Living in Jakarta – It’s Been 6 Months!

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.

view of jakarta

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.

Jakarta fountain

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.

A sneak peek of Kho Rong, my favorite Cambodian island.
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.

boracay palms
OK, long-term travel is pretty much a day at the beach. Boracay, Philippines, is perhaps the most beautiful beach ever!

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.

Back when I used to have a steady paycheck I used this “trip jar” to save for my big trip. I miss those days!

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?

About Justine

Justine Lopez is a California native who always seems to take the unconventional route in life. She also suffers from a serious case of wanderlust. In 2013, she set out on a yearlong round-the-world journey and never looked back. Since then she's lived the expat life in both Jakarta and Phnom Penh. She's now living and working as a freelance writer in Beijing. As she meanders her way through Asia she's always seeking out great vegetarian food, budget travel deals and amazing new travel destinations.

14 thoughts on “Living in Jakarta – It’s Been 6 Months!

  1. How has it already been 6 months already? It seems like you just arrived!

    Every move abroad has its ups and downs, and I have to think that Jakarta is a pretty challenging place to adjust to. I think you’ve done a pretty great job given the bumps in the road you’ve had to navigate, and I certainly hope the next 6 months have even more ups!
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted…Guided by our Guts in Madrid

    1. I know! It’s really weird that it has been six whole months. I can still remember announcing my big move like it was yesterday. I agree…I knew this would be one of the most challenging experiences of my life. But I also knew it would be completely rewarding. Ups and downs and breakdowns aside, I’m pretty proud of the way I’ve handled it. And I really am excited for the next six months. I hope there are more ups too 😉

  2. So many things to say, I don’t know where to start!

    First, that photo of Koh Rong is absolutely stunning, I wish I had spent more time on that beach! Second, I know how hard it is to keep in touch with people in the US when you’re in that time zone…that was always a struggle for me. It’s always the middle of the night for someone, or too early in the morning.

    Lastly, I’m glad you wrote more negatives than positives! It wouldn’t be honest if you sugarcoated your experience in Jakarta to make it sound like THE BEST TIME EVER! We all know not all of life is like that and people would see right through you. You’re just keepin’ it real, and we all appreciate that.

    I hope things start to look up for you, I’m sure they will with time! 🙂
    Leah recently posted…The Top Ways I Save Money on Travel

    1. Oh my gosh, I loved Long Beach. I was really jealous of all the people who camped out and stayed there overnight. I love that photo too! I was walking down the beach and stumbled across that makeshift bench near a campsite. I don’t know how long that group of people had been staying there but I feel like they had the right idea!

      I am so bad at keeping in touch with people. And the time change makes it so tough. I hate there there’s only a small window each day where I can call people. And either I’m too busy or they are…it makes it very hard.

      Well, I’m glad I don’t come across as being too negative about this experience. But, yeah, obviously it’s not all perfect. I try really hard to not dwell on the crappy things that happen. But, it always seems like there’s some sort of drama going one, whether its big or small. At this moment it’s dealing with the monthly annoyance of paying my electric bill. There’s a 50-50 chance it will get shut off. Things like this are just my reality these days.

      I hope I’ll have some more positives on the list next time around. I know these next few months are going to be crazy, as Aaron and I try to plan what’s next. I’m hoping these months go smoothly but I’m very nervous!

  3. I totally agree with you about long-term travel spoiling “normal” travel. It sounds kind of weird and spoiled, but after being on the road for 1 full year, going somewhere for a few weeks just doesn’t feel like much. There’s definitely a difference between a life that is all travel vs. normal life with trips interspersed in between. It’s bad, but half the time now, I don’t feel like going anywhere… I’d almost rather just stay home, be comfortable, save up and then take off on another full year of travel!

    I’m so sorry to hear about your upstairs neighbours. Hearing other people around me in my own home is something I really can’t tolerate (which is why I try to find top floor rentals when I can), so I can only imagine how annoying and stressful it must be. It’s like you can’t have peace in your own home. 🙁
    Shelley recently posted…The Ultimate Travel Panorama Post (or Where’s Agri?)

    1. I’m glad I’m not alone in feeling that long-term travel changes normal travel. Our recent trip to Cambodia was the first time Aaron and I have really traveled together since we moved to Jakarta. And both of us were just very bummed on having a time limit and having to visit only two cities because that’s all we could fit into 10 days. We’ve been traveling together for about 10 years and we’ve always gone on trips during the summer. Our trips are usually anywhere from 3-8 weeks. So doing the whole week-long trip thing is not our style. I’m grateful that we live in Jakarta and have the option to go someplace like Cambodia for a short trip. But I can completely relate to you when you say you’d prefer to stay home and save up for another big trip! I think we both feel the same way.

      I cannot stand my neighbors! I know that I won’t live here forever, so I can deal with it. But sometimes it’s freakishly loud! Next time I’m getting a top floor apartment!

  4. That’s crazy that its been 6 months! Its been so interesting to follow along and learn more about Indonesia. I love hearing about other Expats highs and lows with a new home. I can’t imagine how frustrating it is to not be able to find a job- hopefully something will pan out soon! All I know is that the second 6 months of my contract FLEW by so much faster then the first so get ready
    Rebekah recently posted…West meets East

    1. I know, right? I really enjoy learning about other people’s experiences too. That’s one of the reasons I love your blog! There are so many fascinating things about living abroad.

      The job thing has been the worst part. I haven’t really gone into completely on this site, but yeah it’s so complicated! We’ll see what happens during the next few months. Yeah, I have a feeling the next six months are going to go really quickly. I had that realization on New Year’s! Speaking of which, I can’t believe you’ll be leaving China so soon!!

  5. Woo hoo! Pat yourself in the survived not just indonesia but Jakarta itself! Haha…not an easy transition I imagine since everything would be foreign for you. It’s good that you are taking things into stride. ..just keep calm and go with the flow..haha..I suppose every place will have it’s positives and negatives but you’ll get used to some of it if you stay longer. Also, I thought you managed to get a confirmation for a job? Or are you still waiting for the visa?
    Sha recently posted…5 Ways Blogging has Changed Me

    1. Ha, thanks! I’m definitely trying to go with the flow 😉 Oh, the job fell through quite a while ago. It’s complicated. But even if everything would have gone through I’d still be waiting for the visa!

  6. That picture of Koh Rong is amazing!! Jakarta has been a roller coaster, but you’ve maintained a positive attitude and it’s one of the many reasons I love reading your blog. I would go mad with those upstairs neighbors – haha! At least it’s temporary (sort of), and the traveling around SE Asia would be wonderful! Any new trips coming up?? Meet us in the Philippines! 😉
    Katie recently posted…Heat up in the Mayan Ruins and Cool off in The Centoes of the Yucatan!

    1. Thanks Katie! I try to stay positive 🙂 I’ve recorded some of the sounds…I should totally post them here. I really want to burst into their apartment and take that spinning top from their kids!! But that would probably be frowned upon. Yeah, at least it’s not forever! And, honestly, there are so many worse things we could be dealing with.

      Um, all I know for sure is that I’ll be going back to Singapore next month. Other than that, I think we’re going to stick to traveling in Indonesia for the time being. Flores and Lake Toba are currently at the top or our list! We both talk about going back to the Philippines constantly! I’m sooo jealous of your upcoming trip! I would love to meet you guys there 😉

  7. Wait, what – it’s seriously been six months? Wow. I’m in serious dread of my impending transition from traveler when I move to Norway this summer, and the process of finding a job seems so overwhelming after living off of savings for so long now. I’m incredibly impressed with how you’ve pushed through though, and even with the downs it seems like you’re living quite the adventure!
    Silvia recently posted…Beijing to Ulaanbaatar: Getting to Mongolia

    1. It’s crazy, right? I can’t believe I’m at the halfway point. Despite the rough patches I’m still grateful to have had this experience. I wanted an adventure and I got it!

      I feel you on dreading the transition. It’s not necessarily bad but it is hard to make such a big adjustment. I feel like I’m in limbo in Jakarta, since I know my time here is finite. So I’m right there with you when you say you’re dreading the transition. If we do end up moving back the the states, that adjustment will be really hard for me. Well, I am excited to see where life takes you. Life in Norway will just be another adventure for you 😉

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