My travel style has changed in the past couple of months and I find this has affected my time and space for reflection.
As I write this Richard Marx is pounding in my ears, refreshing, kind of nostalgic and reassuring, thanks for making me feel at home in this bus Richard, and feel better about my decisions! And giving my brain a second to process.
I was able to make my way through the cab drivers at Juanda Airport at Surabaya and find a spot to access wifi in peace. I arrived with a vague idea of hiking up Mt. Bromo. On arrival I found I wasn’t ready to leap into the backwoods. Not being connected to the Internet makes me feel guilty, especially since I’m trying to find contracts while simultaneously seeing a bit of Indonesia. Gotta start watching those rupiah! Indonesia can be as cheap or expensive as you make it. Especially in a tourist area like Kuta.
Kuta was a strange introduction to Indonesia, being injected straight into a busy, bustling tourist trap of a town, with loud rock bands playing on the main drag on a Tuesday night. The party doesn’t stop here.
Once off the plane I walked up to a girl wearing a large pack and asked where she was headed. I’d read a forum post about someone doing this. It didn’t end up being much cheaper than going solo, but there was moral support! After the comparatively calm Brisbane, the activity in Kuta was a culture shock.
When do I find time to work?
Right now my time is taken up with this blog and job applications. I’ve been waking up very early (5:30 am) so I send them out in the early mornings or late afternoons. In between my (nervous) energy level doesn’t really allow me to sit still so I walk, scoping out good work spots. I found a chill coffee shop in Kuta for example and wrote about Earth Frequency. Not surprisingly I had festivals on the brain. And spend money I know I shouldn’t, negotiating badly. I’m learning though, and my prices are getting lower!
Good thing I decided not to stay and go on to Surabaya.
(A note now that I have been here almost 24 hours: this is the price point Indonesia is known for, but they don’t sell beer in the markets. That’s ok because any fat I would have lost from not drinking is in no danger of melting off, according to the copious amounts of noodles I am eating).
Here’s the plan: take a ferry to Makassar and then travel overland to Pula where I can catch a shuttle to the Eclipse festival. The inspiration for the idea to go overland was a now FB buddy who had planned to do this. He has since changed his mind. I forge ahead, maybe meeting other like minded souls along the way.
I decided to attend a couple of days ago after mulling it over. In the end what decided me was these factors:
My last night in Australia
I arrived at the checkin for my flight to Bali three hours ahead. I was that stoked to get there. I was something like the 12th person in line. When I got to the counter, I handed over my passport and the flight attendant said,
“Please put your carry on bag on the scale. Both of them.” Turns out I was 4 kilos overweight. Groan. Checking in my bag would cost $160 AUD. This wasn’t my first run in with a budget airline and immediately my brain started calculating what I could take out, what I could leave behind. I already had a bag quarter full of clothes I had already decided to ditch while packing my bag at the hostel I had stayed at the past couple of nights.
“Before I take your payment”, yes, I was ready with my credit card, I had deemed the rest of my stuff to be worth it and I was anxious to be through security, “I just need to see your outbound flight confirmation.” Pardon? “I need to see the flight you are taking to leave the country since you don’t have a return flight with us.”
Argh. No, I wasn’t planning to stay in Indonesia illegally. My plan had been to book my flight out when I arrived, since I didn’t know how long I would stay. That decision was contingent on whether or not I could get a visa for mainland China in Hong Kong. Otherwise I would go somewhere else.
“Go see my colleague at the booking counter around the corner and he will sort you out. You can’t get on this flight without an outbound flight.”
I had no intention of going to book a flight with her colleague. Armed with my electronic office, I found the table which, ironically, is put there, with a scale beside it for passengers to weigh and repack their bags. The thing was, I had a flight from Denpasar to Palu and back already booked (with the intention of going to the festival). I decided, since my attendance at the festival was not 100%, not yet having a ticket, to change that flight and possibly figure out my festival attendance later.
I called the website that I had booked the flight to (the airline was impossible to reach, no answer on the phone when I finally did find a customer service line). The person I was on with put me on hold while he tried to contact the airline about their policy regarding ticket changes. No luck. Then put me on hold while he confirmed with his supervisor. Then again while he made the change. Each time was about 10 – 15 mins. Had I not been so desperate I would have hung up, but I held on. The whole process took an hour. An HOUR! And that’s not counting the time it took to make a decision and get someone on the line (their automated answering system is 10 mins long and not possible to skip).
While I was on hold, I started repacking my bag, mercilessly trashing things I had carried around but hadn’t worn, things I had used but didn’t ‘need’. Things that were small but heavy. That was pretty hard, but at that point I didn’t want any more hassles. Just get my flight and get to Bali.
At the end of this call, I made a point of asking that he send me my receipt right away. I asked him to do it immediately, while I was on the line. He said it would arrive in 5-10 minutes. Grr. Email doesn’t take that long but fine, I still had time before my flight.
The email finally arrived and I opened it. It was a receipt for the change. No flight itinerary.
By this point there was only 30 mins left to check in. I went to the counter anyway, and was referred to a manager, who said no.
I got back on the phone with 10% battery left, waited through the automated system a third time, got put on hold to wait for an available agent. 10 mins left.
Finally someone comes on the line and I give my order number, name, etc. The guy is excruciatingly slow and completely locked into ‘procedure’. “Please send me a copy of my itinerary Denpasar to Hong Kong immediately. I need it to board my flight right now.” Let me check. “Just click Send!” Let me confirm, “Send my itinerary right now!” Let me clarify. By this point there were tears and I had yelled the last. The manager was looking at me and shaking her head. Check in was closed.
It took 5 minutes for the itinerary to arrive.
This situation could have been avoided, it’s true. However, in later conversations where I told this story, one comment made by my friend in Brisbane stuck in my head. ‘The more I travel, the less research, the less planning I do. I’m more inclined to go with the flow.’ That’s true of myself as well. There’s so much to see and do, everywhere is new. I have to consciously stop myself, allow myself to take a break, think about my next move.
In the end, it cost me an additional 100, to rebook the flight and stay an extra night in a hostel. I gained a night in Brisbane, staying up half of it chatting with new hostel friends and having my last taste of mango beer, which I had spent the last two months fruitlessly seeking out (pun intended). I gained 24 hours in a part of Brisbane I had heard of but not seen, Fortitude Valley.
And I gained some perspective on attending Eclipse from a French girl who runs the hostel I stayed at with her partner. We went out to the patio to share the beer I had bought (I wasn’t planning on drinking 6 myself) and as the conversation progressed, we discovered a shared interest in festival culture, she as an artist. She had painted an amazing mural to decorate the hostel, and looking up at the roof over the patio, told me about the friends who had decorated the inside.
I couldn’t have planned my actual last night in Australia. I did plan a last night, with friends and dinner, and going home at 8 pm because my friends have a family and work in the morning. I ended up walking Brisbane down that night, and doing some stretching and yoga on the deserted GOMA lawn at midnight. Meeting two guys from Barcelona, one whose mother lives in Torremolinos, near Malaga.
It would seem life is happening outside the lines at the moment, when the plans fail. As well as through decisions that result in connections that lead to more decisions. I’ll try that wave, see where it takes me.
I’m curious to see what connections and community will form around me as I work towards this festival goal, and this adventure in digital nomadry, and work, period. Is this lifestyle compatible with working, really? How much? Could I actually save money while doing this? What is in store?