Friday, August 05, 2016

Some Thoughts on a Recent Trip to Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Yogyakarta, Indonesia - July 2016

I was in Yogyakarta, Indonesia last weekend. It was a quick 4 days break - what I usually call a "mental health break", so vital to emotional and spiritual well-being. Was there any great revelations? No. Was it restful? Slightly - and I got a mild sunburn along the way too. Was it fun? It was okay.

I used to speak of travel as the great spiritual journey, wandering to discover oneself. But slowly and gradually, I have come to accept that the journey itself is slow to unfold. Between the moments of great adventure is a lot of boredom and discomfort in between. You have to get over the dull, painful parts to get to the fun parts - and you probably only appreciate it later (or sometimes, not at all), when you look back.

Was Yogyakarta one of those things that I will look back and appreciate? Maybe. I was told by people who went there a few times that the best way to get around was to hire a driver. However, I was curious about the local buses that brought you to Borobudur, and Prambana - the two famous UNESCO Heritage sites in Yogyakarta. Against the advice of the more experienced, I tried taking the local buses. It was comfort - but I did manage to get seats during my journey. The trip to Borobudur took more than two hours each way. I was charged more than the locals, because I was a tourist. But was it worth it? I felt just that little bit proud of myself for taking the bus in a foreign country. Was it a big deal? Yes, to me. Because while I would probably never admit it to friends - I was afraid.

That was the key to why traveling is so important to me; I am afraid most of the time. Yet, little by little when I do the things that scare me, a mundane thing like taking the bus - in a foreign country, makes me feel just that little bit braver.

Travel has constantly reminded me of the kindness of strangers. I travel alone, usually. It's moments like these, where taken out of the familiar, and forced to pay attention, I noticed the little things that people do for me, like letting me know there's a free seat on the bus, giving me advice about the local bus routes, letting me know where the public restrooms are. Minor things yes, but I find myself being grateful - more grateful than I ever was back home, for these little gestures. The only difference lies in my physical location, and my attitude to them.

So, my advice is: travel. It nudges you into little things. After a lifetime of travel, you will look back, and it will be worth it. Unless you close your heart to all things beautiful and profound, then all you will have are cheap souvenirs and maybe even bitter memories of people cheating you of your tourist dollars.

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