Back in 2014 I was a classic cliche. I had been dumped, moved back in with my parents and let’s be honest a little miserable. My life was not going quite how I had planned and I wanted to do something about it. I needed a massive change to pull me out of my comfort zone.
During a day at school I was sat inside the Explorer Dome (basically an inflatable igloo). They are a fantastic company that visit schools and entertain your class with brilliant facts and tricks all inside the dark cocoon of the dome. It had been a particularly good session with the children learning about places around the world. It ended with the image of the earth projected onto the side of the dome. The session leader simple said: “There is a very big world out there, make sure you go and see as much of it as you can.” That was my mind made up.
I started looking into teaching abroad and was amazed to see how many jobs were available. I was quite tempted but the thought of leaving my family, friends and the job I love made me re-think.
I was still craving an adventure so started looking into travelling. My three week Easter break was the perfect time to go as it would give me the time to pick a far away destination. I thought if I am going to do this make it worth it.
I had heard through a friend about a company called G Adventures and started my search. I picked Indonesia and found a trip travelling from JAVA to BALI. All fired up I checked the dates worked, looked at flights then came back down to earth. Was I actually going to do this? Go to Asia by myself on a trip with people I had never met? This was not the Clair I knew, but as soon as my Dad had said “you need to do this” I knew I had to. As the little arrow hovered over ‘confirm your trip’ I had slight heart palpitations. I had done it, I was going to Asia in less than six weeks.
Friday 4th April arrived (major heart palpitations now) and I was all ready to go. I had squeezed as much as I could into my backpack so that I almost toppled over like a weeble. I am 5ft 2″ so yes the the backpack was almost as big as me. One last goodbye and I was in the car with my Dad on the way to the airport. This was a very quiet journey. I was majorly scared. I got out of the car gave my Dad a hug, said goodbye and walked away trying not to cry. I made the stupid mistake of looking back and desperately wanted to go back and say I couldn’t go through with it. What was I doing?!
Obviously I pulled myself together and walked through those airport doors. I am so glad I did. Don’t get me wrong I was absolutely terrified but the thought of two weeks of adventure made me keep putting one foot in front of the other.
I got to Dubai and a few deep breaths later found the departure lounge for my connecting flight to Jakarta. I tried to sleep and think I managed about two minutes before my eyes opened as the wheels touched down. I was in Jakarta, definitely no turning back now. Gulp.
I fumbled through immigration to get my Visa having no idea which queue I was meant to be in. Being the capital of Indonesia you would think it would be a well organised, clearly signed airport. It isn’t so just ask the backpacker in front of you!
Reunited with my backpack I went to find my transfer driver expecting to see a sign with my name on, he wasn’t there…deep breath. I was swarmed by taxi drivers but luckily I had been prepared for this and had looked to see what taxi’s to use. Once I had been rescued and bundled into a taxi I finally started to calm down and relax. I had made it. All I needed to do now was get to the hotel and meet the trip leader.
I finally arrived and was immediately greeted by Panji our tour leader. I was then introduced to the other three people on my trip and we were off. The next few hours were a blur. Walking through the streets of Indonesia, feeling the heat and eating my first meal all slightly hallucinating from lack of sleep.
The next two weeks were packed full of temples, visiting volcanoes, going to a remote floating fishing village, tea plantations, rice fields, tasting (and blowing your head off) with JAVA coffee, being the only tourists in among the locals and finally seeing Bali.
Trip Highlights Gallery
Overall the trip was fantastic. Although there were only four of us we got on brilliantly and after a few days we relaxed and started to have a real giggle together. We got to see so much of the local way of life, the culture, food and the delicious durian fruit (it’s awful)! All too soon the trip had come to an end and we were getting ready to go home…or so I thought. I was just not ready to go home the next day. Unfortunately my extended stay of two weeks was not a result of me being spontaneous, I was mugged on our final night.
This resulted in me spending the next two weeks cancelling flights, visiting the consulate (in tears so they would let me in), getting new passport photos, re-booking flights home, telling work I was going to start the Summer Term two weeks late and a whole load of stress.
That stress changed me. I hadn’t wanted to go home. I am not saying I am glad I was mugged but I wanted an adventure and boy did I get one. It taught me that actually I can cope when I am on my own, I can be brave and I don’t need to worry about the small things. It is a constant reminder that I can push myself to do things I never thought I could. It was a scary situation to be in but I coped.
I made it home two weeks late and immediately went into work to check I still had a job. Thankfully they were pleased to see me (slightly suspicious and distracted by my AMAZING tan) and still to this day I endure the odd joke about being early…
Things I learnt (the hard way)
- Never travel without insurance. I had it and needed it after being mugged and losing my bank card, iPhone and PASSPORT!
- Note down important numbers for the Embassy and Consulate.
- Take a credit card for emergencies.
- Research which local taxi’s to use.
- Take spare passport photos (I had a nightmare trying to get this done).
- Have a photocopy of your passport (the embassy will want your old details).
- Don’t carry any money, your phone or passport in the same bag. It’s best to conceal them under your clothes in a money belt. I met a girl in immigration who had been carrying her main backpack on her back. She had a smaller backpack on her front to keep her possessions safe-they pulled it straight off her.
Why I have a soft spot for G Adventures
- Friendly and always very helpful customer service.
- You can find out who else is booked onto your trip (ages and gender) so you can avoid being with a group you just know you wouldn’t gel with.
- You can choose what style of trip you want. They offer Active, Classic, National Geographic Journeys, Family, Local Living, Marine, Yolo, Rail and Private Groups.
- You can choose whether you want to be away for a week or a few months!
- You get to see the ‘behind the scenes’ places instead of only seeing the main tourist spots and standing in endless queues. In fact we traveled for an entire week before seeing other tourists.
- They are open to suggestions and strive to tailor the trip to what you want to get out of it.
- They come and rescue you on a moped when all your things have been stolen hours before starting a new tour…
So did all of that put me off? Absolutely not, as soon I was home I booked my next trip. It was just the start.
My first leap into adventure was a bit frightening but the life experience I gained and needed far out-way the negatives. I am far more confident to try new things and challenge myself. I also made a friend for life who I traveled with again (with passport this time).
If I can take a leap, so can you.