When she was a 17-year-old college student, Linda Tan booked herself a lunch spot at the New York branch of the famous Maxim’s de Paris. Maxim’s was so popular back in the days, and was featured in one of Danielle Steel’s romance novels. Linda’s favorite character in the novel proposed to the love of his life at Maxim’s. One weekend, she flew to New York from Honolulu, where she was studying at the time, went to Maxim’s, splurged on a fancy three-course lunch, and found herself fall for the world of fine dining.
“I was so young back then, and nobody took me seriously, but it was a whole different world in a fine dining restaurant. Everyone treated me graciously, they even called me Ma’am, which was a big deal for me back then,” Linda muses. “I was fascinated by the gourmet cuisine, and I loved the princess-worthy treatment. Those few hours of fine dining always felt magical to me.”
Until today, when she has transformed from a college student to a Managing Director of Sandimas (a leading importer and manufacturer of building materials) and mother of two, Linda still travels far and wide to sample some of the world’s most acclaimed restaurants. Two years ago, Linda and her husband Kris Adidarma flew for two nights to Copenhagen after a friend managed to get them spots at Noma, René Redzepi’s Nordic restaurant, which may require years of waiting to dine at.
“My love for gourmet food grew as I realised the effort that goes into making dishes that taste great and look great at the same time,” Linda says. “Contemporary restaurants now create dishes that look like artworks, and I have an appreciation for that.” Although Linda loves to share a meal with family and friends, she admits that she enjoys solo dining every now and then. She enjoys the solitary time to wind down and truly savour her food. “I used to feel so self-conscious when I dine alone, and I would check if people were staring at me. But I am slowly mastering the art of solo dining. I thoroughly enjoy a three-hour dinner on my own. It’s liberating.” she says.
Besides food, extreme and endurance sports also fuel Linda’s wanderlust. Her husband and her enjoy hiking, diving, skiing and running. Together they have summited Mount Rinjani, Mount Kinabalu, and the Uhuru Peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, one of the world’s seven highest peaks. Linda has dived in some of the most beautiful places in Indonesia and other popular spots in the world such as Raja Ampat, Komodo Island, Bunaken in Manado, Sangalaki in Kalimantan, the Bahamas, the Maldives, and the Red Sea. She skis in different parts of the world every year, and considers Beirut as one of her most memorable destinations to date. She has done seven marathons since 2012, five of them in the six World Marathon Majors.
“The only major I have not completed is the Boston Marathon,” Linda says. “To be eligible to compete for that, I need to finish a marathon in three hours and 40 minutes. Right now, my personal best is four hours and two minutes. I am nowhere close to my Boston qualification time yet, but it’s definitely on my list.”
Her children, now 8 and 7, have been to some of the world’s most challenging destinations, including Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Mongolia and Siberia. As a matter of fact, her daughter was conceived in Zanzibar. “That was the reason why my daughter’s middle name is Zuri. It means ‘beautiful’ in Swahili, and
it’s also a reminder that she was conceived in Tanzania.”
Naturally, Linda aspires for her children to love travelling as much as she does. One of the reasons is because her parents had brought her travelling since very early ages. When she graduated from her Masters’ course at 19, her parents took her on a seven-day Alaska cruise. It was a defining moment for her.
“That was my first adventurous trip, and I was so mesmerised by everything I experienced. That was when I realised that I wanted to see as much of the world as possible,” Linda says. As an avid reader, Linda turned to National Geographic issues and Lonely Planet books to educate herself on different parts of the world. “The more I read about other countries, the more I wanted to travel. There’s an insatiable desire to see outside the environment I live in. For instance, when we went to Mongolia and stayed in a Ger camp in the Gobi Desert, we got to see how the locals lived. We learned that life in the desert is tough. That is the kind of experience that helps me to understand the world better and also adds meaning to my life.”
While millennial travellers today might not be able to imagine planning a trip without the internet, in the early days, Linda went the extra mile planning trips to travel obscure countries by collecting a stack of different itineraries from different travel agents. Once I’ve booked everything that is needed, I created Excel sheets to organise all the hotel and restaurant reservations I made. I created my own itineraries from then on, deciding on the most time efficient ways to explore a country. “Planning trips to exotic destinations without Google was absolutely painstaking,” Linda says.
Nowadays, many of Linda’s friends consult her before travelling because chances are, she has been there. A few travel agents have approached her to be their brand ambassadors and she sometimes write articles about her travels in magazines. But truth be told, her off-the-beaten-track destinations were not always as popular as they are now among her social circle.
“These days, travelling to unknown destinations is considered cool. But, that wasn’t the case 20 years ago. People were questioning why I had to be so uncomfortable during a holiday!” Linda laughs. Often, she has to endure small planes and inconvenient accommodation. But she regards them simply as part of the spirit of adventure.
Although she is unofficially labelled as an adventurous traveller, Linda does indulge in luxury holidays from time to time. When she plans for a leisure trip, she refers to DestinAsian’s website for resort recommendations. Last year, she went on a family holiday to the Maldives and stayed at the Six Senses in Laamu Atoll, which she regarded very highly. “It was probably the most beautiful resort I had ever been to! We all were a little sad when we had to leave the island, so we promised the kids we will come back again here one day.”
Prestige meets her for a photo shoot at The Westin Jakarta. The luxury city hotel is situated on the top 20 floors of the tallest building in Indonesia, the 304-meter high Gama Tower. Then, she was fresh off a “honeymoon” in the Arctic Circle and Southern Italy. In Sweden, the pair stayed at the acclaimed Icehotel, visited the ice bar, and tried reindeer sledding. In Finland, they swam in the frozen Arctic Ocean and stayed at Olokolo, a portable cabin for travellers seeking a unique Arctic wilderness overnight experience.
Her deep passion for travel comes at a price. With her current responsibility in the company, two kids in tow and other activities, she has got her plate full as it is. On all of her trips, she wakes up earlier and sleeps later than her companions to reply to work emails. “I’m grateful enough if I didn’t have to bring my laptop along, but working on holiday is a fact that I’ve come to terms with. After all, I still get to travel, and that’s all that matters.”
“To me, travelling signifies the ultimate freedom. It allows me to discover new frontiers, transcend boundaries and explore new cultures. There are countless moments when I stand in awe witnessing the most incredible heritage site, the most gorgeous sunset, or the most magnificent mountain. It inspires me to go out of my comfort zone to see the best the world can offer. My travel takes me to the ice glacier in Patagonia, camel safari in Morocco, big game safari in Africa, and I am always searching for the next great adventure. It gives purpose to my life.”
Photography: Vicky Tanzil
Fashion Direction: Peter Zewet
Styling: Koko Namara
Makeup: Jacqueline Stephani
Location: The Westin Jakarta