On Liking and Leaving Jakarta

It’s weird.  I thought leaving Jakarta would be hard.  I thought that I would miss it, my routine, my home, my life.  At this point I’ve been gone from Jakarta for a little over three weeks, and so far I don’t really miss it.  In fact, I’ve barely given it a second thought.

I suppose this is mainly due to the fact that the past few weeks have been a whirlwind.  I’ve spent 75 hours in transit, traveled to seven cities, taken six flights, slept in five different beds and hopped two continents.  The past three weeks have been an insane combination of traveling, spending time with family, packing for Cambodia and freelancing.  I’ve literally not had a moment to digest just how big my move from Jakarta was.

On Liking and Leaving Jakarta - Travel Lush
It feels like a lifetime ago…

Perhaps once I settle down and have a moment alone with my thoughts, it will hit me that I no longer live there.

But then again, maybe not.

During my final two months in Jakarta I started to get a little bit sad about my imminent move.  Nearly every day I would experience little pangs of sadness about a person I’d miss, a local food that had become a staple, or the fact that I’d be leaving my gig at The Jakarta Post.  But despite these moments of nostalgia I was always quickly reminded of just how ready I was to move on.  Every time I got stuck in macet (one of the city’s notorious traffic jams), or was woken up at 5am by my upstairs neighbors, or had to deal with the hassle and cost of renewing my visa I realized that there were a lot of things about Jakarta that I wouldn’t miss.

When it came down to it I was ready to move on from Jakarta.  And now that I’m three weeks removed, I am just really looking forward to what’s coming next.

Jakarta was a tough city to adjust to.  And if you’ve been reading along for a while, you know that adjusting to expat life in Jakarta was a struggle for me.  I do feel like I hit a groove somewhere around the four-month mark.  I got a job, I developed a routine, I met people, I started to figure Jakarta out.

Each month I began to like Jakarta more and more.  By month four I started to be able to navigate the city like a local (and by local I mean I was no longer a complete spaz).  By month six I started to get a better understanding of Jakarta’s history and culture.  By month seven I discovered some amazing Indonesian foods and uncovered some truly cool things to do in Jakarta.

street food (1 of 1)

On Liking and Leaving Jakarta - Travel Lush
Pasar Santa is one of my favorite places to hang out and get coffee.

I started to understand just how underrated and misunderstood Jakarta is by travelers.  I realized too that Jakarta is actually pretty fascinating.  During my last month in Indonesia I had a blast seeing the sights and eating street food like a true tourist.  And by month 11, I started to actually like Jakarta.

But that’s a long time to go to like a city.

While I did learn to like Jakarta, the truth is that I never really fell in love with it…no matter how much I wanted to.  I think, for me personally, Jakarta is a city I would enjoy traveling in, but living there was a different story.

Jakarta was a city I was not at all prepared to live in.  It’s huge, it’s polluted, it’s a hot mess.  Literally it’s really hot.

And if I’m going to be perfectly honest, I never actually wanted to move there…am I supposed to admit that?

But seriously, of all the cities in the world there are to live in I can’t say Jakarta would be at the top of my list.  It would actually be somewhere toward the bottom (sorry Jakarta!).  The reason for our move was out of necessity, opportunity and a desire to live abroad.  But it wasn’t out of a desire to live in Jakarta.

Jakarta was a difficult city to be a first-time expat in.  But now that my year there is up, now that I’m gone, I’m grateful for the experience.  I’m proud of myself for giving it a chance, for making a life there, for learning to like it when I could have easily spent those entire 11 months complaining and pouting the days away.  Living there made me stronger, made me more independent, made me more open…

Living in Jakarta changed my life.

When it comes to living somewhere new, I kind of feel like I can conquer any place now – well, no warzones please.  I’m really not that hardcore.

But that’s the thing about living abroad.  It’s not always going to be easy, but it is going to be a learning experience, it is going to be rewarding, and there’s always going to be a positive takeaway.

For me, living in Jakarta opened my eyes to the outside world in a way that traveling never did and probably never could.  And while Jakarta wasn’t the easiest  place to live, in the end I genuinely started to like living there.  And now that I’m gone, I know that it will always, always have a special place in my heart.

On Liking and Leaving Jakarta - Travel Lush
See you on the flip side Jakarta!

Have you ever lived in a city you couldn’t quite fall in love with?

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.

16 thoughts on “On Liking and Leaving Jakarta

  1. Those pre-departure pangs of sadness hit so hard sometimes. I felt the same when I left Thailand! I really did miss it for awhile when I returned home, though. San José, Costa Rica, on the other hand — not a city I fell in love with. I lived there when I studied abroad in Costa Rica in college and while a lot of my friends kind of hated on the city, I liked it. I found cool places and things to do and really made an effort to appreciate the city. Still, when I left, I never really looked back. I’d like to return now and explore the city through my more experienced travelers’ eyes, but it’s not a city I’ll ever fall for.
    Katie recently posted…Five of the Best Markets in Melbourne

    1. Totally! I was actually really surprised by how nostalgic I got during my last month in Jakarta. I can imagine that San Jose, much like Jakarta, would be a tough city to fall in love with. Regardless, I think it’s great that you really made an effort to give it a chance as opposed to just hating on it. I really made an effort to do the same in Jakarta and it seriously paid off 🙂

    1. I think Beijing sounds like an amazing city to live in. Although the pollution seems like it would get overwhelmingly intense! Sometimes I can’t believe how poor the air quality is there. I thought Jakarta was bad, but Beijing is on a whole other level!

  2. I can relate to your thoughts and feelings, Justine. Though I have not been to Jakarta, I can understand why you don’t miss it. I have also realized that there are certain cities that appeal to you as a traveler, but they are not very livable, while there are those that are livable but don’t have much to offer to a traveler. I guess, Jakarta falls in the former category. 🙂 I feel the same for Delhi, where I lived for more than decade, but never felt attached to it. I would love to go there as a tourist, but wouldn’t want to settle there.
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    1. It’s so true. There are a lot of people who come to Jakarta, fall in love with it and never leave. I suppose different things appeal to different people. I just don’t think Jakarta is the city for me to live in. But I do have a feeling I’ll go back as a traveler and do some more exploring in the future 🙂

  3. This is interesting! I wonder how you’ll look back on your time there a few years from now. Definitely is such a great experience if only because it’s now shown you you can live anywhere, like you said. Jakarta does seem pretty intense!

    1. I wonder how I’ll look back on it too! Despite some of the downs, living in Jakarta was such a great learning experience. And I really do feel much more prepared to tackle Phnom Penh after having spent a year abroad in Jakarta. Hopefully Phnom Penh will be easier? 🙂

  4. Oh I can relate to those conflicting feelings so well! I lived in Seoul for 8 months, really liked it but somehow moved on very easily, after 2 days it was like I had never been there… It’s a bit scary how quickly I disconnect from things and places actually, but then again, sometimes months later, I get massive pangs of nostalgia for those “past lives”.
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    1. I’ve been feeling the same way Camille! I’m kind of shocked by my ability to disconnect. I suppose that comes with the territory of being semi-nomadic?

    1. Jakarta is a crazy city, but it did have a way of winning me over in the end. It really is a fascinating place. I look forward to visiting again someday soon 🙂

    1. Indonesia is such a great country. I highly recommend visiting. There is so much to do there that even I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of travel. Yeah, Jakarta was a daunting city to be a first time expat in. I’m so proud of myself for conquering it but I’m not sure I’d move back!

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