When I first arrived in Indonesia, I remember a few people telling me that traveling through Asia is full of ups and downs. Although I only spent one month in one country of Asia, I couldn't agree more. Indonesia was a lovely place, beautiful, tropical, and the local people were so warm and friendly. Escaping the tourism was difficult, but in the few times we did, I had a chance to see how extremely different and incredible of a place I was in. By far the most different and humbling place I've ever been to, and I know for sure I will most certainly be back to Indonesia as well as explore more of Asia at a later time.
We started our travels in Sanur, Bali- heavily coated in tourism, and it felt like I was on vacation. It was nice actually to have a vacation away from traveling, as living out of a backpack for 4 months can sometimes get tiring on the body and soul. Here we had a chance to surf, make friends, and eat some of the best food I had in Indonesia at a little shop deemed "the cheap place..." Where a meal and a bottle of water was less than $2. We lost our minds one night in Kuta, took a day trip to Ubud where we saw some of the most incredible rice fields, drank "shit coffee" aka lemuk coffee, visited a temple, and had lunch among a beautiful lotus garden. The week in Sanur was my most carefree time in Indonesia, as everything following got a bit heavier for me.
After a week in Bali, we took a boat to Gili Trawangan, where we spent nine days frequenting a bar off the beaten tracks *Mengong*, full of Bintang time, soaking up the sunshine, ending our nights indulging in the delicious night market and nightlife before heading to Lombok island for a week. My time here was turbulent, a mix of happiness and uncertainty.
Lombok was by far my favorite island that we went to... although I wasn't able to purely enjoy it the way I would've liked to. It's the least touristy of the places we'd visited in Indonesia and was drenched in beautiful aesthetics. Waterfalls, mountains, beaches and coves. I spent a lot of time by myself here, in my head a lot and feeling out of place. However, there were some unforgettable moments spent within this island. We took a day trip to some waterfalls, and as I rode on the back of a scooter, I was able to consume myself in the beauty of this island. I recall as I sat on the back of the bike, letting the wind blow through my hair, having strange feelings of déjà vu. It was the happiest and most peaceful I felt in all of my time in Indonesia. We were able to escape the tourism completely, see inside the soul of this place, witness not one but 3 weddings, and as we got lost on our way back, I remember getting caught in the reigns of the night sky, the stars burning right through me. Our last two nights on Lombok, we were extremely fortunate enough to stay in a local village where we were greeted by some of the most welcoming and open hearted people I've had a chance of meeting. There was a definite language barrier, yet through warm smiles and spirits, I knew I was in only amazing company. It was a humbling chance to live like the locals, and peer into their life. I feel so lucky that we had the chance to do that. Although I was sick both days, I'm honored to have had that opportunity given to us.
We ended our travels here on Gili Air, a quaint and quiet island, where I finally was able to catch my bearings and take in all the lessons I had learned the previous 3 weeks.
In the past month, I absolutely experienced a plethora of ups and downs. Physically, I was eaten alive by some of the most lovely insects I can think of. Mosquitos, spiders, and bedbugs (hurrah!) I was sick twice, and my feet were destroyed from the moment the plane landed. Swollen for days, then blistered up by shoes, and to top it off, I wound up getting a parasite that spread all over my foot, and had I not taken care of it, would have made it's way into finding a home among my intestine. (Woo!) It was nothing, though, as all of it was almost expected entering Asia, and certainly not the worst that could happen.
The hardest part was the toll that was taken on my mind. I left Europe feeling a new sense of confidence, feeling more at ease, and almost as quickly as that high arrived, I was ripped right off my pedestal for a new wave of lessons and discomfort. I hit one of the worst travel lows while here... At one point even contemplated throwing in the towel and going home. I didn't want to deal with the discomfort anymore, but I pushed through, as I knew I needed to, and I'm most certainly glad the road doesn't end here for me.
It was all worth it, and the good times were amazing...how could I not appreciate this place? It's paradise. I met some beautiful souls, and took lessons from every individual that crossed my path. But my mind was always churning, always feeling crazy, and I was almost always uncomfortable. I learned the difference between feeling alone, and feeling lonely. I remembered how in Portugal I felt lonely, but here I felt alone. I almost only felt at peace when I was by myself. Which is okay, but certainly uncomfortable when you want to be social. However, I learned it was okay to excuse myself and spend time alone, because only then was I content. There were times where I felt incredibly happy, lucky, and right on top again. Followed by feelings of sadness, disdain, and unacceptance. I wanted nothing more than to be with my friends from home at times, where I knew I could talk or sit in silence without judgement or anything at all... Just comfort. I missed the comfort. I missed my parents a lot as well, and gained a new appreciation for the relationship I hold with each of them. It was harder to get ahold of them here, and I missed the comfort in my mothers voice, and my fathers words telling me to "keep plugging away, kiddo." His go-to advice. He said it to me one day on the phone, and I started to cry... His encouragement was what I had sought after. While I was here, both of my parents expressed just how proud of me they were... I could hear the sincerity in their voices, and I needed to hear it ~as I was doubting myself more than ever and it was comforting to hear them believe in me more than I believed in myself in those moments. Amidst my parents and friends back home, their love shone through to me and I deeply cherished the connection through the airwaves, as I felt their support when I needed it most. Still I had a so much time spent by myself, to become my own support and friend.
Plans got crazy, yet again. We were supposed to follow Indonesia with Vietnam, but twice, for whatever reason, it didn't work out. Money was getting low, things were hectic and I thought I was stuck. I felt extremely stuck, and I wondered if going home was my only option. As much as I missed the comfort of my friends and family, as soon as I looked up a plane ticket back to buffalo, tears filled my eyes. I wasn't ready to give up, not just yet. I've been away for only 4 months. If I came home now, I'd be stunting myself in the middle of a huge growth period. After all, they say you're growing most when you're the most uncomfortable. Certainly, there's a huge dose of lessons, set backs & tribulations I learned while here, even if some of them haven't hit me yet. I do know, I've already been hit with a multitude of them here. I learned a dose of tolerance. I learned that I can still love myself when I don't feel accepted by others. I learned to trust my instincts, that I have a better hold on reading people than I ever thought, and I shouldn't forget to pay attention to that. I learned that there will always be people who try to dim your light, you don't have to let them. I learned that not everyone you meet will love you, and that's okay. I learned to find comfort in music again, and let my headphones wash away my worries. I learned about true friendship, as I extremely hold close to me the people back home, the few I've met along the way, and the one I travel side by side, whom all stay close in my heart. I learned to be my own friend. I learned to sing to myself, and enjoy my own voice. I learned I can cry on my own shoulder. I learned HOW to cry again....& that was a big one. I learned that whatever I'm feeling, I'm allowed to feel it. I learned ~I have the right to be here~ as much as anyone else. I learned that when others don't respect you, you don't need to try to earn it, or go against it either~ just let it be. People will do as they do. It is still possible to coexist. I learned acceptance in not always knowing the WHY others do what they do, to just take things as they are and appreciate the fleeting relationships that weave in and out of your life. I learned to accept change. I learned to cease control of situations and let them be as they may. I learned that we are all on different journeys, and not everyone will understand yours. This is also okay. I've learned so much about forgiveness... I learned forgiveness of the past, doesn't mean you necessarily have to let old people back into your life, but that you can think of them and smile. I'm also currently learning more and more about forgiveness as a whole and how to forgive those who intentionally or unintentionally bring you down. I learned to look at the stars, to listen to the ocean, to feel the earth beneath my bare feet (even if it includes getting a parasite because of it.. Hah)
Within each high, and every low, I learned one extremely important thing... My light is mine, and even when darkness comes, I will still manage to shine again. No circumstance, person, or place can or will ever destroy that.
All the bumps, the burdens, the bites and blisters.... Every minute is always worth it.
So for now, Vietnam is on pause, and home isn't an option. To be honest, I can't even afford the ticket home anymore. One of the scariest risks I've taken, putting all my faith in the universe that it'll take care of me. I know it will, as I take on a whole new adventure among my path. A new place to call home for a while, and somewhere I fully intend getting back to my core and work on focusing on the things that lift my spirt and fulfill my soul.
I imagined that Indonesia would be this spiritual place in which I would find my peace, but instead it shook me up, dropped me in a hole, and forced me to find my way out on my own. Extremely gratifying and I'm actually happy and grateful for everything I took away from this place. I'll be back. I thank this place and all the people who I crossed paths with. Thank you for teaching me some of the hardest yet most important lessons yet. I know from here, up is the only way.... Even if I'm headed down under. ;)