I have now been traveling for three months. There is not a day that goes by when I don’t think of how fortunate I feel to be able to do this. Some people tell me that I am so lucky to travel around like this; whether it has anything to do with luck or not, I worked hard to make this a reality. I worked for seventeen years and I wanted a break, not because I was tired of working but because it was time to pay attention to the explorer in me. I always wanted to do long-term travel and find opportunities to experience other cultures and see beautiful places. I have confirmed, so far, that this is truly what makes me happy.
Some things that have taken place or that I have learned in these three months:
- I have changed residence every three to four days and I don’t mind it. It is always fun to have a fresh start.
- I am eating everything and anything I want. I am still making sure I get enough vitamins daily but I am not following any kind of strict diet (as I was in LA for a while before I left). I want to experience the food fully and without reservations. I want to taste it all! I am eating way more sugar than I should though… 😛
- It took a while but I finally got used to the staring. In Indonesia light-skinned, blue-eyed, light-hair people like me are apparently a novelty. It’s like they have never seen us before… everyone wants to take a picture with you. I don’t mind the picture requests but the constant staring was difficult to stand at the beginning, now after three months, I finally don’t care and I just stare back.
- I am feeling more comfortable as a solo traveller. At first it felt a bit weird, like I was the only person out there doing this. I quickly learned that there are plenty of solo travelers out there, more women than men actually.
- People ask if it gets lonely, and it has at times, but only for a few days, for example when I was in Singapore. In all other places I have been able to meet people and I am hardly ever alone for more than a few hours in the day. It is easy to meet other travelers anywhere you go.
- Usually, in my experience, the local people want to talk to you and learn about you. In big cities however, especially the really touristy ones, no one really cares, they know you are just one more tourist. Everyone has the big city syndrome of minding their own business, surviving the day, and ignoring each other. This is obviously only my view and a generalization.
- I have only gotten sick three times, twice with a bad bacterial stomach infection and once with the flu. Not bad considering I am in completely new environments and trying all kinds of new food.
- I don’t miss my apartment, my furniture, my car, or working. I only miss people- my family and my friends. As far as missing material belongings, not really… but I do regret not having brought along my 250mm camera lens, my tank tops and shorts, and my sleeping bag liner. I packed too many clothes that I have not needed yet and left these other important items at home.
- I have enjoyed various modes of transportation: countless bus rides, three over-night buses, some taxi rides, a couple of train rides, countless metro rides in the cities, a few minivans, countless buses, about a dozen boat rides and ten airplane rides. My favorite experience so far has been enjoying the romantic Indonesian pop songs blasting on the speakers at 3:00 am in an over-night bus trip in Sumatra (being sarcastic!).
- My credit card points are starting to give back, woo-hoo! I already got a free-hotel voucher and a $170 in travel rewards; which I used toward one of my recent flights.
- I have only felt “unsafe” three times during my travels. Once when I was harassed by a mini-bus driver in Medan, Sumatra. Thankfully nothing bad happened but he did make an indecent proposal that made me feel very uncomfortable and scared since I was the only one in the mini-bus with him at the time. The second time was in the same city when I left the hostel (shortly after being harassed by the minibus driver) to go find an ATM. Various men were shouting at me “bule” as I crossed the streets. Bule is a word used to refer to a white foreigner; which has an implicit negative connotation. I don’t mind when someone says it as they refer to you in conversation but not like this. The third time was in Lake Toba, Sumatra when a guy started following my friends and I as we walked back to our Guesthouse in the dark. We thought it was safe (as everyone said) plus we were a group of three. He kept following us for a while and was even joined by one of his friends at one point. We don’t know if they had bad intentions towards us but they certainly wanted to intimidate us.
- I have made a lot of new friends, from many countries and from all walks of life. The one thing that we all have in common is our love for travel. It has been great to meet other solo travelers that are going around the world like me. It is also great when a local person does not see you as just another tourist but wants to be your friend and opens up to you.
- My fondest memories of the trip so far have been my moments in nature. Some of my favorite: Seeing the sun slowly come up and shine light on the summit of the island’s tallest volcano while we were ascending it. Snorkeling with friends in the middle of pouring rain around a bay and finding a desolate beach where we rested. Hiking in the rainforest in heavy rain. Swimming with a giant school of jack fish in the ocean. Enjoying a swim at a volcanic beach while staring at the tallest volcano on the island. Seeing an orangutan in the wild staring back at me, as if he was interested.
- Some bad things that I have seen are all the trash found in public lands, oceans and national parks, and the most horrible sight is seeing an animal eating plastic. They need to have a massive public “clean-up” campaign in Indonesia.
- The best gifts I received for my trip that have been very useful- a small, super light daypack that packs very small from my friend Ale. And a travel converter/adapter that allows me to charge three electronic devices at the same time, from my sister. Thank you!
- I have learned to be alone and not feel lonely. To be ok with my own good and bad thoughts. To enjoy a lot of time of self-reflection and even face some evils. I have also learned that I know how to relax and really live in the moment. The latter is helped by the fact that I only plan two to three days in advance.
- Spontaneous moments, completely unplanned stuff, has made for the best memories.
- It has been such an enriching experience so far. I can’t wait to see what comes next!
Thanks again for following me on my journey!