The last few weeks in Berlin has been a wild whirlwind of hosting family and friends, selling whatever we were able to sell, cleaning out closets, packing up and, finally, moving out. Without moving in anywhere else. This was a peculiar feeling. It is August now and the prospect of our next home, or rather base, will be in January in another hemisphere. Instead of moving in anywhere else, we each packed a backpack and boarded a 14-hour flight to Singapore.
Though, not before I had a small meltdown the day before, jumped on my bike, and bought a bigger backpack. Great start. (In my defence, I was trying to squeeze a three-month trip into a 20L fjallraven day backpack.)
I don’t personally, in real life, know another couple who has traveled like we have the past 3 years. We have seen and experienced a lot in an appropriately short amount of time. Traveling has become our priority – our passion and obsession. Living like this, however, inevitably means sacrifice otherwise: we don’t have many, or nice, things; we miss out on deep connections in a local community; we are often unavailable to the friends we have; and, sadly, the benefits of having pets don’t actually outweigh those of seeing the world. We’ve spent every second weekend in a different country, a week here, two weeks there. In one especially blurry week this year I checked in to California, Cape Town, Berlin, and Moscow.
And then I decided on doing my PhD in Cape Town and Joel quit his job, and we decided – why the hell not. Let’s be those people without a home. Let’s just travel without any notion of ‘returning’ anywhere for the next 5 months. That’s right. We are going full throttle with two backpacks.
So, because this feels like a special a time in our lives we will probably never have again, I am switching it up here on our blog. I will write short, more personal, updates on each instalment of our home-less journey. To share with friends and family. But mostly to remember. Because like every traveler we see so much more than we can remember and we remember so much more than we have seen.
Some corny quote I saw somewhere. Most likely Instagram.
So fast forward a long flight (+- 13 hours) in an enormous plane later and we disembarked in Singapore. Perfectly timed for dinner. We’ve heard so much about the street food in this city that we immediately headed to the nearest food market to pick up some signature satay.
It might have something to do with the fact that our hotel was right in Little India, but it became clear quite quickly that Singapore does not let itself be defined easily. It is a central hub with all different kinds of people making their homes in Asia’s smallest country, bringing with them all of their cultures, customs, and cuisines, but also keeping to the set of rules that makes this big city so available to everyone. Strolling through Little India, or China Town, or the Arab Quarter, you might easily assume you’re in another shabby Asian downtown, with locals navigating complex individualities in a sort of laissez-faire system where a moral code of conduct supercede practicalities. Except then you realise there is almost no garbage in the gutters, no stray dogs or cats vying for attention and fighting for food, the tap water is entirely drinkable, everybody speaks English, and nobody will cross the road until the traffic lights permit them to do so (my greatest annoyance anywhere in the world) – and we’ve never experienced pedestrian traffic lights that stay red for this long. The taxi driver who picked us up from the airport actually joked and said, “Singapore is called the fare city. You drop a plastic bag, you’ll get fined. You drop a cigarette, you’ll get fined. There are fines for everything.”
These ‘Asian quarters’ intersecting so awkwardly with the skyscraper city actually reminded me of a sort of liveable Dubai. A sort of casino-type las vegas city, except with the possibility of an outdoors life and lots of things to do. And exceedingly well set up for families. I wasn’t shocked to learn later that the city’s rapid expansion in the last 15 years was actually based on Dubai.
I was at once surprised and not at all surprised at how green Singapore is. On our first morning we headed to the Central Catchment Nature Reserve to check out something called a treetop walk. The density and humidity of the forest made complete sense as we stepped into the reserve even when I did not associate this with a potential Singapore visit. This walk (we found out only as we started) is at its shortest about 7kms. It takes you through the reserve on raised boardwalks over ravines and rivers, with butterflies fluttering over your head and monkeys sometimes blocking your way. We hopped over the 250m-long, 25m-high suspension bridge like pros, mostly because we survived the world’s longest suspension bridge at the ungodly height of 113 meters in Austria some two weeks before.
It was a green day with a lot of walking (20,000+ steps).
The Cloud Forest was absolutely incredible. I was nervous about this one. Nervous that I had ruined it for myself by looking at so many pretty pictures of it on Instagram. But it blew me away. We stood in the mist of the 35-meter indoor waterfall and stared with gaping jaws at this manufactured paradise. It’s absolutely surreal. And absolutely…scary…that something man-made like this can be so incomparably beautiful.
And the Super Tree Grove did not disappoint either, despite having to watch the sunset in a long line as we waited to get up to the sky walk. The first daily Garden Rhapsody (light and sound show) started as we still gaped up from the long queue. But we made it up there just in time for the final hurrah. When the music is booming and the lights are flashing, and you can see the city lights and the giant ferris wheel and the sky scrapers from all the way up there, it is suddenly the Singapore I imagined it would be.
It is always a good day when we get to meet up with old or new friends. We met Piruze over four years ago at a wedding in Tel Aviv and we knew right off the bat that she is a badass lady. The bride and groom actually organised an epic Israeli road trip with whoever wanted to go instead of a honeymoon (so great), and Piruze was one of the 40 or so guests who we got to know over campfires, desert views, and dead sea floating. We didn’t ever get to hang out again, but she did point us to an excellent hospital in Istanbul when I contracted pneumonia, and she works in the same sector as Joel. That is until now! We met up with Piruze and her husband Andreas for the famous Hainanese chicken rice that everybody raved about and reacquainted while we slurped noodles and sipped Tiger beers on the sidewalk. Meeting up with people is not only what makes travel special – it is the lifeblood that keeps any traveler going. Connection on the road – forging new and old bonds like little roots all over the world. Little shining stars of familiarity and warmth to take care of you for a second before you fly away again.
“It is always worth it to meet up with people.”
You were unexpected and cool and unpretentious and crazy and easy and abundantly green and beautifully manufactured and very well balanced all at once.