To Edna & Friendships Made on the Road

It seems incredibly shortsighted now, but back when Tony & I were planning this trip, we were so focused on the places we would visit and the sights we would see that we gave no thought to the people we might meet and the ways they would change our journey. Looking back, I find it so hard to believe that we could have neglected this aspect of travel, a facet that I have now come to view as critical and the true motivating factor that keeps us going. In the end, it has never been the monuments or the...

It seems incredibly shortsighted now, but back when Tony & I were planning this trip, we were so focused on the places we would visit and the sights we would see that we gave no thought to the people we might meet and the ways they would change our journey. Looking back, I find it so hard to believe that we could have neglected this aspect of travel, a facet that I have now come to view as critical and the true motivating factor that keeps us going. In the end, it has never been the monuments or the beaches or even the food, that ultimately determines how much we fall head over heels for a country (though those things certainly play some role), but the people we have met and connected with while there.

I knew that whatever its many charms, undoubtedly we would enjoy our time in Singapore because it would give us the chance to catch up with our friends Chris and Peiyan. What I didn’t know when we arrived in the Lion City was that it would be the staging ground for a new friendship, one that elevated our time there from “excellent” to “epic”.

A few days into our stay, I remembered that the woman behind one of my favorite travel blogs, Expat Edna, used to be based in Singapore. I reached out over Twitter to see if she had any tips on things we should see, do, or eat. As luck would have it, Edna replied that she was also spending the holidays in Singapore, and would we maybe like to grab breakfast together?

Riding high on the wave of all the incredible relationships we had built while in Taiwan, Tony & I jumped at the chance to meet up.

I’ve said before that saying yes instead of no opens us up to those moments that change our lives, and this was just another example of that. Sometimes it really feels like the universe has your back and is conspiring to make sure great things happen for you. That’s how meeting Edna felt. I mean, given that she is based out of Europe, what were the chances she would just happen to be in Singapore while we were are also there? Moreover, what are the odds that she’d be staying with friends in a HDB just a few blocks over from our own? Our meeting simply felt like one of those things that was meant to be.

Delicious breakfast of softboiled eggs and kaya toast

So, who’s surprised to hear that within minutes of actually meeting face-to-face over a traditional Singapore breakfast of soft-boiled eggs and toast slathered in rich, coconutty kaya jam that we were chatting and laughing like long-lost friends. As breakfast slid ever closer to lunch, we knew that in accordance to those famous last words by Bogart, this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

With Edna, we got to see Singapore through the eyes of an expat well familiar with its ins & outs. We got to meet and mingle with some of her best friends from her Singapore days, and get a real taste for what living like an expat in this city could mean. It was wonderful getting to talk to all of these people originally hailing from different corners of the globe who had found themselves together in Singapore, not because they were taking a life-changing trip but simply because they had chosen to embrace the spirit of adventure within the parameters of their own lives and take a job in a foreign country. It’s really easy for long-term travelers to get caught up in the notion that our way is the only way to see the world, but on our journey, we have met many interesting people with a real passion for travel and exploration who do just fine while also holding down jobs and homes and all the trappings of a more “traditional” life. Meeting people like this is a reminder that we can live our dreams out on many different stages and even if there comes a day when we can no longer wander the world as perpetual nomads, that will not mean our traveling days are at an end.

Thanks to Edna, we got to head up to the 50th floor of the Pinnacles at Duxton, a swanky HDB with a killer Skywalk and view of the city’s skyline to rival that of the Marina Bay Sands. Normally you either have to be a resident or pay a small fee to access the Skywalk, but with some tricky pass card wrangling, the three of us made it up there and just soaked in the awesome scenery.

If there is one thing I loved most about our time with Edna, it’s that the girl knows how to eat (though you wouldn’t know it by looking at her)! Thanks to her, we had an all too willing partner in crime who made it her mission to share her favorite eats with us, from fistfuls of satay and pitchers of beer (so much beer!) at the outdoor market of Lau Pa Sat, to indulging Tony’s bubble tea cravings, to pints of pricey cider at Li’l Papa’s Wiener Beerstro (with flavors like elderflower & lime, and toffee apple, how could we resist?).

But nothing could top our free-for-all feast at Lang Zhou La Mian, a little hole in the wall restaurant (aren’t those always the best kind?) nestled down one of Chinatown’s many laneways. I’m sure we had walked by it on our own several times, never realizing that inside lay the most perfect xiao long bao, perhaps in all of Asia. These delicate soup dumplings featured impossibly thin wrappers, plump from the amazingly rich, beautiful broth they cradled within and threatened to spurt across your chin without some tricky chopstick & spoon maneuvering.

We also gorged ourselves on blocks of fried homemade tofu, a true symphony of textures: crispy and salty on the outside, protecting a creamy unctuous center. Between mouthfuls, Edna admits that even people who claim they don’t like tofu, just can’t get enough of this stuff; one bite and we were too busy stuffing as much of it into our own mouths to waste time arguing.

And what of the hand-pulled noodles slathered in a Moorish minced pork & black bean sauce? Or the roast chicken—a special not found on the menu—that featured perfectly moist chicken, drizzled in a slightly sweet sauce infused with roasted garlic and scallions? I don’t even know what to tell you except that everything that came out of Lang Zhou La Mian’s kitchen was perfection and our little group certainly tucked away way more food than a party our size really had any right to.

Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, Tony & I loved this place so much that when it came time to pick a place to ring in 2013, you’d better believe we were right back here packing away the XLBs and tofu like we might not make it to the new year

Thanks to Edna, our time in Singapore was unexpectedly bittersweet. Is there anything worse than forming connections with people where you laugh late into the night and stumble home slightly tipsy, only to remember come the morning that as fortuitous as it was for your paths to cross this once, they likely won’t do so again for quite some time? To realize that the flip-side of traveling the world is not just making friends, but leaving them behind as well?

Well, sure. It would be far worse to have never met those people or forged those friendships at all. In life, there is always some sour to temper the sweet, but on the whole, we have been so lucky on this trip to have not only had the opportunity to reconnect with old friends, but also for the chance to make some new ones who we’ll carry with us into the future. These friendships have become the very best reason for us to travel; they connect us to the world and to this trip in ways that a pretty picture or a simple story cannot. They give a face to the places we have been, and even to places we have yet to go—as sad as it is to say goodbye, there is nothing nicer than looking forward to foreign lands knowing that whenever we should find ourselves there, we already have friends waiting for us, to either reunite with or discover anew. These friendships, they give me comfort because I know that they are the proof that when I return home at the end of this long journey, my world will be so much bigger and I will be that much richer—in love and experiences—than when I first set out.

So to the friends we have made, both during this journey and even before we set out on it, I say thank you for the moments we have shared and the ones we some day will. And to the friends we have yet to meet, I can’t wait for that day to come.

And to Edna, thank you for your generosity in taking us under your wing and sharing some of your life with us, and stuffing us with some of the best food we’ve been lucky enough to eat. For now, we have Singapore, but I have no doubt there are more adventures to come!


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26 comments Leave a comment

  1. You make it sound as if we did nothing but eat! Oh wait…

    I still remember getting those twitter messages from you while I was in bed, wide awake due to jetlag, and thinking how crazy it was you were just across the street from me! I’m so happy you reached out though, even past all the adventures we had in Singapore — our fb chats and email chains make me so grateful that I have you guys as friends in my life. Hooray travel and social media, amiright?

    And thanks for such a fabulous write-up of our holiday, I’d forgotten how awesome it was — the roast chicken! beerstro! gahhh I’m so hungry now.

    The day you guys finally get to Europe cannot come soon enough. We are gonna go bananas. (Also, I am framing that chipmunk photo.)

    Oct. 14 2013 @ 9:29 am
    1. Edna author

      So glad you enjoyed your tribute! I know we did more than eat, but priorities, right? 😉

      I definitely think that some friendships are just meant to be, and everything aligned itself so perfectly in Singapore I’ve no doubt ours is one of them. Whenever we make it to Europe, it will be a long time coming, but it’s gonna be epic!

      Oct. 15 2013 @ 12:11 am
  2. Nothing beats local knowledge! Having a personal guide makes everything so much better. So glad you found someone wonderful to share Singapore with!

    Oct. 14 2013 @ 9:42 am
    1. Jackie (Farm Lane Books) author

      Yes, we really lucked out in Singapore surrounded by so many friends. I wish every country we visited could be like that!

      Oct. 15 2013 @ 12:12 am
  3. How lucky!! That food looks AMAZING and I’m beyond jealous of that cider. Yum!

    Oct. 14 2013 @ 6:55 pm
    1. Rika | Cubicle Throwdown author

      If it’s any consolation the cider was SO EXPENSIVE. But worth it! 😀

      Oct. 15 2013 @ 12:14 am
  4. Steph, I’m so happy to see you guys having an amazing time, trying some different food and drink among such incredible people. I always keep saying It’s not about where you go, it’s all about who you meet 🙂

    Oct. 14 2013 @ 9:12 pm
    1. Agness author

      We had a blast in Singapore and there is no way we would have had such fun if we hadn’t been among friends. You are right that so long as the company is good, where you are is only secondary.

      Oct. 15 2013 @ 12:16 am
  5. Shawn is generally pretty shy about meeting new people and I’m utterly neurotic (although very social, good combo, eh?), but we’ve made an effort to say yes to meeting new people when we’re contacted or asking when we see another blogger will be in our area. We haven’t had a ton of chances yet to meet people in our wanderings, other than on our Gobi trip, but we do plan to make a better effort at it. We’re happy to have made some good friends already and it’s made all the difference thus far.

    Edna is awesome and I’m jealous you guys got to share meals!

    Oct. 15 2013 @ 2:41 am
    1. Carmel author

      I’m so glad that Tony & I work so well as a team and I’m pretty much utterly content having him be my only source of companionship most of the time—I just realized that since landing in Nepal, we’ve literally spoken to no one other than each other (save for people in the service industry). I know that would drive most people crazy, but it just goes to show how much we actually have to actively push ourselves to reach out to others. It’s something I really have to work at, but 99% of the time I’ve been so happy for the connections we have made on the road. I’ll never be one of those people with 10k friends on Facebook, but we’ve met quite a few really awesome people that we really clicked with since starting our travels and I’m so grateful for that.

      Oct. 16 2013 @ 11:21 am
  6. As you know by now we love when people from the area share their knowledge and secrets with us. There is nothing better than sharing experiences with friends and people met along the way, in fact the best travel memories we have are connected with having met great people or visited friends!

    Oct. 15 2013 @ 3:04 am
    1. Franca author

      Yes, it was such a happy coincidence that Edna was in town while we were in Singapore because not only did we make a new friend but we got to really benefit from all the wisdom she had accrued during her time in Singapore. Staying open to new experiences and meeting new people has really made our trip so much better than it would have otherwise been, that is for sure!

      Oct. 16 2013 @ 11:23 am
  7. What a lovely tribute! Meeting incredible people on the road is truly one of the highlights of traveling.

    Oct. 15 2013 @ 1:37 pm
    1. jill author

      It really is! I think a lot of travelers talk about the boon of meeting and mingling with locals and that’s definitely an excellent dimension to any trip, but on a long journey, it’s also so nice to meet up with fellow travelers and people out seeing the world. They just automatically understand you in ways so many other people don’t!

      Oct. 16 2013 @ 11:24 am
  8. Lovely 🙂 The people you meet when travelling are one of the greatest things about it. You meet so many kindred spirits that just get it more than a lot of folks back home and it’s so enjoyable being able to gush about travel to your heart’s content. I count myself very lucky to have new friends scattered all over the world that I’ll hopefully get to see again one day, visit to Toronto perhaps???

    Oct. 16 2013 @ 12:27 pm
    1. Maddie author

      Absolutely! We loved meeting up with you and Paul in Phnom Penh & hope we’ll see you when we make it to England. And while I know West Coast Canada did not charm you in the way you expected, I think there’s hope for you yet—you might just be an East Coast kind of gal (the best of us generally are… 😉 ). We’d happily play host/tour guide whenever you decide to give Toronto a shot! 😀

      Oct. 17 2013 @ 12:59 am
  9. Hi Steph, I recently found your blog and am so enjoying reading your posts and gawking at you (and your husband’s) beautiful photos. Just recently hit the road myself and can’t wait to hear more and keep learning from those who have gone before!

    Oct. 16 2013 @ 9:49 pm
    1. Rochelle Comeaux author

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Rachel, and we’re both so glad to hear you’ve been enjoying our journey (and the resultant photos!). Happy to hear you have started off on your own adventure—we’ll be sure to follow along!

      Oct. 17 2013 @ 1:00 am
  10. I love meeting new people while travelling, including you guys of course. 🙂 I have made some really good friends on the road actually and with some of them I am in more contact than with my friends back home, who often don’t understand the travel lifestyle.

    Oct. 17 2013 @ 2:01 am
    1. TammyOnTheMove author

      Tammy, it was such a delight to meet up with you while we were in Phnom Penh—you’d better bet you’ll get a shout-out when we get round to covering Cambodia on our blog!

      I agree that we are often more in contact on a day-to-day basis with friends we have made on the road than one’s back home (though we do make an effort to keep in touch with our nearest & dearest who can’t be out traveling with us at the moment!).

      Oct. 18 2013 @ 9:41 am
  11. I just want to say “awwwwwww” for several minutes, because this is well written and lovely and so, so true.

    (Oh, and that food looks delicious!)

    Oct. 18 2013 @ 1:15 am
    1. Sally author

      Thanks for commenting, Sally, and I’m glad this post touched you.. then again, those food shots are practically impossible to resist! 😉

      Oct. 18 2013 @ 9:42 am
  12. What a sweet story! People can make such a difference, can’t they? I’ve made great friends via Twitter in HCMC and Shanghai who greatly enriched my experiences in those cities. Hopefully we can arrange our own epic meet up next year in Europe 🙂

    Oct. 18 2013 @ 7:57 pm
    1. Heather author

      We were very anti-Twitter before setting out on this journey but we have definitely come to embrace it due to the amazing connections we have formed through it.

      And yes, very much hoping we will be able to meet up at some point! I know it is just a matter of time before our paths cross!

      Oct. 20 2013 @ 9:10 am
    2. Heather

      Ooh, ooh, I want in on this Europe meet up!

      Nov. 4 2013 @ 3:03 am
  13. I really enjoyed this post because it’s a wakeup call for travelers. Yes, one travels to see sites and eat the food and meet the locals, but it’s also to make friends with people who share the same passion. Meeting new people while traveling is too often overlooked! We are guilty of it too (not really looking at the aspect before the big move), but now we can’t imagine not having the friends we’ve made since moving to Chiang Mai. It really does make the memories in places that much better!

    What a great relationship you and Edna developed, and it was all because of a simple request. Moments in which you can have conversations that flow easily because you feel like you’ve been best friends all along are priceless. How awesome is it to make friends with another person who shares a true passion for traveling as you do!? And extra points for Edna for putting you all in a food coma…heaven!

    Nov. 2 2013 @ 12:40 am

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