In mid-life, I’ve been grateful for having kept an enduring friendship with my childhood friends, Malyn and Monet, girls whom I had grown up with both in high school and college. Our quirky trio has kept a promise to spend time together by taking an all-girls time-off once a year, fondly called our “Tres Marias Travels.”
In fact, our hilarious adventures begin at the check-in counter where we’re often so busy chatting with each other, that we’d either miss the line or cue in the wrong one. At one time, we were asked if any one of us might be pregnant and would be unable to take the emergency aisle on the plane.
At this question, we looked at each other in disbelief and laughingly teased the agent, saying: “Thanks for the compliment that we still look like we can still get pregnant at this age, but really!” And on the side, Malyn whispers, “Well that said, at least she thinks we all still see some action in bed!”
The thing with friends traveling together is that you often trust one of you to make all the arrangements for everyone. Among us, Malyn often takes the lead, and luckily enough, she happens to be the most efficient at keeping down our travel costs best.
This year, Malyn planned a trip to Osaka yet again and booked tickets and accommodations for us all. Telling us that we ought to do what the Japanese do, she candidly declared that we will all stay at a Ryokan (a traditional Japanese home) and sleep on tatami mats. And hence, we found ourselves at a quaint, modest yet welcoming hostel in Shinsaibashi, Osaka’s major shopping and tourist district.
Shinsaibashi is made up of narrow streets and the Dotombori shopping district that feature hundreds of stalls selling traditional Japanese items and the latest fashion. But the area is really much known for the food choices around with a myriad of restaurants and stalls selling takoyaki balls, gyoza, and ramen.
Thanks to Malyn, we would learn that living in a hostel feels like lounging in a relative’s living room or a college dorm, as you can move freely around a common kitchen and make breakfast, do your laundry even, and party with other like-minded tourists. The best thing though is that the people at the reception give you tips about where to go and dine as locals do, including spas and an onsen to go to. Then too, they arranged a free tour of Osaka Castle for their guests. But as luck would have it, our trio would miss the free tour after losing our way in the subway and getting on the wrong train the morning after. Worried about what happened to us, our receptionist, Masae inquired later that day. When she heard about how we got lost, Masae could only smile amusedly at how three middle-aged ladies are still unable to figure out their way around.
From strawberry yogurt, cream puffs with strawberry and Chantilly cream to ramen, Osaka was the perfect venue for our all-girls get-together. Daring the winter cold, we would laugh at each other’s mishaps as we tried to squeeze into warmers and layers before heading out. From being chased by hungry deer and posing for photos in front of imperial castles, the trip brought out the best among us old girls.
In the end, the most wonderful thing about traveling with good friends is that it doesn’t really matter whether you’re eating street food or even getting lost in the train, every meal and every funny moment is simply memorable. After all, even in the midst of our busy days, motherhood, and careers included, true friends affirm how blessed we are for the memories and lives we get to keep.