree and open minded to new experiences were my top goals of the extended trip. I guess I just wanted to have some time to live in the moment after following set plans and making plans for so long. Maybe I felt like this was an answer to grow mentally and break out of the shy shell I tend to coop myself up in. Maybe I followed one too many free-spirited influencers and just wanted to try something different from everyone else for a change: breaking expectations.
Structured bus tours, tag-a-long with Mom, and planned itineraries with Aunt were all styles of traveling that I don't regret. Sure, I had gripes with each but there were also many good things that came with each. But if I were to be completely honest, I had some of the most stress-free and interesting moments when I was able to let go and be more spontaneous. Going somewhere and doing things with no expectations will surely equate to something that is at the very least average and at the very most extraordinary. There is no way to feel regretful or upset about missing bullets from a non-existent itinerary.
Of the places I traveled to with my Aunt, Singapore was the first where I had no daily plans for before arrival. Figuring out Tokyo took up all of the time my procrastinating self left for me. I also thought that Singapore would be the easiest of all places for an impromptu styled a trip. For one, my Aunt had already been before. Most people there speak English, if not also some form of Chinese, so communication wouldn't be an issue. Singapore has a relatively simple to navigate transit system. Plus, we could always ask our AirBnB host for recommendations.
Most of our plans for the day were usually decided on the night before with the help of the internet and various travel books our AirBnB home provided. Like in Japan, I chose to focus on certain areas of Singapore. One day we roamed around Marina Bay. Another day was spent at the day and night zoos. We also visited the botanic gardens, Orchard Road, Chinatown, and Sentosa.
I originally thought that weather would be a big issue since we were visiting Singapore during the monsoon season. But the rain surprisingly didn't last all day and instead came down in one big spurt. The sun shone as bright as ever after the daily downpour came and went. Even though the humidity in Singapore was unbearable at times, all the sunlight was very energizing.
Kaiping, China.My plan, at first, was to wander around Hong Kong for a week or so before I departed from Asia altogether. The city was mainly a layover stop on my multi-month trip. Both my mom and Aunt insisted there wasn't much to do there and that everything was too expensive. But being the city girl that I am, exploring metropolis Hong Kong felt more appealing than going to dimsum and dinners every day in China.
Somehow my Aunt got me to follow her to China with the promises of doing things that my mom did not do: visit black sand beaches, soak in hot springs, and have an outdoor BBQ. All in the name of doing new things right?
Of the things she mentioned we would do, we only got to the outdoor BBQ with her friends. Unlike Western BBQ's, big hunks of meat weren't smoked or cooked on outdoor grills. The Chinese style BBQ involved sitting around a firepit with sausages, chicken wings, and other likes that are skewered and roasted over the open fire. The day was rainy and gloomy but still interesting and cozy.
I was a little disappointing we didn't end up getting to go to every place my Aunt had to mentioned. Expectations were raised but not all were met. Her substitution, however, wasn't all that bad. Instead of the beach and hot springs, she decided to take me to Kaiping to see the Diaolou. These type of buildings were historically supposed to be watchtowers. The ones we saw were more of a glorified ancestral home and museum built by immigrant families. It was fascinating to see and read about those families' histories since I knew so little about my own.
Lamma Island, Hong Kong.My Aunt and I made a compromise, we would spend a few extra days in Hong Kong in exchange for me going to Taishan with her. I hadn't a clue what I would do in Hong Kong but I was glad to have the days available. My Aunt's main complaint was how crowded and polluted the city was. My best answer to that was visiting the quiet Lamma Island. Besides knowing the name from TVB shows, I wasn't familiar with the place at all. I looked up how to get there from our hotel and we had a day-trip adventure.
The ferry ride from Central to Lamma Island wasn't long, maybe around half an hour. Leaving the ferry pier led to a bunch of seafood restaurants so we had shrimp, clams, and crab for lunch. We found some signs with estimated walking times and took a hike from the island's northern village to its southern one. There was no rush to be somewhere by a certain time. We decided on everything as we came to it. If we missed a ferry, we waited. Everything about that day was laid-back and calm.
Seoul, Korea.A big part of my original plan was to try to travel alone. Before my Aunt said she could join me in the travels, I was only going to be in Korea and Hong Kong by myself for a few weeks and then head home. (Why Korea and Hong Kong? They were the places my mom had to worry about me less in.) I had never truly lived away from people familiar to me before and curiosity got the best of me. Sure, I did study abroad; that was away from family and most of my friends. But I also had that experience with my best friend. There was never a situation I was in where I felt completely uncomfortable and had no one else but me to rely on. Being able to go through something new with her felt safe and encouraging.
I know I am extremely lucky to have the support of family and friends, to have people I can rely on. Tons of people don't or can't have that. Maybe it is the Asian/Chinese part of me, I never really imagined living apart from my family. I also always preferred to do things with friends and family: eating out, shopping, traveling, and even attending classes. What is familiar is reassuring.
There wasn't ever really a time where I thought twice about how I might be too closed off or that it doesn't have to be always "do together or don't do at all". When I had the opportunity to travel for an extended period of time, but no one else could, I joked about the idea of doing it myself. When else would I get the chance? Then I actually had the time to think about it twice. Seriously, when else would I get that chance? If not now, when?
It surprisingly didn't take much to convince my mom to the idea. Just a lot of nagging and insistence. As with anything, deciding at that moment was always the easiest. Going through with it required the courage. Would I stay in a hotel room by myself? Would I try a hostel and befriend other wanderlusts? Even up until the week before my flight to Seoul, I was hesitant.
Staying in a hotel, by myself, would have been the most comfortable option. I wouldn't have to worry about being too awkward around others. I could have woken up and gone to bed whenever I wanted. I would be in control of where I went and not go to the same places again. Yet, I wondered what being in a hostel was like and how sharing a space with other travelers was. What if this trip to Seoul wasn't to actually be in Seoul but to make friends and maybe be less introverted?
Curiosity got the better of me and I chose the latter option. I chose the most uncomfortable scenario for me in a somewhat familiar city. I stayed at Bauhaus Guesthouse in Hongdae and shared a room with a handful of girls who came from different parts of the world. I wandered Seoul with three of my many roommates and went to many places I had been before. Sometimes I acted as an amateur guide and sometimes I followed their leads. The activities and destinations were the same, yet the experiences and surroundings couldn't be more different.
All this, of course, can't change my personality. I cannot turn into an extrovert or optimistic suddenly. Nonetheless, I still tried to