I first heard about Jessica Ongko from a colleague of mine, Ian, whom I worked together on a previous agency (Thank you, dude!). He even said that she has so many similarities as I do and that just made me intrigued and curious to get to know her. Apparently, she is also a digital nomad a.k.a a freelance graphic designer who has been traveling around the globe, working in many remote places and moreover, she is an Indonesian for God sake. Then I started stalking her Instagram and reached out to her. She was super nice and accepted my offer to be the Superwoman of November 2018! Yay!
Talking about someone who has the same kind of occupancy, I really like her design portfolio www.jessicaongko.com. Even her travel photos are gorgeous and totally the same kind of style as I would prefer. If we ever met, I think we would become really good friends 🙂 . So can you imagine? She has talents, bravery and absolutely inspiration for Indonesian ladies out there. So let’s get to know her better!
Name: Jessica Ongko
Residence: currently between USA and Indonesia
Occupation: Graphic Designer
What inspired you to travel solo for the first time?
I think it was the strong curiosity and sense of adventure I’ve had since childhood. I grew up playing outside, running around on farms, and always imagining that I was “somewhere else”… such as the moon, bottom of the ocean, climbing a mountain. As I got older, I had the urge to make those dreams a reality.
Tell us about the first time you travelled alone. Where did you go and what did you do?
My first official big trip was to Beijing, China in 2014. My dad had always wanted me to learn Mandarin so I thought it was a good reason for getting my parents to be excited and supportive. It was 3 months of classes in the morning, then working remotely as a designer in the evenings. I experienced so many new things good and bad, from climbing a restricted area of the Great Wall, to getting locked out of the apartment with nothing but my rubbish bin. I made amazing friends whom I still talk to today. Most important was the confidence that I gained from starting a new life in a new country, overcoming cultural differences, as well as balancing comfort/discomfort zones. If I can do it in China, I knew that I could do it anywhere.
So what are the love/hate things you experienced travelling alone?
I love the freedom of choice. I love how I’m more eager to make friends. I LOVE the confidence it gives me, when I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. I love feeling that anything is possible – I can learn something or meet someone new and end up doing something completely spontaneous.
With things I hate, well, I feel like you love things until you get tired of it.. such as freedom and flexibility turning into indecisiveness and laziness. When there’s no one around to connect with, it can get boring and forgettable. I tend to overthink when I’m by myself and that tires me out. Safety becomes more of a priority, especially as a female traveler.
Who’s your travel inspiration?
This might be an unconventional answer, but on a deeper level my travel inspiration is the people who are unable to experience travel for themselves. Not everyone is in a position to have this type of freedom, and knowing that puts a lot of things into humble perspective.
I do follow a lot of photographers for travel and creative inspiration. Some that stick out is Quin from Everchanging Horizon, Jackson Groves, Chris Burkard, Alex Kydd, and Nolan Omura. Not only do they inspire me to travel and create, but to live a lifestyle that is kind to our bodies and our planet.
What are your favourite websites and travel apps do you often use?
The Hostelworld app is a must for solo travelers. It’s my favorite way to meet other like-minded travelers. I also use Priority Pass for airport lounge access. For everything else, there’s Google! Like Google Maps.. I’m the worst when it comes to directions.
What is your favorite country so far? Any recommendation for female solo traveler?
I can’t say Indonesia because that’d be super biased, right?? 🙂
Italy is the most beautiful to me, especially the southern coast of Amalfi. New Zealand comes as close 2nd. Both are places I look back on and still can’t believe they’re real. Italy has more of a “vibe” but if you’re a nature gal and love outdoor activities like I do, NZ is definitely recommended.
What are some important things you bring when travelling solo? (Beside money and passport?)
Not counting electronics and photography gear, specific items that I never travel without: a Vapur foldable water bottle, my Divacup (made the switch and NEVER looked back), plus tons of clean underwear.
Everyone has their quiry thing when they travel. I love doing temple hunting and visiting museums. So what’s yours?
For me, being on the move (plane, train, car) is one of my favorite parts of traveling. When I’m on the move, I am easily inspired and at peace. I also collect transportation cards from each country, like the Oyster card from London and Pasmo card from Japan.
Share your tips for any first time solo traveller?
As a first timer – Go where you speak the language. Being able to communicate with locals makes so much difference in the level of experience you create for yourself. Also: Please don’t pack too much! Only the essentials!! The less you pack, the more control you have over your surroundings. If you can’t carry it up the stairs on your own, that’s way too much. Trust me.. it ain’t cute anymore when you have to sprint with that giant suitcase through the train station and the elevator isn’t working…
What’s your favorite travel quote that’s best describe you?
“Do not stop thinking of life as an adventure. You have no security unless you can live bravely, excitingly, imaginatively, unless you can choose a challenge instead of a competence.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
Jessica is an “accidental” digital nomad who started to take working holidays in 2014. Though born and raised in the US, she has always maintained strong cultural ties to her family’s home country of Indonesia.
Recently, her trips have lasted longer and longer as she learned that slow travel was the more sustainable way to keep up with this lifestyle. She’s visited over 30 countries in Europe, South America, Asia, the Pacific, and the Middle East. One of her greatest passion is inspiring others to step out of their comfort zone by taking risks and having new experiences.
© 2017 Writing & Images copyright of Marina Utami.