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Saturday, July 4, 2015

11 REASONS WHY TRAVELLING ON YOUR OWN IS FUN!

(Picture courtesy of Google Image)


Assalamualaikum.

I believe most people love travelling, and some got addicted to it. Just like me! Going to places, visiting historical places, eating delicious culinary we've never tasted before and so much more. Travelling is definitely fun!
A lot of people travel with their close friends, family, spouse, and loved ones.
But some travel on their own.

I started travelling when I was 19 years old, with two of my bestfriends. We plan everything on our own, did our research, places to go, what to do, when to go. We decided to go to Singapore and it was an awesome experience. Since then, during my semester break I would go out and travel, to Thailand, Philippines and mostly places inside Malaysia - with my friends, or family. This year was different, I turn 22 and asked permission from my father to travel on my own. This has always been my dream to solo backpack, and Alhamdulillah I got the permission to do so, but that's all he gave me - permission. All the planning and financial aspect, I have to handle them myself.

I kinda doubt myself when I made the decision to solo backpack. Questions such as...


"Are you sure you want to do this?"

"You're a girl Ijat, the world's not really safe now."

"Where would you get the money to travel?"

But then I told myself, when there's a will, there's a way - and you'll never know till you experience it!
So my first solo backpacking is to Kota Kinabalu and Kundasang, Sabah. It wasn't really the kind of backpacking you see in movies. I stayed at my senior's house, and there were four of us going to Kundasang. The rest were my friends, who were Sabahan. So we met there. Anyway, it was still an achievement for me, since I traveled on my own!

And again, last June I went for my first solo backpack to a foreign country. I went to Indonesia, since it's near and the language doesn't differ much from my mother tongue. So not much preparation needs to be done for communication. I traveled over 5000 km, to 5 states, for 16 days.


Kuala Lumpur - Jakarta - Malang - Yogyakarta - Balikpapan - Bontang - Balikpapan - Kuala Lumpur




It was an amazing journey and I learn so much. I know most of us still doubt about travelling alone, for reasons such as safety, security, financial, certainty, unpleasantness and many more. Well, I wouldn't say it was all nice and pleasant, but trust me - it's fun and worth it - and here's 11 reasons why:

1. YOU GET TO PLAN YOUR OWN TRIP!

This is the part that I like the most, I get to go wherever I feel like going. When travelling with someone else, you need to consider other's opinion as well. Different people have different preferences. Yes, you can have friends who would agree to your choice, but everytime you decide to change your path, you have to discuss again to see whether they would agree or not. It's not that bad though. However, travelling on your own - you have all the power to decide! Yeah!

So here's my experience. I decided to go to Indonesia to visit my friends in Yogyakarta. I made a promise 3 years ago with them to visit them there. Since I am having my 3 months semester break, I decided to fulfill my promise. It's amazing how I ended up 16 days in Indonesia. Totally different from my initial plan.

Initially I planned to just go to Yogya for 4 days - 13/6 - 17/6. Then after discussing with my friend over there, she invited me to go to her hometown in Kalimantan. So I agreed since I had nothing to do anyway. So I thought of extending my trip till 20/6 - however no cheap ticket is available except on 24/6 (earliest). So yeah I guess I have no problem extending another 4 days. I booked the ticket two months early since there was an offer at that time. (I do consider my financial since I have limited budget) I bought my return ticket, but I didn't buy my ticket to Yogya yet, and my ticket to Balikpapan at that time. Haha see how spontaneous my plan is?

Well it get's more exciting after that. I actually waited for cheap ticket to Yogya, but there were none. So I delayed my booking. Until one day, I had a casual chat with my classmate from Indonesia, asked her what's her plan during the semester break - and she said.



"Aku ke Semeru.
(I'm going to Semeru)

"Loh, kapan kamu ke sana? Sama siapa?
(When are you going there? With who?)

"Sama temen2 dari Indonesia. Tanggal 9 Juni sampe 14 Juni.
(With my friends from Indonesia. From 9 till 14 June.)

"Mahu ikutttt. Bisa?
(Can I come?)

"Ya udah nanti aku nanya sama yang lain." 
(I'll ask the rest)

Wait what? Am I crazy? I never thought of going to Mount Semeru. My dad went there, he said it was the toughest mountain he's ever climb, even tougher than the Everest Basecamp. Whatttt? And I decided to go? Yeah I kinda had a dilemma for a while, but I thought that would be a great opportunity for me. To go there another time would cost me a fortune - to buy flight tickets, and it cost a lot. The trip with these people only cost RM200,covering all except for transportation. My friend went to the same place and it cost him RM800 for the same trip (excluding transport).

So yeahhhh I thought this is a great opportunity, so I made the crazy decision and I'm gonna deal with it. So I look for ticket on the 9th, and no cheap ticket is available. I decided to take the one on the 8th to Jakarta, but I have to spend one night there. I already thought of sleeping at the airport for one night. Luckily, my Indonesian classmate is from Jakarta, so when I told her my plan. she offered to pick me up at the airport, and stay over at her place. Wow! That was cool.. So there my journey began. From a 4 day plan to Yogya, I ended up going to Jakarta first, and extended my trip to 16 days.

See how spontaneous I plan my trip, and how easily I make my decision? I don't have to discuss with anyone, I don't have to consider anyone else but myself - I mean, if I were to go with friends - would they consider going to Semeru and sleeping at the airport?


At MONAS, Jakarta, With new cool awesome Indonesian friends. :)


Let's go for an adventure!


2. FLEXIBLE SCHEDULE.

This is also what I like about travelling on my own. My schedule is very very flexible - except when I stayed at my friend's house, I couldn't do much as I desire since I am  their guest and under their responsibility. I have to respect them. Still, I had a very flexible schedule. The trip does not go exactly how it was planned.

So on the 9th I head to Malang by train, and arrived there on the 10th. Took me 15 hours to reach from Jakarta! Then the team gathered together at Malang, and then we head to our homestay somewhere near to Mount Semeru. Stayed there for one night, and the next morning our 4 days 3 night journey to Semeru began!

Supposedly, on the 15th I was supposed to head to Yogyakarta, but some of my new cool Indonesian friends I knew during the trip wanted to stay and go around Malang city before heading back to their hometown. I changed my plan last minute. I followed them instead of going to Yogya. Hehe. I decided to stay in Malang till 16th. So I called my friend at Yogya and informed her, she is okay with it. So I enjoyed my time in Malang and I didn't a bit regret my decision. I had the awesomest moment in Malang with my new friends! ^_^

Even my trip to Balikpapan was delayed. Initially I was supposed to go there on the 19th, but my friend wanted to stay a bit longer in Yogya, so we book our flight ticket on the 20th, and head to Balikpapan on the 21st. Okayyy..

Well my point is, since I am on my own, I can decide my schedule as well. I can follow my friends and I don't have to consider anyone's opinion. I mean, if I have someone with me, probably if she doesn't want to stay, I would have to consider that. So, travelling on your own means FREEDOM!

And I am a girl who embraces freedom! Hehe

The unplanned trip!






Spent the whole day at Kota Batu, Malang with these amazing girls ;)


Had fun taking pictures at Muzium Angkut, Malang.


3. YOU GET TO GO TO PLACES YOU WANT.

Again, different people have different preferences. Some people travel to go visit historical places, some travel to go shopping - yeah, I've experienced that. Travelling with other. They were fun, but you do have to make sacrifice. When my friend wants to go shopping, I'll usually buy things I want (if I have things I wanna buy) and then just wait at the corner. My kind of travel is nature seeking. I wanted to go to places and experience nature. Shopping.. emm.. not really. Museums.. Not really.. but I can consider them. I'm still flexible. Only my priority is different.

So during the trip, I didn't regret my decision to go to Semeru. In fact, I left a part of heart there! Sigh.. Found my love of my life - nature - the scenery on Mahameru's peak - simply heart throbbing! I really couldn't move on. The friendship I experience, the whole trip to Semeru is amazing. Those people who used to be strangers, end up being a part of me - like a family. :)

And seriously, Semeru is a mountain for the experienced. I'm not saying I'm an experienced climber, but I've climbed several mountains before, and for Semeru I trained about a month - and still - I took 8 hours to climb the 1.5km peak. My other friends only took 6 hours. T_T
And the best part is, to climb down from the peak, was less than an hour! Why? The track, it was made of volcanic sand. You climbed 3 steps, you slide down 2 steps. It feels like I'm not moving anywhere. The moment I saw the peak, I thought it would take another 30 minutes - instead it took me 4 hours before really-really reaching the peak - with my friend's support and help. But Subhanallah, the view on top of the mountain was mesmerizing! I thought I lost my soul along the way, then I found it again at the top. Subhanallah. and I am proud of myself for not giving up:)


Awesome team!

Point is, I go to places I want to go. Even in Yogya, my friend asked me where I would like to go, and they brought me there. :)

4. YOU MAKE NEW FRIENDS.

I guess this is where being a true extrovert pays off. I love meeting new people and making new friends. I was shy at first, but my shyness doesn't last long. So I enjoy travelling and making new friends along the way. I guess it's because I am alone I make friends with just anyone. If I were with someone, I would feel guilty for sort-of 'ditching' my friend most of the time when I make new friends. A lot of times when I have someone I know, it's also normal to stick with that person, especially when she is from the same background as you and have known you. You feel comfortable sharing with her, talking with her, so you wouldn't bother trying to initiate conversation with new people.

Of course at first you feel awkward, and lonely too. I felt that. But I tried breaking the ice. How?
I still remember, asking everyone to take selfie together with my camera! Yayy! Yeah I know only few people in the picture at first, but the ice is half broken wohooo!


Trust me, at this point. I have met only 4-5 of them. The rest, I never met them. But the picture doesn't say so!

Then I joined in conversation wherever possible, crack some jokes, or even asked simple questions. ;)
Oh I remember on our way to the homestay nearby Semeru, there were 7 of us in the car, and I knew only one girl. The rest, were strangers to me. I purposely asked, with my limited and broken Indonesian:


"Bisa ga buka tingkap?"
(Can I open this window?)

One of the girl asked, with a confused face:

"Hah? Tingkap?"
(What? Window?)

Then a guy answered, he knew a bit of Malaysian language so he understood:

"Tingkap itu artinya kaca. Iya Izzat, bisa, di buka aja."
(Tingkap means window. Yes, Izzat. Just open it)

He continued:

"Izzat, tingkap itu dalam bahasa Indonesia artinya wanita yang mengandung 7 bulan. Itu dibilang tingkap."
(Izzat, tingkap in Indonesian means a woman who is 7 months pregnant. She is called tingkap.)

I seeeeeee.. That explains the confused face! "May I open the 7-months pregnant lady?" - well literally translating my question. So everyone laughed in the car, and then it became less awkward to talk. :D


Lapan gadis petualang. 8 adventurous girls.

But throughout the journey, I made a lot of Indonesian friends - of course - I was the only Malay there. So I had fun learning Indonesian language as well. Everytime I spoke Malay I got teased (joking kind of teasing). Wasn't really offended, but I love learning new language - so I took the opportunity to learn Indonesian. And since I had no Malay friends to speak Malay with - I spoke Indonesian most of the time. Yayy! I learn so much, and I'm glad I did!

5. YOU LEARN LOCAL CULTURE - THE UNIQUE WAY!

One thing that we definitely will experience when we travel is the local culture - the people, the attitudes, the food and so much more. However, when you travel in packs, or when you go with a tour, you experience the culture from the lens of a tourist. You see them as an outsider.


So what's the best way to learn a new culture?





You be a part of the culture/people itself!

That's what anthropologists do when they wanted to study a community's culture too! People act naturally, you get to eat food you don't know they even exist, you go to places you wouldn't think of going. Which is cool! Yeah to me it's super cool!

For the whole 16 days I conversed in Indonesian language. So when I go to places, I spoke Indonesian. (oh yeah my Indonesian sounded so awkward - but who cares? Just do it! Hehe)
Since I was in Jakarta I ate local foods, some I don't even know what, some I know - but they're all delicious. Everytime I go to an eatery with my friends, they would suggest me this and that and explain what the food is. We even shared our food so that we can have more variety taste.

Since some of my friends are locals there, at the region - they brought me to local restaurants which sells certain 'makanan khas' - exclusive food at that region. I tried soto bakar in Malang, and had my iftar at Angkringan in Yogya - eating in a very unique environment. The people, I learn a lot too about their culture, the way they treat each other - oh yea FYI Indonesians are very known for their politeness - especially people from Yogyakarta, and it's true to some extend! I love being there. And will be going there again to climb another mountain soon with my friends there insyaAllah.  ;)


The night in Malang, we ate something called 'Ayam Setan'. Haha cool name. It's super spicy and super delicious!
Iftar in Yogja, in the middle of the city, beside the road. How cool is that. There's 10 of us, but the rest came late. Hehe

6. YOU LEARN TO SOLVE THINGS ON YOUR OWN.

Well, things don't always go the way we planned, and sometimes problems arises. When you go in groups, you can still solve the problems but you make a collective decision. Any consequences that comes after, you have each other to support. This doesn't happen when you travel alone. People may suggest to you solutions - but in the end - it's up to you. I get this a lot


"Terserah kamu Izzat."

"Ikut kamu lah Izzat."

"Kamu mahu yang mana Izzat?"

All indicating "it's up to you." So a lot of times before when I wanted to make a decision to solve a problem, I'd ask for people's opinion and sometimes they decide what is better for me. This time, I had no one to decide for me which one is better. So I made the decision myself - and yes, I have to be ready to bear any consequences. For example, when I decided to change track - instead of going to Yogya, I head to Malang first. A lot of my friends there don't really mind what decision I made, as long as I took care of myself. Most of them would offer security no matter where I go. This part, I was really touched. If I go to Yogya, some of them will take care of me, make sure I'm safe. If I stay in Malang, there are also few who stayed there and the same, they took care of me - at least, making sure everyone is safe. Malang is a peaceful city anyway. So the decision is up to me. I did learn to make the decision, to take the risk myself.

My friends in Yogyakarta.


7. YOU LEARN TO MAKE DECISION ON YOUR OWN.

Yup. Just like the scenario above. To solve the problem, decision making is required - and you learn to do it own your own.

8. YOU LEARN TO BE INDEPENDENT

Yes, when you're far from your family or circle of friends, you have to depend a lot on yourself. Financially you have to be prepared. The planning part, you do it on your own. Throughout the journey, you can't expect people to look after you. You have to be brave to ask around if you get lost. You have to bring your heavy bags everywhere you go. You have to be ready to face any kind of situation. People who offers their help - is a bonus for you. 

I learn a lot. To depend on no one but myself. When I face hardship, I knew crying wouldn't be the solution. So I held up my tears, and try finding practical solutions.

I AM AWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESOMEEEEEEEEEEE!!


9. YOUR CONFIDENCE INCREASES

My level of confidence increases. Like seriously. It escalated especially when I managed to conquer Mount Semeru. I felt as if I can do anything in this world, and no problem is too difficult. Hehehe. At that moment, yeah.

But seriously - I felt confident enough to go to another level. Perhaps to travel in other countries that is more challenging such as China, or Thailand - where language can be a barrier.

10. YOU LEARN TO TRUST YOURSELF

Point number 10 and number 11 is what I like most. First, by travelling on your own - you learn to trust yourself. You trust your guts, you trust your decisions, you trust your behavior. As a Muslim, there are lots of limitation that needs to be considered in my everyday socialization. There are food I should not eat - I have to cover my aurat - boys and girls should have boundaries when they interact. There are wisdoms behind this, and I understood them insyaAllah.

So here in Malaysia, probably environmental factors plays a role in governing my behavior. I ate halal food, I covered my aurat, I don't go for free mingling between boys and girls probably because my family is watching, and I studied at an Islamic university. So people are watching me.

But you see, when I am oversea, with no parents to watch over me, no one knowing my background, and none judging me, especially when I am alone, I could do anything I want right? I can just open my hijab if I want to. I can go out until late night if I want to.

However, I felt proud of myself. I do not doubt my belief, I do not doubt myself that I could take care of myself, and keep my identity as a Muslim. Cause I know Allah is watching me and I follow the commandments of Allah not because I wanted to impress people around me, but to impress Him. The Angels are also busy taking notes on my right, and my left shoulder. I took care of myself. Eventhough no one even bother if I breach His commandment, I don't want to do it - because I chose to!

Here - I found my identity. I know who I am as a Muslim, and I started trusting myself. Wherever I go, I am still a Muslim. The environment may change, the people may change, the influence may be bad - but I should trust myself first before following anyone. And I learn to do that when I am on my own - in a place where nobody knows who I am. I am glad I went out. Cause I have been trying to find an identity of my own recently, due to some big failures in life. I lost myself, my self-esteem went low. This trip is truly a blessing, full of Hikmah (wisdom), full of Ibrah (lessons). It's a spiritual journey for me as well.


11. YOU LEARN TO TRUST ALLAH

You know when you're a girl, and you are on your own, there are so many negative thoughts coming into your mind. Especially safety matters. To erase these thoughts, you know you got to do one thing - have trust in God, in Allah. Kun faya kun. Allah has the power to make anything happen, and He is also the One who protects us.

So last but not least, my greatest lesson - I learn to trust Allah. From the very moment I stepped out of my house, I asked for His protection. In my flights, I prayed everything will go smoothly. At Semeru especially - when I am totally exposed to hypothermia and AMS and there are lots of death cases there, I constantly asked for His protection. That kept me strong to keep on climbing to the peak, eventhough I am already half-alive. I got minor symptoms of AMS, but Alhamdulillah it happened when I am almost reaching the top. I couldn't sleep during the last day due to coldness(I was mentioned, at Ranukumbolo - it was -7 degree celcius at that time!) One of my friend got hypothermia, but in the end everything was fine. Everyone took care of each other. We all came down safely and in one piece. Allah protected us all. :)

Yes, and I was calm and I felt safe, when I let myself be in the care of Allah. When I had my trust in Him. I couldn't really explain how I felt, but I wasn't scared at all. At some point, I was stranded alone - at places that is very foreign to me while waiting for my friend to come. But I wasn't scared. I waited patiently.

My friend asked me this:

"Betul ke kat Semeru boleh mati?"
(Is it true, we can die at Semeru?)

I told her:

Yes, of course. I can't deny that, there are cases of death in Semeru. In fact, in any mountain. But you need to know, you don't just simply go there without any preparation. You train your physical, you train your mental, and you have to have the proper equipment when you go there, and you have to have knowledge on safety as well. People who go climb mountains without any preparation is indirectly trying to do suicide. I see it that way if I do that.

But you know, after all the preparation, if it's your time to die at that moment, it's your ajal. And when our ajal comes - no matter where we are, our soul will be taken away from our body. We can be at home, on an airplane, in the middle of the sea, anywhere. So just put our trust in Allah, and no one else would protect us except for Him. :)


I told her that, and I hold on to my words. It was a very wonderful feeling to think it like that. All my fears and worries went away. :)




_______________________________________________________________________________

So I learn a lot, when I am on my own. I had my self-reflection moment when I am with no one - which I need most. I wanted to refresh myself, I wanted to start fresh again, wake up from my sleep, stand up from my failure in life, and keep being optimistic about life. Allah is very Compassionate that he gave me the chance to go through this short journey travelling on His Earth. :)

So that's my sharing. I would be really happy to hear your experience travelling soon! So that I can also learn from you ;) Do share!

If you have anything to ask, I'd be happy to share my limited experience with you. Tips and how I support my financial, and how I save my budget. Hehe oh yeah, I spent around RM1.5k throughout the travel, including transportation (3 flight tickets, 3 buses, 1 train), food and expenses, accommodation, shopping and other miscellaneous expenses for the whole 16 days.

Oh yeah? Why do I say travelling on my own instead of travelling alone? Because truth is, I did travel on my own, but I was never alone. I make new friends everywhere I go. :)

Overall, I enjoyed my trip so much. I learn so much from it. I make lots of new friends. The highlight of the trip was in Semeru - where everyone puts their phone aside, and live life without technology (except for camera - it's a must! hehe). It was so amazing.. no signals - phones aside - real conversation happens all the time - we gather together and make jokes. That's why we got so close even we share only 4 days together.

Here's some picture at Mount Semeru.




The majestic view at RANUKUMBOLO +- 2400 mdpl. And the beauty of friendship - where you can do crazy things! Hehe


These 4 unsung heroes, along with the rest too.. who helped me reach the top!


One proud Indonesian, and one proud Malaysian! :) Says who we can't unite?


We made it team! Semeru 3676 mdpl, the highest peak in Java! Alhamdulillah.




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Thank you for your time reading this. :) Share me your thoughts on my post, I'd love to hear feedbacks from you guys!

I'll share tips and tricks to start your own backpacking experience in my future post insyaAllah.

Till then, assalamualaikum!


Izzat Zaid - 4/7/2015 2:24pm

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