I used to think staying in S'pore while on leave is a waste of time. 2020 made me change my mind.

Soft truths to keep Singapore from stalling.

Jason Fan | October 25, 2020, 06:42 PM

Last week, for the first time in months, I took three days off work. And spent the majority of my time at home.

It was woefully unproductive; I did nothing apart from sleeping in, binge watching YouTube videos, and gorging myself on pizza and bubble tea.

If it sounds like I'm upset about how I spent my leave, well, that's because I am. Sort of.

In an ideal world, I would have spent my leave relishing the end of an exhausting year with a well-deserved break on a beach somewhere.

Unfortunately, as many of us may have realised by now, 2020 is anything but ideal.

I saved all my 2019 leave to travel in 2020. Yes, it wasn't the best idea.

If I told my 2019 self that I was about to take three precious leave days to stay at home and watch random Avengers clips on YouTube, he would have looked at me in disgust.

"Why on earth are you wasting your leave staying in Singapore? Just go somewhere. ANYWHERE!"

This is likely the admonishment I would get from past me, who is blissfully unaware of what a rollercoaster ride 2020 is going to be.

But I digress. The main point, you see, is that like many Singaporeans, I enjoy travelling quite a bit.

I would scrutinise the list of public holidays, check my available off days, and begin to formulate complex plans to optimise my leave days with zest (if only my brain worked this hard when I was in school).

In fact, after I graduated last year and began working in July, I decided to bring forward all my leave days in 2019 (along with several off-in-lieus earned from working overtime), to 2020, hoping to use them this year to travel.

"Sounds like a plan," I thought to myself. "2020 will be a great year for travel. Perhaps I can finally cross off some far-flung destinations off my bucket list?"

Well, all of you probably know what happened next.

Covid-19 happened, borders closed, and suddenly I feel like a clown left with more days of leave than I know what to do with, and absolutely nowhere to go.

Travel bubbles are exciting, but travel remains uncertain

Of course, when the Covid-19 pandemic first hit our shores, I didn't think it would affect travel as much as it did.

After all, during the SARS pandemic years ago, although travel demand went down, borders did not close.

Yet, as the Covid-19 situation developed throughout the year, it became apparent that we would have to bid goodbye to travelling overseas, in order to ensure the virus stays under control.

While Singapore has seen a downward trend in the number of Covid-19 cases, the international situation looks far less promising.

At this point, as much as I hate to admit it, the reality is quite clear: it's unlikely that I would be able to spend my leave overseas this year.

Sure, there's an impending travel bubble with Hong Kong, which is certainly exciting news, but details have yet to be announced by either side.

And to be honest, I imagine that there are a lot of inconveniences and uncertainties surrounding travel these days.

How many swab tests do I have to take? How much would that cost? Can I even get a return ticket to Hong Kong when the travel bubble is open, given that everyone and their hamsters are probably in a similar boat, and clamouring to head overseas? If I made it there, and my favourite shops and attractions are open, how different or enjoyable will the experience be?

So many questions, so little answers.

Spending my leave to rest wasn't as bad as I thought

So, how bad is spending my leave in Singapore? Well, to be honest, not as bad as I thought it would be.

While it did feel rather unproductive (I woke up at 3pm almost every day), it was helpful in letting me recharge my batteries, and keep some semblance of sanity during this very hectic year.

After all, working from home hasn't been as enjoyable as I would have imagined – work-life balance tends to be thrown out of the window once you realise that your room IS your office.

In that sense, spending a few solid days away from work, while staying in my own room, has helped me recapture some of that balance.

I blissfully sat at my desk, not having to look through my work email. And it felt really good.

So good, in fact, that I am starting to reconsider whether going on leave means I have to be doing something productive in the first place.

While this was the case for me in the past, a few days of being able to relax, and enjoy some peace and quiet in my home office while my colleagues slog away (ha!) have introduced me to the benefits of a very simple concept: taking leave to do, well, not very much at all.

Sounds really basic? To me, it was an actual revelation.

Have I learnt not to hoard my leave? No.

While I may have discovered a new-found appreciation for lazy leave days, I'll be lying if I told you that I didn't kick myself for not choosing to travel more last year.

But hindsight is 20/20, and who on earth could have predicted that 2020 would play out like this anyway?

So have I learnt from my mistake? Have I learnt not to hoard my leave, and simply use it in the moment?


I still intend to carry over as many days as I can to 2021, and hope that leisure travel in some form or another will be restored within the coming year.

While I may not be able to go to the exact destinations that I want, the Covid-19 pandemic has also instilled in me a sense of appreciation for travel in general.

Until then, I'll await the announcements, and take what I can get.

But what if I'm wrong? What if somehow the situation remains the same, or even worsens, and we still cannot travel overseas next year?

Well, even if it just means I've to take even more lazy leave days next year, I'm surprisingly okay with that.

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Top image via Jason Fan.