Lessons that Travels Have Taught Me (so far)

Experience is the best teacher and the most experiences I’ve got are from travelling or living nomadically. I’ve moved a lot in my 27 years although none of the places I’ve lived in or visited is abroad. Well my country is big and it’s not easy for a developing country citizen like me to travel abroad. Also, every corner of Indonesia is so different even though it’s in the same island; the people, culture, norms, weather, etc are different. The first time I moved to other city was when I was 17 y.o when my parents decided to go back to their hometown in West Sumatra. I hated it back then, the fact that I had to be separated with the things and people I’d been familiar with. Ten years later, I’ve become a restless soul that always wants to be challenged by new environment periodically. It has given me long-term impacts and lessons that shape the person I am and will be. Even the ways I travel changed. Let me share some things that travels have taught me so far :D.

  1. Travel has made me realize that life is short.

Life is short to do and be something I’m not, to only read one book, to only have one perspective, to stop questioning, to not seek for answers, to be spent in only one place, to only have one dream, to learn only one skill. And most importantly, to not be shared.

2. Changes are not always scary.

Fly High Yoga by the sea in Gili Air

Starting again in new places with new people, situation etc sounded scary before for me. But I survived, I’m glad of most changes that happened, sometimes a reset button is necessary. Breaking the comfort zone is good, just because something is familiar doesn’t mean it’s better. It is when you’re already outside the box then you can see what’s wrong about the box.

3. The world is so big and there are so so so so so many people in the world.

The more places I visited and the more people from different background I met, the more I want to see and experience other places. This makes me realize that for me moving is one of my needs. Many people seek for settling down in one place until they’re old and die, while I don’t think myself belongs to that category. Even if I know Bali is my fave place to live, it doesn’t mean I want to stay in Bali forever. I will someday settle, just not now. Also, knowing that there are billions of billions of people in the world–I mean yeah of course all people know the big number of population, but many of us choose to trap ourselves into small community; like people in our city or our country only–makes me more optimistic in life that it doesn’t matter if one person doesn’t agree with nor like me, there are still billions of people in the world, even Trump is still liked by some people. It doesn’t matter if I feel I don’t belong with people in West Sumatra, maybe I just happened to be a black sheep, I met people who are like me–the black sheep–in Bali, whose homes are away from homes. There will be a lot of places in the world that are more willing to accept who you are, you just need to find where it is.

4. The more I travel, the more I need less.

The moment of packing and unpacking are the times I know I’ve been collecting or wanting things I don’t actually need. It’s the time I have to decide which one to keep in my life. I still don’t travel light, but for people who know me and with so many things I had back home, it’s an achievement to pack my life into just some briefcases. It makes me realize that if I’m ok with it during travelling, then I will be okay with same at home. The more I don’t understand why people could be so obsessed with having a big big family home, taking loans for big house, fancy cars, electricities, etc. That makes more sense to me if it’s for property business, but I can’t see myself living in a big house because I don’t need that. I need plane tickets, enough money and health.

5. Self-discovery.

I’ve read somewhere that if you want to find yourself, leave your home. My self-discovery process happens faster every time I am away from home, my goals get clearer.

6. Travel gives me hope and faith that THAT kind of life is possible.

Since my childhood, my parents and most adults around me taught me how scary it is to have no uniforms, which means a job in institution or company. I believe that every generation has their own advantage from the previous generations, hence we should not live with the same fears. My generation’s advantage is the advance of information and communication technology. I don’t want to miss this opportunity. Nomad living is possible which allow us to make money from anywhere we want. It makes it possible to earn in different currency. That if I really want something to happen, there’s always ways. Travel allows me to meet alike-minded people who many of them are more successful in their 30s than my parents who worked for over 30 years in institutions. And what great about these people are their energy and creativity that are always alive and pumped.

7. Complaint less, be more patient and grateful.

When you just move to a new place, then expect the unexpected, things go out of plans and it’s okay. I saw how people can live with less and still be happy which all too often we forget how to live like that.

8. Shop less, experience more.

I can say I’ve been very lucky to be able to travel myself since young age. But the way I travel and how I see it have changed a lot. I used to only target big cities with big malls during the sale season, travel was only about shopping for me. I always flew back with extra baggage than when I left. Doing it for years, I always felt exhausted after the holiday (and broke, of course), also felt rushed during the travel. I used to list so many shopping agenda in my itinerary for a 2-3 day holiday. I think that’s how most Indonesians are like during holidays, we try to go to as many destination as possible in super short time that we don’t really enjoy our visit anymore, it’s become more like a check-list than a relaxing holiday. Now I prefer to have much less agenda and be more spontaneous. I rarely shop unless it’s something very special that I still think of after 3 days, by then I know I really want it rather than an impulse buying. I buy something that I will use and remind me of the place when I see and use it. Someday when my hair turns grey, it’s the experience that I will remember, not how many and expensive things I bought.

9. Enjoy solo travelling while you can.

The idea of travelling with a partner and family may sound tempting to many. I have friends who missed their travelling opportunities or chances to move somewhere only because of waiting for a life partner to arrive. That’s not me, at least for this moment. Most of the time for me at this moment, I want to have a time for myself. When I get married, I will less likely have it anymore, I will have husband and kids to travel with for years. So now is my time for my self (before I get stuck with them, LOL). It’s nice to have a travel partner sometimes, but not every time.

***

So that’s my ode to travel. I’m sure that’s not all yet–at least what I can think of for now. I want to continue living like this, moving place to place, looking forward to more adventures and changes for the better because nothing is more exciting than seeing who I will be at the end of each one. PS: this year I will have my first international travels, can’t wait!!

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Jakarta, oh, Jekardah

Jakarta as the country’s capital is just another big city like any other big cities, harsh in its beauty, or beautiful in its harshness. Many Indonesians moved to Jakarta hoping to reach their Jakartan dreams; the high desires for lifestyle, convenience and fame. For me, I cant stand Jakarta at all. I don’t understand how people can enjoy life in Jakarta, because you have to have the ability to ignore your surrounding and turn off your empathy.

Jakarta is the ugliest face of this country for me. It’s not only about the traffic and politics, but also the face of social gap that it serves right in front of your eyes.

You work extra just to be enough to pay the bills and spend extra hours stuck in the traffic, wake up at 4 am and reach home at 8 pm. Can’t even imagine doing that for two weeks, don’t even ask me for years. It’ll age and drain me emotionally and physically. And will that job be able to pay your health issue later?

Having stayed in Bali where sexy is make-up free, cheerful and relaxed, I was feeling strange when I came to Grand Indonesia Mall in Jakarta. I didn’t know what it was, then I realized that I felt strange because I hadn’t been seeing that much hair extension, thick makeup, and 8 cm heels for a long time. People looked uptight, I don’t know whether its the botox/ facelift or that they dont wanna crack their make-ups. I passed a pillar mirror and saw how barefaced I was from head to toe compared to my surroundings.

The big malls I visited in Jakarta are always busy in the cafes, food courts and restaurants. I checked the price and it’s more expensive than the bule cafes in Bali, but still I always saw many Indonesians lining up for those expensive cafes in those fancy malls. I couldn’t believe what I saw and asked, “Are we that rich? Really?”

As soon as I walked outside the big mall, I saw similar view outside the building at the street food seller next to a smelly dirty water drain. I don’t want to dare my self with Jakarta street food, coz I always got bellyache and diarrhea right after it. Most of them were store employees in the mall. Ironically some of the people were wearing the uniforms of restaurants from the malls. That’s Jakarta, that’s Indonesia.

In Bali, beauty is for everybody to enjoy, whether you’re rich or poor or middle class, it doesn’t really show. In Jakarta, beauty is luxury and people want to show off how rich they are compared to the other people around them. You may see them taking GoJek, but at the same time holding their Zara, HnM shopping bags, these brands are not cheap for Indonesians.

For Indonesians–which are very different from the developed western countries–, living in a small room in a tall-apartment building means that you’re rich, rather than having a house with a garden. These apartments are mostly equipped with swimming pool, gym, convenience store, cafe, daycare, playground, tennis court, etc. The fancier ones even have sauna, jacuzzi, library, coworking, etc which are included in the fee they pay every month. But these life-indulging facilities are often lonely. People don’t have the time to enjoy it, they’re either busy working overtime or stuck in the traffic.

You can’t be impulsive in Jakarta, you need to know what you wanna do and go every day because it’s not easy to move around. Sometimes one km can take up to 30 mins or an hour.

But what for me is really frustrating is that the fact that even after you pay a lot for convenience in Jakarta, it’s still not worth it. You live in your expensive apartment but every time, every morning, you are served with the view of Indonesian poverty, the slum areas which are located right next to your apartment. If you look straight to the horizon, you see the optimistic tall buildings that are far away from you. But when you look down, just 10 meters from your place are houses made of paper boxes. Why do you pay so much if this is what you are going to see everyday?

What really slapped me in the face was when I was taking my baby cousin to the play room in a fancy apartment that my uncle owns. One side of the room is a glass wall so you can see everything outside. In that play room for the rich kids, the toys were complete, I’d never had that many toys in my childhood. What sit right next to the big glass wall was a 1.5 meter wide doll-house, complete with the tiny furnitures, I never played with a doll house when I was a kid, nobody in my neighborhood had a doll house. How ironic the contrast of the doll house and the view of human houses outside the glass wall is. Even dolls, non-living things, have a more decent house than human houses. What should I tell my baby cousin later about it when she starts to speak and ask questions? Other kids in the room were so loud and naughty, they just didn’t care about it, maybe they’ve been used to it that they didn’t even bother to ask what are the paper boxes with roofs outside the window.

This is Jakarta, this is Indonesia.