As I looked back on my Facebook wall about “Marina’s year”, I found myself feeling grateful than ever. Scrolling through the photos of my solo travelling times with my beloved friends and family, not once I saw myself without a smile. I feel blessed. One year ago, I would never think to the point where I would leave my home, living somewhere near the sea, do the long term travel, and came back to the big city again with a new perspective of life. I change. Travels made me change. All in all, Travel even build a healthy personality that I would never even imagine. The way I look at my old surrounding, the way I interact with people, the way I handle the problems, I feel it. I grew. Sometimes it’s scary but that’s okay. I know that I have so many people that will remind me that I am not alone. I never feel alone. These are what I have learned from solo travel:
Being Independent is good. But relying on yourself to strangers, that takes courage.
“Going alone is scary! There will be people who would do bad things to you!”, Oh yes, that’s what my grandmother said. Over and over again.
Whole my life, I was being told that the world is a scary place. Women should never go anywhere alone. Being single is not good. I should have a partner and live a comfortable life.
I have proved her wrong.
Travelling alone was the best experience I have ever had. I loved being on my own, depending on myself, and deciding what I want to do without having being told to from someone else. But I realise that all these times, I have never really done it by myself. I met wonderful people who took me into their lives, who would open their doors for me, who would care, listen, and understand what I have been through. Of course, I have the couple of best friends that I can always reach on by my phone and Skype.
My host in Malaysia, an Indian guy who would sacrifice his own bed and slept on the floor, so that I could sleep well on a mattress after travelled for so long. The Malaysian guy who was tired of working the whole day but still wants to show me around Penang at night. The amazing people of startup house.asia in Bangkok who always welcome me with warm hugs whenever I came back to the house and said “Okaeri” (Welcome Home). The Australian old man who helped me crossed the border in Vientiane. My travel buddies from U.S whom I just met, but we decided to travel together in Laos and Vietnam.
My long pen-pal in Hanoi whom I finally met, he introduced me to his family and friends, showed me his hometown, and above all, he always worries and protects me from being hurt. The caretaker of the Koh Rong Inn where we stayed, he took care of me and Arma as if we were his children who were lost. The guy who trusted us the key to his apartment in Phnom Penh, even though we haven’t met face to face. The people in Gutter House Phnom Penh who took us in for their big birthday party of their friend, and in the end they taught us to speak Japanese instead. I have met cool people from Couchsurfing and I am blessed to have met them. The amazing villagers of Inle Lake where we were being a part of their family and they showed us their daily life. And I would never forget the kindness of the guide in Shwedagon Pagoda, who showed us the beauty of Yangon city with bus and train the whole day. It was the best day of our time in Yangon.
It was filled with laughter and tears, funny and awkward moment, but still, it was amazing to have this kind of encounter. Looking back, I was actually trusting them with my life.
People who would spend their quality time just to be with us without any meaning, I believe it is the kindness of a human being. And I believe that it is worth the risk to trust.
Every problem has the solution.
I am not gonna lie. I had some bad experiences during my journey.
Getting into a taxi who tried to rip me off, the tour package that didn’t give me exactly like what they said it would be, guys who tried to got me into bed, people who tried to use my kindness for their benefit, people who gave me wrong directions when I was lost and that damn airlines who wouldn’t let me fly back to Thailand.
Oh, I had my moments where I just want to scream and let the anger blurted out. But then again, what was it for? It won’t change anything that just happened. Instead, I took a deep breath, calm myself down and start to find another way to settle down.
Being on my own means that I have to make the change. I am the one who needs to solve this issue just by myself. That’s it. And if there aren’t any, just wait. I believe in waiting. Time will tell.
Appreciate the time and people. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.
When I was travelling through Laos, I was a bit upset with the long journey. The available transportation was the only bus and it took so long through each city. No other choice eh?
But I never thought that the journey was amazing instead. I was spoiled with the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen during the road. I couldn’t even sleep, I kept clicking my camera every hour and felt the greatness of the Creator above for making such a beautiful nature.One of my favourite spot to go is the park. Each time I visited a city, it’s the park that I always pin on first. The park is where you can finally see how the local people live and spent their afternoon. People who like to do sport, people who take their pet walk around, or the couple who dates behind the trees, sometimes its all the same in every country. But they do it in such different way. You’ll see by yourself 🙂I get used to going anywhere just by walking. No matter how far it is, no matter how long it takes, I know that I will learn something new during my trip. So instead of going anywhere by taxi, I prefer bus or train where I can also connect with the local people. It has become a habit to talk to a person that I sit next with, whenever I am on the road. They have the incredible background story and they would love to share it. Not so rare that every traveller gave each other tips on how they made their journey through the city they have been. When you’ll meet people who had the same big backpack like yours, you feel like you already have a friend to be with.
So now after I came back to my country, I felt that I should appreciate more of the time I spent on the road. Because truly, the progress matters the most.
The world is big. There are far more important things than your own problem.
Four years ago, after I had my full-time job, all I could think about what I should do with the money. Which handphone should I buy? What movies should I watch this weekend? Which restaurant should I go with my friends? Back then it seems like it’s life and death on how to spent what I had earned.
After visiting COPE museum in Vientiane, it has changed my life. It changes on how I look at the world.
COPE is an organisation that train and help disability kids and adults who were mostly injured because of the remaining bombs after Vietnam War. So many kids sacrificed their lives to dig into the remaining bombs in the soil, so they could sell the metal and earn money. Seeing the pictures, watched the movies and looking at the photos, I felt that my heart was breaking into pieces. COPE opened my eyes. That the world is big and there are far more important things that I should be aware of and take a part in. I promise myself that I would contribute more to society and give more for the world.
Museums are the places where I learned that each country has their own history that made their characteristic. I used to think that Indonesia is the best country in the world (oh I still do!) But after getting to know these countries, I notice that they had their own beauties that no other places could offer.
The world is so unique that each place has their own charms that you cannot resist. See the world with your own eyes, and open your mind to what they could show you. The culture, the history, the culinary, the life, the view, and most important thing is the people. Take a part in their life and society, they will blow your mind. 🙂
Being alone: My voice matters.
The night before I start my journey, I was panic. I couldn’t sleep, I kept thinking about leaving my beloved friends and family, and going to the unknown places. By myself. Alone.
What was I thinking? How stupid I am of leaving all these wonderful lives that I had. What would I do if something happened?
Oh, I had my stupid times during my first week on the road. I cried a bit and thought that I would want to go home instead.But after spending some time on the road turns out this journey has awakened me. The real me. I got comfortable being on my own. I learned how to depend on myself. I learned who I am true without anyone told me who I am supposed to be. I notice that people want to see and hear the real me. My voice matters. No matter what I do, people will always criticise anyway, so why bother being someone else? I choose to be myself.
I was free. I can show people my real side without having influences from friends and family. I finally know what is my strength and weakness, and I am still trying to improve myself. Being a solo female traveller is never easy. But I did it.
Sometimes you just need to get away from the people who knows you better. You need to find yourself without other people tells you to, so that you can realise it by yourself, how far would you go if you were alone. This article about travelling that makes people healthier is so damn right. I wouldn’t do it even differently.
So what are you waiting for?
p.s: 2014 was a blast! I didn’t expect that I would still survive and feel “alive” throughout the year. This year was unforgettable! My turning point in life.
I would like to express my gratitude to all of my friends who always supported me in Bandung, Jakarta and Bali. My beloved family and my father in heaven. Next, to Startup House Bangkok, Gutter House Phnom Penh, all my hosts from Couchsurfing, all of my travel buddies whom I met (You know who you are!) April Gee, Troy Wong & Bee, Shafiq Azwan, Raymon Busby, Kyi Mint, Shiho, Gracia Stephanie, Armadhini Darmawan, Ngan Tran, and my best friend Nghia Nguyen and Nala. I felt so blessed having met all of these nice people during my travel in South East Asia. Someday we’ll meet again! 🙂
© 2017 Writing & Images copyright of Marina Utami.