Are you fond of traveling? Do you search on the internet for tips and recommendations? Listen to this episode as your host Whitney Lauritsen shares her trip to Singapore and Fiji in a very detailed manner. She dives deep into her flight experience and some tricks to make it worthwhile. She also shares the restaurants she explored and her ultimate experience by detailing her feelings and emotions at that moment. Tune in to this neurodivergent, COVID-conscious, vegan overview!
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Traveling To Singapore & Fiji: A Neurodivergent, COVID-Conscious, Vegan Overview
This episode is mostly going to be a second part. I said, “A.” It’s interesting. Do you ever do that? You consider ignoring a weird sound, noise, or pronunciation that came out of your mouth, but part of you wants to acknowledge it. I could have restarted, but anyways, that is part of the journey, sometimes saying weird things and not wanting to restart.
Welcome to the show. This is part two, technically. A follow-up, perhaps, is a better term to the last episode in which I talked about my experience going on a retreat in Costa Rica. That episode ended up being a little on the long side. I decided to break it up and share the story behind the next part of my trip because almost immediately after I returned from Costa Rica, I went to Singapore by way of Manila. On the way back to Los Angeles, I had a long layover in Fiji, so I’m going to share about that.
Before I get into it, I will share a little behind the scenes of life because I feel like sharing that at this moment. Being transparent about my mental health journey is important, especially as I’ve been going through my coaching training. For those that didn’t read the previous episode in which I shared, I enrolled in a coaching certification training program. Not only in my working on my skills as a health wellness well-being coach, but I am also on my way to getting certified being a board-certified coach for that. I’m not 100% sure I’m going to do the certification. I feel probably 90% sure.
I’m doing this training because I think it can support what I do here on the show. It will certainly support my work with my private community, Beyond Measure. If you didn’t know about that yet, I’ve been running that for two years. It started in the summer of 2020. Beyond Measure project came out of my interest in emotional well-being, connecting, building community, a huge part of well-being, and wanting to have a space that felt more private and psychologically safe for me and anyone else who wanted to join. It’s become one of the greatest joys of my life. You are welcome to join it.
Building A Community
I’ve mentioned how it’s been free for several years. I plan to include some monthly membership fees, which I will intend to always keep low. I haven’t gotten there yet. It hasn’t been a priority for me to charge because I don’t look at it as a source of profit for me. I look at it as a place to build community and generate some revenue to keep all the costs minimal.
I have wanted in there to create more structure for well-being because that’s at the core of all of my work these days. I haven’t felt sometimes qualified, I suppose. Even though technically you can be a coach, you can run training programs, and you can offer support to people without being certified by the board, without going through training, you can do it all by personal experience. You can do it based on your own research. It does not have to be formal training. I’ve been told this from many people.
I personally, given my passion for research and scientific data. I wanted to have that experience and knowledge. The reason I’m not sure about getting board certified is I’m not sure how much of my career I want to center around well-being coaching. I want to be transparent with you throughout the whole journey. Along this experience, even in the past week or so since I started that program, I’ve started to notice a lot of personal growth in myself. That’s a huge benefit of doing any training. It’s not for you to help others, but it helps you too. The best coaches, therapists, and psychologists are those that are constantly working on themselves, have a mentor, and also go to therapy.
On that note, a new announcement, I finally got assigned a new therapist. I’ve been waiting for at least six months. Through my insurance, I don’t have to pay a copay to have a therapist if I go through my insurance therapy program. However, they have a long waiting list, and it took the whole year thus far until the end of July 2022 for me to get assigned one. I am excited to start therapy, and what a time I’m in right now because travel has been therapeutic. I’m going to talk about it. It brings up a lot of emotions. It helps me think about it a lot. It raises my awareness and mindfulness. Doing this coaching program is certainly bringing that up.
Having a therapist, someone that I’m talking to, I’m not doing the work with somebody else, is something I’m looking forward to. I haven’t seen in an official therapy setting anyone since probably 2017 or 2018. There are a bunch of things I want to process. There are things I haven’t even shared in the blog yet that I’ve wanted to do episodes about, but I want to have some more professional support before I dive into them.
Along that lines, another update is that regardless of if you did or didn’t know this about me, I was on anti-anxiety medication. It covered depression and a lot of challenges I was having emotionally. I started that medication sometime in 2021. It was a prescription medication, and I felt conflicted about taking it, but I was struggling pretty hard for a little while. I never had any super detrimental thoughts, thank goodness. I felt like I needed some deep help. Through my insurance, I got a psychiatrist, and she told me straight up that therapy would be the best option for me. If I wanted to take the medication in the meantime, she would prescribe me some.
Initially, the episode I talked about that experience was when I was starting to explore whether or not I had ADHD. If you’re brand new to the show, welcome to my transparent discussions in which I put everything out on the table. That psychiatrist said that she didn’t believe I had ADHD. She believed that I had anxiety or an anxiety disorder. I don’t agree with her. I believe, based on everything I’ve learned about ADHD as well as an autism spectrum disorder, that I am on both spectrums. I don’t know if ADHD counts as a spectrum. I’ve come to a different conclusion than her, but I did take her advice, and I started looking for a therapist. I decided to take the medication.
Back in April 2022, I went off the medication. I talked to her in May 2022 and I said, “I don’t feel like it’s doing enough for me to justify taking it, but I’m working on getting the therapist.” I want to be transparent about all these things because I want to open it up and create psychological safety with you. That’s incredibly important to me. That is one of the most important missions I’m on because I feel the deepest sense of relief when I experience psychological safety. That’s going to play a role in this episode as I talk about travel.
Leading By Example
As I’ve gone through my coaching psychology manual, I’m noticing how important that is for clients too. It sounds obvious, but leading by example is key. What’s interesting and one of the biggest things that I’ve learned while going through the coaching training, which has only been a few sessions so far, is to do more listening and less talking. I’ve thought to myself, “That’s going to be one of my bigger challenges.”
I’ve said on many episodes that if there’s anything I dislike about a show, it’s a one-way experience. Even when I have a guest, the two of us are talking, but you are saying there listening, so bravo to you. If you read my blog post, maybe you could be a great coach because reading skills are a huge element of successful coaching, I’ve learned.
I would love to have it be a back and forth. I am going to be practicing a lot more listening. It’s shifting and bringing me to a completely different side. I’ve examined my experience with coaching thus far. I’ve been coaching off and on, not in well-being but in various things like social media marketing. I’ve been doing that for several years. I’ve been reflecting on how many times I was giving more advice and stepping into an expertise role versus the coach role, which is at its best when you allow somebody to make their own decisions, have more autonomy to be guided and be listened to.
I’m looking forward to receiving that from a therapist soon. I’m looking forward to practicing that more, but on the show, this is where I will talk. That is my personal update for you as far as I can reflect on this moment. Another quick update before I kick this off is when you read this blog, I will likely be on the road again. I am going on my next cross-country road trip. I summarized a road trip I did in May 2022.
From August to November 2022, I will be traveling once again by car and going all over the West Coast. A huge part of my trip is up there. I’m going to spend a little time in Canada, and I’ll be in the Northern United States, and headed to spend time with my family and friends on the East Coast. I circle back down around to the Southern route generally to get back to LA later in 2022. I will share things with you, but for context, I’m recording this episode on July 27th, 2022.
It’s always interesting to know that I’m going to be in a different state of mind by the time you read this. It’s another thing that I don’t love about blogging. My team that I work with would love for me to submit episodes ten days in advance. Generally, that’s what I aim to do, but ten days feels a long time because so much of me, you, and the world is constantly changing. I always try to be mindful of that gap.
With no further ado, let’s talk about Singapore, Fiji, and a tad about the Philippines. I came back from Costa Rica on July 13th, 2022. My flight was early. I left there at 9:00 AM, not super early, but I had to leave the retreat center at 4:00 AM that morning, and it was in a different time zone. It was an hour ahead of LA. I technically left at 3:00 AM Pacific Time. I got into LA at 1:30 PM Pacific Time.
One huge recommendation I have for you because this was a game-changer and has been many times is something called global entry. If you sign up for it, you usually have to do it several months in advance before international travel. When you come back into the United States, it is quick to get through customs. I mentioned that because I had a turnaround time between my Costa Rica trip and this Singapore trip. I was amazed.
I got off the plane and walked practically right through customs. I stopped, and there’s a machine that scans your whole face. I had to take my mask down for it. It recognizes you, which is borderline creepy but also cool. All these people next to me were waiting in line for at least 30 minutes. It took me a few seconds to go through customs.
I did carry-on only. I talked about that in the previous episode. I highly recommend that too. Although a big lesson I learned between Costa Rica and Singapore is switching bags. I had enough time between the two flights, one arriving at 1:30 PM. It was supposed to depart at 10:30, but I didn’t end up leaving until midnight that night. My flight was delayed. Between that timeline, I got to go back home and switch out my bags. I talked in the previous episode about using a brand called packed Pakt. It’s a great bag. I highly recommend them.
Pakt Bags sponsored me years ago. They sent me this great carry-on bag. However, I have two drawbacks. One, for a week-long trip to Costa Rica, it was a little too small. It was busting up the seams. I felt super anxious about that because the width was a little too big, but they never measured it. It wasn’t a huge deal. It easily fit in the compartment above the seats, but it was heavy. I don’t know how much it weighed, but it was heavy on my shoulder and awkward to carry with my hands. In all things considered, nice for Costa Rica because there were a ton of bumpy dirt roads there, which a roller bag would not have worked well on. Part of my experience there is having to walk down half a mile or something. In a roller bag, it would’ve been a bit of a nightmare.
However, when I got back to LA, I put everything in a small roller bag to bring this Singapore, and I am grateful. It was nice to walk through the airport with a roller bag. It was the Swiss Army bag. It’s an old bag, but it was great. The wheels turn in multiple directions. If you’re shopping for a new carry-on bag, I highly recommend a couple of things.
One is to get a lightweight bag. A huge issue, while that bag was great, it was a little too heavy. It was one inch bigger than it was supposed to be for carry-on international. Double check the weight requirements or the maximums and the size maximums for every airline because they can be a little different.
I found out when I got to the airport flying the Philippine Airlines to Singapore, they weighed my bag, and it was ten pounds too heavy. I was shocked. First of all, I was completely caught off guard by that. It didn’t even cross my mind. Throughout a lot of my trip experiences, I thought it would be nice if there were an in-depth checklist available from the airlines that helped you go through all these details because, for someone like me who was hyper-organized in research, I read the travel requirements. My brain skipped over the weight stuff. A checklist would’ve been golden. Maybe I’ll make my own one day. I’m sure somebody else has one, but I think the airline should make them.Do more listening and less talking. Click To Tweet
I get to the airport, feeling all confident. The woman checking me in asked for a number of things. Another thing I recommend, especially if it’s still during the pandemic when you’re traveling, is checking each country’s entry requirements. This was a lot harder and more confusing than I thought it was going to be. Maybe it’s the way my brain works, but it was glazing over.
I had to go to multiple sites to reference things and read things multiple times. There were pop-up windows and alerts, and everything was changing. That was a tough part about travel. Luckily, I had done enough research. When you go to the Philippines, they have this program called One Health Pass. It’s a little barcode that you get. You fill out a form in advance. When you get to the airport, you need to present that.
My flight went from LA to Manila in the Philippines and from Manila to Singapore. When I got to Manila, transferring planes at the airport, I had to show this special barcode. I also needed the entry requirements for Singapore, which were different. I forget what they call it, but I had filled both of them out and printed them both out. I thought I was going above and beyond, but when I got to the check-in, it seemed like what they needed. They also needed proof of re-entry to the United States because I did not buy a round-trip ticket to Philippine Airlines.
Another tip for you is I use a few different sites to figure out the best schedule and the best prices. I love Google Flights. I mainly use them, but it has some issues because I was going from Costa Rica to Singapore and back to LA. I needed to type in all these variables. I ended up doing a bunch of one-way ticket prices. I was looking to see if it made sense to go to San Francisco to get to Singapore. Did I want to fly nonstop to Singapore, which is about sixteen hours from Los Angeles? It’s one of the longest flights in the world, not just from LA. From New York to Singapore is the longest flight. If it’s nonstop, it’s about nineteen hours. It’s on the other side of the world. It’s a twelve-hour time difference from New York.
I had to show proof that I was coming back to LA. I had to present all of that. I wasn’t prepared to show that. They weighed my bag and told me my carry-on was too heavy. I panicked, but I thought quickly on my feet. One thing I tried, which I don’t recommend. It’s not an ethical choice. I don’t even know why I’m sharing this, but in full transparency, I pulled my bag off the scale. It was half on there, half off. It showed that it weighed less than it did. I don’t think she realized I did it on purpose, but she pulled it back on, and I was like, “Oh no.”
At that moment, the woman checking me said I had to reconfigure my bags or check my bag. I was terrified to check my bag because, A) I had to transfer. It wasn’t nonstop. B) There have been horror stories of people losing baggage on flights, especially internationally. I was like, “I’m not doing this.” I took some things out temporarily. I put them in my backpack, which is considered my personal item. After I finished checking it, I put them back in my checked bag. It’s not ethical. I do not recommend it, but that’s what I did.
It all fits perfectly. My bag was the right width aside from being one inch too long, but it all worked out. It fit perfectly in the overhead compartment and was never weighed again. The interesting thing is that the woman said that it was going to be checked again by TSA, and they were going to charge me money. I don’t know if there was a miscommunication or something. She was concerned, but it all was fine.
Speaking of TSA, I believe I mentioned in the previous episode how I requested special accommodations. There’s a program called TSA Cares. If you have any type of disability, whether that’s physical, mental, or whatever, if you have special needs, you can request support through TSA. I decided to try that out. It’s a game-changer, especially after going through that check-in process. I felt anxious because it was something I wasn’t expecting. I thought that I was prepared, but I wasn’t. There was knowledge I didn’t have. For me, that creates a huge ripple effect.
One of the things I struggle with the most, and I’ve researched, is a characteristic of ASD, Autism Spectrum Disorder. I get confused sometimes because I have a lot of characteristics of both ADHD and ASD. 1 of the 2 makes it hard with communication and unexpected changes. They both happened. I felt like there were miscommunications between the check-in person and me. I had an unexpected change that triggered a lot of fear. I felt confused, unsupported, and nervous about flying in general. So much was going through my head.
I was incredibly grateful that I had requested support through TSA. An officer met me at the area where you walk into TSA. Most airports, definitely in Los Angeles, have two checkpoints. There’s a checkpoint before you wait in line. You have to wait in line to wait in line. Someone checks to make sure your boarding pass is correct. You go wait for another line. Someone checks your passport and your boarding pass, and then you go through TSA.
The woman met me in between, and it was like VIP service. I want to be transparent that this should not be abused. I would be devastated by anybody that needs this service if it was taken advantage of because right now, it feels a little on the honor system. You submit online, and an officer is in touch with you. They can guide you through TSA.
Even thinking about this right now brings up my anxiety again. That’s how intense it is for me to have somebody walk me through, as they did both for the flight to Singapore and the flight to Costa Rica. I could have cried. I was relieved and felt supported. I felt like I needed it on a level that I didn’t realize. I’ve probably had most of my life. I’ll explain another side of this later on my return trip.
She helped me through TSA, and I could feel my whole body relaxed. It felt almost like I had a parent, a therapist, or somebody. I felt like my brain could shut off. That’s something that I wonder how many other people experience. I know travel anxiety is common. If you experience it, I would love to hear what does that feel like for you? It also made me reflect on how incredibly stressful and unsupportive most airport experiences are. They feel deeply chaotic.
Even though generally, it’s amazing what you can accomplish like you’re getting on an airplane. In my case, flying to almost the other side of the world from Los Angeles is insane. My flight was fourteen hours to Manila alone. I’m on this plane thinking, “This is nuts.” It’s the farthest I think I’ve ever flown before, and that’s a miracle.
The fact that all that stuff runs well is amazing, but the amount of confusion, mistakes, and all these other variables that go on is nuts. I also want to note that. I’m aware that TSA has a lot of accessibility issues. I’ve seen countless stories of wheelchairs and canes being broken. People that have physical disabilities are not getting the accommodations they need, not being taken seriously, and having to replace highly valuable things. My heart goes out to them. This is by no means a perfect system, but for what I needed, it was a game-changer.
I got through TSA and got to my flight. I was nervous about COVID the entire time. Once I got there, it was a little bit of a different experience, but I was wearing two KN95 masks plus a face shield. In hindsight, I’m extremely glad that I did because to jump forward a little bit. When I returned back to Los Angeles, I had a COVID scare. I was experiencing unusual body aches, and they weren’t like anything I’ve experienced quite before. They felt like I had bruises on parts of my body or I had worked out and was recovering, but nothing had incited that experience.
I thought, “This must mean I’m getting COVID.” I had two negative tests. I was going to test a third time, and suddenly, no symptoms whatsoever. Hopefully, I never had it. Who knows, maybe I did, but I kept thinking to myself, “After everything I did to protect myself from COVID, I may have still gotten it.” After going through that scare, I have zero shame, embarrassment, or whatever about wearing two masks and a face shield.
I did that, plus I was mindful about any time I took my mask off, I was trying not to take it off at all, but because I was traveling for so long, I wanted to eat. A lot of scientists, researchers, and health experts have been recommending not eating in the airport or on the plane. I’m trying not to drink, and I’m thinking, “How the heck am I going to do this for this long flight?”
I weighed out the pros and cons. I said, “If I can do this as mindfully as possible, I feel like it’s worth the risk.” I was feeling hungry when I got to the airport. I was there three hours before my flight, and that was delayed. I brought a Dr. McDougall’s Right Foods. They’re these wonderful old-school vegan soups. My favorite one is the Split Pea Soup.
I brought that with me, and then I went to a cafe at the airport and asked for hot water. They don’t charge you for it. They handed it to me. I brought the cup. I dumped the water and combined it. Once I got to my gate, I found tables and barely anyone around there. I sat and ate my food as quickly as possible with my face shield on. That was great.
One thing I wasn’t expecting was once I got on the flight, within an hour and a half, they served a meal. At least it felt like that time. I mentioned in the previous episode that I tend to do a series on my whole flight experience and the timing of it because I’m super curious about those details. I had marked down what time I was fed. I received a wonderful meal.
Another accommodation that you can request is a special meal. On Philippine Airlines, all of my meals happened to be gluten-free. They served bread on the side, but the actual food was gluten-free, or it looked gluten-free. I have a little video of that. I’m going to pull up in the background, but they served a side of bread and vegan butter. It was a smart balance with the word vegan on it. I got a little meal. It looked like it was rice, chickpeas, and roasted vegetables. It was good. I was quite impressed.
The other cool thing I mentioned in another episode, but worth mentioning again, is from a COVID standpoint, a huge advantage was that they would serve my meal about 10 or 15 minutes before everybody else’s. The flight attendants would walk around and pass out all the special meals. They would do the service to the rest of the plane, where you would have two options. I got to eat before everybody else was eating, which meant that I had less exposure.
Part of the reason on that note is I’ve seen many videos of people that have taken on these CO2 monitors onto airplanes and measured the amounts at various points in the airport, on the runway, in the air, and even in the bathrooms. They have used that to show your risk factor based on how much CO2 is circulating in the airplane. That’s why they came to the conclusion that if you can eat your food when most people are wearing their masks again if at all, you’re more protected than if you eat at the same time with everybody else. Getting a special meal in advance was an advantage.
I will mention that both Philippine Airlines, which I flew to Singapore, and Fiji Airways, which I flew to Los Angeles at the time of my flight in July 2022, both required masks, and people were good about it. On my flight to Costa Rica back through Alaska Airlines, they did not require masks. It’s a different experience.
The food was lovely. I hung out. I slept as much as I could. Before this trip, I used an app called Timeshifter, which, oddly, they charge for, but it’s a pretty advanced, customized app you can download on your phone that helps you reduce jet lag. In addition, I took some homeopathic jet lag medication that you can buy in a lot of stores, as well as on various websites. You take it every two hours. First is at the time that you depart and two hours from there until you get to your destination. I’m not sure if it helped couldn’t tell this subtle, but it gave me some peace of mind.Lead by example. Click To Tweet
I did try not to time the medication too much. The Timeshifter app gives you windows of time to sleep, drink coffee, and look out the window and have some light. I tried to base my whole flying schedule around that, and it seemed to work. My jet lag was not too bad. I slept off and on. I ate two meals that we were served there. I don’t think I had anything else in between. I drank my water as frequently as possible. I bring my LifeStraw bottle, which has a filter in it. I filled that up at the airport before I got on the plane. I had filled up a secondary bottle to refill that LifeStraw as needed.
Airplanes will give you water, but I try to reduce the plastic as much as possible. I always feel a little nervous about the water source. I like to bring my own on. I also use some hydration packs. Two brands, one is called Kinderlyte. It’s a less sugary Gatorade. I also use Nuun. I love their products. They have immunity packets. They had some for rest. They have sport. They have a whole line, and they’re in a nice compact bottle with tablets. I brought both on my flights and enjoyed that.
The airlines, some of them have in-flight entertainment. Some of them are you need to download the apps ahead of time. I did both. I downloaded the Philippines myPAL app, which I don’t think worked well. I even tried to use the Wi-Fi. It didn’t work that well. For a long flight, be prepared. I downloaded books and movies.
One thing that’s cool is Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and HBO. They allow you to store the streaming TV shows and movies on your device. If you’re flying or traveling without an internet connection, it’s a game-changer. I use that in Costa Rica and Singapore. I still might even use it on my upcoming road trip. It’s great. I loaded that up. I didn’t end up doing any reading. I also downloaded some audiobooks. I never listened to them. I watched little bits of some TV shows and movies.
I also got this cool connector that I used a few times on the flights that had the built-in entertainment because the Wi-Fi wasn’t working well. I’m glad I didn’t depend on it. On domestic flights, it works pretty well. I’ve used it where various airlines. You use their Wi-Fi, but you don’t have to pay for it. It streams to your device, and you can watch movies there. That was unreliable on these international trips.
I used the in-flight entertainment, but one cool thing I bought ahead of time is a little connector. This is so geeky but awesome. It turned the little headphone adapter into a Bluetooth adapter that worked with my Bluetooth headphones, which have noise cancellation. It’s a game-changer. I have the Apple AirPods Max. I use them for all my shows. On an airplane, the sound was incredible with noise cancellation and using that little Bluetooth device. I can watch anything wirelessly, and that wasn’t that expensive. There are a few different models. These are some of my geeky travel recommendations.
I also brought this blow-up pillow, which I’ve used before. It allows you to sleep using the tray table. You can put your arm and head through it. I’m mixed on that in the past. It’s been helpful for long flights, but I only used it a few times on these six flights that I went between Costa Rica, Manila, Singapore, and Fiji. It’s a peace of mind thing.
The issue is that because of COVID, you’re supposed to blow it up on the airplane, but blowing something up on an airplane during COVID made me uncomfortable. I did it because I wanted to sleep, but it felt a little risky. It’s awkward, and it looks weird. It’s worth considering. I’m glad I have it. I also brought a footrest. This was a game changer for me when I flew to Greece several years ago. I’ve heard a lot of people recommending them.
They’re these things that you can hang over your tray table. They’re like foot hammocks. Your feet are off the ground, up in the air. They’re nice for reducing some back pain and leg pain. I wore compression socks. It’s nice for reducing any inflammation in your legs. The footrest depends on where your seat is, how much leg room you have, and how the trade tables are configured. Across the six flights, there were maybe a couple that worked well for me and others I didn’t bother.
On some of my flights, I was in the bulkhead row. I didn’t have a tray table in front of me. It didn’t work well with the pullout tray table. There are tons of travel gadgets. A big lesson I learned was that some of these things are not worth the space they take up in your bags, especially if you’re doing carry-on only, and not worth the extra weight that they impose.
I’ve reached Singapore. Based on all of my jet lag planning, I felt pretty good. My flight landed around 9:30. I did have to go through immigration and customs there. I don’t remember that taking long. I always get customs and immigration confused, but I think it was customs where you present your passport and you talk to an officer about what your plans are. They stamped your passport with the visa.
In Singapore, my dad said it took him quite some time to get through, but for me, 10 or 15 minutes. It wasn’t bad. I had to go through immigration. This is something I don’t remember from past international trips, but they’re like little checkpoints where you put your bags through this tiny scanner. It’s like a mini version of TSA. You do that before you exit the airport.
I arrived at this airport, and it was huge. I’ve heard so much about this Singapore Airport. I did skip over my transfer in Manila to share that real quick. I would love to visit the Philippines. I had never felt that compelled to go there, but as I was doing this transfer before going to Singapore, I thought, “I wish I had had more time.”
I work with a team of people in the Philippines through one of my clients. I thought, “I want to know where they live and what life is like there.” I was at the airport for less than two hours. Not only was my flight delayed, but going through this customs, immigration, and health checkpoint process in Manila, I got off one plane. I went through that for probably 30 to 45 minutes. I got onto the other plane almost immediately. It was quick. I barely had time to think.
I took another flight and landed in Singapore. In the story, that’s where I’m at. I got to this airport, and unbeknownst to me, I walked right past the famous part of it that I ended up seeing later. It’s called Changi Airport. It is known for having the tallest indoor waterfall in the world. It’s cool, but I didn’t see it when I arrived. Even though I walked right past it, it was hidden from the view that I had. I had to go past that and find transportation to meet my dad at the hotel in Downtown Singapore.
Before I did that, I remember feeling a little unprepared because I didn’t even know how I was going to pay to get to Downtown. I was going to take the subway. It was this moment of thinking, “I wish I had done a little bit more preparation, but I didn’t have the bandwidth to do it.” It’s interesting when you get somewhere brand new, a foreign country, and suddenly it hits you. I’m not at home anymore.
I was grateful that the airport had free Wi-Fi because I did not sign up for international data. Although, if you’re curious, you can get that for about $10 a day. It’s pretty affordable, but it wasn’t worth it for me since I didn’t plan to do a lot of texting or phone calls. I used the airport’s Wi-Fi signal to get directions to the subway station and get to the hotel.
I remember standing there thinking, “How do I pay for this?” I went to an ATM, which might not have been the wisest thing in hindsight. They charged me $5 to use it. My dad recommended I have some cash. Unlike in Costa Rica, it felt like in Singapore, most people, if they wanted to be paid in cash, either preferred or required Singapore currency. Their currency is called Singapore Dollars, but I could be wrong.
I got some of that from the ATM. I used it throughout the three and a half days I was there. It was pretty helpful, but I wish that I had prepared a little bit more and figured out a better deal for my money. I made my way to the MRT as it’s called, which I had to take a separate train from my terminal to a different terminal and get on this. It was about a 40-minute ride to the city.
It was neat for a number of reasons. You can use Apple Pay or probably other various versions of wireless payments. You can also use your credit card if it has the ability to tap. If that has a chip in it, you can tap on the entrance, and it lets you right through. You don’t have to get a special ticket. You don’t have to go to a machine or a booth. You go right through.
I used a credit card that had no foreign transaction fees. It was converted from Singapore to USD and super affordable. It was a little over $1 to go 40 minutes into the city. I was amazed, and it was simple. My Google Maps through the Wi-Fi guided me. On the MRT train, it was neat because Singapore is known for respect for the people that live there. The citizens have a lot of courtesy for one another and a lot of cleanliness.
Getting onto that subway, it felt orderly. Unlike a lot of US cities that feel a bit chaotic, it was peaceful. Everyone is mindful of each other. All the seats were taken. Everyone’s sitting next to each other very quietly. There are even signs encouraging you not to talk. I think those might be up for COVID reasons. They require masks, and they have all these signs about how to stop the spread of COVID. I instantly felt relaxed with that. It was quiet in there.
At a certain point, we came up above underground. We were outside, and I could see the city for the first time. I noticed how Singapore has so much nature. I later learned that it’s referred to as City within a Garden. My first impression was all this natural landscaping. There were plants on buildings, on top of buildings, and on the side of buildings. Next to them on the street, it’s all over and passing through the city like that. There were palm trees, and the sky was beautiful. It was neat.
There are a ton of buildings there. It’s dense, but it never felt that crowded to me. I appreciated that. It also felt big even though it’s like a relatively small island, and it’s also known for being a melting pot. Plus, most people, if not everybody there, speaks English. English is the main language in Singapore, followed by different forms of Chinese. You would see English words written everywhere first, and underneath it, I think Chinese might be the language written.
It was easy to communicate and read signs. There’s no translation needed. It was the currency stuff. I noticed US dollars weren’t common there. Most places took credit cards, so that was easy, but I appreciated having cash with me. I got to the train station. I had to walk a couple of blocks to the hotel. I stayed at the Carlton Hotel Downtown, which is right across from a famous hotel called Raffles.
I met my dad, took a shower, and got changed out of the clothes that I’d been wearing for however many hours. I was flying for twenty-plus hours, all things considered. We decided to get lunch. At that time, it was probably around 12:00 or 1:00 PM. I looked up on HappyCow where some of the local vegan options were. It was overwhelming how much plant-based food was there in a great way, but at that moment, I was brand new to this city. I don’t know where anything is. I’m feeling disoriented. I’m super hungry. We picked a place in this mall.When traveling, use a few different sites to figure out the best schedule and the best prices. Click To Tweet
First of all, malls are everywhere, countless. In the vicinity of our hotel, there was a mall on every block. It blew my mind in different types of malls, like traditional malls with tons of different shopping options and most places you would find in the United States, a lot of luxury brands and malls that were based around food like huge food courts. We went to this one a few blocks away that had many vegan places. I walked in there. I feel out of my element in the best way possible. I love Asian cuisine.
I walked in, and it was Asian restaurant after Asian restaurant, but they were different types. There were Chinese, Japanese Thai, Korean, and all different little variations . There were even some Americanized restaurants. There was a pasta restaurant, and there were a few coffee shops. There was a vegetarian grocery store there. This is not marketed as being a vegetarian mall, but the options there were mind-blowing. Even the bakery had vegan options marked on it.
My dad and I were two of the only White people there. It was predominantly Asian people. Throughout my entire time in Singapore, this was true, and it’s very Asian. When I would see other White people or non-Asian people, it was rare that they were American. I would hear people speaking in British accents and Australian accents. I would hear people speaking different languages that I didn’t recognize. I did not come across that many Americans there, which I loved. I felt like I could immerse myself in the culture more that way.
My dad and I walked all around this mall. It was several stories high. I don’t even know if we went to the final floor. We went up at least 3 or 4 flights and made our decision. Based on some HappyCow reviews, we picked this one place. What’s cool about this mall is they are sit-down restaurants, but they’re all one after another and condensed. We walked up, and there were no tables available at first, but the turnaround was quick. Someone left within a few minutes.
You ordered at this counter, and they gave you a buzzer. This was common in Singapore. The buzzer system that you hold onto, much like in the States. You usually get those when you arrive at a busy restaurant and you’re waiting for a table, but here you would get that to wait for your food. The prices were mind-blowing to me.
My first impression was, “I can’t believe how inexpensive the food is here.” At least at that particular place, but that was common throughout the city if you didn’t go to a super touristy or high-end restaurant. My food probably cost $6. I got a stir fry and some Jasmine green tea, and that was all $6. My dad’s meal is $4. I forgot what he got, but something that in the States would’ve easily cost $10. I deeply appreciated that.
We walked back to the hotel. I went swimming in the pool, which was nice. The weather in Singapore in July was pleasant. It’s quite humid. Most days, I felt like I was sweating a ton. We did a lot of walking around. I was grateful for the pool. The pool water was not warm, but it was refreshing. My dad and I went to dinner with some people that he was working with out there. He was out on a work trip. This restaurant and it’s called Coriander Leaf. It was right across the street from the Carlton Hotel at another mall. I think you considered a mall. It’s an outdoor shopping and food center called CHJMES.
Coriander Leaf felt a little on the high-end side but still pretty affordable. They had many foods marked on their menu based on dietary preferences, including vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free, at least. I had a variety of different foods like fresh fruits, some tofu, and rice. They had all different desserts. It was a lovely and great atmosphere. Wonderful service there.
The next day started off with my dad and I going to the breakfast buffet at the hotel. Also, extremely impressive. Not a ton of vegan and gluten-free options, but many vegan items there. He said it cost about S$21. I downloaded this great app to translate currency. It’s called Currency Converter. It was awesome. I used it everywhere I went on this trip. It’s called the Singapore Dollars, SGD, and S$21 is $15 for an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet. I think that’s what he said. Maybe I’m getting it backward. It could have been S$35 and $25.
For the amount of food selection they had there, it was great. I haven’t been to a breakfast buffet in so long, but imagine more of a Vegas buffet than your typical continental breakfast at a hotel. Everything was clean. There were hand sanitizers everywhere and mask requirements when you were getting your food. Service people there cleaning and answering questions. Everything was labeled, including the vegan items.
They had this incredible selection of pastries, which I did not bother looking at because I’m gluten-free. I was a little sad about that, but toast and jams, all these cereals, a whole fruit display. They had oatmeal, and congee, which is usually rice-based, but I found out it was not vegetarian. They had all this savory food. I ended up eating some mixed vegetables and noodles. They even had a vegan steamed bun that said, “Vegan.” I thought, “This is amazing.” I tried it even though it wasn’t gluten-free. I couldn’t resist. I think it had red bean paste on it.
There are moments I wish I didn’t need to avoid gluten. I also was into their hash browns. I ate that every morning for breakfast. I’m not usually a hash brown eater, but they were amazing. All these interesting things you could get. If you weren’t vegan, it would’ve been pure heaven. They even had Brie cheese. Any time of day, you could enjoy that food, but it was served during breakfast. They also had cool coffee machines.
One tip, especially if you have food preferences and sensitivities like me, is to get some milk from a different store and bring it with you to the hotel store and the fridge there. I love lattes. What I would do is I would make espresso at the buffet, and I would use my own milk that I bought at 711. I happened to go to 711 the day before when I was in that food court-style mall. They had pea milk, which is one of my favorite milk.
They had other types of milk too, but they had these tiny little single serving bottles in the refrigerator that happened to be on sale. It was S$3.50 for two, which was $2.50, $1.25 for a single serving. I was thrilled. I brought that with me to breakfast every morning and made my own lattes at the table. They even had a milk steamer on the machine. If you’re into coffee like me, it was awesome. They also had coffee all around the city. Most places had non-dairy. A lot of places used oat milk, like Oatley. That was impressive to you. I’ll get to a little bit more on that in a moment.
Shortly after that breakfast buffet, we took a subway ride to a different part of town. I forget what it was called, but I found it on HappyCow. It was a fully vegan section of food stalls and a vegan cafe that served the local style of coffee. My dad got into called Coffee Of Kopi. It’s a style of coffee drink made with condensed milk. I wanted to try it and happened to look up on HappyCow that this one place had vegan coffee, as well as boba, which you could add to it. It was incredible and Makan. That’s on HappyCow.
Right next to the coffee shop was a row of four different food stalls. They shared a kitchen, but they were separate like you’d pay separately for them. I’m starting to drool thinking about this. It was hard to decide which one to get, but I decided the one that looked the most unique to me was mala pot. What was neat about this is I’ve never experienced this. I imagine they have this in the States too, but you open up this refrigerator door and fill up a stainless steel bowl with all the vegetables that you want to go into this hot pot. You hand it over to them. They weigh it. They price it based on the weight, and they stir fry it up in their sauce.
That might have been my favorite meal at this moment because it was nothing I’ve tried and done before. The fridge had all these different types of vegetables, sprouts, root vegetables, mushrooms, various types of noodles, seaweed, tofu, and all these different forms. It blew my mind. I mixed a bunch of random things together. I think it cost S$16. That was one of the most expensive meals I bought myself. That was $11 or $12. My dad was like, “Wow, big spender.” It was big, the portion size because I put many vegetables in it that I ended up having leftovers, and I ate them later that day.
It was a unique flavor. I don’t know if it came from one of the ingredients I put in or the sauce I used, but it was nothing I’d had before. They also used the buzzer system there. It took a while, which was great because everything was perfectly cooked. I was in pure bliss. At that moment, I was looking around, we were the only White people there, and I felt, “This is awesome. I’m in a whole new country, and I’m surrounded by different types of people.” I felt a deep love for that. I love something that’s different. It’s hard to describe that feeling for me, but it’s that immersive sense of being part of something that I’m not part of. I had never been to Asia. I felt this deep sense of excitement about that.
We went, we got coffee and added the boba to it. That was delicious. We walked back from there to the hotel. It took us about 90 minutes. We walked along the river and took in the sites. I went swimming again. My dad and I had one of the best times in our experience. This was a Saturday. I arrived on a Friday. On that Saturday night, he took me to a place he had read about. It was in the Marina Area of Singapore at this bar that had these extraordinary cocktails. It was on the rooftop of city hall, but I don’t think that was right.
It was outside overlooking the Marina Bay Sands, which is this famous hotel on the water. That was the first time I got a good look at that hotel that I’ve seen in movies, TV shows, and on social media. It was another one of those moments when you see a famous landmark. It’s cool. We had incredible drinks. The menu there was deeply impressive, also expensive. I ended up getting a drink that was S$32. I’ve heard that they’re known for expensive alcohol because of importing or their laws. That was a $23 drink. I normally never spend that much on alcohol, but it was incredible.
They have these amazing descriptions. They put intention about it. The drink was a nice size. Everything about it was amazing. Plus, this incredible view. It was city hall. That’s not the name of the place, but that was the area that we were in. I didn’t make that up. Smoke & Mirrors is the name of this place. We sat there looking at the view. It was sunset. There happened to be fireworks that night in the distance, and the weather was perfect. We had an amazing time. For that whole experience, it’s easily worth $23.
We made our way back to the hotel. I got lots of sleep. I woke up the next day. That was one of our most adventurous days. After the breakfast buffet, we walked through the Raffles mall for the second time. We went through it a little bit the first day, but on the second day, we went through there, stopped at some shops, and took a bus over to the Marina Bay Sands area, where there’s also a well-known place called Gardens by the Bay.
I found a great deal for that on a local deal site. It might not be local to Singapore, but I wasn’t familiar with it. It’s called Klook. I got $10 or $15 off. I bought passes that included access to the Marina Bay Sands observation deck at the top of that hotel and access to Gardens by the Bay. It’s a great deal. I recommend looking into that site.
I happened to get some extra bonus points through my credit card. Another tip for you in terms of saving money or being savvy on trips is credit cards come with all sorts of travel benefits, and I have multiple credit cards. I would check and see which card offered which deal that worked out nicely for me because Gardens by the Bay and the Marina Bay Sands are a little pricey to do. People would say that like, “It’s pricey but worth it.”
It came out with the deal that I got through that site to be about $30 to visit both per person. It’s not too bad, but based on how inexpensive Singapore can be, it felt a little pricey. We went to this wonderful experience. On the way there, we went to a different mall to go to another vegan restaurant I found on HappyCow. This was a Korean restaurant that was on the fancier side. This place is called Am I Addicted. Interestingly enough, it is a combination between a Korean restaurant and a pottery experience. You go and make your own pottery there. Next door is a high-end vegetarian Korean restaurant.
It was good. It’s one of the highest-rated vegan places in the city. I got truffle risotto. That was lovely. My dad, though, I envied him because he got this cool kimchi grilled cheese sandwich. They didn’t have gluten-free bread. They didn’t have a ton of gluten-free options there. It was a little tricky. That’s when we took the bus and went to the Gardens by the Bay. It was lovely. It’s another place I’ve seen tons of photos and videos of insane because there are plants from all over the world everywhere. They have these indoor areas you can go to.Drink your water as frequently as possible but try to reduce the plastic as much as possible. If you bring yours, you’re not worried about the water source. Click To Tweet
One of them was all based around plants that grow in the mist. It tells you all about the areas in the world where these plants grow, and you’re going up on these different levels, looking above water, and it was spectacular. Another one, I don’t know what the theme of it was, but it had all these cool plants and special exhibits. You would go visit different parts of the world in their plants. It’s like a botanical garden of what this was.
What was interesting about Gardens by the Bay is that it almost felt like I was at Disney in a good way. They also seemed to have some partnership with Disney because they had Disney characters hidden in some of the garden displays. Winnie the Pooh was there. There was one about Alice in Wonderland, not necessarily a Disney story either of them, but well known for being part of Disney.
There must be some collaboration. Walking through there, I kept thinking, this reminds me of being at Disney, like Animal Kingdom or something like that. Not quite EPCOT, but nice. It’s not nearly as crowded or as intense as Disney, but a similar feeling. After we did that, we walked across the park, and right next to it was Marina Bay Sand. You go get in another line, and it takes you up to the top. It reminds me of going up to the Eiffel Tower or one of the tall buildings in New York City. You have to wait for the elevators. They take you up to the 56th floor, and you can overlook almost the entire city, but it feels like you can see so far out because you’re so high.
It was super crowded there. There are people from all over the world. It was pretty nice. I’m glad I did it, but it fell on the touristy side. Both of the places did, even though Gardens by the Bay feels like something the locals probably enjoy a lot. Both felt a bit commercialized. In hindsight, the Marina Bay Sands was not as special or something that I thought. I’ve seen it and imagined myself going up there many times.
If you stay at the hotel, it’s cool because they’re also known for having this infinity pool. If you look it up, there are many photos and videos of people swimming around in that. I’m sure that also feels quite touristy, but you could see it if you looked over the observation deck and cranked your neck. You could see people in the infinity pool. I wish I had been over there.
They also have restaurants up there or a bar, at least. They looked fine, but they were extremely pricey. I have mixed feelings about that. Overall, it was a little check off the list, but what was a little bit cooler than that was at the bottom of the Marina Bay Sands, they have a huge mall. This was the most impressive mall that I went to and one of the biggest malls I’ve been to in my life because it went on and on.
It was multiple stories. Every luxury brand seemed to be in there. It was very expensive. They had a casino there, which I believe was 1 of 2 casinos in the country and one of the coolest Apple stores I’ve ever been to. I’m a huge Apple fan. I had to go in. You enter underground, and it’s in the water. There’s a bubble with all glass. The only way to get in is going underground through the mall. I wanted to be in there. We walked around there for a bit.
We went to dinner at a chain restaurant that my friend had recommended. You can find it in Los Angeles. I found out in Vegas, maybe in some other parts of the US. It’s called Din Tai Fung. My friend was raving about it. They had some vegan options on their vegetarian menu, including vegan dumplings. There are lots of reviews on HappyCow and fried rice.
The other cool thing about it was they delivered the steamed dumplings by a robot. This little guy, as I like to refer to him, came over on his own and positioned itself right next to your table. A waiter comes over and takes the food out from the robot. My dad was like, “What’s the point of the robot?” I don’t know if it was a fun little gimmick or helpful for efficiency purposes, but I enjoyed that robot.
The restaurant was nice. My dad liked it. It’s fairly affordable. Apparently, in the US, it’s more expensive, but it came out to be, for those that are curious about prices, S$55, which is $40. My dad got a beer, and we got a bunch of different foods. It’s not too bad. I was fascinated by how that was “expensive” compared to the food stalls.
The next day was Sunday. That was our last full day there together. We went to this other garden, which was nice. I forget what it was called there, but it was this outdoor free park you could walk through. I don’t think it qualified for a national park. I think they have a national park there, but it was this super impressive park that reminded me of the Huntington Gardens in Los Angeles if you’ve ever been there. It’s more of a borderline of a botanical garden. It might have even been a botanical garden officially.
For some reason, my photos are not coming up of all of it, but this happened to me the day that I was doing the video. I took many photos that my computer couldn’t even keep track of. We walked through there, and we went to that other botanical garden, the free one, the same day that we went to Gardens by the Bay, which is interesting. I guess that was Sunday.
The last day that we were there was a Monday, and it was not a full day because my flight left at 9:00 PM that night. What we did do was go to this area near the hotel after we checked out. It’s called Orchard Road, and it’s known for its shopping. I’ve talked a lot about malls and shopping. This is lined with malls, and it’s interesting because the malls don’t serve for consumerism, but they’re also great for air conditioning. My dad and I would take a break from the heat, which at times felt intense, and we would go into these malls to cool off and look around.
We would go and get coffee at some places. My dad also loves coffee. I went and got souvenirs, mostly food form. My sister wanted lots of local Singaporean things or international things. I got her various fun items. There was a cool store I went to. It’s called Don Don Donki, which is a Japanese discount store. I’ve never been into a Daiso before in the US. I’ve always wanted to go into them. They’re known for being these discount stores. They’re Japanese, but Don Don Donki was a different experience. I don’t even know how to describe it. It felt chaotic in the best way possible.
First of all, most things were not written in English. All I’m seeing is another language that I don’t read, and there’s stuff everywhere. You could go up closer to each product, and a small letter would be the English translation. I felt immensely overwhelmed, but I could have spent an hour there easily. I went through real quick and picked out some things that looked fun and brought them back for my sister to have.
We also found a vegan ice cream shop. That was one of the best vegan ice cream shops I’ve ever been to. It’s called Kind Kones. I had durian-flavored ice cream. Durian is pretty popular in Singapore. There was one outdoor booth or a few I saw throughout the city that I couldn’t tell if they were durian or jackfruit, but I kept thinking about durian and was thrilled to see it in a vegan ice cream shop. It was coconut based. It’s lovely.
My dad got even better, in my opinion, flavor, believe it was called pandan. The person working there said that it was a leaf. Don’t quote me on this. Pandan gula melaka is the full name. It had the smoothest texture and the most interesting subtle flavor. We were blown away. Also, the prices are incredible for that. It was $4 or $5 for these super gourmet flavored ice creams that in the US at a store like that would probably, at least in Los Angeles, would cost $8. We loved it. They even had gluten-free cones. They had keto vegan toppings and different desserts. It was an impressive place.
We left after doing all of the shopping, eating, coffee, and all that stuff. We headed over to the airport. I finally got to see that waterfall, which was nice. The area in the Changi Airport has a separate section called the Jewel. It’s another mall with a huge waterfall in the middle. Around the waterfall are more landscaping and more gardens. It’s lovely. It reminded me of some of the areas at Gardens by the Bay. I thought to myself, “Maybe I didn’t need to pay extra to go to Gardens by the Bay.”
I’m glad I did both because I got to experience the differences and outside of the waterfall were multiple levels of shops, restaurants, and activities. They have bridges you can pay to walk across, rides and good on slides and jump in these nets and do all those things we opted not to. It would’ve been fun, but it didn’t feel worth it. They were everything you had to pay extra for. Even to walk across the bridge was at least S$10, which is $7. I feel like one of them was S$17. It’s $12 to go do something for fifteen minutes. It did not feel worth it to me, but they were on that discount site, Klook. However you pronounce it, you could get a better price for them.
We walked around. We thought about going to a vegan restaurant there that looked nice. I was a little sad. We chose not to. We were feeling a little rush for time. There’s this beautiful restaurant called Violet Oon, and they had this incredible plant-based menu on the more pricey side. Their main courses were anywhere from S$19 to S$25. That’d be $14 to $20.
They looked good, and it was walking into a beautiful tea shop or something, but it ended up taking me quite a long time to check in for my flight through Fiji Airways. I was in line for at least 30 minutes to check in without even checking a bag. We were a little nervous about security, but that ended up being one of the more odd experiences and different.
Once we were ready to enter the area to get to our gates, we walked through the customs. It’s nothing I’ve ever seen before. They had these automated machines that you stood on. You pulled down your mask, they took your picture, and it cleared you there. I don’t think there was a person. I don’t even remember if a person checked my passport. Maybe they did.
It was confusing but cool and efficient. We went through that and expected to go into TSA next, but it was nowhere to be found. Suddenly, we’re in the area where you walk to your gate. I turned to my dad, and I was like, “Where’s security? Where do they check your bags?” I wonder, “Did the machines that we walk through check our bags somehow and scan them? It didn’t make sense.”
We walked to my gate and saw that there were security machines at the gate. Each individual gate had its own security checkpoint. I was confused. We had some extra time before going through that. My dad and I flew separate flights. We were going to get some Indian food and another place I found through HappyCow, but sadly it was close.
We didn’t go to Violet Oon. The other vegan option in our terminal was closed. That was it. I don’t know if there was another place. Maybe there would’ve been, but it wasn’t gluten-free or something. That was a bit of a bummer. I ended up going to the 711, which was fun because they had some unique snacks and stuff in there. I got these poppadom chips that were chili crab flavored but still vegan, and chili crab is one of the famous dishes in Singapore. That was a little thing to tide me over before I got my meal on the flight.
This is the part that I referred to earlier. I was grateful for my dad being there with me when I got to the gate because when I saw the security setup, I panicked mainly because the sign said that you had to have all of your liquid bottles out separate. My toiletries were all organized in a specific way but in different bags within my carry-on bag.When you’re in a whole new country surrounded by different types of people, you feel something different but awesome. Click To Tweet
I turned to my dad, and I was like, “Do I have to take every bottle of liquid out and put it all in one place? If so, do I have to repack it?” I was confused and afraid. This is where I felt what I believe to be a trait of ASD. I don’t even know how to put it into words. Anxiety comes on strong in those moments, but my brain operates differently. I could tell my dad wasn’t nervous about this. Everybody else around me at the gate seemed completely relaxed. I wonder, “Have they been through this before? Is this why they’re relaxed, or do other people think differently than me?”
I believe that’s what it is because my brain starts to spiral. It overthinks. It worries about these details. I have a deep fear of misunderstanding things. I have a fear of being unprepared and all these different scenarios. It’s almost too much to bear at times. If my dad hadn’t been with me, I feel like I would’ve been a complete mess.
Luckily, he talked me through it. I talked to one of the agents and asked, and they said, “You don’t need to take things out. The machine will scan it. If there’s an issue, take things out then.” The sign said something differently. People that are on the autism spectrum tend to take things literally. I thought that I had to take all my liquids out and had I not asked that person. I probably would have done that in anticipation and been annoyed when I got there and nobody else had their liquids out. I think that’s where the trouble is for me.
It was no big deal. It turns out. I put my bag through. They didn’t flag anything. I got on the flight. I have to say that Fiji Airways ended up being a more pleasant experience than Philippine Airlines. Overall, the staff seemed friendlier and more laid back. Nobody weighed my bag this time. My seats were super nice. The airplane was modern. I had the bulkhead seats, which was nice, except I like having all my stuff in front of me.
The big downside to bulkhead seats is that you have to store your items above your seat during takeoff and landing. For my special needs, that was frustrating because I have a whole system. I get all my stuff out organized. I wanted to access things, but luckily it was a long flight. It wasn’t a huge deal because I got to have my items with me most of the time.
I flew ten hours from Singapore to Fiji and landed in Fiji. I felt a little disoriented because there was a time zone difference. Plus, I was flying overnight. I got to Fiji in the morning. I had a whole ten and half hour layover. I didn’t know if I would be able to enter Fiji. My research told me ahead of time that Fiji had less restrictions. When I got to the airport, I found out they do have restrictions. You have to go through testing and all of this stuff. It was incredibly confusing. My brain started to panic, but I decided that I was going to treat Fiji spontaneously as much as I would’ve loved to plan it.
One thing I knew was that there was an airport across the street called the Gateway Hotel that was known for having day rates. You didn’t have to stay overnight to use that hotel. After I went through customs, which took probably the longest of my entire trip was in Fiji waiting in line. I didn’t clock it, but if I would’ve estimated it, it was 30 to 45 minutes. They did have free Wi-Fi at the airport. I used that and tried to do a little research, but ultimately, I ended up going across the street to this hotel, which was simultaneously nice and a little felt like a cheap hotel.
It was an interesting combination there, but it felt safe. I walked up to the front desk with no reservation. That felt uncomfortable for me. I asked them about their day rates, and I got a room for $40 us for six hours. For me, that felt great. If you added up all the hours, it was $150 to stay the night there, but I can’t remember if that was in Fiji. That is generally double the US or a little bit more. If it was FJ$100, it would be $47.
I got my room. I went in, and it was a basic hotel room with a safe. Part of the reason I wanted that is that I often take a shower. I could use a clean bathroom and sink. I could change my clothes and had access to a safe to put my items. At the Fiji Airport in Nadi, where I landed, they can store your luggage for $5. I had my laptop, camera, and all this stuff with me. There’s no guarantee that it’s going to be safe.
Instead of spending $10 to check my two bags at the airport, I decided to spend $40 to have a room that was all mine. There’s air conditioning, and I could have taken a nap. There was a pool there, and there was a nice cafe. The cafe was affordable. I got an amazing stir fry dish for $13, and that included a coffee. I think the stir fry was $9, and the coffee was $4. They had soy milk. It was a lovely ice coffee and a huge serving of delicious stir fry. I ate that at their outdoor restaurant by the pool, and the weather was amazing, tropical, perfect weather.
I wanted to go to the beach. There were some tours that you could take from the airport that seemed great. They would take you to the well-known temple in the area. There was an area there called the Garden of the Sleeping Giant. That sounded cool. They would take you to an outdoor marketplace. That sounded like a great affordable option.
I decided not to do it because it was a little too chaotic when I got to the airport to try to make up my mind. There were numerous tours you could take. I felt like I could have prepared for that but had not made up my mind about what I was going to do. My spontaneous decision was to get a taxi to the closest and best beach. I asked the front desk, and they gave me two options. There was one beach that was 15 to 30 minutes away, but they said it was a black sand beach. I was like, “That’s okay with me.” The second option was to take an hour taxi to a white sand beach. The way they talked about this beach felt like this was the place to go.
I asked how much it was. I said it was FJ$200 round trip. That came out to $95 to get a private taxi for however long I wanted to go. Not only would this taxi driver drive me an hour away, but they would wait for me for however long I wanted to stay at the beach and drive me back. I thought, “For $95 and the 3 or 4 hours with this person in a spontaneous decision, fine.” I did that. He did need to be paid in Fiji Dollars, which I did not do currency exchange. He drove me to an ATM, I got cash out, and drove me to this amazing private beach.
I was the only one aside from an interesting experience with locals who were trying to sell me massages, coconuts, and horse rides. There was a little bit of pressure. Clearly, their line of work is about convincing tourists to sign up for their services. That was an out of all of my travels interesting because I never experienced pressure like that anywhere else on this trip, but it was fine. I had to be confident and politely say no.
The driver parked, sat, and waited. He said, “Go take as much time as you want.” I walked along the ocean by myself because all my belongings were locked up safe at the hotel. I had my wallet, my phone, and my little camera. That was, out of all the things I did, one of the most peaceful and rejuvenating. The sand was perfectly soft. It was a beautiful, clear day. Warm, not too hot, though. I was glad I wore sunscreen and brought a sun hat because I got some sun from walking on that beach for an hour at 3:00.
The water was lovely and that was one of those moments I was trying to preserve in my brain and savor, so I could transport myself to that memory at any point. I tried to be intentional about the photos and little video clips I took. I could go back to that experience. I haven’t posted any of this stuff yet on social, but if I do, I hope you check it out. I hope it gives you the feeling that I had at that moment.
I walked down the beach, and I came across this area of low tide. There was this interesting formation that went out about 50 feet towards the ocean but was low little tide pools. There were little baby octopuses in there, fish, and little crabs. I was walking through it barefoot. I’m thinking to myself, “Is some random sea creature going to sting me, bite me, and hurt me?” I saw other people doing it with some of the locals, and I thought, “It looks all right. I felt magical because I’m stepping through carefully, these little patches of sea life. It was nuts.”
That was towards the end of my walk. I walked back. There are people riding horses nearby, but not that many people probably within sight, 20 to 30 people max on this huge stretch of beach and a few people out in the water swimming, some people on jet skis or little boats, but it was felt open and quiet. What an incredible way to begin the end of this trip that I was on.
I walked back, and the cab driver was nice. He had this heavy accent. He was very local but spoke great English. I assume that English is the main language in Fiji, but I didn’t learn too much about it. He did tell me all these stories about the area. He was pointing out all the different plants that grew there and telling me about how his dad was a sugar cane farmer. He told me a little bit about himself. He was an older man, maybe in his 60s or 70s.
He is lovely and caring. We drove by all of these food stands where local people would sell things they grew in their garden or prawns they harvested and caught at the river. He is telling me about the local crabbing that they do. They had little barbecues and all this different food. The food stands were constant on this drive.
He was talking about watermelon in such a compelling way that I asked him to keep an eye out for any place that would have sliced watermelon. We found one. He pulled over to the side of the road and got out. I got two big slices of fresh watermelon for $1. Maybe it was FJ$2 Fiji. The two of us ate it. I bought a slice for myself and one for my driver. He didn’t eat it while he was driving. I sat in the back eating my watermelon, and he was like, “You can spit the seeds out the window. That’s what the locals do.” I was like, “Okay.” I was throwing the seeds out the window. That was another one of my favorite experiences. It was that freedom.
I had no plans. I was taken care of by this wonderful driver. The driver was hired by the hotel. They set him up for me. I felt in full trust of him. I never felt unsafe. I was instructed where to go by the hotel. That was a good experience. My sister was like, “You ate fruit from the side of the road in some foreign country.” I was like, “I didn’t even think about whether that would have a negative impact on me, but I felt fine, and it was worth it.” It was because he was telling me about the watermelon, and I was like, “I got to experience some fruit in Fiji. That was lovely.”
He drove me back to the hotel. I had an hour or so before I needed to leave for the airport. I went back, rinsed off, changed, and sat in the hotel’s outdoor area. They had a guy singing live music there, and it was nice. They had a free shuttle to the airport, which was across the street. Someone drove me over there. The airport in Fiji was laid back, and I went to my gate. It was interesting. They had a little food court there, but not much in terms of vegan food. I got some French fries because I was hungry. I walked around. The shops had a ton of stuff. It was not the greatest in terms of food, and the prices were pretty high there relatively.
I got back on the Fiji Airways flight. This time straight to LA, and they served some good food. Unlike Philippine Airlines, their vegan options all contained gluten. I felt a little under-prepared for that too. I got a sandwich, which was probably good. The bread looked good, but it was a roasted vegetable sandwich. I picked out the veggies.
The breakfast was some mashed potato with a vegetable stew on the side. Every meal I had on this flight came with a roll and butter on the side. I was unsure if it was vegan. That meal was fine. All of the food was good. It’s unfortunate if you have gluten sensitivities like me. One of them came with hush kush and a chickpea dish. For breakfast, they had vegan French toast, which is also glutenous.
That looked incredible. They had berries and a cool sauce on it. I picked all that stuff off, and I was bummed that I couldn’t need it. The lesson is overall Fiji Airways, I preferred over Philippine, not food-wise though for my sensitivity. Maybe you could request if you called to be both vegan and gluten-free, but I did not do that. It was a little too much work because on the website, you either choose vegan, gluten-free, or whatever else.I hope that despite budget challenges and health things going on in the world, you still find a way to comfortably and safely travel. Click To Tweet
Getting accommodations can be challenging. I would probably, in hindsight, either eat a little bit more in Fiji and/or bring some more snacks for myself, but the flight was comfortable, and they had amazing TV shows and movies to watch. It all went flawless. I got back to LA and my second time at the Tom Bradley International Airport within a week and had the same great experience using global entry to go through customs. It was quick.
I went home and slept for sixteen hours, not immediately. I arrived in LA early in the day. I stayed up all day long. I was working on the jet lag. When I finally went to sleep that night, I didn’t wake up until 4:00 the next day. I gave up on my jet lag plan. That’s why I had those crazy body aches. It’s maybe from the weird sleep schedules, sleeping on the airplanes, all the stuff I did, and eating some gluten because I did try the French toast on the plane. My body was out of wack. What I thought might have been COVID was probably jet lag and or post-travel adjustment, I suppose.
This episode ended up being a lot longer and very detailed. If you made it all the way through, thank you for being on this journey with me. I did not expect to go quite in so much depth. I’m sharing with you the things I wish I had known, the ups and downs of it all, and all the nuances I probably didn’t even fully cover. I wanted to give you paint this picture of the adventure and maybe inspire you to go to the same places or go somewhere else. It could be taking a road trip like I’m about to do.
These experiences of seeing new places, being challenged and stretched in new ways mentally, knowing that you’re not always going to be prepared and trying to find accommodations for yourself, saving room in your budget, time, and mind for moments that don’t quite go as planned or things that you didn’t plan out.
The Fiji experience, since I was the least prepared for that, ended up being great because I let go. I could have got an inexpensive tour. I probably could have gotten to those beaches for far less than $95, and maybe not. I remember at that moment deciding it was okay to spend that money. Money is a big factor for me, but I save up money for travel and have these credit cards. I had to get in a lot of interesting flows when it came to money.
You certainly could do these trips on a budget. If I can ever guide you through more tips specifically on what I would’ve done differently financially, I’m happy to do that because I want travel to be accessible. I also hope that I post some of the videos I took. Whatever else, I’m here. Ask away. Ask me any other details I left out or any specifics you’d like to know about Fiji, Singapore, flying these airlines, going somewhere international during COVID, and protecting yourself. Hopefully, COVID won’t always be this way. It’s amazing that COVID still feels intense, at least for me in July 2022. I remember when I was planning these trips, thinking, “We’re going to be through a lot of this.” Not in my opinion, at least. I’m here for you.
I hope that despite budget challenges and health things going on in the world, you still find a way to comfortably and safely travel. I’m amazed that I made it through that trip without blowing my whole budget and getting COVID. It gave me a little peace of mind, I suppose. I hope it did for you too. Even if you decide to go places like this way in the future, there’s so much to learn here that I’m happy to pass on. If you have never gone there, I hope you enjoyed the detailed experience and imagining it because that can do a lot for you too.
With all this said, I’m going to go head out to prep for my next coach training session. I start planning for my next trip, which I will share more about later. In the next few episodes, there’ll be completely other unrelated topics. It’s not about travel. Stay tuned for that. I have some amazing guests coming up for you, and I hope that you’re doing well.
If you would like to chat, know that I am here to listen beyond all the talking that I do. Whether you want to join me in Beyond Measure or you want to talk privately, I will be sharing more details about the coaching offering when I go through this program and have that all set up. If that’s something you’re interested in, stay tuned at the very least. You get to hear my journey of learning how to be a better coach.
I would love to develop some friendship and correspondence with you in whatever way possible. Know that you can reach me through social media, email, Beyond Measure, and in-person meetings or a trip somewhere. That would be the greatest thing ever. I hope one day I get to experience that with you. Until next time. I hope you’re doing wonderfully and have wonderful rest of your day, whatever time it may be ahead of you. Wherever you may be in the world, I hope it’s a good one. Bye for now.
- Retreat in Costa Rica – Past Episode
- Beyond Measure
- ADHD – Past Episode
- One Health Pass
- Google Flights
- TSA Cares – Past Episode
- Split Pea Soup
- Bluetooth adapter
- Blow-up Pillow
- Marina Bay Sands
- Smoke & Mirrors
- Gardens by the Bay
- Am I Addicted
- Din Tai Fung
- Don Don Donki
- Kind Kones
- Violet Oon
- Garden of the Sleeping Giant
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