My recent move to Jakarta, Indonesia, was a sudden one. I literally had three weeks’ notice to move across the world. My few weeks back home in California were spent shopping for hard-to-find items, freaking out about what to pack and cramming in visits with family and friends. Time flew by and I barely had a moment to digest just how big this move was.
Travel is one of my biggest passions in life, so of course I am thrilled about this sudden turn of events. But I am moving to Indonesia, so it’s only natural to have some trepidations.
5 reasons I’m nervous about moving to Jakarta:
Food – I realize this sounds ridiculous. Indonesia has some fabulous food, from sweet and spicy nasi goreng (fried rice) to peanut-drenched gado-gado (an Indonesian salad) to fiery sambal (chili sauce).
Despite all of these mouthwatering culinary creations, there are certain things Indonesia lacks when it comes to food. Not only do I hail from Southern California but I’m half Mexican and I am obsessed with Mexican food. I eat burritos like a fiend and I honestly put salsa on everything (from sandwiches to mac and cheese). So as I was grocery shopping at Carrefour (a large chain in Indonesia) I panicked when I couldn’t find any Mexican staples. I wheeled my cart frantically from aisle to aisle looking in vain for black beans, tortillas, salsa and avocados. My heart dropped when I reached the dairy section; the cheese selection consists of an absurdly large variety of quick-melt cheeses, a few kinds of Kraft sliced cheese and one kind of cheddar (which costs $7 for an 8-ounce package). Sigh. I am going to miss Mexican food dearly. And though I’ll try my best to make my own, something tells me this is going to be tough given the scant supplies.
Time change – Jakarta is 14 hours ahead of California. I recently spent months traveling in Southeast Asia so I am pretty used to dealing with the time change. But such a drastic difference makes it really challenging to connect with my friends and family back home.
I am also a huge sports fan. And the time change makes it nearly impossible to watch baseball games, as they are usually on very early in Jakarta. I am a diehard Oakland A’s fan. My team is having an incredible year and they are one of the top picks to win the World Series (though I’m pretty sure I just jinxed it). So far it’s been really tough to keep up with games. And the thought of missing out on such an amazing season of baseball is enough to make me shed a tear.
Finding a job – This is probably the scariest part about moving to Indonesia. Given that I only had three weeks’ notice to move, I didn’t really have a chance to set up a job before my arrival. So now I find myself in a foreign country, with no contacts, attempting to find work. After a year of travel my financial situation is not exactly ideal, but adding to the financial pressure is the fact that I need a job in order to stay in the country for longer than 60 days (the maximum amount of time allotted by a tourist visa). Another complication is that foreigners are only allowed to work in certain fields, limiting me to teaching English. While I do have an M.A. in communications – which qualifies me to teach English – I’ve never actually taught before. Teaching is way out of my comfort zone, so I’m not kidding when I say I’m super nervous about this prospect.
Living in a big city – I have always dreamed of living in a city like the Big Apple, but now I find myself living in the Big Durian – yep, that’s what Jakarta is affectionately called.
Now that I’m here I find city life to be slightly daunting. Indonesia is the fourth largest country in the world. Over 10 million people inhabit downtown Jakarta, making it the largest city in all of Southeast Asia and the 13th most populous city on Earth. It’s crazy!
Being more independent – I know this one sounds weird. But it’s true. Aaron and I have been traveling side by side for a year. We’ve done virtually everything together. We’ve lived in tiny hotels rooms, endured the many frustrations that come with travel (such as an anniversary from hell and travel blunders in Colombia and Indonesia) and experienced some unforgettable travel moments. We are incredibly close. So as he ventures off to his new job, attends conferences in remote cities and works long hours, I know I’ll be seeing much less of him than I’m used to. And while I’m excited about the prospect of depending on myself a lot more and proving that I can do things on my own, I know that being in a big, foreign city without my best friend constantly by my side is going to be a tough transition for me.
OK, that’s enough over-thinking. Now onto the reasons why I am incredibly jazzed and grateful to have this experience!
5 reasons I’m excited to move to Jakarta:
Travel – As a seasoned traveler, living in Indonesia is an incredible opportunity. I spent two months traveling around the islands of Java and Bali earlier this year. And while I had some incredible experiences motorbiking around perfect islands and lounging on stunning beaches, there were so many things I didn’t have time to do. After I left Indonesia, I stumbled across blogs such as 2 Tickets to Wonderland and From Shores to Skylines, which made it even more apparent that I’d missed out on so many amazing travel experiences. Indonesia is a massive country and even though I spent two whole months here, I feel like I only saw a sliver of what this country has to offer. And my list of places to travel in Indonesia just keeps growing longer.
So now that I’m lucky enough to live here I plan to take full advantage of the fact that I’m a short plane flight away from diving off the coast of Sulawesi, hiking around Rinca Island, getting off the beaten track in Papua and relaxing on Sumatra’s Lake Toba. Suffice it to say, living in Indonesia is this traveler’s dream come true!
Stepping outside of my comfort zone – You would think this would be categorized as a con but being pushed outside of my comfort zone is something I really love about traveling. I’m a pretty shy person by nature so when I travel it pushes me to do things I would never find myself doing in my “normal” life back home. Everything about Indonesia is foreign to me, from the religion (Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim country) to the customs to the language. I am constantly being stared at and giggled at, which is amusing but also makes me highly uncomfortable. But something that I love about being here is that every little thing is new and foreign to me. I feel like a child navigating the world for the first time. Little things like going to the grocery store, crossing the street and getting a local phone number are an adventure. These things can be scary, but it’s all a learning process. It all helps me grow as a person.
Having a place to call home – Until I moved into my apartment in Jakarta three days ago I’d been living out of my backpack for exactly 370 days. In that time I visited two continents, seven countries, 41 cities and 58 hotels rooms. And despite the fact that I love traveling, I was definitely getting a bit road weary. As I was moving into my apartment I realized that this is the first time in a long time that I’ve actually hung my dresses in a closet or placed my toiletries into a drawer.
I went shopping to buy groceries and household items for my place. And while I hated spending money on all this stuff (being an expat is way more expensive than being a backpacker!), it’s kind of nice knowing that I’ll have a place to call home for the next year. There’s a lot of freedom that comes with not having a lot of possessions – living out of a backpack and not having a home. But I’m ready to have a little bit of consistency…for a little while anyway!
Having an income – I can’t even imagine how good it’s going to feel to have a paycheck again. Sadly I have to find a job before this becomes a reality, but it’s all the more motivation to become employed, stat! Traveling for year, even on a strict backpacker’s budget, adds up. And while I saved like a madwoman to be able to do this, and although I still have a decent chunk of change left, my anxiety level will subside substantially once I start making and saving money again.
Living the dream – I get to live abroad. I get to call Jakarta my home. And I get to travel to exotic locations on weekends and holidays. It really is a dream come true. I’ve been traveling for years and while I daydreamed of living in pretty much every country I’ve ever visited, I’m not sure I thought it would ever actually happen. This will be an experience I will never forget and I’m honestly just grateful to have this opportunity!
Have you ever dreamed of living in another country? What are some of the pros and cons of living abroad?