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How to travel like a globetrotter with Linda Tan

Christian Razukas

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Sun, January 28, 2018  /  09:02 am
How to travel like a globetrotter with Linda Tan

Linda Tan posing in Yunnan (Courtesy Linda Tan/File)

As managing director of the building materials giant Sandimas, Linda Tan travels around Asia sourcing products. For leisure, however, she goes everywhere, from Uzbekistan via Istanbul to see the ruins of the ancient city of Khiva, to Copenhagen for two days– just for the chance to dine at René Redzepi’s two-Michelin- star restaurant Noma.

“I try to shape myself and my hobbies around travel,” Linda says. She’s combined a love of fine dining with a penchant for endurance sports, finishing marathons in Berlin, Bourdeaux, Boston, London, New York City and Tokyo.
In Chicago for the marathon, Linda even stopped at Grant Achatz’s three-Michelin- star Alinea for a meal before the race. These twin loves are shared with her husband, Chris. The pair traveled to Barcelona for Chris to complete an Ironman competition.

While Linda says she plans personal trips about every six weeks, she wasn’t always adventurous. The first trip Linda made without family was from Los Angeles from Honolulu when studying at Hawaii Pacific University. It wasn’t until her parents took her on an Alaskan cruise after graduation that she caught the travel bug.

A splendid mosque in UzbekistanA splendid mosque in Uzbekistan (Courtesy Linda Tan/File)

“Alaska was the first off the beaten path that I’d ever been,” Linda says of the cruise, which stopped at four ports and included chances to go kayaking or to pan for gold in the outback. “It really broadened my horizon that traveling was not just about eating and shopping. It’s an experience. It was my first ‘a-ha’ moment that you don’t have to buy a lot of souvenirs.”

On a favorite vacation destination, Linda says she doesn’t have one. “Even if I had a favorite, I don’t make it a favorite, because my mission is to fly around the world.” When pressed, Linda admits to a fondness for two cities: New York and Paris. The culinary scene is a big attraction in New York, with the pastrami at Katz’s Delicatessen topping her must-do list. Food is also a draw in Paris. Linda planning a return trip just to sample Paris’ one-star Michelin restaurants. “I find that the three-stars are always classic–a lot of cream, a lot of butter. But the one-stars have a totally different approach,” she adds. “They’re just so much more adventurous.”

Mush, mush: On a dog-pulled sled in UshuaiaMush, mush: On a dog-pulled sled in Ushuaia (Courtesy Linda Tan/File)

Asked to describe an inspiring trip, Linda talks of venturing to Myanmar in 2008 to see Yangon, Mandalay and Bagan. At that time, the nation was just beginning to open up and Chris didn’t like the idea. “But I was six months pregnant with our first baby, and he didn’t dare say no to me,” Linda says. “He thought I would get depressed.” She recalls the trip with obvious relish. “Bagan is so beautiful. You climb up the temples and see the parting of the clouds.”

Although traveling while pregnant didn’t slow Linda down–she made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land during her second pregnancy–traveling with a husband is not always as simple. “He’ll go with me to please me,” Linda says of vacationing with Chris. But there’s not a lot of compromise. “I don’t convince,” she adds. “I am a dictator. We have to pick our battles. My battle is travel.”

The glacier at CalafateThe glacier at Calafate (Courtesy Linda Tan/File)

It comes down to managing different styles, she adds. “I think he would like a holiday where we stay in one place–not checking in and checking out–for two weeks, and I’m just not that kind of person.” In the end, Linda says Chris is a good sport. “Even though before the trip, he will say ‘I don’t like this, I don’t like that’, after he goes, he will enjoy himself.”

Bringing her kids along is another challenge Linda accepts. “Once they know Disney, they demand Disney every year,” she says. “In Mongolia, I gave them a small pail and told them to collect fossils. They went and did that for two or three hours.”

Linda TanLinda Tan (J+/Dennie Ramon)

One of Linda’s secrets to moving fast is packing light, since she’s likely to move from the airport and go down every byway when she’s in country. So Linda has opted for an iPhone 7 over a DSLR, and has abandoned carrying bundles of books. In her carry-on in favor of a Kindle, where you’ll find books by Khaled Hosseini, and even romance novels like Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.

Linda’s bucket list has space for return trip to Brazil to see Carnival in Rio de Jainero (other trips took her to see the 275 drops of the Igazu Falls, near the Argentine border) as well as trips to Goa and Peru.

Five days in Iceland, though, is on the itinerary for the year’s end, as an incentive trip for her company. Linda’s added a day in Paris to shop, although it’s clear she’d rather be anywhere else than a boutique. “I like walking a city. If there’s an option to ride a bicycle in the city, I do that and hang out a lot in cafes,” Linda says. “The last thing I do when I travel is shop.”