Traveling as an Indonesian Solo Backpacker

Thursday, January 15, 2015

“Why aren’t there more Indonesians who travel around Asia?”

After travelling for almost 3 months, I was intrigued by the fact that I never met any other Indonesian backpackers. You don’t know how jealous I am when I see people from the same country traveling together. They always look so happy and cheerful and they can even speak to each other in their own language.

As a solo female Asian traveler from a country that most people have never heard of, they would see me as one-of-a-kind. Locals in Southeast Asia usually think that I’m one of them and start talking to me in their native tongue. Sometimes they looked at me strangely because I reply to them in English. Many travelers I've met along the way could never guess where I'm from. And when I tell them that I am Indonesian, they always say the same thing, “I never met any Indonesian traveler before!”.

Marina Utami - Travel as Indonesian9

Indonesian people do like to travel, we like to shop, we like to take pictures with amazing background, and we do like to try new food. But we are not always that courageous to do it backpacker style. We're mostly scared to travel to unknown places. So we usually choose the common and easy destination to travel, or just do the quickest way by booking tours. Most Indonesians look at the term “travelling” as a vacation to relax and enjoy their quality time.

Solo backpacking rarely comes up in Indonesian society’s mind. Most especially women who dare enough to quit their job and travel around by themselves. In many big cities, Indonesian women tend to focus more on their career. I live in a country where traditions say that women need to be ruled, need to follow society, need to be in a secure position for their future, need to please their families and neighbors.

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“Women are sentenced to be a housewife in the end”, that’s what the tradition passed along by the elders to the new generation. As I watched all of my friends in a race of who gets married first or who has the cutest kid, I was daydreaming of something else. I made plans, scribbled about traveling, going to somewhere exotic and meet strangers. I pictured myself exploring temples, getting lost in some old china town or swimming in the sea off an island in the middle of nowhere.

I never thought the decision to live by myself in Bali would turn out to be the first step of my journey. Surprisingly, I met so many people who have the same passion as me. Ubud is a small town where everybody knows everyone, and it felt like I had another family from many different countries and ages. Whenever they tell stories about their adventures in many different countries, I felt so envious of their courage, especially those of solo female travelers.

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I kept thinking, "Why can’t I do that too?"

There are some things that are meant to be for us. I have faith that everything happens for a reason; the time when my dad passed away, the time when I moved to Bali, the time when I met amazing women who thought like me, and the time when I decided to end my bad relationship that has been going nowhere. I know that I need to do this trip to find my own path. I am no longer where I have been. I’m still on my way to where I am going. I would rather try and jump, risking everything at this moment, than wonder “What if?” for the rest of my life. So I packed my bags, left the world where I grew up, used all of my savings, quit my full time job and said goodbye to the comfortable life that I had.

I am not going to lie. I have never been this scared of being on my own. I am still running away from something, but I don’t even know what it is. I believe in the possibility of something better waiting out there for me. The same old routine life that people do, maybe it is good life indeed, maybe they are really happy about it, and maybe I would even like it if I try. I am open to anything.

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But before that happens, I need to know there are no other options that could be right for me.

I always thought that my own country, Indonesia is an amazing place to travel. I love my hometown so much that I felt that there's no better place on earth. But after 3 months of travelling to several countries, I learned that each place has its own charm. Every country has its natural diversity, unique traditions, amazing variety of food and what interests me more is the history that connects all of us. I see a much bigger world than I could ever imagine.

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Traveling on my own taught me to be more patient, to get to know myself, to see how far I would go to survive, to be disciplined in time and to learn to organize my own schedule. Moreover, it taught me to say “No” to people and to understand that it is okay not to follow what others expect. It gives me some space away from my family and friends, to be free to choose what I want, to speak my own opinion, and to find out who I really am without anyone's influence. Travel saved me from becoming what everyone wants me to be. Instead, it made me trust my own instincts and realize what I really want to do. I rely on myself on every aspect of my travel plans.

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Being alone sometimes also forces me to trust strangers and interact more with people. I am braver and have more confident about myself than before. I stumbled upon people who open their doors for me and welcome me to their family and their inner circle. I befriended so many travelers around the world from many different cultures and languages.

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I feel like I am never alone during this trip, because every place that I go to feels like home.

Editor's note: Marina became a solo traveler at 23 years old and she first traveled to Karimun Jawa island in Indonesia. After the trip, she became addicted to travel. So she went on short trips to small islands in Indonesia where she could dive and snorkel. It was then that she decided to explore other countries indefinitely. Southeast Asia was her first choice. She started in Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar. She traveled for more than 4 months and the experience changed her life perspective.

It made her miss Indonesia and changed the way she looked at her own country. She began to appreciate it more, respect it more. She grew to love Indonesia more.

She decided to come back home and see what she had been missing. She realised that Indonesia is a country with hundreds of islands, traditions and cultures that are waiting to be explored. This time, Indonesia is her destination.

Marina Utami - Travel as Indonesian8

Marina is half Chinese and half Sundanesse, 100% pledge in love being Indonesian. Art and design has always been her passion since she was a kid. She is still chasing her dream to be a great graphic designer and a traveler at the same time. Her goal is to inspire more Indonesian women to travel and see the world. Join her adventures on Jejak Marina and follow her on Instagram and Twitter @utamimarina.

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2 sole trails

  1. Indonesian backpacking is a must try! It gives you the real adventures you are looking for an outdoor activity.

  2. Go to Indonesia is the right choice, because Indonesia has a range of beautiful destinations that we can enjoy this interesting, and thanks for you


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