How Our Big Adventure Changed My Mindset Forever: Memories, Regrets and Tips

This is the end of 2 weeks of daily travel throwbacks I promised to write about. Our big adventure happened between November 2019 and April 2020, but now I can finally say I have some closure. This experience ended like an unexpected breakup in a relationship, like I was forced to turn the page despite some unfinished business. We planned 6 months of travel but only managed to do 5 before the pandemic interrupted us. Some would say we didn’t have much luck. I would say we actually got very lucky because at least we completed the biggest part of it.

We travelled to Singapore (1 week), Kuala Lumpur (1 week), Bali (2 weeks), Perth (10 days), Melbourne (2 weeks), Sydney (10 days), then drove from Sydney to Cairns (4 weeks) and finally visited New Zealand (6 weeks). But we got stranded in Fiji, where we planned a 5-day holiday and ended up staying 3 weeks as we couldn’t fly anywhere because of the pandemic. Finally, anyone with a passport from Europe got their access denied to Japan, where we were supposed to visit many cities from Tokyo to Fukuoka during our last 6 weeks of travelling.

What my best memories are

This travelling experience by itself was the best project I’ve ever put together. Among the 6 countries we went to, the only 2 places I’ve been before were Brisbane and Surfers Paradise (Australia) so 99% of it was a complete discovery. I’ve been impressed by Singapore and enjoyed New Zealand way more than I thought I would do. My best memories overall would include:

  • Singapore – Admiring the illuminated super trees in Gardens by the Bay and listening to the evening Rhapsody show
  • Malaysia – Being spoilt for choice in various food markets
  • Bali – Enjoying a private romantic diner for two when I got engaged
  • Australia – Driving along the Great Ocean Road, arriving just on time to watch the sun set over the 12 Apostles
  • New Zealand – Witnessing the natural beauty of the turquoise glacial water of Lake Tekapo

Apart from specific places, I would say my best memory is how I felt when we were travelling: free, happy and very lucky.

What I would do differently

In hindsight, there are always some things you would do differently when you put a plan in motion for the first time. I have no regrets in general, but if I knew better, I would have…

  1. …picked a better time to travel. We left when it was convenient in our calendar but sometimes overlooked the season in the country we were going to. In Southeast Asia & the Pacific, their winter is our summer. So their summer is something we’re definitely not used to and it was a bit difficult for us to cope with so much heat and humidity at times.
  2. …planned ahead for events to celebrate. Our Christmas plan was a bit last minute and my birthday was overlooked. You don’t think of it when you’re planning an entire trip but on the day you can regret it. I would have planned better for these special occasions!
  3. …worked harder to be in a better shape. Fair to say we were not in our best shape when we left travelling and I think we missed out on some physical activities that required a good fitness level, which was a bit of a shame. No need to be able to run a marathon but improving our cardio beforehand would have been a good idea.
  4. …allocated some rest time in the planning. When you’re travelling you also need some time to properly rest. We neglected that part and as a result we felt like it stopped us from enjoying our experience fully. Also, I wouldn’t book accommodation for only 1 or 2 days anymore – or only if it’s just a stop to break down the journey.
  5. …travelled lighter. As much as we tried to take only the minimum in our backpacks, we realised there were some things we never used during our trip. We took too many clothes for example, travelling is not a fashion show and we wouldn’t have minded wearing the same thing regularly if it meant carrying less heavy bags with us.

What you need to know before doing it

If you’re thinking of going on a similar adventure, I thought I would give you some tips (on top of what I would do differently from our own experience) as some things can be easy to forget:

  • Do your research properly: watch videos on YouTube, read travel books but also blogs because they will give you more personal advice, ask people around you who have already done such a thing.
  • Check the vaccination(s) you’ll need early on: sometimes there are several injections needed per vaccine and a deadline for when you need to be vaccinated by, depending on the country you’re going to.
  • Book popular excursions or activities in advance: don’t wait until you’re there as it can get fully booked easily and read reviews carefully before you book, to avoid nasty surprises.
  • Work out how much cash you need with you: some countries are not very familiar with card payments and the airport doesn’t offer the best exchange rate, also keep your cash in various places (in case you get robbed).
  • Pick carefully what bank cards you want to bring: when travelling, traditional banks are not necessarily the best option – Monzo worked great for us as it matches the live market rate with no extra fees when you pay abroad. Take several cards if possible (preferably a VISA and a MasterCard) just in case.
  • Talk to the locals when you’re on the road: they would know some cool places to go to that are not in any travel books, they would also know about the local events happening during your stay.

Finally, you have to accept some level of uncertainty, some things will remain out of your control and you’ll have to adapt. We haven’t always been lucky with the weather or natural disasters ourselves for example… We drove through burning trees in Perth, breathed smoky and unhealthy air in Sydney due to bushfires, drove through torrential rain and got stopped by flooded areas. As a result, there are some places we wanted to go but couldn’t: The Pinnacles near Perth (bushfires), The Blue Mountains near Sydney (bushfires), Cedar Creek Falls near Airlie Beach (flooding), Whitsunday Islands (storms) and Milford Sound in New Zealand (flooding) to name a few. I’m not even mentioning the 6 weeks in Japan we couldn’t do because of the pandemic.

How it changed my mindset forever

This season in Australia has been a very dark summer for the country who’s suffering first from the global warming and climate change. It’s been a real eye opener for us, it’s always easier to face the truth when you witness it yourself… It was not only in the news, it happened just in front of us. We were not really worried about our holidays, we just felt sorry for the locals who lost their homes and all the defenceless animals we couldn’t save. It made me want to care more for our planet, because if we don’t, there will be nothing left to visit for the next generations.

It also taught me how important it was to be grateful in life and how to prioritise things better. Having a healthy body and a healthy mind offers you the best chances to make the most of everything, not only when you’re travelling but in life in general. That’s what triggered my drive to become the best version of myself.

Travelling is key in self-improvement and this is why it’s one of the main categories in this blog. Travelling makes you a better person, it’s the only real way to unlock your mind from preconceived ideas and be more open to the world. Would I do it again if I had the chance? Yes, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second. Have you done it yourself or is it in your plans too?

Big Girl x

Singapore, Beautiful & Modern City Where East Meets West

singapore by night

I’m going to spend the next 2 weeks coming back to our big adventure (pre-covid) as I haven’t had the time to write about it yet! Singapore was our obvious first stop for many reasons: Changi airport is ranked number 1 in the world, we had to see the tallest indoor waterfall, and most flights from Europe to Asia stop there anyway. Not to mention the movie Crazy Rich Asians made us want to go there even more!

changi airport indoor waterfall

Also, this is a great place to visit when you’re a bit jetlagged. It gets very warm during the day so sightseeing at night is actually the best thing you can do… Especially if you’re coming from a country where you’re not used to the heat and humidity. We slowly got used to the temperature during the night, the city itself was looking even better in the dark.

Most popular icons

Everyone would know the most popular icons of Singapore. Among them are the Merlion (statue of a mermaid with a lion head) and of course Marina Bay Sands (Singapore’s most iconic hotel for the world’s largest rooftop infinity pool). The hotel displays illuminations every night at 8pm and 9.30pm (plus 11pm on Friday and Saturday nights). I didn’t know that but caught it by chance… It looked amazing!

singapore merlion and marina sand hotel by night

Gardens by the Bay

If I had to pick only one place in Singapore to absolutely not miss, it would be the Gardens by the Bay… Surely you’ve seen the movie Avatar? It’s like you’re not on Earth anymore. There is something magical about this garden that makes you forget about everything else. It’s very romantic too so it’s probably one of the best locations in the world to propose (according to me).

They display illuminations with music (the Gardens by the Bay light show – Garden Rhapsody) every night at 7.45pm and 8.45pm. It’s free so you just have to show up. The best place to see the show is under the Supertrees. You can even lie down on the floor to take it all in (as many people do).

gardens by the bay supertrees in singapore

Singapore Flyer

And if you want to see the city from above, you have the Singapore Flyer. This big wheel has spacious and very stable capsules (they don’t swing with the wind)! The view you get from it is simply breath-taking. I’m so proud of the picture below, it takes me back just by looking at it. For those interested in Formula 1, you can also see the track from up there. Singapore has hosted the first ever F1 night race in 2008.

singapore view from the flyer at night

Botanic Gardens

Towards the end of our week, we were starting to adjust a bit more to the climate – or at least we thought we were. So we decided to get up early to visit the Botanic Gardens, the only tropical garden honoured as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I think it’s worth mentioning it was way too hot and humid for us there, even early in the morning! It’s not a place you should visit at night though, unlike the previous ones I’ve just talked about. So don’t forget your sweat towels and enjoy the beautiful landscapes.

singapore botanic gardens

Restaurants & Hawker Centres

Now there is something in Asia that I’ll forever miss in the UK… The food! You can find incredibly good value for money in food markets, but a restaurant will be quite expensive as it’s where most tourists and rich businessmen would go. If you want good and cheap food, hawker centres are open until very late – sometimes even all night. But if you want a good view/location as well as good food, then you might need to spend more and pick a restaurant. The one we went to along the Singapore River was really nice, Clarke Quay is where you will find a lot of them on the waterfront.

singapore food at clarke quay

“The” Singapore Sling is at the Raffles Hotel

Last but not least, you can’t really say you’ve been to Singapore if you haven’t had the famous Singapore Sling. This cocktail is made with gin, cherry liqueur and pineapple juice – Yummy. Sipping a Singapore Sling at the Raffles Hotel is the ultimate experience, we queued more than an hour… It’s very popular but so worth it! You’ll also get peanuts in abundance, for free. You just throw shells on the floor, littering is encouraged as a tradition at the Long Bar (don’t do it outside though!).

singapore sling at the raffles hotel long bar

Other random facts about Singapore

In short, we had an amazing week in Singapore, we only wish we stayed longer. There is enough there to do to keep you busy, this post only talks about our best moments! Below some additional random facts and personal opinions about Singapore:

  • The temperature is very uniform throughout the year, from 23-25°C to 30-32°C. It’s also quite close to the equator so days last only 12 hours.
  • Sentosa Island is worth visiting if you like theme parks or if you’re curious about history, there is a cool war museum there. You need to take a cable car or a monorail to access the island.
  • Singapore Zoo is full of gorgeous creatures – their rainforest show is a must-see, it actually made me cry. It was very emotional when they educated us about how important it was to save the planet.
  • You can go on a boat ride inside the shopping mall at Marina Bay Sands.
  • Durian is forbidden in the MRT (underground system) because it smells too bad – I’ve never tried this fruit myself but I heard it tastes great though!
  • Sugarcane juice is delicious and very healthy, they make it fresh from sugarcane sticks in front of you in various markets.
  • Singapore is known for its strict rules but they seem to work as I’ve never seen such spotless public spaces before (apart maybe from Japan)… It’s also very safe.
  • You can still feel the British colonial influence with the music they play in shops and the fact that everyone speaks English. Also, street names sound like London and they drive on the left.

Have you ever been to Singapore? What were your highlights? If not, I hope I convinced you to visit when you have a chance… It’s definitely a place I want to go back as soon as travel restrictions are lifted!

Big Girl x

A Year Ago, We Flew Away on Our Big Adventure

This is throwback time, I’m feeling nostalgic as exactly a year ago I was at the very beginning of this extraordinary journey. My boyfriend (now fiancé) and I were working in the same company and were both suffering from a bad company culture that impacted our work-life balance a lot. So one day we decided to quit our job and go travelling together for 6 months in South-East Asia & Pacific. It took us several months to organise everything: sell most of our furniture and stock the rest in a warehouse, sell the car, donate things we didn’t need to charities, terminate or pause any contracts we had and wouldn’t use for 6 months, find a place to keep our cat safe and happy while we’re travelling, estimate our budget and organise our trip… Among other things.

It was a strange feeling to see our flat completely empty

Everyday whilst we were completing our 3 months notice period, we were really excited to get home in the evening just to keep planning everything. Some travellers only book their first plane ticket and then decide when and where to go next on a whim. But we opted for a very organised trip, we knew exactly where we were going and when, everything was booked ahead of time (accommodation, flights, trains etc). Doing it this way allowed us to stay on top of our budget and prioritise all the stops we really wanted to make during our trip, as well as securing the best places to stay in advance. We had 2 backpacks each, one on our front, one on our back, a bum bag for important papers and a neck pillow.

So this is a teaser for what’s coming up in the next 2 weeks on the blog! I’ll come back to each country we visited and tell you all about our best memories in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bali, Australia (Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and the Gold Coast all the way to Cairns) and New Zealand (both islands). Most of us can’t go anywhere at the moment thanks to this pandemic so if you want to travel via my stories, you should definitely stick around. For me, it will be the occasion to live again what were probably the best moments of my life!

Our travel itinerary, using Polarsteps

I already covered Fiji which was unfortunately not our best experience as we got stranded there during lockdown. Our last country was supposed to be Japan but they closed their borders on us before we had a chance to get there so I’m afraid we’ll have to reschedule for another time (maybe for our honeymoon in 2023…).

I’m really looking forward to telling you all about our first 5 months of adventures. Stay tuned!

Big Girl x