I guess the title of this post is a little misleading, but it’s representative of the way I feel about Indonesia. It feels like my home country. I don’t know why I love this place so much, but I feel comfortable here. The people, the food, the innumerable cultures — all of this stirs a passion inside me which I’ve rarely felt. It therefore integrates perfectly into the philosophy of the new me. You beauty!
This video is an advertisement for instant coffee, but it does a pretty good job of summing up my passion for the country. It’d be a fantastic tourism advertisement as well, but I’ve never seen one of those for Indonesia — that’s another story.
I was just reflecting today on a few things. Well, one thing really. About what my natural self looks like in terms of motivation to work, creativity and general life activities. Yeah OK, that doesn’t really mean a lot, but I put it in those terms because if I was still in a normal job, it would go something like this… “What sort of worker I am – creative, hard worker, willing to stay in one career for my whole life, etc”. But since I don’t have a regular job, the things that fill the main hours within my day are the things that keep me going. What those things are is becoming clearer.
This freedom has given rise to the emergence of my passions. Things I really couldn’t identify with prior to giving up full time work. Further, I’m now starting to identify my natural behaviours in the big bad world now that I have the freedom to do whatever I want. And it’s very interesting and totally not what I expected. When I was working a proper job, I was happy to stay put for years and years on end. I was going to die in that job. I was comfortable. I was in a routine. So when I quit work, I feared I’d miss that routine (I did) and I feared that I would end up vegging for years on end, doing nothing. Quite honestly, that happened for about 9 months. Most of that 9 months was spent travelling.
Since that time, I’ve been flitting from one project to another (not always paid) and it has been a rollercoaster ride like no other! What is so interesting about it is that I realise my attention span on certain activities lasts about 3 months and then… no I don’t bored, I get inspiration for a new plan, a new trip, a new project. It’s crazy, because I’m loving learning Indonesian at the moment, but there are a bunch of other things on the horizon that are getting me very excited — even more than the learning Indonesian thing. I’m going to force myself to stick with the Indonesian thing whilst dabbling in the new projects, but it gives a very interesting insight to the type of person I am when the shackles have been thrown clear.
The other thing I think is interesting is that I find it much more difficult to be free in Australia. Basically because everything is geared towards people not being free despite the glossy brochures. I feel free in Indonesia like I have never done before. That’s not to say I don’t love Australia — I do. But it is such a refined, productive society that opportunities for great projects are difficult to come by and are usually extremely risky. Here in Indonesia, opportunities are everywhere and the risks are minimal. I’m loving it.
For some people, this will make perfect sense. I have a feeling, though, that this might not make sense to the vast majority. Make sense? Or absolute load of rubbish?
Aside from all the tales of travel, a major theme of my blog has been about escaping the rat race and finding the spark that everyone had when they were in their teens – and had no real responsibilities. I harp on about it to anyone that will listen and quite often people just don’t get it. “Everyone has to have a job. Everyone has to do things they don’t like. My circumstances are different – I can’t do that.”
OK OK, say what you will. But this is how life turns out if you don’t agitate for change.
When I decided to give up work and pursue my passions, I really had no idea what I was doing. People always loved the story, but immediately asked what my passions were. And it’s a fair question to ask when it’s the reason that you’re giving up a 14 year career. I had no idea what my passions were. I still don’t have clear ideas, but things are not as impossibly muddy as they once were and fantastic opportunities have now presented themselves.
So I like travelling, I like taking photographs and I like food. I’d say that they’re as close to passions as I’ve ever had and when an opportunity to research accommodation, restaurants and activities, and take photographs for travelfish presented itself, I jumped at it. It was something that scared me, but also was exactly the sort of thing that I would never have been able to do whilst plugging away in an office and exactly the sort of thing that many dream about but never get a chance of doing. I did it and I’m proud of not just what I produced, but also that things worked out for me in terms of following a new path. This is the new path that I knew was possible, but had no idea how it would manifest. This is the sort of thing that could come along that you’d never expect if you decide to give up the 9-5 and pursue your passions, whatever they might be.
So it’s with gratitude that I write this post about travelling down a new path. And a bit of humility. After the most eventful year of my life, including ending a 12 year relationship, I can say that life is good! I’ll be approaching this new year with optimism and taking these sorts of opportunities as they arise.
I’ve been in Bali now for over seven weeks writing the travel guide for travelfish.org. The information is now online which is really quite quick for destination information that has been solidly researched! Many paperback travel guides can be 6-12 months out of date by the time you purchase the latest version, so this really is impressive stuff.
I’ve been wanting to write about my experience as the researcher of a travel guide…but I just can’t figure out what angle to take…and what would be interesting to a reader. So for now, I’ll leave that story until another time but I’d like to know what you want to know about — if anything!
Bali really is an interesting place. Most people know that the Kuta/Legian area is mass-tourism-central and for that reason, most people talk about avoiding it like the plague. But that story isn’t backed up by the facts. The fact is that there are a lot of budget travellers in town. A LOT. I mean, OVER RUN. So I’m sort of getting the impression that while it’s cool to say that Kuta is a terrible place, most people stay here for a few days or a week anyway and take in the sun, sand and surf as well as cheap beer and food. It’s a winning combination despite the throngs that partake in it!
Outside of Kuta/Legian, things have been decidely quiet. The entire North feels comparitively deserted and it is absolute bliss. Places like Amed and Pemuteran have been amazing places to hang around and relax. Yeh Gangga on the south coast felt like a million miles from civilisation. Tirta Gangga felt special because no other tourists were staying around there. Kuta/Legian feels like a different planet. It really does. And I don’t hate it. It’s just different.
There has been a bit of debate on the interwebs in recent times about internet access in Bali and how awful it is. Quite frankly, it’s all rubbish. I have had very cheap 3G internet the whole time here except for a black spot in Yeh Gangga. The rest of the time I’ve been getting better coverage than in many parts of Australia and the cost has been $11 for 300mb. That’s a bargain for mobile data on a phone. It gets even cheaper if you go into the Simpati shop and get a proper 3G broadband deal. Free WiFi has been rare outside of Kuta/Legian, but the guesthouses and cafes are generally so cheap that to get free WiFi would be a fantastic bonus. When I have gotten free WiFi, the connection has usually been 1mbit, but has sometimes been 4mbit. That’s pretty good, I reckon.
Costs have been like this so far. Average accommodation price for me has been 150,000 rupiah ($16.50) inclusive of tax and breakfast. This has usually gotten me a good quality room and occasionally with hot water and very rarely with air-con. I hired a car for 40 days earlier and that cost $9 per day. Petrol is dirt cheap and not even worth explaining in detail, but just say it’s 50c/L and you don’t use much here. I’ve tried to eat one local meal per day and those have cost me $1.50 with a drink. Occasionally $3 if I go overboard and load up on meat. Tourist meals have been around the $6 mark which will normally gets me a pizza or burger or some other Western rubbish that I can’t do without. A big bottle of beer is $2.50.
I honestly thought loneliness was going to be a problem, but it hasn’t been. I have been so well-connected to the internet via my iPhone that it really doesn’t feel that different to being at home. Twitter, facebook and the web have been great companions, no matter how nerdy and socially isolationist that sounds!
All in all, it’s been a great time, relatively cheap and I have not been slumming it. I’ll try and get some inspiration up to write about my travel writing gig. In the meantime, ask as many questions as you like!
A little while back I started writing some Bali travel posts documenting my love for Bali and some of the things that I’ve enjoyed doing there. Since I started that process, I’ve been given an amazing opportunity to actually formalise some of my knowledge of Bali by conducting research and writing reviews on behalf of the fabulous company, Travelfish. Travelfish specialise in South East Asia travel guides, primarily in the online world via their website and iphone apps. They have recently expanded their coverage into Indonesia and I will be the writer for the Bali portion.
So I thought this would be a good opportunity to document my experiences travelling around majestic Bali and I’ll therefore be posting some articles about this.
The plan is to spend between 8 and 10 weeks completing this task. I intend to rent a car for most of the time in order to make transport between destinations speedy, but still affordable. I’ve already been through East Bali and I intend to complete a loop of the island before heading inland.
People have constantly been telling me how this is a dream job – and in many ways it is. But I have to keep reminding people that it’s not like some kind of paid holiday. I’ll actually be working the entire time, earning travel writer’s wages and living a fairly isolated existence! But yes, I do feel fortunate to have been given this opportunity, I am passionate about travel and therefore this fits into my general philosophy of pursuing my passions – I plan to make the most of it.
Today I leave Melbourne. Destination Bali to write the Bali edition of Travelfish’s travel guides. I don’t plan to return to Melbourne. I was asked the other day if I felt my journey to Bali and therefore the conclusion of my time in Melbourne was symbolic. Symbolic in that it’s the finalisation of the separation from my wife. I responded by saying “no” because it didn’t feel like it… But now it does. I really do feel like today is the end of a chapter and the start of another and the page turns without even a hint of sadness. Sure, we can all talk of what could have been, but I look forward with optimism and renewed passion for the journey ahead.
So what have I learned through the process? Well, the main things that I have done well revolve around positive energy. I’ve tried my hardest to remain optimistic, tried my hardest to get out there and socialise (not always successfully!), did my best to accept the inevtiability of the situation immediately (ie didn’t hang on with false hope), held no grudges or bad feelings, did my best to not revel in the victim role which many many people would have me be in (they felt pity), and most of all, I got on with my life. I see these as contributing to the emotional place that I am in now and I love it.
I’ve tried to think of things that I could have done better but I just can’t find any at the moment. I really do feel fortunate to have had things turn out as they have.
So it all sounds as if everything for me is beautiful and that this journey was easy. It wasn’t. Introspection, which I think this process necessarily involves, requires complete honesty with oneself, the ability to observe your thoughts and the ability to tame ones ego. I’m no messiah when it comes to this stuff, but I did try hard and it was difficult at times.
So on the eve of a new adventure, I urge everyone to: not judge, reject cynicism, live pro-actively and above all, remain optimistic even when every bone in your body tells you not to be.
Everyone has a story to tell about their life. And we’ve all met at least a couple of people that seem to have had lives filled with all sorts of interesting sub-plots. Two mates of mine in particular seem to have accomplished more in a lifetime than I had ever thought possible. And by “accomplished”, I don’t mean it in terms of making their mark on society or completing some great project or having a stellar career. I mean they have just done such a wide variety of things in their lives and have such amazing stories of adventure to tell that one can only dream of perhaps living just half as interesting a life as they have led.
The problem is that the story of their lives, our lives, everybody’s lives has to be written by someone. Most people, me included until a couple of years ago, choose to have their story written by their careers, their family and other random people. Whilst it’s great to have outside participation in our lives and our stories (we are after all social creatures), we can’t let others be the authors. Contributors maybe, but we have to write our own life story!
I think some slip even further than this into the realms of unconscious passive living. That is, the story is just being filled with a bunch of blank pages because the owner is just driving along, asleep at the wheel, not even knowing that there is a story to write! It’s being written, but it’s empty and they don’t even know it. I want to help these people (if they want help).
So, if I’m writing my own life story, don’t I owe it to myself for the story to be interesting, occasionally exciting, full of wonderful characters, romance, adventure, discovery, self exploration and a dash of drama?
Yes, I want my story to be one of those good ones, where my attention is held from start to finish. Boredom begone! To ensure my story is one of those good ones I have to make the effort to write it myself, write it with creativity and passion and learn not to beat myself up when the story takes an unexpected twist. The twist may just end up being the best part!
When thinking about leaving the 9-5, all I could really think about is how free I would be once I was no longer obliged to get out of bed for a day filled with tasks – tasks I was responsible for, but had no personal connection with. I think most people transferring from the 9-5 to the free think this. But once I was free of these obligations and my end-of-work holiday was finished I really didn’t know what to fill my days with. I started practicing being lazy and found others online with the same philosophy. Surely this is what it was all about! The art of doing nothing! No… It’s a cop out. It’s great to be lazy for 9-12 months, but then the “Meaning of Life” question starts to rear its ugly head. In recent times, I’ve been giving deep thought to the purpose of giving up the 9-5. Why give it up? If I’m not compelled to work full time anymore, am I compelled to do anything? If there’s no compulsion to do anything, what am I going to do!? The three points I came up with were:
Pursuit of the Arts
For the ages, artistic expression has been the mechanism by which people have communicated their inner-self in a manner that words cannot compete with. The sense of expressing my inner-self through music, dance, drawing or any other form of artistic outlet is something I want to reconnect with. I’ve never been good at drawing and many of the arts, but I have a passion for music, I’d like to learn how to dance and I’d love to expand on my photography knowledge to the point where my shots are of a professional standard.
These pursuits will be passions; activities which will feed the soul and stimulate the mind.
What use are we in the world if we can’t improve ourselves both on an emotional and intellectual level? The intellectual can be pursued through the reading of books and more formal education (whether that be skills-based or academic). The emotional is more difficult and we owe it to those around us to be the best we can be. To be a good person, to forgo judgement of others, to be a positive person. This emotional self-improvement I feel will be a life’s work. If at the end of my life I can say that I gave it a good shot, I’ll be pleased. We are such complex, emotional beasts that the struggle for improvement is destined to be a long and difficult journey, but one in which falling asleep at the wheel can be a waste of one’s life.
Abandonment of the Inane
Many people spend their work lives whiling away the time until 5pm rolls around so they can go home. Surfing the net, endlessly reading and sorting emails, chatting to work colleagues. Much of this is inane and a complete waste of your time. I found that after leaving work I fell back into old habits. Surfing the net for hours on end, constantly checking email, reading and rereading the latest news headlines, doing internet banking daily (!), searching online for stuff to do. This was the inane of my work-life creeping into my personal time. My time will now be filled with all of those things that I said I would do when I left work. Make my own cheese, take more interest in gardening, learn a bunch of new practical skills. Inane begone!
I’ve only managed to realise these issues on a deeper, more meaningful level over the past weeks as I went through some difficult times in Myanmar. This emotional turmoil in the mind lent itself to much self-reflection and an opportunity to set the course for the next chapter of my life. For me, I knew all of this on an intellectual level, but it required some serious soul-searching for it to really make sense and force me to act.
To all potential lifestyle designers, I urge you to tread carefully as this next phase is truly a make or break occasion. Fail and you may fall back into old habits from your old life (and you’ll be poorer). Succeed and you will achieve all of the life-changing experiences that you dreamed of – it just won’t be handed to you on a platter.
How did you manage your transition from the drudgery of the 9-5 to free living?