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The Great Affair

Friday, November 30, 2012

“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” - Robert Louis Stevenson

I'm fascinated by journeys. The first time I got to fly in an airplane was years ago; I was in fifth or sixth grade, maybe, and the idea that I could be packed into a metal tube and hurtled through the sky at 500 miles per hour was an earth-shakingly awesome one.

The ride itself was anticlimactic. I remember sitting there next to my cousin, staring at the plastic emergency procedure sheet in the back pocket of the seat in front of me, thinking this is just like a bus... but in the air. This is it?

I guess I'd expected something more exciting. Turbulence would have thrilled me, if only to stir up the horridly stagnant three hours from Salt Lake City to Chicago.

Since then, I've flown more times than I can now count. To places as far as Surabaya, where I am now. To boring gray places (Wisconsin), to legendary places (New York City), to life-changing places (Denver, CO).

I'm terribly at home in airports. I love putting my headphones in and walking down the long concourses, buying grossly overpriced food, and sitting down to watch people flow by endlessly.

I give everyone a name and a life. The girl in the grey cardigan is off to Miami to be reunited with her boyfriend. The old couple with dusty leather suitcases are going to see their newborn grandchild in Conneticuit. The two boys in board shorts and Keds are famous in the European underground indie scene, and they're just a few hours away from playing their first big show in Los Angeles.

But now, it doesn't just take a trip to the airport or a journey miles and miles away from home to enchant me. I love car rides, especially here in Indonesia. The natives always get frustrated in traffic jams, but I'm just as happy staring out the window while we're stuck as I am when we're weaving our way through the cars like normal.

Because I don't often get to go out and walk around, seeing Surabaya through the car window is my favorite way to feel connected to the people and the pulse of life here.

I watch as street food sellers wheel their carts from neighborhood to neighborhood, as men sit in their multicolored pedicabs waiting for customers, as labourers squat on the curb to have a cigarette. Children, young wives and professional racers, complete with jerseys and their strange aerodynamic helmets, roll by on their bikes. People of all ages and from every walk of life stop to eat and relax at the many warung (tent restaurants) lining the road.

Occasionally we need to make a U-Turn, and to help us do that there are men in frayed orange vests directing traffic with nothing but whistles and their arms. They collect 1000 RP tips from still-moving cars with practiced ease.

I keep watching, and the sights in front of me change from the shining business district to a quiet residential area to an industrial cluster within minutes. Surabaya is a city that's all smushed together, a place where shack houses are propped up next to expensive restaurants. From day to day, the sights are different, so there's always something new to take in.

Of course if one goes to Indonesia, one cannot avoid taking sepeda motor, or motorcycle/motorbike. Motorcycles are the most efficient means of transportation here, and they're everywhere.

On the back of a motorbike (always the back, because I'm forbidden to drive, not that I know how to anyway!), with all the protective barriers of a car stripped away, I'm right in the middle of all the action. Fellow riders are just a hair's width away, and so are giant cars, trucks, and buses. The first time I rode a motorbike I was absolutely terrified I'd fall off. Now it's my favorite mode of transportation.

There's a saying that goes, "life isn't about the destination, it's about the journey." I believe this is absolutely true. I'm never singularly focused on the mall or the supermarket or school, I'm always enjoying the sights passing by. I'm not most looking forward to the end of my exchange, when I'll know how to function in Indonesian and have all the memories of my year behind me, I'm focusing on enjoying things as they come.

Even the boring days, the days where I feel aimless, the days that are difficult to get through. The days where I grow, and become a more interesting and worthy person. I'm learning how to live each moment to the fullest, because this year is a countdown.

I only have about seven months left in Indonesia. Seven months doesn't leave time for wallowing in sadness or being afraid of what other people think. Seven months means that if I want to explore my neighborhood, learn the language, or try a certain food, I can't waste time being afraid. Because I'll never get this year, this day, this moment back.

Life is too short to wait. Life is too short to think only about the destination, the culmination of an experience. It's so easy to think you understand this concept while you're at home, living the same life you've always lived, where time seems to stretch on forever. There's no rush to do anything because there's no foreseeable deadline, there's no end to the opportunity to experience things.

It takes coming abroad to truly realise that time is always limited. Every moment is a moment stolen from death, a moment closer to departure, a moment that disappears into forever if you don't spend it wisely.

So? It's time to take a risk. To seize the moment, seize the day, to live completely without regrets. To not just enjoy the journey, to become the journey. To jump into the action, not just stare through the window, saying "I wish" instead of "I will".

To trust that everything will work out for the best. To trust that the journey is taking you where you need to be. To trust that everything will be okay in the end, and that if it's not okay, it's not the end.

To live. To move. To be. And to love, every moment of every day, with no fears and no regrets.


  1. I feel Siddhartha Gautama would be proud my dear friend. You're quite a gem to behold, and I'd say never change, but wheres the fun it that, eh?
    Stay Wonderfully Fantastic

    Selamat Dan Sukses!!! Semangkak!!!

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  3. I love what you said and how you reflect the journey uou are in...



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I'm Sara, the freckled bule, one out of eight of the coolest people in the world. I spent a year in Indonesia as a KL/YES Abroad student but now I live in Boise, Idaho. Welcome to my bloggity blog.


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