by
on November 18, 2017 on 11/18/17

The Traveling Epiphany

This blog post is a little late – these past few weeks have just been absolutely overwhelming.

The big thing is that I returned from my trip to Indonesia.

Now, Indonesia had been the one country I had always wanted to travel to ever since I found out that I was going to be in Thailand. Which is probably why I went into the trip with such clear-cut expectations of how it would turn out… and as life would have it, my own experience in the country turned out to be a lot different. Far less beaches, far less partying… hell, even far less time relaxing.

For eight very long, very full, very sleep-deprived days, it was non-stop traveling at a breakneck pace as I crisscrossed my way through the different cities and towns and villages of Java and Bali. And wow… both islands have such sharp juxtapositions between the rich, the poor, and the poorer. It was incredibly sad — sometimes painfully so — but always extremely, extremely humbling.

But if there is one thing that I know I will remember for a long time, it is the people that I met on those Indonesian roads.

From Firman the motorbike driver, who showed such an unbelievable amount of kindness when I was lost in the streets of Denpasar with a dying phone and nowhere to go…

… to Kedak, my 9-hour taxi driver, a man of few words unless it had something to do with Real Madrid…

… and to the German surfer / skiier / golfer, with whom I shared perhaps one of the most fascinating, inspiring, and resonant conversations one could have over beers sitting in front of a supermarket at the empty hour of 2am.

And you know what?

Travel really is more about the people you meet rather than the places you see.

Waterfalls, temples, volcanoes, mountaintop views… of course they are amazing, breathtaking, and beautiful to behold.

But I think the soul and the spirit of whatever journey you are on can really only be found through the unexpected simplicity of a conversation between strangers in stranger lands.

And it took me flying out to Bali to fully realize and experience that for myself.

It’s such a cliché, but maybe that’s why it’s true.

And let me tell you, the experiences that I had at Indonesia changed my entire outlook on how I approach travel during my study abroad period and beyond. Before, I was desperate to check off as many boxes in whatever area I was in, because of the whole “when-am-I-ever-going-to-be-here-again” mentality. But I have come to realize that it is such a meaningless perspective to have, and in the long run, makes your experiences perhaps even less memorable, if that is possible, simply because you are not giving yourself time to truly soak everything in at a normal pace.

With that in mind, I headed out to Chiang Mai for the Yi Peng Lantern Festival, which is something that I have been looking forward to for quite some time. And it was undeniably one of the most flat-out beautiful and breathtaking experiences that I have had in Thailand thus far.

Who could have thought that seeing people launch lanterns into the sky could prove to be such an emotional moment? I know, right? It caught me off-guard, but I am glad it did, because never have I ever felt a moment truly take my breath away and leave me standing there with goose-bumps.

It was spectacular. It was mesmerizing.

And it was pretty damn beautiful.

So as I head to the halfway point of my year abroad, I’m grateful to have been able to experience the things that I have experienced, and I am excited to see what lies up ahead. I still haven’t managed to process a quarter of everything that has happened thus far, but there will be a time and a place for that later. But until then… the adventure goes on.

Best,

Jae