We meet Charlene Fang, managing editor of inSing.com and avid traveller in her favourite watering hole, La Maison du Whisky. Her vivacious laugh fills the cozy, bottle-filled space as an afternoon thunderstorm hits outside. She talks to us about simplifying her life, the road to success and her love for finding out a good story.
A lot of your work is always on trends. What are some that you’re excited about?
Fresh. There is a growing trend for Living Clean, in all areas. Knowing where your food is coming from, eating clean, and paring things down and going to the original source of it. This applies to all aspects of life – food, drink, and friends; when the foundation is solid, you don’t need much more. It’s all about quality, not quantity, and the fundamental ingredients. This resonates a lot with me.
It resonates because I am at a point where I am trying to quieten my mind, and find more balance. The world we live in now, and especially in my field of work which is online, has a lot of white noise. I am confronted with about 500 million things all the time and so out of work I try to keep it simple.
You’ve done a lot in a very short space of time. How did you get to where u are now?
A lot of it has been about being in the right place at the right time, and having the attitude that no job was ever too big or too small. My first job in CNBC taught me a lot, it was a “monkey job” in the sense that it was monkey see monkey do, bao ka liao if you know what I mean. I learnt very fast what it meant to work in a team. I understood then that you did your job better if you knew what motivated your colleagues, and what they needed to get their job done.
There are many reasons but the key one probably is that I’ve always listened to my gut. I am lucky enough to combine my passion with my work and fortunately what I do naturally - talking to people, discovering places, observing - I find purpose and meaning in it.
I’m always asking “What’s the story?” because everyone and everything has one. A good story wields infinite power, it informs, it educates, it inspires, it reassures.
To have the opportunity to create a story is an incredible thing and I’ve had the fortune to do that many, many times over. Along the way it’s added to the creation of my most important story - me.
Do you have any hideaway secret spots?
My favourite retreat is actually Skimpy Sailing, which is a sailboat I go on every year or so, run by a friend of mine.
My best hideaway spot is actually The Rustic Shoebox aka my home. It’s tucked away in a quiet, lush part of Singapore. As much as I love to travel I also love to just sit still. I need it as I work in a industry that is 24/7 and I’m also overly ambitious socially. Sitting still in my home on my marshmallow daybed with my phone on silent allows me to focus. Focus on what’s coming up, what I want to do, what I have done and what is still to come. This period of time relaxes me and re-energizes me and I try once a month or every two months to have a “lockdown” weekend where the only focus is on me.
Sometimes the best travel is to not travel, to sit at home and appreciate what you’re fortunate enough to have.
For overseas I guess it will have to be Bali. I’ve been going to the Isle of Gods for a decade now. I remember the first time I visited, I instinctively knew this was a special spot and one I would return to, and I have over and over again. There’s also a secret remote stretch of beach huts in Tanjong Pinang where the sand is white and the water clear. I’ve always wanted to go.
The silence and peace enrich me on my retreats. There is no obligation, and a freedom that comes with anonymity. Every year I go away by myself to experience this. It’s an important, grounding experience for me.
If you didn’t live in Singapore, where would you live?
New York comes to mind straight away. But beyond that it would be a city near the beach. Somewhere like Barcelona or Sydney.
The thing about New York is that there is a story everywhere; something is always going on. I feed off people’s energy, and whenever I have been there I feel really energized. The sense of possibility, opportunity and discovery is liberating. You meet very interesting, creative people and your average person there may have a boring 9-5 job but be doing something very unusual on their weekend.
People are multi-hyphenates there, and I love that affirmation that you’re not just one thing. You can evolve, and anything is possible. My ideal multi-hyphenate would be:
What’s the one thing you would change about the world?
I wish people were happier. Often all you hear is negativity and people complaining. It’s really very boring. If everyone was happier, it would rub off on everybody else, and the world would be a better place.
People should spend time figure out exactly what makes them happy, and accepting that. I have the attitude that I just need the minimum to be happy, and everything else is icing on the cake. If anything is less than my minimum, then I just work towards it. To be content is an art; our generation finds it very difficult to be that.
For me, what makes me happy is…
Floating in water
Sunshine. Sunshine makes me very happy.
Being around friends.
Being in my shoebox house, a space I created
Being in an airplane sitting and watching the clouds.
Tell me about your objects.
This doll reminds me that there is always 2 sides of me. I got it on my first sailing trip on Skimpy. There is the side of me that is work, and the other side that is all play.
The second is this wood carving of a horse from Myanmar, which I got for $5 and some makeup. We were heading to the airport and didn’t have any more cash, and so the women selling it eyed my best friend Sunita’s make up case and so we gave her all the money we had, which amounted to about $5, and some lipstick. I love these serendipitous encounters on travel.
Famous last words?
You know I can’t just give you one line.
“Vomit first, clean up later” ( This is about writing and beating writers block)
“What’s the worse that can happen, they say no?”
“Nothing can possibly go wrong!”
“The universe will provide"
In between sunning herself in the Caribbean, Bali and other exotic locales, Charlene Fang keeps her feet (and fingers) grounded as the managing editor of inSing.com. She blames her wanderlust on the years spent working as the editor of CNNGo Singapore and Time Out Singapore. Her ramblings have also been published by the likes of Travel+Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, Wallpaper*, ELLE and The Australian.
We are inspired by her wanderlust, optimism and grounded humour, and are proud to have her as a Fieldtester, a group of inspiring friends that regularly test MATTER products in their workplace and travels to help us improve durability and design.