Traveling Alone

When my cousins and aunt came some weeks ago, our conversation touched on the topic of me traveling alone. My first time in a plane alone was actually also my first trip oversea, which was when I went to Singapore in 2000. You see, I didn't have the luxury of parents to accompany me. So my parents and dear friends drove me off to the airport and mom accompanied me during check in and we had to part ways when I needed to go to the immigration counter. There were tears and I don't really like to recall that time. It's never a good time when you and your parents cry together and if that happens, the situation is definitely extraordinary, right? I mean unless you and your parents are such crybaby who like to cry during movies. Anyways, so parents decided to put me on the plane alone because I pretty much only had to endure the circa 1 hour 40 minutes flight and then my cousin would pick me up in Changi airport. He used to recall that time as me looking pretty horrified standing waiting for him. He was running slightly late and it hit me I was alone there, not knowing what to do, and when you are the typical 18 year old, your life experience out in the big world is not really that much, so yeah I had worry in me. So cousin picked me out and the next day his younger brother, whom I will forever be indebted to, took me to NUS and made sure I got my room in the hostel and waited for me while I went through the matriculation process. It must have been pretty boring for him waiting because it took quite some time, but he was there when I was done and I am (still am) really touched by his kindness because all those new things were overwhelming and it's so comforting to have someone there for you. Hence why I am really am forever indebted to him (so bro, if you happen to read this, email me or something and we can hang out).

So that was my first flight ever alone. 9 years later, I had my first real trip alone. I was 27 then. I cannot remember now what prompted me to just do it. I know I didn't enjoy life then (still don't now), but I can't remember what made me to just take the plunge. Maybe I wrote it in my diary. So I decided to fulfill that dream and just go to Italy. Whatever the many reasons that spurred me at that moment, I think I can summarize the big ones into the following list below. These are my reasons and unlike any other writings about this subject that try to encourage people to travel, I am not trying to encourage you to do so. If any, I think this can serve as some sort of templated response that I just want to throw at people who ask why I travel alone and why I am willing to part with the money. Obviously people don't really read my blog, so I will still have to simplify these thoughts into arguments that don't seem radical or morbid or crazy or plain weird to give to them in person. I feel people who question me in the first place don't get it and hence it's actually rather pointless trying to justify something to people who's not in the same wavelength as yours. That being said, maybe this will help a little, here you go in point form.

1) I just want to see the world. There's so many things that I want to see. When I was young, I read books with stories like Marco Polo's voyage and the Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House by the Prairie. At one point when I was young, I even secretly wanted to be an astronaut and work in NASA. These things interest me. It's inherent in me since I was young. So it's not something that change or grow in me since I moved to Singapore. If any, this desire to see the world is perhaps what drove me in the first place to try to get into NUS so that I can get out of Indonesia. I understand that such desire are not in everyone's mind and heart. I believe there are people who live their lives in a landlocked area and never see the sea in their whole entire life and never been intrigued by it. There are people who are just contented with their life and their surroundings. I get that. I'm just not one of those people. This is something that I want and though I don't do it as much as I want to, I owe it to myself, my past and future self, to try.

2) Astley's death. When Astley died, there are just millions thoughts running through my head. One of it is about if I am to die young too. I think Astley was not even 35 yet when he died. Other than him, there are a few other people that I've known who died so suddenly and in such a young age. One of them was a primary school friend, who was quite friendly and funny, who shared the same birthday month as me. He died just a few weeks before his birthday and I remembered thinking he didn't even make it to 30. I don't know what will happen that moment when you know you're going to die. They say your whole life pass before your eyes. I don't know, maybe I'll be like repeating over and over, "please God, let everything be alright" as I do almost every morning or I'll be like "darn, will my brother knows what to do with my stuff, why don't I prepare some sort of instruction?!? and please let my insurance guy be as honorable as I always think he is.". I don't know about these last thoughts, but what I do know was that I think if I had to die so suddenly as Astley at that time, I would be so disappointed because I haven't done many things that I want to do. So I cannot let myself die with nothing. I don't want my last thought to be of regret of the things that I could have done and didn't do and all that flashing are all the mundane things I do for other people which are not as important in retrospect to what I have done for myself. I am glad to say that I believe I wouldn't have that regret simply because I did that alone trip to Italy. Yes I have visited some other places after that trip and crossed some things in my list, but that Italy trip is enough for me to say "God thank you for the chance, it was good".

3) There's noone who wants to travel with me. Either they're not interested with the places I want to go or the most cited reason is that it's expensive or they just say they would but then when it's time to do it, they back up. I think it's dumb to not do things because noone wants to do it with you. If I just sit down and wait for people to do things with me, I may end up old and not having done anything :( That is tragic. How can I do that to myself? I owe it to my past and future self to do right for me. Yes there are fear and they can be paralyzing but I just need to ask myself the one question. The one I asked when I was deciding to travel alone for the first time, do you really want to sit here where you are right now, doing the things you do everyday which do not excite you or would you rather run around in Rome even if you get lost, you can get gelato involved ;) That's really easy to answer, right? If you ever feel that doubt and that fear in deciding to travel alone, I think it's very easy to encourage yourself. You just need to ask yourself, if you seriously would rather be where you are rather than taking chances on seeing other parts of the world.

4) I want to be an able parent with answers for my kids. Here's to believing that kids are in my future. I want the kids to look up to me and know I can protect them and give them answer. I believe the richer your experience in life, the more it will help you with this. I need to be able to take care of myself and rely on myself well so that the little ones can rely in me in all confidence. I've known some ladies who insist they have to work so that they are not too dependent on their husband. They're thinking that in an event of a divorce, they have some money of their own and a job. I never like this kind of thinking. I do however feel that's it's important to be mentally independent and strong in case of unexpected separation from your husband. I believe being mentally strong is shaped by life experience and yes they can be achieved by many different ways. One way for me is to travel and see the world and to put myself in situation I don't fully understand and trying my best to muddle through.

5) My time of living recklessly is running out. I actually don't think I am very reckless in living my life. Perhaps financially I'm not as amazing as some of my peers are. Traveling cost quite a lot and so I sacrifice material possessions to fulfill it. So at this point in time, I don't have that piece of land or a house or a car or expensive diamond necklace. Yet I know though that when I'm about to die, I will not regret that I lack those things. Still the fact remains that I have been living my life knowing there's the safety net of my parents. Yes, at this age, my parents are my safety net and I'm not shy to admit that. I have pretty generous parents. Mom offered to pay my rent if I ever decide to take a break and figure my life out. FYI, mom is not making as much money a month as my rent. It's a free pass as Gascoigne will put it and I have to say, I'm not embarrassed at all to take it. The idea of these free passes being there is comforting but they will expire pretty soon. The time will come when mom and dad should just use whatever money they have for themselves. Also the time will come when I am tied to responsibility like a family. Remember the kids I am so certain I will have. Well I don't picture myself traveling while bringing strollers for my kids though I have seen many couples do that and I admire them for it. When I have kids, all the money should go for their education and future just like what my parents do for me. Those times are coming soon (here's to blind faith) and so I am running out of time to live as I want in my single-hood and I have to make use the most of this time. There's the argument that you can travel at any age. I agree. However I've also seen how age can be quite a hindrance physically.

My cousin in law told me that my way of thinking is very westernized. I was pretty stunned at that comment. Westernized? Really? Well, I am sure that there are many other Indonesians who are like me but I can see how my thoughts are considered that way. It's against the grain of Indonesian being to be doing things alone, I guess. Also the fact that many Indonesian my age in Indonesia will be busy and rather in a panic mode (especially for the ladies) for not being married and they'll be setting having a family as their goal as well as more long term plan, like the goal of having houses and making their money work for them and be all entrepreneurial and stuff. Perhaps, I am different than the typical Indonesian my age but I don't think it's quite correct to say I'm westernized. Yes I can see how the way I live my life can be seen to be rather strange and worrying without any long term plan or big assets at this age, but I can only live my life the way I can. I just see this time as the time to do the things I want and while perhaps I should consider a more long term plan, I rather not bank too much at that right now. Yes, it's perhaps not wise, but who knows, maybe there'll be a zombie apocalypse in the near future. Will you not regret then focusing too much on the future and sacrificing your present? In between material possessions and time, I think time is more valuable. For me it really boils down to desire and time. I have that much desire and I know there isn't much time to live this way anymore. If it's too morbid to talk about death, then there's that thing when you just have more responsibility as you grow older. More financial restriction comes your way :(

So why I am writing about this now? It's because I'm traveling alone. Flying off tonight. Where to? Well you'll know when I come back or if you are my facebook friends then I guess you'll be seeing some pictures (I'll try to post some along the way). So up there are the general reasons why I travel alone or travel in general. Now the reasons on why I choose to travel alone now.

1) Of all the travels I've done with other people, I always ended up planning EVERYTHING except for that short Bintan trip in which la Gioia was very hands on in everything. Well she's a responsible and nice person who realizes it's rather unfair to let just one person deals with everything. It turns out, I get pretty annoyed and frustrated on doing this. It's not that easy and I did lose sleep over this. Now, Dewi said I'm so particular so it can be hard and intimidating to float ideas to me, because I would just shoot them down and choose my way. Well I'm always open to you doing your own thing and I do my own things if our ideas don't meet. The thing is, I'm not an expert in all this, so I need all the help and suggestion I can get. Also when we are in the city or places, there will definitely be things that we don't understand, so it would be great if you can just rise up and try to figure out a solution rather than waiting for me :( Seriously, I can still remember Dewi deciding to just drop and sit down on the floor in a mall while waiting for me to ask for direction. I know it's selfish and ungrateful of me to be complaining about these people because there are really times when I am truly thankful to be having a traveling companion, but I guess as usual with me the negativity can just overcome the positivity greatly. So I'm feeling that if I have to be responsible for the two of us and you're not really bringing anything to the table, then I just want to be responsible for myself. If I get lost, if I get confused I can just blame myself rather than being all pissed off because the other person is not doing anything to relieve the situation. If you think I'm just being a selfish person, well Casryn just came back from a trip to Europe with her sister and she gets my frustration because she felt the same. She even said sometime she wished she had been alone. When your partner is passive and just leaves everything to you, really you just want to just drop that dead weight. Anyway for this trip, I actually asked my cousin if she would like to come along. It was her idea in the first place, however she doesn't want to :( sad, so I decided to just not ask anyone and do it on my own.

2) I did it once, but can I do it again? It's still overwhelming. I think it's like if you had done bungee jumping once, the second time you're going to do it, you will still feel nervous, unless you just never feel nervous and scared. It's just I feel you do it once, it doesn't matter much. It's something like a beginner luck. If you can do it again and again, then it's really something. The only way you can strengthen your head and heart is just to face whatever it is which is uncomfortable to you again and again until you don't have the fear anymore. I want to challenge myself. I want to do something good for myself. It's like I'm promising myself, I'll do something good for you and I'll take care of you, it'll be okay. Surprisingly I'm pretty calm about the whole thing though this country I'm about to visit is gonna be challenging because the language barrier is gonna be humongous :( but yeah in general, I'm pretty calm though there are still little fear and nerve creeping in. It's still scary because you know what can go wrong. I hate thinking about the fact that I'll be confused trying to figure out direction dragging my luggage :( The fact that I have this calmness rather bothers me actually because I think a little bit of fear is good to make you focus more and make sure you don't miss out anything. I found myself forgetting things when I started to pack so it's worrying. I kinda lost my packing check list, it's somewhere in one of my boxes and I'm too lazy to dig them up.

3) When I saw people traveling alone, I think that they're so cool. I did it once, I was cool then, but I haven't done it again. So basically I just want to do it again and see myself as cool too :P

So that's that people. It's me. I don't think traveling alone is for everyone really, even though I think Carl thinks everyone should try traveling alone at least once. I remember her saying, you will learn a lot about yourself from it. Well, I think it's not for everyone. There are people who can't even sleep alone, eat alone, so it's just gonna be awful for them. If you're wondering how to make it happen. I will suggest to try with baby steps, go watch a movie alone, go into a restaurant and eat alone, go into a mall alone and do things on your own. Even little things like this can be a problem for some people. If you feel like it's so weird and people are looking at you, well just remember that you may never see them ever again and even if your paths cross again, both of you may not even remember that you once met. Then for your first time try to choose a safe and easy country to avoid many challenges. Try it for a short period of time. Then remember you can google everything. There are many who have walked the paths so you can always find help and direction. Then for me there's a lot of prayer. I believe in God, so I am never truly alone. There's God and me and I'll trust everything is within His plan.

When my cousin in law said I was westernized, I actually wanted to say I'm anti social, but it's more difficult to explain what anti social is and it's an even more radical concept in Indonesian context. Selfish or anti social, whatever you call it, I know that it can actually be unhealthy. I'm losing the ability to compromise with people because I will just choose to do things on my own. I do realize that I have to push myself to be with people. This week, I'm proud to say that I did that when I went along with Ms. J to Gardens by the Bay for Tulipmania. I'd written why people don't ask me to do stuff so when someone did ask me, I felt compelled to accept and it's great to have her. Thanks to her, I found out about the cactus section for the first time ever and it's crazy because I've been in the garden many times and I didn't realize it exists. It's also good that she's also taking her time taking pictures, so I don't have people waiting for me by the exit :P Here are some pictures from my new point and shoot camera. I'm a very loyal person, even to a brand. The cameras I got is always canon. The first one I had was from the powershot series. Then I had the dslr and now I settled on the ixus. It's pretty nice, but now I also found its differences with the powershot. They really have distinct function differences. You can see some of the shots from the ixus below, I used some of its available effects. I'm not so happy with how their colors come out, maybe I still need to figure out certain settings. For more pictures from the garden, you can go here. The tulips were flown in from The Netherlands and I think that's actually not very environmentally friendly. Darn, I do miss Keukenhof.

:) eKa @ 8:20:00 PM •


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi! I came across your blog when I was checking out something about Istanbul - I loved your photos of Turkey! I just got back from Istanbul myself :) Looking forward to seeing pics of your latest trip - wherever that might be!

4:04 AM  
Blogger Eka said...

thank you, your photos are beautiful too :D

8:26 PM  
Blogger Janice Ng said...

Lovely tulips :D

6:50 PM  

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