It was while crossing the border over the aptly named Friendship Bridge and into Myawaddy on foot that it hit me. It wasn’t just an insanely unnecessary amount of clothes I was taking with me on my onward journey – my backpack was full of new friendships.
Since requesting to drop my make-believe title of “Director of Ambassadors” that paid in bananas and coffee, had me banished from the house in December and spinning round and round in circles, I’d been able to put my David Brent and Nagging Mother facets back in their box.
So for my last ten days in Chiang Mai, I’d been able to focus on doing what I do best –laughing my head off and loving life more than life itself.
Looking back on the first few moments we met is pretty surreal. Sam had arrived in the afternoon and I’d asked her to let herself in. She’d unpacked her things, made herself at home and was hugging it out with Linus, our un-smelliest and most affectionate pet.
A few hours later, I came home from a #coffeeshoptosser Digital Nomad event in Nimmanhaemin armed with vegetarian deliciousness from our Thai Grandma. I walked through the door, gave her a big hug and started plating up dinner, then Nads walked in after Muay Thai, shouted YOOOOO at the top of her voice, and we all sat down to eat.
There’s normally a more staged‘getting to know you’ session whenever you meet somebody new, but we’d all telepathically agreed to skip the small talk and just chatted away like we’d known each other for years.
And that was it, within those first few moments of meeting we’d become sisters; a perfectly dysfunctional Thai family living and working together in a city thousands of miles away from home.
Nads is half German, half Pakistani but raised in Toronto her whole life and works there as a videographer.
She describes herself as Bubbly Ghetto and introduces herself with a loud “YOOOOOOOO”. It could be her boss from home, a co-volunteer, a waiter in a restaurant or a DHL delivery guy, no matter who it is they’ll get her signature greeting.
She wears short dungarees and slinky sports bras in a country where you’re supposed to cover up and talks ten decibels above the average when silence is encouraged. She’s intense and she knows it.
There is zero filter and no more than a nanosecond time lapse between thought and spoken word. She’ll say things like “YO this tastes like eating a mattress but in a good way” as she tucks into stale prawn crackers at our local food market. Or “YO, do you think monks, like, masturbate?” as we, and about twenty others, are all trying to meditate peacefully at sunrise on the hills of Doi Suthep.
Nads was my first real experience up close and personal with a Generation Z’er and I can quite honestly say I have never seen anybody take so many selfies. Ever.
For the first few days, I felt the pain of all #boyfriendsofinstagram combined, having to take seven thousand candid photos of her looking away from the camera with the exact same expression as Simple Jack from Tropic Thunder. Fortunately, once I’d made that comparison, I was no longer able to hold the camera without almost falling to the floor in a heap of giggles and it gave me very good excuse to relinquish my duties early on.
But sisterly ridicule aside, Nads lights up any room she’s in and if you can’t see her, you can definitely hear her. I love her boundless optimism and her unstoppable smile, I love her one-size-fits-all greeting, her zero filter word vomit and I love her confidence.
And most of all I love that underneath this Muay-Thai-fighting, table-dancing, selfie-taking exterior is just a cute and perfectly weird little kid who loves to sketch and is addicted to Pokemon.
I wish the world had a lot more Nads in it.
SHE ADORED HER PASSPORT
Then there’s Sam, the middle sister who is 27 years old and from Minnesota. She’s in a long-term relationship with travel and has a love affair with coffee wherever she goes.
Writing Sam’s name makes me smile with pierced lips and a held breath like I’m holding back the cackles. It’s her facial expressions. Her facial expressions are brilliant.
She doesn’t need to say a word and you know exactly what she’s thinking. She mastered my Uncle Mike’s ‘Face Of Contempt’ for when I do something unfathomably moronic and does the best “psychotic, sunburnt, sleep-deprived, maniac typing, crazily obsessed writer” impressions of me I’ve ever seen. (Or ever want to see)
Sam is all about the motivationals, the female empowerment and once you’re her friend, you’re pretty much friends for life. She wears her heart on her sleeve, always sees the good in others but also has a zero tolerance policy to bullshit, a combination of personality traits I happen to absolutely love.
When we talk we throw grenades of ideas back and forth and when we laugh, we go on a journey of hypothetical stories that make us choke on chortles. She’s a storyteller. Her eyes well up and her arms are covered in goosebumps whenever there’s a tale and she feels every word that’s uttered.
Sam’s played an important role in the script of my life and I have absolutely no doubt that Fate made our paths cross for that reason and more.
TIME TO SAY GOODBYE
When you’re travelling it tends to be the places that open your eyes, the experiences that open your mind, but the people that open your heart.
And now, thanks to that one way flight I booked to Chiang Mai on a bit of a hunch, I’ve now got two perfectly odd little adopted sisters running around the planet speaking Scouse words in their Canadian and American accents and carrying a piece of my heart in their backpack.
We’re the three best friends that anybody could ever have.