Making the Most of My Time in Jakarta

Making the Most of My Time in Jakarta

A funny thing happened when the calendar flipped from 2014 to 2015:  I realized that my time in Indonesia is finite.

I have eight more months here.  And while some days that feels like an eternity, I know time will fly by.  For the first time, I started to panic that I haven’t made the most of my time here, that I’ll leave and regret not taking full advantage of this unique opportunity.  I can honestly say that I have no clue where I’ll be eight months from now but the commencement of a new year got me thinking about what I want to achieve  – both personally and professionally – while living in Jakarta.

So in the spirit of the New Year (and because I feel anxious that I’m squandering my time here) here are a few things I aim do to make the most of my time in Jakarta:

More solo travel

Solo travel is something I never thought I would ever do, but I enjoyed my two first-ever solo trips to Penang and Bali so much that I really want to delve further into what many argue is a life changing experience.  I currently have plans to do my third and (hopefully) final visa run to Singapore in just a few weeks’ time.

Making the Most of My Time in Jakarta
Getting down and dirty in Bali’s rice terraces during my second-ever solo trip.

Even though I was just in Singapore a little over a month ago, I honestly didn’t see enough of the country’s highlights because I was too busy stuffing my face with Indian food.  I plan to be a much better tourist this time around and I’m excited to go at my own, slow, pace and take tons of photos without driving Aaron crazy.

Work on the blog

I’m honestly not even sure what inspired me to start this blog nine long months ago.  It was an amalgamation of little things, really.  Regardless, I’m so happy I started doing this because it’s had more of an impact on me than I ever could have imagined.

It has connected me with amazing people around the world, completely transformed the way I travel and rekindled my love of writing.  I’ve realized that it’s actually possible to make a living doing what I love the most – traveling and writing.  I’m not sure where I see this blog going in the future.  All I know is that I thoroughly enjoy blogging and I’d really like to commit more time to maintaining and improving this site, which also means posting more frequently.

Explore Jakarta

Since I moved to Jakarta five months ago, my relationship with the city has been of the love-hate variety.  I’ve said this before but the area I live in is pretty much akin to living in a mall – it’s sterile and not at all chaotic, authentic or gritty like other areas of Jakarta.  And while I relish having a quiet and safe place to live, sometimes it’s less than inspiring.

Making the Most of My Time in Jakarta
Looking out over the real Jakarta from my sanitized little community.

I have yet to fall head-over-heels in love with this city.  And that’s ok; it’s not something I can force.  But I do have to admit that I haven’t given this place a real chance.  When I think of what I’ve actually done since moving to Jakarta I’m embarrassed at how little I’ve actually seen and done.  I literally haven’t even been to the top of the National Monument, which is the one thing every tourist does when they visit Jakarta.  I need to work on exploring this city.  Seriously.

Improve my photography skills

Because Aaron was a film major in college he knows a bit about photography and he passed his knowledge to me when we first met many moons ago.  I know the basics like the rule of thirds, staying away from using a flash and always having a straight horizon line.  I have a vague understanding of composition and I’ve recently become a master at switching my DSLR to the ‘closeup’ or ‘portrait’ setting when photographing food to make the background blur.  Impressive, huh?

Obviously I have a lot to learn.  So, while I’m living in this crazy city my goal is to take my camera out more often and photograph the city…hopefully I won’t get my camera stolen in the process.  I also plan to start toying with f-stops and apertures, both of which fully baffle me.  (On a side note, if anyone has any recommendations for websites, books or tutorials on photography feel free to let me know!)

Travel around Java

Because the whole finding a job thing didn’t go according to plan, at all, I’ve had to scratch the whole teaching English thing.  And honestly, that’s okay with me.  I’m managing to make ends meet and the benefit of not working a 9-5 is that my schedule is super flexible.

Making the Most of My Time in Jakarta
Java really is a magical place. It has everything from ancient temples to active volcanoes to remote islands.

I’ve been meaning to do more traveling around Indonesia but I honestly have so little money left in my bank account that I prefer to be really careful about how I spend my precious few dollars.  However, since I am living on the enormous island of Java, I figure an affordable way to do some travel is by exploring all of the amazing places that are in my own backyard.  I’ve only seen a couple of the highlights on Java, namely Mt. Bromo and the temples of Borobudur.  But because of Java’s rail system, travel around the island is relatively easy and cheap and I plan to take advantage.

Read more

I was a literature major in college and I went back to school and earned another degree in journalism (clearly I know how to pick degrees that are real money makers).  Throughout my sporadic career writing for magazines and newspapers, I’ve always made a point of reading books, magazine and news articles to study up on writing.  I firmly believe that reading drastically helps to improve writing.  But since I gave up on the whole writing-for-a-living thing a couple of years ago, I fell out of the habit.  Now that I’m writing again I plan to start studying up.

Plan better

Since I know my time in Indonesia is not going to last forever, I really want to have a solid plan for what comes next.  Last year I found myself in a really tough situation.  After traveling for a solid year I only had a few thousand dollars left in my bank account.  And I’m ashamed to admit that I was that backpacker who had zero plan of what to do next.

Making the Most of My Time in Jakarta
Contemplating what to do with my life in Bogota, Colombia.

I was contemplating teaching English in Colombia (the country I was traveling in at the time) or going back to the US and starting over – but neither option sounded appealing.  Thankfully Aaron landed a job in Jakarta and things are working out for the time being.  But in the future I really don’t want to be in the same situation I was in last year.  It was stressful and scary and honestly it’s ridiculous that I got myself into that situation.  This time I plan to be prepared.  So my goal is to use my time in Jakarta wisely and work feverishly to figure out the logistics of our next big move.

Am I the only one who felt a tinge of panic when 2014 ended? What are your goals for the New Year?

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.

20 thoughts on “Making the Most of My Time in Jakarta

  1. As far as improving photography goes, one thing that was really helpful for me was reading some articles online about how DSLRs actually work. That way, I was able to conceptualize what was actually happening when I adjusted my aperture setting, for example, which was in turn really helpful for me to get a true grasp of what every setting does and made me much quicker and more creative at figuring out shots. Have fun with it!
    Leah recently posted…Finland! Know Before You Go.

    1. Good idea! Photography 101 was literally the only class I failed in college. It was one of my slacker freshman moves. I retook the class as a senior to make up the grade but very little stuck in terms of manual photography. But I am determined to figure it out this time 🙂

    1. I’m stressed about not knowing where I’ll be next too! Oh well, I suppose it kind of makes life a little more exciting for us 😉 Sometimes I get nervous about taking my nice camera out in certain parts of the city, which is why I don’t have tons of photos. But I’d like to start being better about actually documenting my time here.

  2. Hi Justine!! I love your 2015 resolutions, I hope you do achieve all of them.
    Its funny how we tend not to explore a city where we live in right? I guess its just because we think we can do it later, and then our time its over! But you still have 8 months, so you will have time to explore Jakarta 😀
    Happy new year to you… and wish you lots of travels!!
    Packing my Suitcase recently posted…Pula & Brijuni

    1. Thanks Allane! It is weird how we don’t explore the cities we live in. I’ve been here for 5 months and Jakarta is still such a hard city for me to crack. It’s just so big and overwhelming that sometimes I just don’t know where to start. But, you’re right, I have 8 more months to explore 🙂 Happy New Year to you too!

  3. I’m totally panicking about 2015, you are not alone! I have this big plan to go to Europe for TBEX and…THEN WHAT? Oh that’s right, I have no effing idea. I’m equally sad about leaving Colombia as I am stoked about finally getting to Europe, it sucks to have such mixed feelings. I THINK I’m ready to move on from South America, but what if I get there and I totally miss it? It’s all very scary. Flights are not cheap, so I don’t want this whole Europe thing to be a mistake. Hopefully I’ll make it work, but the prospect of failing is still very real! RAMBLE OVER.
    Leah recently posted…Friday Snapshots: Street Scenes and Beach Scenes in Santa Marta, Colombia

    1. I totally feel you. But at the very least I feel like TBEX will give you a lot of direction and a lot of clarity about your next steps. So while it is super scary it is also really exciting! Yeah, I’m panicking too. I think most of my anxiety comes with the prospect of moving back to the US. Because I’m not really saving money in Indonesia, if I do go back to the US I’ll be returning with a few thousand dollars. Not having a house or car or any possessions and having to start over in such a pricey country is really terrifying for me. Oh well, I have eight months to plan. But, honestly, I have a feeling I’m going to be super stressed as summer approaches. Yikes!!

    1. From my experience last year I learned the hard way just how incredibly not fun it is to get caught unprepared. This time around I want to have a solid plan. Although that is really hard to do when you have a partner who is in academia. But this time around I’m really going to try to have a plan A, B and C! And, yes, making the most of my time living in this crazy city is really important too 🙂

  4. Isn’t it crazy how when you live somewhere you tend to explore less? The view from the top of Monas is quite nice, but there are a lot of nice views in Jakarta, so don’t worry too much about that haha. The scariest thing for me when 2014 ended is that I feel like it went so fast! The time just flies… and yeah, life is always up in the air. I’m typically a planner so I’m really trying to let go a little, sounds like we are both trying to do a 180! 🙂
    Katie recently posted…2 weeks in Indonesia: Roundup and Itinerary

    1. I do want to go to the top of Monas but you’re right that there are some beautiful views of the city in a lot of random places. Ha, I would so rather be in your situation. I can’t say that I’m the best planner, but the hardest part about Aaron’s job is that until he lands a more permanent position I feel like every year will be up in the air. It definitely stresses me out that I’m not able to plan everything out! Oh well, I’ll just take what comes!

    1. Hi Imma, sorry it took so long for me to respond. I’ve been traveling without access to the internet for the past week. I’d love to talk more about this via email. Will you shoot me a message to my email address so we can discuss this further? Thanks 🙂

    1. I’ve never been to Ireland but I’ve always wanted to go. How cool that you have the opportunity to live there. Being an expat in Jakarta wasn’t exactly how I thought it would be either…I suppose that’s normal though. I hope 2016 is an amazing year for you 🙂

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