Living a different life: 3 months abroad in U.S.A.

It's been a long, long hiatus since I came back- I have been really hesitant in writing/ posting this because it beings back so much, memories. I have also been really busy with work since I am back so it kinda swallowed my precious time to myself, but it is always a phase.. I think I am ready now. I'm good to accept this new phase of life that the pevious phase in the USA has paved for me. It hasn't been the easiest adjusting back, but I have been trying very hard, especially after embarking on the journey of Winifred Kristé Cake, the responsibility I have on hands (together with coming back home to family) triples. The load on my shoulders were never heavier, with commitment comes sacrifices.  Be it willing or unwilling ones. But this will again pave the way for my next phase of life, so let's go!

It's over, but never forgotten. They say when you work towards your ultimate dream, don't forget to stop and scan around, you will learn many more new things on the way. On my journey to pursue my dream I met with many unexpected encounters via traveling, they are so fulfilling, and the best part? None of them was expected. Suddenly I found another passion. 

So let's rewind back to 31st August 2014. All the anxiety, fear and nerve wrecking emotions setting on the first major major trip away from the comfort of home, turned out to be one of the best decision made-  In short, I spent 3 months interning with a world-class wedding cake artist Maggie Austin, traveling, living the life I never, in any way would think I would be able to experience at this age. They are wonderful memories. I can confidently say, I never felt happier in life, until this came. You can read about my pre-anxiety trip and how I managed to get this internship experience here


USA - Land of opportunities and home of the brave. 
I once read an author wrote, "Today is my last day at home for 3 months. When I come back I won't be who I was when I left, and home won't be the same place. We can't experience anything outside the context of being ourselves, so when we change so too do the people and places we love even when they have, objectively, remained the same. When we change our whole world changes with us. And it isn't fair. In that sense this is my last day here ever. In that sense, I'll never be able to return. Because by simply changing, we raze entire realities. Home for the next three months will be a backpack. I'll be immersed in the ephemerality of things. In flux. And it's as it should be." 

She is so damn right. People don't think 3 months can make a lot of difference but when its the life you have been dreaming to live, it makes hell lot of a difference. 

Too many things, way too many things happened within a short span of 3 months I have no idea where to begin. I wished I thought further and made myself more prepared for the trip but to be honest, before I went to Washington D.C., my mind was pretty blank, all I had settled on was my work and apartment....nothing else, anything that happened there everyday was born out of spontaneous mindset, everything was unexpected, I wasn't ready for anything, but I did everything. I guess that is what made this trip so addictive and unforgettable? I was SO narrow-minded before, but I'm glad this trip took me a turn in life. The people I  interacted with during this period, the places I traveled to while I was there, the different culture I have experienced. The world is wide. The only thing I told myself before the trip is that there will be good, and there will be bad, so remember to embrace anything that comes your way because they are all part of life that will define who you are and who you will be. They did, and they still do. Still feeling so surreal looking back at what I did on impulse, what I landed myself in and what have I gone through. *goosebumps* in a good way. 

I've made short trips; Japan, Korea, Bangkok, Hong Kong & so on, but because this trip is going to be the longest and its half across the globe in a land I never imagined I would have spend 3 months there. I wasn’t ready to go somewhere so far away from home and then the funny thing is, I wasn’t at all ready to go home. Traveling is so addictive. The good were way better than good, it was exciting, heart fluttering, I hear different stories when I travel. Talking to people and finding out their little backgrounds, their reason of travel and their plans for the future, the feeling is beyond what words can describe and you will only know if you go through it yourself. Like how I mentioned in one of my Chicago transit post on Instagram, I came to realized the best times I had so far was when I was flying solo: or maybe because I was lucky enough to have good plane partners (During my first flight from SG to Japan, my seat partner volunteered to give me his headphones because mine was spoilt. During my second flight from Japan to Chicago, G volunteered to give me his blanket when he saw me shivering in cold when he himself was covered from neck to toe too, such a sweet guy. On my last flight, the couple next to me volunteered to help me get my camera bag from the overhead compartment because it was out of my reach and I was pretty much knocked out after 26 hours of flying. People are generally really nice!) Maybe because it was the anxiety and nervousness touching down in the States for the first time, maybe it's because you meet people traveling alone too and could relate to each other, maybe its because I see how passengers who do not know one another can care and help, like this guy who helped covered the blanket of this little kid sitting away from his parents, maybe it's because you sat independently in the plane, knowing it will bring you to the land of your dreams, and maybe it was all about realizing that all these can actually be done when you once thought it would never happen. The first time I took a plane, feeling truly and permanently cut off from my former life, it never felt so good and exciting.


During my free time, in my most solitude self, I walked down the busy street alone in my jogging attire and smiles at me, cheering me on as I jog, people greeting me and my day is immediately made. Sometimes I wish Singaporeans talk and interact more, it really makes a lot of difference! You get to learn when you listen, instead of drowning yourself in your digital devices or something.  In D.C., there ain’t many shopping malls, my 2 favourite streets are Georgetown and King Street; rows and rows of rustic brick houses and little boutiques are lined up, I almost cannot name a brand they don’t have – Urban Outfitters, Sephora, Starbucks, Steve Maddens, Kate Spade, H&M… TJmax and HomeGoods were new to me, but they were one of the best things I discovered and love about the States. In there lies the most random stuff, cake stands at $7.99 is plain madness. But its always a hit or miss, I was lucky to find just what I needed. What I love so much about this place is its atmosphere,  it has positioned itself aptly between a city and a culture. So perfect. 

During my road trips and travels around other states, I met many people along the way who have been to Singapore too, and their reactions to Singapore never fail to make my day. I was so shocked and amused when G actually asked me where did I pick up my English because he said my English’s so good? Maybe because of the different places he traveled and being half an American, (Japan is the only other language he knows), English is still the only language that connects him with others. Daniel was in my group when we did the sky dive and we chatted, he was in Singapore when he was younger, went around different countries before moving to Virginia 4 years back. He went: “Are there still many strict laws now in Singapore?” uh-oh. I also met people who jaws drop when they know how we (not me) hang people for drugs, and how sky-high the prices of the cars are, how chewing gum is prohibited in Singapore. But for a moment you feel super proud when this lady at this Frans cake decorating shop near Fairfax went: “OH, I’ve been there! Singapore is SO clean! It’s a beauuuutiful place.”  - It’s pretty funny to see how they react to these! 

I did my very first road trip to North Carolina, lived among the mountains for a weekend; this experience took my breath away. I did a bus ride from D.C. to NYC, the spur of the weekend adventures I have been craving for, the excitement and anxiety when came together, naturally just burst in flavor. Interestingly, we had the chance to be tour guides in a foreign land, when Kristen's dad and sister came from Florida to DC to visit! Haha, 2 months of living there and having to be tour guides. We would go to restaurants and K's dad interaction with people is never-ending and I always sit and listen, realizing there’s so much I learnt. That’s no wonder now I always talk and interact with people when the opportunity rises, instead of purely, hello, thank you, and goodbye. We really could do more than that!  A server we met at Ted's Bulletin was really interactive and she told us she was from North Carolina and about how her friends and her were about to open a studio space here in D.C. to sell their art work, because of the passion in what they do. We had a great chat with her and we shared our internship experience with her too and exchange photos of our work, and she said something along this line, "You know, people could just look at what you did and think it is so easy to do, not until they really get their hands on it and know that what they saw as easy can easily take up to say like a 40-60 hours to complete them, really wish people could appreciate art more." I cannot agree more. I also realized most servers never really took their current job as a lifetime thing, being a server was quick money, because of the tips, and it was a stepping-stone to ultimately arrive at where they really want to be. Many have big dreams. The culture is different, and I really love it. It was just adventures after adventures now I see why its kind of hard getting back.

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We met Jenna too. She was from Mongolia… okay let me pause for a moment. The thing about having an Asian face in the States is that people always ask where are you from and what brought you to where you are now; and that is exactly what we asked Jenna (her English name, because her Mongolian name is too hard to pronounce). She went like, “Ah.. it’s a long story” and before she could continue, K’s dad immediately said, “AH HA! I know. There MUST be a man involved!”  giving that cheeky look and we all laughed a little,  including Jenna. Turns out she has been to Singapore when she was 6, 7, 8 years old, the place where she picked up her English. And later move on to 14 different countries, lived in United Kingdom for 2 years, which she was healing her depression and somehow ended up in D.C. with the man she loved and of course, they got married a few months ago.  She told me she went back to Singapore this year during CNY and we started chatting about the road names of where she studied and have been to, its very comforting to meet someone in a foreign land that knows so much about your hometown. It really is. 


My happiest photo with Tulip the cow, and honestly the happiest carefree soul I have been the 23 years I grew up. Nothing can replace it. 


No doubt it was my happiest, carefree soul. I was walking the chase with this little kid in the Smithsonian Zoological Park. This little guy  was challenging me to catch up with him. Ah, life's little pleasures.. :) I laughed my heartiest. Its amazing how kids can make you feel like the happiest person on Earth with their innocent little actions. 

And these kids I encountered at the National World War II Memorial. They were on school tour I guess, and I just asked if they wanna grab a picture together and they spontaneously agreed! ;) Lovely! I did this many times along the way with others by the way, love being crazy like that, its a travel experience anyhow, make it unforgettable :) It's also amazing to experience the transition of Summer to Fall & a touch of Winter and snow within just 3 months, I felt like I went for a crash course on traveling and experiencing different seasons, haha just saying. 

When I was abroad, I kind of grew to love solitude times. Reading a book before bed, waking up to a peaceful apartment, cooking my breakfast, looking out at the trees fading its shade of green, giving in to Fall.. staying away from home makes me think a lot. And bringing yourself out of the context you grew up with always makes you think from a different kind of perspective, a wider one, a more well-thought one. I found joy in reading and since I'm back, I have been giving a lot of my (little) free time to reading my Kindle, so good to be able to bring it around with me. It just recharges me in a way I cannot explain. 

I still enjoyed FaceTiming my family, especially my grandma (who doesn't know how to use an iPad haha hence her extremely low angle). She would always ask how are you doing there and have I eaten enough, haha grams love. Yes grandma I ate so much I gained so much weight there. lol. 

Then we oovoo with my parents and brother in UK, after my parents slept in SG time, Alfred and I talked for like 5 hours (lol?!) It was a Sunday and I didn't have to work so I spared my time for them. Alfred and I don't even talk for more than 5 minutes at home, I guess bringing us away from each other brings us closer. Kristen couldn't believe we had so much to talk! (I didn't too)

And, of course. Sky dive. Did I mention I was so hesitant on booking it online I contemplated for a good 2 months?! It was only until my last month there I thought there was no time to waste so I closed both eyes and booked my time to jump. It's exhilarating to constantly challenge my fear, my heart was pounding so hard, like never before. I was SO nervous. But I cleared my mind when I was about to jump. and I was the first to jump. BEST DECISION EVER. Can I jump again?!?!?!?!!! (Footages of the jump included in the video below, please don't laugh I look silly)  

And of course, my silliest little dream to step foot in Grand Central Terminal - checked! The securities were so intrigued by my selfie stick and if you had guessed, I asked if he wanna grab a picture together (again), haha!

The crazy crazy wind of Fall. 

The crazy crazy wind of Fall. 

Just thought it would be nice to share a few key points and lessons I brought home with me this trip. They are from personal experience, everyone has their own;)

Shit happens, people don’t always work your way so suck thumb, find a solution and move on, give & take. 
I mean, you hear everyone saying this. It sounds easy saying this or imagining it, like, yea I think I’ll be fine even if this goes this way and bla bla bla but when it really happens and you’re alone abroad, there isn’t really anyone to rant to. Take a deep breath, cry if needed. Move on. Grow up. 

You will look silly/ nervous (for me) not understanding many things not from your culture but its okay.
Because there is something you bond not to know, no one is perfect and the amount of knowledge we have is never enough. There were umpteen times I look like an idiot, yea sometimes I don’t know anything and sometimes people get irritated with me but, ask. It’s a moment of embarrassment but a lesson/ new knowledge learnt for a lifetime. After all, its a different culture from where you grew up, you keep learning. 

It takes a lot of guts and courage to travel alone, but the reward is tenfold.
I'm still nervous at the thought of traveling alone but I guess experiences will help. The chances are people usually are nice and they share, I would say maybe an 80%, 20%? I regretted not going beyond my comfort level in one circumstance. Lesson learnt the hard way I guess. You will experience unexpected encounters and they are amazing. Just remember you're not the only one doing solo, many are too. (Note to self too).

Social media is something, but it is not everything- do some real interactions with people, its more interesting that way.
When K’s dad and sister came to visit, we were like ‘tour guides’ bringing them around. Daytime here is usually the time everyone else is asleep in Singapore, basically I have no one to text or communicate, and I enjoyed the times without our eyes constantly glued onto our phones, and I love it. I neglected the social media and its like really about having just time to myself and really communicating with the people in front of you and it feels good, being disconnected from people not within your reach. Quality time, do some real connections.  

Always have a back up (something). 
Like, anything. Of course the more important ones you know you will need to rely on for your trip. Back up plan, back up debit/ credit cards, back up cash. My card got stranded by PayPal because of some reasons and I couldn't pay any where for my groceries of meals. I had to send in my details to Paypal and verify and it was only after a few days they release my card again. New experience but now I know it. 

Of course there's way more I need to learn and experience, these are just what I absorb from this trip. World knowledge can never be learnt in textbooks, so just save some bucks, grab your passport, pick up some courage and go out there to learn. :) (Note to myself again)

Stay connected with your family.
Once in a while, text or call them, they are far away and obviously they are worried. Nothing is more precious than your family members because they are the ones that will always be there. 


& of course, the main reason why I flew over is because of her. Maggie Austin has inspired me in more ways I can say. Being a ballet dancer for 26 years of her life and having to end it because of an injury sucked, but she did not give up.  Given the most unfavourable circumstance at that point of time she picked herself up and managed to find a way out, and look where she is now. I can only say amazing things happen when you work for it. Like they always say, dreams don't work unless you do. This is my dream. 


Like how I first started this post, "When I come back I won't be who I was when I left, and home won't be the same place.
Some people feel me, some don't and I take it as I go. Everyone has they own opinions and you're not gonna lose yourself for them. I respect everyone's different decision and thoughts because there's never a truly right or wrong answer. The people who understand, will understand eventually. I'm thankful I had a few, and that's enough. I don't need the world to correspond with me. Be who you truly are because nothing is more original than that. I stand by what I went through because of what it taught me and brought me through.  It opened my eyes to the world and opened my guts to accept more challenges in life. The context is different, but well-written in the book of my heart. This journey just started and I'm looking forward for more. Writing this post just made me feel a thousand times happier than what I was feeling before I started it.
I cannot wait for my next one, which I booked the ticket but has nothing planned of now. Time to do my homework amongst all the crazy workload again! 

Some footages of my trip (this is full version, the previous one started out the same but was only a glimpse) summarised in the video below. *Breatheeeee* Enjoy!