I like doing things by myself. When it comes to writing, I absolutely must do it alone. When it comes to traveling, I adore doing it solo.
As a child, I spent huge chunks of hours in my room, which both awed and bewildered my parents. I would emerge for meals, moody and preoccupied, and then slip back into my solitary world of books, writing, painting, crochet, or whatever it is I was obsessing on. I distinctly remember being so smitten with the songs “Tenderness” and Grease’s “Summer Nights,” — that I spent days painstakingly transcribing the lyrics from a cassette tape.
When we moved to Singapore, I converted our guest room into a writing room, where I hide when I need to be alone with my thoughts. But this didn’t mean I was able to churn out the words easily. I’ve had (and still do) many, many blank-screen days, long stretches where I just browse through Net-a-Porter or Sephora and debate with myself whether I really need Rihanna’s new Fenty lipgloss or not.
Still, I enjoy going to cafes, watching movies, shopping, cooking, and eating a meal by myself — extra happy points if it comes with a glass of wine.
I’m forever curious about new places and I’ve learned that not having a travel companion is, actually, okay. In fact, it can be quite fabulous. I have a yearly travel date with my husband, but when he can’t get away from work, I don’t hesitate planning the next trip on my own.
My first real solo travel was in Boracay thirteen years ago, where I spent three days sun-tanning on the beach (a practice I regret now), trawling the talipapa, and eating dinner in family restaurants. I remember coming back to work cheered-up, rejuvenated, and strangely empowered. The second time was after a press junket in Paris: I opted to tour solo and stayed in a cheap hostel where the shower was ensuite but was in a teeny-tiny corner of the room and… doorless. I took my showers when my Mexican roommate was asleep.
Now I can’t count how many times I’ve traveled on my own. I’m no adventuress, but I’ve been left stranded on a dark mountain road and had all my belongings taken away from me in Sapa, Vietnam (I’ve conveniently borrowed some details for my book, Miss Makeover!), relentlessly chased by an amorous Italian in Rome, and gotten involved in a nerve-wracking Rimowa tug-of-war with a stranger in Munich.
But I’ve also had the pleasure of having my Airbnb host (hi Ania!) take me out to a local lunch in Gdansk, having waiters watch out for me in Piran, strictly Spanish-speaking taxi drivers trying their best to help me in Granada. There was even a barman in Amsterdam who asked exactly what time my flight was, so he could remind me to go (in case I get drunk from the pint I was enjoying too much). Strangers, I’ve realized, can be really kind.
When I think of these moments, I’m filled with all kinds of positive vibes. I laugh at myself — though I also take pride — at how I’ve lugged my big-ass suitcase up eight flights of stairs, on and off train platforms, and to as many ten cities. Best of all? I think I’m slowwwly mastering the delicate art of asking strangers to take my picture!