I’ve been avoiding this long enough now. I need to write about my holiday. It’s been almost two months, and there’s so much I want to write down and remember.
This one’ll be a dull post about the planning bits.
I knew that coming to Korea would mean having the opportunity to travel, but travelling alone didn’t appeal to me at all.
My friend Trevor and I are both public school teachers, so we have a fair amount of vacation time. Unfortunately, our vacation dates don’t correspond so travelling together seemed unlikely. When we figured out that our “spring vacation” (it was still snowing then) dates would correspond by all but one day, the possibility of having a travel buddy seemed more and more real. In December, we started circling the issue, neither of us sure what type of travelling the other would be interested in.
One night, we were hanging out and looking at options. Trevor has a friend who is studying in Singapore, so he seemed to favour this destination. My preference was “not Korea”, so we agreed to look into it some more.
Flights to Singapore connect through Manila (the Philippines) and in a moment of spontaneity, we entertained the idea of a longer layover. Two countries in one trip? Excellent!
Accommodation in Singapore is pricey, so the reasoning was that we’d literally be saving money by spending part of our holiday in the Philippines. And so a plan was born. The plan was to spend a long weekend on Boracay, an island in the Philippines, and then a week in Singapore.
We had two months of planning ahead of us, and at times it felt so inconsequential. There were days when I got bored of looking at landmarks and tourist attractions online. I had one rule: no set itinerary. We agreed to list things we’d like to see and do, and take it one day at a time. Trevor took to Google Maps to plot everything we wanted to do in Singapore. This would be the main part of our trip and it required a larger investment of time and energy. It was a unanimous decision to see the weekend as total R&R time. Eating and being on the beach were the only things on our to-do list.
Foreign currency! This was probably when the trip started feeling really-real. Having foreign currency and knowing you’re going to use it is a flippin’ awesome feeling.
Trevor’s mom got us in touch with a former colleague of hers. Scott and his wife, Jennifer, and their three children are currently expats in Singapore. Trevor started mailing Jennifer, and she kindly and generously offered that we stay with them during our time in Singapore. Oh my goodness! What an absolute gift! This tremendous saving made me look forward to the trip even more.
Soon all the necessary accommodation in the Philippines was booked and paid for, and all that remained was counting down the days, and packing.
Packing. I only had 15 kg of check-in luggage, so this would be quite the challenge. I knew I’d have to leave room to bring shopping back, and really, I didn’t want to be weighed down by luggage (geddit?!) – we had 6 flights and some ferrying ahead of us, so the lighter, the better.
I bought a travel hairdryer and a few travel-size bottles to decant my favourite products into. Korea is not big on variety, and cosmetics are sold in bulk, so it wasn’t as easy as back home where I could pop into Dischem and buy a range of smaller sized products. I decanted and repackaged and prioritised like a champ.
About a week before, I summoned my good friend Cindy to help me pack. Cindy is a seasoned traveller – she’s travelled to almost 30 different countries. She applied some tough love and my luggage was halved within minutes. And just as I thought we were done, she’d make me shed more. Thankfully, both were tropical destinations so I wouldn’t need any heavy/warm clothing.
Now, if you’ve known me for any period of time, you’ll agree that I’m very seldom seen leaving the house without (not make-up, but) denim. Denim is the basis around all my wardrobe choices. I’m just that girl. During the packing process, I decided not to take my jeans. I’d only be wearing them out of and back into Korea anyway. Tights would do. Next up, my denim 3/4 pants were ditched. And when I had to choose between denim shorts and black ones, I chose the more lightweight black pair. At least I’d still have my denim jacket, right? Think again. Cindy gave me one look and pointed at the “reject” pile. No denim. None. How would I make it? (I made it just fine, by the way.)
I settled on two pairs of shorts, three shirts that could be worn with both pairs, a skirt and two dresses. And of course lots of shoes, right? Nope! I wore my trainers and packed one pair of beach sandals and one pair of more smart-looking ones. Singapore is a classy place, so one dressy outfit was necessary.
All in, my luggage came to a whopping 8 kg (beat that! 10 days in 8 kg, baby!). Next up was hand luggage, which was nothing more than my travel documents, mp3 player, cellphone and a book (I’m yet to embrace this kindle business). Lots of shopping room!
Cindy helped me pick out a “travel outfit”. I’d need something that would keep me warm in Korea (temperatures were still in the negatives), but that I could shed off as we reached warmer destinations. I’d also need to be comfortable while flying, as we were flying with budget airlines. Everything would need to fit into my luggage during our time in the tropics. I’m not an overly experienced traveller (especially not an international one), and I told Cindy that I felt like “one of those seasoned travellers who prances around airports in ridiculous outfits”.
And then it was time to go! Trevor and I braved the cold to catch the bus, and then the train, to the airport. It was nice to experience the airport, not as a terrified newbie to a new country, but as a leisurely traveller. As Trevor put it:
“Well, we’re out of the cold and neither of us is emotionally traumatising ourselves by moving to Asia.”
That summed it up well.
Check-in and customs were a breeze, and soon we were off.
Next stop: Philippines!