In an attempt to try five new things this year, Amal Ghazali journeys to France alone
EVERY Friday evening, I usually go grocery shopping. In my weekly schedule; there are specific days for yoga classes, grocery shopping, doing laundry, running, chores and the like. Like a lot of people, I like routines. There is comfort in the familiar and calmness in knowing that everything is in order and allocated for.
One Friday, while buying groceries, I walked by the vegetable section and ended up at the pressed juice counter, as I usually do.
On seeing me, the person manning the counter began packing two bottles for me before I even spoke.
He then said, “You come to this counter at the same time on the same day each week, and ask for the same thing.”
That was when I realised that my life can sometimes be extremely predictable and even more boring than a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.
That incident was one of the things that triggered me to try five new things this year.
There is nothing wrong with a routine, but becoming too comfortable hinders self-enrichment.
Life becomes just a day-to-day repetition of minimal adventure, as nothing particularly exciting ever happens in comfort zones.
How many times have you found yourself staring out the window of your office on a dull workday, yearning for new colours in your life?
And with that spirit, I decided to embark on my first new thing to take me out of my comfort zone. I decided to travel solo.
I took about a month off for an adventure in France, a huge part of it on my own.
I had never taken such a long time off from work in my career, and truth be told, after many years, I felt that I deserved it.
So off I went, with a bag in tow to the land of cheeses and sexy accents.
While there were so many things I learnt about travelling on my own, here are some tips I would like to share.
The first is not to underestimate research. If you’re going to a new place alone, you won’t have any back-up. There is no travel companion, no one to look up where the train station is or how to get to the hotel. You have to do research prior to the trip.
Knowledge is power, and knowing what to expect, the route or even the general behaviour of the local population can be extremely helpful.
If you’re a female Asian foreigner with large, lost puppy dog eyes, it may help you get away with a speeding ticket back home. But in a new place it just screams “easy victim”.
The next crucial thing is to anticipate. In a case where (God forbid) you get mugged and all that’s left are the clothes you have on, what’s your back-up plan?
Important travel documents should have copies and be kept somewhere accessible anytime and anywhere in the world.
For example, send scans of your passport to your email. Why don’t you send one to your mum’s email too? Nothing says “savvy girl” quite like the one who has a back-up plan to a backup plan.
When travelling alone, it is important to be adventurous but it is just as important not to be stupid. Joining a free tour of the city to meet cool travellers? How fun! Accept an invitation from a random French guy with a sexy accent to an unfamiliar place you’ve never heard of at 10pm? That’s how people get killed by serial rapists. Be friendly, but don’t be familiar.
It is also important to blend into your surroundings. Although I understand the need to dress to the nines for OOTD reasons, looking too extravagant and too out of place increase certain risks for tourists. You’re easier to spot and it will also make you an easy target.
NOTHING ELSE QUITE LIKE IT
Travelling alone in a new place will give you an exhilaration quite like nothing else in the world.
It teaches self-dependency, forces you to get out of your comfort zone and, in turn, will result in the most amazing endeavours.
I made friends with interesting people, individuals I wouldn’t even have talked to back home, and it gave me so many funny, life-enriching and lesson-packed adventures.
I recently came across comments about how a lot of people are traumatised by foreign discrimination, bad treatment and hostile environments during travels but these are all part and parcel of being a traveller.
We can’t control people’s behaviour but we can always control how we perceive and react to them.
Remember that no matter who you are, you will always be “different” somewhere else in the world, so don’t feel isolated or intimidated.
Solo travel is just a small part of your life journey, with new experiences, new characters and new lessons. You’re better off if you pack your courage, knowledge and positivity with you.
A GEOSCIENTIST BY DAY AND ASPIRING WRITER BY NIGHT, AMAL GHAZALI PONDERS ON EVERYTHING, FROM PERPLEXING MODERN DAY RELATIONSHIP DILEMMAS TO THE FASCINATING WORLD OF WOMEN’S HEALTH AND WELLBEING, ALL DONE OF COURSE, WHILE HAVING A GOOD LAUGH. READ MORE OF HER STORIES AT BOOTSOVERBOOKS.COM