When I tell people I live in Indonesia, they picture me living in a cute beachside bungalow in Bali, spending my carefree days working on my tan and sipping fruity cocktails. Guys, I hate to break it to you, but that’s most definitely not my life. Jakarta is a gray, sprawling, traffic-snarled metropolis. And though a portion of the city does hug the coast, I haven’t actually glimpsed the ocean since I moved here.
Living in Jakarta is a far cry from a day at the beach. While I find this city to be fascinating in its cultural foreignness, unabashed corruption, and unorganized chaos, it’s not always the easiest place to be in. After living here for nearly three months, I am more than charmed by Jakarta’s people, but I don’t find it to be the most attractive or intriguing city to live in. I’m not saying I don’t appreciate the experience of living in Jakarta, because I do. And I’m not saying that I regret my decision to move here. I have no doubt that this move will be one of the most life-changing, memorable experiences I’ve ever had – in many ways it already is. Moving to Jakarta was, for a lot of reasons, the right choice for Aaron and I. That being said, I always knew that moving to Indonesia’s capital was going to be full of ups and downs.
My feelings oscillate between being immensely appreciative of the opportunity to live in a foreign country and being utterly overwhelmed by the uncertainty of my current situation. Adjusting to life in a huge Southeast Asian city actually hasn’t been all that hard for me. I think I’ve taken to it incredibly well. I probably owe that to the fact that I have traveled extensively in Southeast Asia, so much so that the region, despite being completely different than my hometown in California, feels a little bit like home. Actually, the biggest source of my angst is that after living in Jakarta for three months, I have yet to find a job. I’ll save the complex details for another post, but the job hunt has been incredibly frustrating and disheartening. Over the last few weeks I’ve been overwhelmed with anxiety about how I’m going to spend the next 10 months I have left in Jakarta. If I can’t find a job what will I do for 10 whole months, and financially how will I make ends meet?
Being unemployed and not having any structure to my days is only part of the issue. Anyone who knows me knows that I relish sleeping in. I also love that I’ve been able to spend my free time writing, maintaining this blog, and working on my photography skills. Three things I wouldn’t necessarily devote as much time to if I were working 40 hours a week. I don’t envy Aaron when he has to wake up early or work late into the night. But, that’s not to say that I don’t want and need a job, because not having one is causing me all kinds of stress. Not learning new skills, not putting myself out there and meeting people, and not furthering my career are just a few of the things that are weighing heavily on me at the moment.
I suppose all of this is what inspired my spur-of-the-moment trip to Bali. I really just needed to take some time to get away from it all. I needed some space from Jakarta, my apartment, my job hunt. If there’s one perk of not having a job it’s that I have the gift of time. So, I decided to stop sulking, pull myself together, and do what I love the most – travel.
As I wrote previously, solo travel isn’t really my thing. In fact, after 10 years of being an avid traveler I just took my first ever solo trip a little over a month ago. Though it was an obligatory visa run, it was a growing experience for me and it really helped me to realize that I am not only capable of traveling on my own, but I actually really enjoy it. Now that I’ve learned that solo travel is an actual option for me it’s opened up a whole new realm of possibilities. And it finally dawned on me that I should be taking advantage of the freedom that comes with being unemployed. I mean, aside from the financial constraints, I have no good reason not to do a little traveling, right? And thanks to the plethora of budget airlines (that mean you, AirAsia!) that serve Indonesia, it’s easy to get a last-minute ticket from Jakarta to Bali for $40-$80.
So, that’s exactly what I did.
I realize that going to Bali to get some clarity sounds like a big cliché but, hey, that’s okay with me. Actually, Bali wouldn’t have been my first choice of places to go. This trip – kind of like a lot of my life decisions lately – was super random and super last-minute. I just so happened to find a cheap ticket.
During my visit to Indonesia earlier this year, I did travel around Bali for about a month. But most of my time was spent on the islands just off the mainland. I relished every moment I spent motorbiking around Nusa Lembongan and chilling out on Gili Trawangan. I did spend an obligatory few days back on the mainland’s southern coast – specifically in wild-and-crazy Kuta and the sleepy village of Sanur – but both cities left me less than inspired to actually explore mainland Bali.
But after reading some fellow bloggers’ posts about Bali, I realized that perhaps I didn’t give it a fair chance. Katie, over at From Shores to Skylines, wrote a post on the rice terraces of Bali that made me really want to see the island’s world-famous rice terraces for myself. And Alex at Alex in Wanderland wrote this post that made me desperately crave a day of motorbiking around Ubud. So, I figured now would be as good a time as any to give Bali another shot.
I literally booked my flight to Denpasar airport at 8pm the night before my flight. I didn’t have any firm plans. And I wasn’t sure how long I would stay. All I knew is that I wanted to get out of the concrete jungle that is Jakarta. I wanted to spend a few days by the ocean and maybe, if I was feeling adventurous enough, I would venture into the lush interior of Ubud, rent a motorbike, and seek out some rice terraces.
I know I’ve gone on and on about the stressful side of my life as an expat in Jakarta. But taking some time away from the city has given me some much needed perspective. It’s pretty amazing that $40 and a two-hour flight can literally transport me from traffic-and-smog-filled Jakarta to the breezy and stunning coastline of Bali.
The second I laid eyes on the glistening ocean and heard the sound of crashing waves I was instantly put at ease. Being a California girl, I’ve never, ever gone three months without seeing the ocean. My weeklong trip to Bali made me realize that, despite my tendency to get a little too worked up and stressed out about all the little things, my life in Jakarta isn’t so bad after all. I just needed a little beach time, a little sun, and a little bit of nature to get some perspective. And now that I’m back in Jakarta, it feels pretty good to be back.
Have you ever needed a mini vacation just to get away from it all? Where would you choose to go right now if you could go anywhere?