I’ve officially lived in Jakarta for six months. It’s unbelievable that six months have come and gone. At times it has felt unbelievably fast, at other times it has been painfully slow. My time in Jakarta has been thrilling, emotional, difficult and amazing – pretty much take any emotion and chances are I’ve experienced it.
When Aaron first proposed the idea of moving to Jakarta, my immediate reaction was, “No way.” I can’t say I was thrilled about the prospect of living here – there are so many cities around the world I want to live in and Jakarta just wasn’t at the top of the list. But living in another country has been a longtime dream, and I will say that I was genuinely excited about finally having the opportunity to live abroad.
There are a lot of reasons why we ultimately decided to take the plunge and move to Jakarta. I can still remember when Aaron and I made the decision. We were in our seaside apartment in Cartagena, Colombia, toasting with aguardiente (local anise-flavored liquor) at the insane decision we had just made. Part of me was thinking, “What the hell did we just get ourselves into?” But the other part of me was excited to experience something different.
When I first announced that I’d be moving to Indonesia, I wrote that I knew the experience would be full of “ups and downs.” And anyone who has been following along with me for a while knows it has been a roller coaster ride. But, despite those highs and lows, I finally feel like I’m getting into the groove of living in Jakarta.
Having a place to call home:
During our year-long backpacking trip, Aaron and I bounced around from hotel room to hotel room. I think we took to the nomadic life incredibly well, but I can’t convey how great it was to know we’d finally have a place to call our own. Our apartment isn’t perfect (I’ll go into that later), but it’s so nice to have a closet to hang my clothes in, a kitchen to cook meals in, a desk to write at. After 12 months of travel, having a place to call my own was a nice change of pace.
Learning more about Jakarta and Indonesia:
For me, a large part of the reason I love to travel is because I love to learn. I see the world as one big classroom and being abroad is always a non-stop learning experience for me. While living in Jakarta has its pros and cons, this experience has been priceless.
Being able to spend the past six months in a city I might never have given a second look at has been pretty eye-opening. Since I’ve been here, I’ve learned all sorts of interesting factoids about Jakarta – from funny cultural quirks to some not-so-fun realities of Indonesia. I wholeheartedly believe I wouldn’t have gained this knowledge if I hadn’t had the chance to spend so much time here. And, of course, I’m very excited to see what I’ll learn next.
Traveling around Southeast Asia:
One of the biggest draws of living in Indonesia is that I’m based in Southeast Asia, a region I’ve visited four times in the past eight years and spent seven months traveling around from August 2013 to March 2014. Being able to buy cheap plane tickets on a whim and be whisked away to Bali or Malaysia or Singapore in an hour’s time is a dream come true for me. And being able to take a last-minute trip to perfect beaches in Cambodia (more to come in an upcoming post) is definitely a perk of being based in Jakarta.
Becoming more independent:
I’ve mentioned this before, but the thing I appreciate most about this whole experience is that I’ve become so much more dependent on myself. This experience has pushed me and tried me in ways I wouldn’t have thought possible. And while most of the time I feel like a mess, I know this experience has made me do things I never thought I would…or could. I can’t even imagine what the next six months will bring, which is highly exciting (and scary!) for me.
Transitioning from backpacker to expat:
Anyone who has traveled – whether long term or briefly – has experienced some sort of post-trip depression. The reality of returning to “real life” after visiting some far-flung and exotic destination is kind of grim. Obviously long-term travel isn’t all a day at the beach but moving around and constantly experiencing new things is a lifestyle I love.
Making the transition from being nomadic to sedentary has been way harder than I thought it would be. I now know what other travelers mean when they say long-term travel spoiled “normal” life for them. This hit me really hard during my recent 10-day trip to Cambodia. Having to adhere to a time-limit and having to limit where I visited was torturous. And the depression that hit the second I got back to Jakarta wasn’t pretty…I’m starting to recover now!
Missing friends & family back home:
The time change between Jakarta and California is 15 hours, and it has made it particularly challenging to keep in touch with my loved ones back home. Anyone who knows me knows I’m THE WORST at keeping in touch anyway, so being this far away just exacerbates the situation. Being away from friends and family is always hard. And I was especially bummed to spend my second consecutive Christmas abroad.
Finding a job & financial woes:
Six months in and I still don’t have a full-time job. Obviously when I made the decision to move to Jakarta finding a job was on the very top of my to-do list. Traveling for a year had put a serious dent in my savings account…oh let’s just be real; it pretty much obliterated it. Obviously I needed a job.
I had no idea the work (and visa) situation in Indonesia would be this complex and would make finding a job next to impossible for me. I could go into all of the nitty gritty but I’ll refrain. But let’s just say this has been one of the hardest, most anxiety-inducing parts of living in Jakarta. Not having a steady job or paycheck for 18 months is, quite simply, not good. And I’m still unsure of what to do about it. I don’t know what exactly our next move will be, but not being sure I can even afford a plane ticket from Jakarta back to California is scary.
Shady taxi drivers & horrendous traffic:
Aaron has to endure rants about taxi mishaps and Jakarta’s traffic on a daily weekly basis. Because I don’t own a car or motorbike, I depend on taxis to get everywhere. Jakarta has some of the world’s worst traffic and I cannot tell you how infuriating it is to sit in traffic for hours a day. There are so many more productive things I could be doing with my time and I can’t stand the fact that it takes 2-4 hours to run a simple errand.
I’ve also come to loathe taking taxis because, in addition to my taxi ride from hell when I first moved here, I have been ripped off on numerous occasions. Whenever I get into a cab I’m at the mercy of the driver. If he feels like taking me on the “scenic route” there’s not much I can do about it. It’s a part of my daily existence that I really don’t enjoy.
The neighbors from hell:
Let me just say that I am lucky to live in such a nice little apartment. It’s comfortable and clean and the perfect size for Aaron and I. But our upstairs neighbors are the neighbors from hell! At 5:30 every morning the man upstairs lets out a groan for a few minutes that we have coined his “cleansing ritual.” We don’t know what is going on up there, but it’s like clockwork and wakes us up every morning.
I don’t know how many kids live upstairs but when they run around it sounds like a herd of elephants stampeding. Also, they play with some sort of spinning top that hits the floor just so. And it is so loud…it honestly sounds like a marble is bouncing around in my head. I could probably dedicate a whole post to the subject (and maybe I will) but I will stop the rant here.
Is it bad that I’ve listed more negatives than positives? Obviously this list doesn’t encompass all of the ups and downs I’ve experienced since moving to Jakarta. If I were to express everything, this post would be never ending (and I’m sure by now it’s apparent that I have the true ability to ramble).
Have you ever lived abroad? Have you experience similar highs and lows?