Have you ever thought that you have what it takes to be a rock star, but maybe you’re just in the wrong country? You know, maybe you could be one those people who leaves your home country and ends up becoming a huge star in Japan or Pakistan yet you aren’t so much as a blip on the rock star radar anywhere else in the world. I’m not talking about having the talent needed to be an actual rock star. I mean, sheez, if you had talent you would probably already be a rock star… or, at least, you might be able to sing more than the same three songs every time you go to karaoke.
I’m talking about having the ability to live like a rock star: you know, be able to get free hotel rooms, free drinks and the occasional guitar to set on fire. Maybe the reason why you don’t have five-star hotels regularly throwing free rooms at you is not because you don’t deserve it (I mean, come on, who could deserve that more than you… well, besides, umm, me?!). It’s simply because you’re in the wrong country!
Maybe there’s a country out there that will recognize you for the true celebrity that you’re meant to be, and that country will see fit to lavish you with free hotel suites, free drinks and your choice of up to 16 different pillows! For me, that country turned out to be Singapore. (Mind you, like fingerprints, each person’s Country of Destined Celebrity is different. Mine is Singapore, but yours might be, umm, Azerbaijan or some other country where the five-star hotels double as goat barns. There’s really no way to know until you get there. And, in that case, good luck, and you might want to bring your own sheets!).
Of course, I didn’t always know I was meant to be a rock star in Singapore. Like most rock stars, I came from humble beginnings. There was about an hour at the beginning of last Friday when I first arrived in Singapore and was treated just like any other traveler. Actually, I was treated like any other budget traveler (Yeah, I know, unbelievable, right?! Me? Budget? Surely these people have never seen me in a shoe store!).
Upon disembarking from the airplane in Singapore (a plane whose inflight entertainment consisted of inspecting the duct tape being used to hold my seat together), I was ushered into the Budget Terminal of Singapore’s Changi International Airport. The Budget Terminal (or BT as it’s casually known… by those of us who can’t afford to buy a vowel) welcomes each (ahem) budget airline passenger with a cheerful sign exclaiming “Welcome to the Budget Terminal! Enjoy the Difference!” (Why not just “Hey, cheapo, glad your flight made it. Guess that duct tape held up after all!”).
What, you may ask, was the “difference” promised by the Budget Terminal? Well, having never been to any of the other terminals at the Singapore airport (you know, the terminals where passengers are treated like paying customers and not, say, chattel) I can only guess. But I imagine the other terminals have a few more amenities and a couple more immigration officers… and maybe an atmosphere that isn’t reminiscent of an army bunker.
After grabbing my bag from the luggage carousel (which was, in fact, automated using electricity and not, say, hamsters… at least from what I could tell), I headed for the exit to grab a taxi. Ironically, the taxis at the Budget Terminal are subject to a surcharge of about five dollars, which was roughly the same price as my airplane ticket from Bangkok (Honestly, it was a very cheap flight… I’m surprised they could even afford all that duct tape!). At that point, I still had not been recognized as a rock star in Singapore yet. I had to carry my luggage all the way to the taxi stand by myself. I also had to pay for the taxi all by myself. And there wasn’t so much as a single bottle of champagne chilling in the backseat of the cab! Really, how I survived the thirty minute taxi ride into town is beyond me!
Fortunately my non-celebrity status in Singapore didn’t last long. After getting out of the taxi at the entrance of the Hilton Conrad Centennial Hotel in downtown Singapore, I became transformed from your typical (ahem) budget traveler to your atypical international rock star. I was whisked up to the seventeenth floor where I was given the Centennial Suite and gifts of exotic fruit, chocolates and a teddy bear. The TV in my suite was bigger than most Eastern European countries and the remote control came dressed in its very own leather jacket. By my bedside, there was a pillow menu that featured an assortment of sixteen different pillows available for my “personal pillow needs” including options I could neither pronounce nor imagine in pillow-form.
While my stay at the Hilton lasted only a weekend, my whole week in Singapore was jam-packed full of rock star treatment. When I wasn’t downing free sparkling wine in the Hilton’s Executive Lounge, I was being taken out by friends intent on showing me around the city and filling me up with food and booze.
How can a girl like me reach Singapore rock star status when I can’t even reach the high notes in Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” at karaoke (and, God help me, should I try to add any dance moves to that number!)? Well, lucky for you, I am about to reveal all the secrets to my Singapore rock star success. Consider this my VH1 Behind the Music… except there’s no music (Unless, you’d like me to sing… in which case, you’d better warm up the karaoke machine. Just, trust me, don’t ask me to dance).
Score a Sweet Suite
The first step to reaching rock star status in your Country of Destined Celebrity (whether it be Singapore or, umm, Azerbaijan) is to win a free stay at a fancy five-star hotel. This may sound like a lot of work… but all it takes is a little luck, a Christmas party with some awesome raffle prizes, an open bar and friends who remember when you drunkenly scream things like, “That was my prize! How dare you win my prize!”
Let me explain.
You see, this past Christmas I went to a fancy schmancy Christmas party for one of the women’s organizations that I belonged to in Japan. The big draw for the party (in addition to the open bar and the general fancy schmanciness) was the raffle which featured the top prize of a two-night stay at the Hilton in Singapore.
Of course, I knew that hotel stay was rightfully mine. I mean who else could possibly deserve a free hotel stay at the Hilton more than me?! (and, umm, you… of course!). After a few too many glasses of champagne and one of those fancy schmancy meals that was designed to look pretty and not, say, soak up two gallons of alcohol, I became even more convinced that the Singapore hotel prize should be mine… and not in a hopeful “wouldn’t it be nice if I won that” kind of way but in a belligerent “I will punch anybody in the head if she happens to win it instead of me” kind of way. It’s possible I even uttered this phrase a few times to the women seated next to me… and maybe screamed it across the room at some point.
When my friend won the trip, I tried to pretend to be happy for her. Really. I mean, I’m pretty sure there was a smile on my face when I turned to her and said, “Congratulations! I’ve heard so many awesome things about Singapore; I’m sure you’re going to have a great time! And you might want to sleep with a knife under your pillow tonight because that hotel stay is mine, and I know where you live.” I’m sure she knew I was kidding. After all, rock stars say stuff like that all the time… it’s just part of our edgy rock star personalities. Besides, it’s not like I got all Kanye West on her and snatched the hotel gift certificate from her happy little hands (not like I didn’t think about it, though).
A couple weeks later my friend told me that she wouldn’t be able to use the gift certificate before the expiration date and offered it to me. (She also informed me she had changed her locks… weird, huh? Not sure why she did that). I happily agreed to take the hotel stay off her hands and booked my trip for the weekend after I was to finish up my house-sitting gig in Thailand. I figured a free weekend in an air conditioned suite at the Hilton would be a good break in between my last two months in the very un-air-conditioned jungles of Northern Thailand and my next two months in the equally un-air-conditioned rice paddies of Malaysia. After all, even us rock stars need to take a break now and then!
Recruit an Entourage
The next step to reaching rock star status is to get yourself a posse. This may also sound like a difficult task especially when visiting a foreign country that you’ve never actually been to before. The easiest way to do this is to pick a small country that is densely packed full of people (or “peeps” as we rock stars like to call them). At only 268 square miles, Singapore is roughly the same size as Lexington, Kentucky, but is packed full of five million people making it the second most densely populated country in the world. (Meanwhile, Azerbaijan is a whooping 33,243 square miles with a population of 7 million. Who knew? I mean, literally, who knew?! I didn’t even know Azerbaijan existed until today when I Google searched the key words “Countries I Never Knew Existed”).
Due to the density of Singapore’s population, chances are you may already know someone who lives in Singapore or you may know someone who knows someone who lives in Singapore. While in town, I met up with some former neighbors of mine who now live in Singapore. Additionally, a friend of mine who used to live in Singapore got me in touch with a number of his friends who live there. I was even able to stay with some friends of my sister who kindly offered their guest bedroom to me after my two-night stay at the Hilton was up and I got kicked out of my luxury digs on Sunday. (Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get myself kicked out for true rock star behavior like throwing my couch out the window or setting my carpet on fire… maybe next time!).
Even if you don’t know anybody in your Country of Destined Celebrity, it shouldn’t be that hard for you to meet a few strangers who might be willing to tour you around and buy you drinks… and meals… and gifts of pork jerky. After all, you’re a celebrity (or a destined celebrity)! If anyone deserves to have random strangers take you around the city and buy you stuff, it’s you (or, ummm, me).
On my second day in Singapore, I met some people on the Singapore Flyer who insisted I join them for a day of sight-seeing. Well, maybe they didn’t exactly insist… maybe instead, I threw myself upon them as I was so happy to be in the presence of people and not just cats and ants and other biting insects. They then took pity on me and invited me to join them. Either way, I spent the rest of the day being happily toured around the city, fed Chinese food and plied with pork products.
After two months of house-sitting in the jungles of Northern Thailand where my biggest social interactions happened over the Internet and the majority of my conversations consisted of the words “good kitty”, my new Singapore rock star social life was quite the adjustment. After just a couple days of being toured around by strangers and running around town to meet up with friends of friends, I was exhausted. I spent the rest of the week following people around in a listless state and occasionally dozing off in the middle of dinner. But, not to worry, this behavior is expected of rock stars. I’m sure people just thought I was tired after a long night of smashing my guitar on stage… or maybe on some kind of illicit drug or something.
Look the Part
You may be worried that you won’t be able to pull off the rock star look given the fact that your current wardrobe consists of a handful of stained t-shirts that smell disconcertingly like sweat, insect repellent and bacon grease no matter how many times you wash them. Maybe your footwear is limited to a pair of flip-flops and your pants have started to attract flies. The color of your toenails could best be described as “mud,” and your face has broken out in a rash induced by excessive sweating.
Not to worry! You know all those photos in People and Us magazines that feature the likes of Britney Spears in frayed cut-offs and Madonna sporting nothing more than a sweatsuit and a kabbalah bracelet? This is the look you’re going for! Pull on your grungiest t-shirt, your most tattered pair of cargo pants and top it all off with some sunglasses. Maybe even stop washing your hair for a couple weeks prior to your rock star debut so you can have a truly Courtney Love look about you. Then once you arrive at your five-star hotel of choice, make sure to speed walk through the hotel lobby and constantly look behind you like you’re being pursued by paparazzi. People are going to know you’re a true rock star then (or just think you’re some crazy hobo… either way, nobody’s going to stop you from getting on the elevator!).
During your stint as a rock star in your Country of Destined Celebrity, it’s important to remember to conduct yourself as a rock star and not some boring, (ahem) budget traveler. Sure, maybe you’ve spent the last two months eating crackers for dinner because you didn’t exactly save up any money for this little year-long Asian adventure you have planned. Maybe you’ve considered selling a kidney to raise money for your plane ticket home or contemplated taking up with pirates in order to hitch a ride back to North America. But, remember that was the old you, the unfamous, non-rock star you. You’ll go back to being your boring, budget-conscious self in no time, but, while in your Country of Destined Celebrity, it’s important to think like a rock star!
Every time you make a decision about what to do with your day (that is, when your entourage isn’t deciding that for you), it’s important to ask yourself not “What do I want to do today?” but “What would Lady Gaga do today?” (WWLGDT). For example, on my last day in Singapore I was faced with two options. Either I could go to the Botanic Gardens which is free and promised lots of good photo-taking opportunities not to mention a chance for me to learn about the fascinating world of orchid hibridization. Or, my other choice, was to spend the day on Orchard Road, Singapore’s version of Fifth Avenue, where I could shop, sip over-priced cappuccinos and go to the cinema. I chose the latter; a choice, I’m sure, Lady Gaga would have supported. After all, even us (ahem) budget travelers need to take a break now and then!