Vignettes of My First Overseas Solo Travel

1st of a series: Lessons Learned

Before the flight

Seated at the gate at the airport terminal waiting for my flight to Singapore, I was soon transported into a theater watching as most of my co-passengers seemed to take command of the place.

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airport waiting lounge at the terminal gate…Image by Jana Sabeth Schultz on Unsplash

Like synchronized dancers in a performance, they knew exactly where to sit or stand. Nothing awkward about their movements, unlike me who had to observe what they did to be in step. Seasoned travelers I could tell. Yet somehow, I knew they were not your regular tourists.

Most had that look of weariness, resignation, or even sadness in their eyes, slumped on the seats, some lying down for a short nap. While others huddled in small groups sharing updates with one another, a few were by themselves, glued to their mobile phones, or leaning back with eyes closed. Almost everyone had bulky luggage and boxes of ‘pasalubongs’ (send-off gifts) from their families or relatives back home.

These people milling around me, females mostly in their late 20s to mid-40s, were overseas workers. Domestic helpers on their way back to their foreign employers in the country I was to visit. Although there were a handful of real tourists in that big room, there was none of the expected excitement or thrill. Silence hung like a heavy curtain.

As I continued watching them, joy and a sense of accomplishment wrapped my being after having gone through with ease and in so short a time each of the required steps from my arrival at the airport – with no one to go with or guide me. I made sure I got to the airport early — sweet reward and relief for this ‘young’ senior, a first time overseas traveler on her own.

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Airport departure area…Image by chuttersnap on Unsplash

I didn’t have to wait in line, thankfully. For aside from being early, I saw designated lanes for seniors and people with disabilities. From getting to the airline counter to the travel tax counter, and back to the airline counter for my boarding pass, to getting through the immigration and security check –the pleasantness and helpfulness of each of the personnel I met, including the airport guards made things flow smoothly.

My worries and fears that had stemmed from all the unpleasant, horror stories I’d heard, plus jitters over my poor hearing, soon melted away at each step. So completing everything fast, and with enough time before boarding, I felt getting more confident. I found myself with no need to rush. The sense of professionalism of the airport personnel, plus the cleanliness of the terminal struck me. I was really pleasantly surprised by all these.

Deep inside, I laughed at myself recalling the stress I went through in the morning at home when I had to change my traveling bag and some of my packed clothes at the last minute. Then I took out the book I brought, “The Power of Thinking Big,” by John C. Maxwell, and read away the remaining hour before my flight.

Whispering a prayer of gratitude to God, I was now starting to embrace this new, thrilling adventure of my life. And discovering a new me!

Here are the lessons I derived at this juncture of my trip: 

  • Trust people more and see the good in them
  • Go beyond your biases
  • Be courageous
  • Believe in yourself
  • Ask for help
  • Enjoy the moment
  • Expect the best in each situation
  • Be adventurous
  • Rely on your capabilities and inner power
  • Keep your wits about even in the most stressful or terrifying situations
  • Be alert and safe at all times – especially for seniors, have presence of mind
  • Keep faith in God — do what you must then leave the rest to Him
  • Do prior research so you know what to do and expect in all the places you’re going to

Two quotes best capture what I carried in my heart that day:

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Lao Tzu

“Travel far enough, you meet yourself.”
David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

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