Sunday, February 8, 2009

Chatterbox: February '09 ~ Jet-setting solo...

I hope that 2009 is proving to be a good year for you so far. I have a positive feeling about this year, and I’d like to reiterate my good wishes to you all – for good health and happiness for you and your loved ones.

Do you know how to be alone without being lonely? For a long time, I couldn’t wrap my mind around this concept. I couldn’t bear the thought of sitting in a restaurant or going to a movie alone. About three years ago, during university I set my mind on going to a movie alone. I did, and realized that it wasn’t really that bad! I started going frequently – alone.

When I moved to Korea in 2007, I gained a tremendous amount of independence. I was ready to take on any challenges and adventures that came my way.

I always knew that I was destined to travel and I feel like I’m living my dream – traveling to places I only dreamt about. I have limited vacation time, so when I am not working, I try to travel as much as possible.

When I travel, I want to learn about the culture and people of the country I’m in. I am more interested in taking photographs of people and interesting architecture, whereas shopping is the least important thing to me.

At the end of December last year, I traveled to Singapore and spent a couple of days in Malaysia. None of my friends were available to travel with me, so I took the plunge and went alone. Thinking back on my trip, it was probably the best vacation I have been on, even though I was alone during the festive season. I did things at my own pace and ate whatever and whenever I wanted.

Many people have asked me if I felt bored and / or lonely. Honestly? I didn’t. I learnt that by being alone, especially checking in at a hotel or dining alone, one is more approachable. Very often I sparked up conversations with people working at the concierge desk, people on the same bus as me and restaurant staff.

Locals were confused because I am an Indian from South Africa who’s been living in South Korea and now traveling around Asia alone. I didn’t know that traveling solo would be so surprising to some. In fact, I felt very safe being alone. I felt like people (like hotel staff) looked out for me more, and kept ensuring that I was fine and knew exactly where to go and how to get there.

One of the highlights of Singapore was visiting the oldest Hindu temple in Chinatown, Sri Mariamman Temple, where visitors have to pay S$3 to take photographs inside. You may also remember that some of Hrithik Roshan’s Krrish was shot in Singapore, so it was exciting to see some sights that I recognized from the film, like the famous Merlion. Singapore is renowned for its cleanliness, but to see people sweeping the streets constantly is something quite unreal.

I made a spontaneous decision to go to Kuala Lumpur (KL) from Singapore. I arrived on a Saturday afternoon with no return ticket back to Singapore, no Ringgits (Malay currency) and no accommodation! Luckily I met kind and helpful people along the way (bus and taxi drivers) and all was sorted within an hour.

In KL, the Petronas Twin Towers stand majestically amongst KL’s skyline. Being the tallest twin and office building in the world, one feels completely minute next to it.

The trip back to Korea was long and very tiring…but oh so worth it! The experience of traveling alone was not only adventurous, but I proved that I can now do anything on my own! Friends come and go, and as I grow older I learn that there are fewer people we can rely on. Therefore, the only constant person that won’t let me down is the one that lives in my mirror…and she’s not that bad to hang out with!

You can read more about my trip and see more photo’s on my blog at

This month, my column is dedicated to my loyal friend Natalie who, without fail, is a true confidante regardless of time zones.

Happy Valentines Day to everyone who celebrates!

See you all next month…be safe and happy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hey sheetal hope ur doing good,and getting back to work ,without feeling the need to take yet another vaccation,any ways what are you doing on valentines day