NOTE FROM STACEY: Today’s blog was written by my friend, Zsofi Jakabfi, a young woman who lives in Berlin. While she has traveled extensively, this particular trip was special as it shifted her perspective – on how she sees life and how she sees herself. Transformational travel can empower you to make lasting changes in your life. You have moved out of your normal, comfortable routine, which opens you up to shifting your point of view. As you will see, this trip to Southeast Asia was more than just an opportunity to hang out with her friend in Singapore!
The moment Stacey asked me to write a blog post for Adventure Wednesdays, all I could think about was getting home, opening my laptop and writing. I am grateful to my friend for convincing me to go visit her. Very atypical of me, I went totally unprepared. For some strange reason, it’s been an emotional journy. Due to a medical condition, I forget things very easily, so I started drafting my story, my adventures, in my phone on the plane. I was so afraid of losing these beautiful memories.
The story starts where I currently live, in Berlin. I remember sitting with my friends a couple of months ago when my friend, Cristina, asked me if I would visit her in Singapore if she gets the job. I said yes. A short time later, she was inviting me over. At first it seemed our availabilities didn’t match, but then I realized I had different priorities. I didn’t like that, so I changed my thoughts– I need to be a good friend and keep my promise. I’ve never been attracted to Asia so I wasn’t really keen on going, but frankly, I wanted to see why she’s so hyped about Singapore. To go see her, I used some money aside. I didn’t want to get into debt from travel, so I promised myself that I would not go over budget. While I did end up not staying within budget, getting to stay for free at Cristina’s was a huge help. The first couple of days were hard. I was jet lagged, had issues with the food (having been on a strict regimen for my health), and I couldn’t get used to the weather. Was I homesick already? One might say yes.
It also felt a bit at first like Cristina and I were not on the same wavelength, but after a while, all our waves met. I saw the expat life in Singapore through her eyes. I learned that people are treated differently there – even by the government. There are different rules for Singaporeans, Long term residents, and expats. Cristina is considered an expat since she’s there for a six month period and has a corporate set up. I also managed to connect with people I knew through my own work. I was able to spend lunch breaks with my colleagues at hawker centers, which are street food stalls with cheap, delicious local food. By getting to know them, I started to learn what life is like for “real” locals.
I was struggling a bit as I was feeling I needed to meet the expectations of both worlds. The one of the locals and the one of the expats. Hanging out with work colleagues who don’t have an expense account and with Cristina, who is able to afford this highly expensive city and wants to go play. Both wanted me to experience Singapore as they do, and even move there! I have spoken about this with my friends back home, and they reassured me I am not crazy feeling torn between all the choices… Which then had me started thinking about this more and more. As a result, I have realized, again, that I am happy with what I have. The life I currently live. That of course we sometimes dream of more, but overall I am happy with my life, so would I want to change it?
The one aspect I wanted to “change”, if we can put it like this, was that I wanted to use the opportunity of Singapore’s strategic location to travel to other countries. I have never traveled alone before, so I was hesitant. I went for a day to Kuala Lumpur. I didn’t know much about Malaysia in general, and even with being very tired, I had a good time. Alone.
By watching everyone’s magical pictures on Instagram, I knew I wanted to go to Bali. So I booked the flight for a short trip there. As an added adventure, and very unlike me, no accommodation. On the day I was to leave for Bali I realized I booked a later flight than I initially had wanted. I started to be upset, but I said to myself “hey, it’s only 2 hours later, I’ll be fine!” In those extra hours, Cristina and I discussed where I should visit while in Bali. Ubud and Kuta topped the list. I arrived on Thursday night to Ubud. Friday morning my driver picked me up and we drove to rice fields, churches, waterfalls. I can’t say I wasn’t impressed because I was… It was just… Something was missing. All the places were full of tourists taking selfies, bathing off their sins in the water temples…
But nobody was talking about or taking pictures of all the garbage lying around on the roads, in the rivers, or the terrible traffic… I felt like something was missing, that I am not getting the real, true experience. The best part of this morning trip was when at a temple the driver told me to close my eyes and open my palms, and he did some kind of meditation. I was never very good at meditating… But I could feel his energy making me very relaxed and chill. And when I opened my eyes there were a bunch of people around us looking weird, but I couldn’t care less. I had my moment of WOW.
Friday afternoon I arrived to my accommodation in Kuta Beach, which turns out to be the most touristy beach ever. I didn’t want to hang out with the tourists. Because the infrastructure isn’t great, you can’t just go wandering the city streets looking for other things to do. As I wasn’t really sure what to do, I did what I would do in any other city. I started looking for events on CouchSurfing (a website similar to Airbnb, but less expensive and more group gatherings). Luckily, they had a meet-up that evening I could join. While still at the guesthouse, the host took me to a local place on his motorbike for dinner. The food was around 1$ and it was the best I had on my entire Asia trip.
The CouchSurfing meeting organizer then picked me up, took me to the beach, and we watched the sunset.
He said he needed to pray before we went to the CouchSurfing get together, so I went with him to his place. His place was the last house on a dead-end street. It was dark and a bit scary, but I said to myself “think positive and all will be good”, and it was! He prayed, then we went to the meeting and I was glad I gave myself good advice. At the CouchSurfing meeting, I met some very inspiring people, we shared our travel-life-health stories and it was amazing!
My own Eat, Love, Pray version
At some point I looked at the other end of the table, further down, and there was this very handsome guy smiling and waving at me. I was thinking, probably he’s just very extroverted and likes to meet new people. I also thought he’s cute but I would never have a chance with such a good-looking guy, plus I only had 1 day left, not much to do, so I just continued talking to the people near me. Towards the end of the evening he came to our part of the table. I found him more and more interesting. He did give me a “come to this beach tomorrow and I’ll show you around” line, but I was like, sure… positive it wouldn’t happen anyway. When I got home that night I texted him for the name of the beach, partly because I really didn’t want to go to another touristy beach. He said again, I should go there, he’ll meet me and show me around. He assured me I would enjoy it more than Kuta. Excited to see him again, I said okay, I had to take a motorcycle ride for 40 minutes, some sort-of taxi, an Asian version of Uber, to meet him there. Unfortunately, there were some language barriers with the driver, so I didn’t get there on time. But David was so sweet, and said he’ll come chill with me on the beach. While we relaxed on the beach, he bought me a bracelet from a really cute little girl. I remember her clearly because this girl resembled my sister when she was younger. He was so easy to get along with, we seemed to connect in a way I haven’t with before.
He wanted to show me more of Bali, so after the beach we took off on his bike and drove through the rice fields. I could hear and feel him breathe in deeply the fresh air of the greenery. All I wanted to do was hug him, and breathe in and out with the same pace.
But as I almost always do, I was afraid. Afraid to show my emotions, to show how I feel, because what if they get refused, what if I get refused?
This part of Bali was so much more beautiful than Kuta… I felt like I was in a movie, really. David took me to the beach for a walk, held my hands and we kissed. He told me I am smart and beautiful, but most importantly, he made me feel and truly believe that I am beautiful. A feeling I keep with me long after I’ve gone home. We spoke about life, travels, relationships, insecurities, about how eyes sometimes tell more than words… And in the end we agreed on one thing: if we die tomorrow, we will be both happy, because we are living life at its fullest. I almost missed my flight back to Singapore, but I feel I experienced my real Bali. And I am glad I did. And as I write these lines, teardrops are running down my cheeks. I don’t know if I will experience this feeling ever again.
This trip truly opened my eyes and my heart. I got to know different cultures, I made new friends, and I challenged myself in a lot of situations. I reflected a lot on myself and the life I am currently living. I’ve come to the conclusion that it is pretty damn good, and it only gets as good as we make it.
If I hadn’t dared myself to take this adventure, to do things I don’t normally do, I would not have been able to experience this transformation and get to live one of the best days I have ever had in my life! So go out to this beautiful universe, challenge yourselves, take solo trips, do things that scare you, be spontaneous!