I’ve always left Gili Islands out of my to-go places in Indonesia simply because it hadn’t appealed to me as a solo backpacker. It had sounded very much like another fun Thai island like Ko Phangan or the sort of place that you’d prefer to take romantic sunset walks with a loved one. However, when it came to planning our honeymoon, Chris and I had thought it sounded perfect: neither of us had been there and we needed something nice and relaxing to cap off our Indonesian trip.
We had our first run-in with bad luck on Hatta island. But before I get ahead of myself, let me tell you a little about Hatta island–the jewel of Banda Islands.
We’ve loved the looks on people’s faces when we tell them that we were going to the Banda Islands for our honeymoon.
Eyebrows furrow and blank looks all around. One was even suspicious that I was actually pulling his leg.
No one has heard of the Banda Islands before. I don’t blame them. I didn’t too–until I ran a deep search about Indonesia’s lesser-known islands, especially the small ones that deliver huge rewards.
Indonesia is a beautiful country that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. Like a drug, I keep coming back to explore her mystical far-flung corners. Mostly untouched by mass tourism and usually promising a great deal of adventure, Indonesia can be so much fun but there’s often a price to pay.
The price is, you can never rely on its transportation network.
Maybe the ferry leaves today, maybe it doesn’t–Depends, the locals shrug. Maybe you lucky.
Sometimes, it isn’t only inefficient, it’s also dangerous. If I survive this taxi ride from Tulehu port to Kota Ambon, I’ll call my dad and tell him that I love him. These thoughts race through my head each time I find myself in a taxi or a minivan in Indonesia.
And the planes? Don’t get me started. Here’s our recent flight comedy of sorts with Lion Air at Ambon and Makassar airports.
For the life of me, if I don’t know why you’d want to learn German in the first place. It’s difficult (trust me, it is), it takes forever to master and it’ll take you a lifetime before you could pass off as a German native speaker. However, if you’re doing it out of love, for a university programme, or if you’re just plain masochistic, well then, where else would you rather learn German but in Germany? I don’t need to extol here the benefits of learning the language at the country of its origin and embracing the experience of living abroad so I’ll just get on right to how to go about applying for the German Language Visa.
First of all, if you find a programme that could be completed in three months, you could just sign up and learn it on a regular “tourist visa”. For Malaysians, we could enter and stay within the EU/Schengen zone for 90 days within 180 days without a visa. Which means, you have 90 days to remain and travel freely within the Schengen area.
One morning, I’m flicking over one of the weekly shopping brochures. It is from a furniture store not too far away and a reasonable sized wardrobe caught my eyes. We’ve been looking for a wardrobe for a while now but due to our uncertainty over where we’ll be living in the future, we’ve been putting off the need to purchase one. But still, our makeshift wardrobes are now bursting at its seams. Out of sheer practicality, our situation is actually dire.
But my typical backpacker self thought instead: Do I need it? Would I die without it? Would my life change if I get one? Old habits die hard.
I’ve adopted this line of thinking for most of my time as a nomad. Buying large and expensive things fire off all sorts of cautionary alarms in me. What if I need to up and move again? What am I going to do with it? That’s why, up to this point in life, I’ve never had many possessions. And my need for a variety of clothes and accessories were minimal, so I never had to get a wardrobe. Ever.
Chasing unconventional experiences is what I love best when travelling.
If you’ve an opportunity to do something different or unusual, you should always go for it.
The beauty of saying yes to a spontaneous and unusual experience somewhere foreign is always so much more memorable than going through a checklist of sightseeing spots. Like our attempt to catch a midnight movie in a cinema in Batam (but failed, because we fell asleep out of exhaustion in the hotel), watching the Valentine’s Day opera in Riga, and now, watching a famous Disney’s Lion King in Hamburg. In German.
Of course, this wasn’t as unplanned as the rest. The tickets to the musical was after all our wedding gift from our friends. But they must have known us well, to have gifted us with such a precious opportunity to do something completely different. I mean, they could have just bought us a kitchen appliance or simply cash, but no, these geniuses had other plans.
I’ve got a confession to make.
Chris and I finally tied the knot in April and held the reception in August this year. I thought I’ll just mention it in passing just because someday, I intend to write about our wedding in Germany. But not today.
due to large wedding expenses (it was already a backpacker budget!) and preparation, we couldn’t travel as often as we did the years before. We didn’t take our usual 2-week summer vacation like most Germans would. And the traveller in me withered up and almost died. What, no travelling? How could you do this to me?!
So when it was finally over and done with (with only thank you cards to send out now), we heaved a sigh of relief. While all I wanted to do is to crawl onto the couch and watch Netflix for a 100 days straight, there was a gift of travel waiting for us.
…AND SOME OBSERVATIONS
I’m not entirely an outdoorsy person no matter how much Chris tries to turn me into one. My favourite pastime is curling up with a glass wine and a good book, not huffing and puffing away riding a bicycle against a mean slope. That’s more like up Chris’ alley or just about any Germans (in all stereotypical sense). I do admire the tenacity and faith of walkers of the Camino and Pacific Crest Trail, and how walking all the 800km of them would be an excellent way to not only experience nature but also to train your mind and body. But at this point of writing and in all honesty, I prefer reading about them than embarking the arduous journey.
In other words, I’m just your typical lazy city girl.
Okay guys, I’m going to say this only once, so listen very carefully.
This is going to be the most controversial thing that you’ve ever heard on this blog but to hell with it, you guys need to know the real truth. And what’s that?
You don’t have to quit your job to travel the world.
(Sighs. I can hear you guys clicking the Unlike button on my FB now, but that’s okay.)
Wait, you say, blinking in confusion. Didn’t YOU quit your job to travel the world? Weren’t YOU the one who kept harping on about packing up and leave to chase your dreams?
The dense and sticky air filled our lungs as soon as we walked out of the sliding doors of KL International Airport. Chris, no longer used to the humidity, felt like he is hit by a ton of bricks.
It was still the middle of winter when we left Germany for Kuala Lumpur. Only fourteen hours ago, we were covered in scarves and three layers of clothes. We’d been dreaming about Malaysia’s tropical climate for a while now. I’d plodded through the snow-decked streets, daydreaming about the day when we would wear shorts and flip-flops.
The blissful warmth and sunshine that played out so wonderfully in my imagination was quickly erased by stark reality: the real 32°C deal was less pleasant than I thought.
It’s only for two weeks, I can do this.
You’d think that living in a highly globalised society, and having German friends (prior to meeting Chris), nothing about Germany will surprise me. Well, not true.
To my (pleasant) surprise, there are still plenty of interesting traits and habits that I’ve come to discover. They don’t shock me but it sometimes make me go, “What the hell…”
Usually friends find it hard to keep up with my whereabouts when I was still clinging on tightly to my identity as a nomad. Texts and emails that start with, “Where are you now, Ying?” are not unusual. It was always fun,and privileged to say the least, to come up with a different answer each day. Yes, last week I was in Dubrovnik and today I’m in Ajaccio—life rocks as a traveller. Traipsing from places to places had defined me. While others had labels like “The Career Woman”, “The Fun One”, “The Doctor”, I was simply called “The Wanderer”. That suited me just fine.
But these days, my answer to the question above is less exotic. I’ve been answering ‘Germany’ for a better part of the year.
Yes, The Wanderer have been living in Germany for a year. And a little bit more. Apart from a handful of short road trips (I consider 2 days to 2 weeks short), I have been a true resident of the quiet Hermsdorf.
Technology is something, isn’t it? With the plethora of travel apps and websites, you now can have amazing flight and accommodation deals at your fingertips.
No queues, no hassle, no elevator music to listen to while you’re on hold.
The problem is, with so many platforms out there, which would you use and where do you even begin?
I hope this postcard finds you well. It’s been a while since we last heard from each other. If there was Internet in Heaven, you might have probably read here that I’d quit my job to travel the world. Don’t worry, before you get yourself too worried, yes—I’m still in one piece despite having travelled to more than 65 countries.
And no, dad didn’t sponsor me. How could he have afforded to? He had only saved up enough to allow me to finish my degree in an Australian university. I am eternally grateful to him for doing so but I had a hard time persuading him that the world has more to offer than a regular pay cheque. He couldn’t have understood my intentions then but now, I’m glad that he has come to grudgingly accept that I would never be quite the regular Malaysian girl next door.
People who know me personally call me animated, exuberant even.
Okay, I admit I can get pretty talkative when it comes to talking about things I care about or to people that I connect easily with. Yup, I’m one of those people who just can’t shut up once triggered. My voice raises a few decibels higher (this is embarrassing normally, especially in a public place), my facial expressions move in sync to match the speed and the passion of my speech, while my hands gesture wildly to complement the whole conversation in action.
So imagine, when I first toyed with the idea of enrolling myself in a 10-day silent Vipassana retreat, friends arched an eyebrow quizzically.
“Really Ying? Why torture yourself?” I pretended they had only my best interests in mind.
So I did it and survived. That was almost a decade ago. Till this day, I still could recall vividly the lessons that I’d learned while struggling through the entire duration. It was one of the ten hardest days in my life. I was almost reduced to tears. But while I didn’t find answers to any life’s mysteries, I caught several moments of clarity. These moments of clarity also helped me stay present and mindful while travelling.