Thursday, April 7, 2011

Island Retreat and a Confession

  • Sunday, 3 April: Nice (complimentary) breakfast of fresh fruit, tea and a banana pancake; waited in gloomy rain for my ride, whose driver told me I was supposed to meet him at the shop; lucky he saw me on his way out of town; got to Bamsol and waited for thirty minutes to walk 500 meters to the waterfront, exchange tickets, and wait another forty five minutes; clambered onto a ‘traditional’ boat with four other Westerners and thirty locals (Indonesians), along with several boxes of eggs, fruit and other stuff for the island; on arrival, took up first tout’s offer to see Matahari on the north end of the island; fifteen minute walk later we were there and I had my own cheap bungalow; day spent reading, staring at the beach, taking a short walk, eating dinner and retiring.
  • Monday, 4 April: Slept in; rented a bike and tooled around the island a bit exploring; otherwise, was lazy the entire day except for two short walks; started and finished a book; ate, napped and watched/listened to the water breaks.
  • Tuesday, 5 April: Up early to go on a snorkel trip which ended up not leaving until after 10am due to lack of customers; went with two British girls by paying a little more; motored around all three GIli islands and snorkeled four times, stopping for lunch on Gili Meno, which doesn’t seem as deserted as expected; back to Matahari, took a shower and napped; walked halfway around the island, dinner at Chill Out bar (yum!) with two cocktails; scary walk back in the dark; hung out the rest of the evening with the Matahari guys.
  • Wednesday, 6 April: Slept in, awoke to gorgeous sunny day; walked to harbor after breakfast; found bookshop with books I wanted; meandered back to Matahari via beach; took a nap, got my books, walked back to harbor; haggled for two books and snorkel and fins; sat on beach for a few hours, trying out the snorkel but returning it (twice) for bad leaks; eventually wandered back to Matahari; had lunch; read book; dinner; to bed.
  • Thursday, 7 April: Checked out, paid the bill, took horse and cart back to harbor; waited awhile for boat, reading; gray day; eventually made it to Padang Bai; had lunch, found place to sleep for 90,000rp and read my books; glum mood in the evening, no motivation.

I spent four lovely days at Gili Air, one of three Gili Islands northwest of Lombok, which is the island east of Bali. For me, being in Indonesia has been a fantastic flood of new  IMG_4820experiences and appreciation for a tropical wonderland. Gili Air was more of the latter, to  be honest: an island a kilometer and a half in rough circumference, surrounded by gorgeously different shades of blue sparkly waters, covered with leafy, lush and verdant green plant life, and best of all, no motor vehicles whatsoever. Gili Air is the ‘compromise’ of the other two Gili Islands in the immediate vicinity: Gili Meno supposedly has fewer of everything on it (people, both native and tourist, and establishments) and Gili Trewanga is known as the party island. I found Gili Air to be a wonderful balance for me.

I stayed on the northwest side of the island, where there are fewer hotels or shops or places to eat. It’s low season, so there aren’t too many tourists. I may have met half a IMG_4819dozen during my four days at the same place, called Matahari. I got to know some of the young guys who worked there, as there was not much for them to do most of the time. While none outright propositioned me or made overt insinuations, it was hard to avoid Erab’s wistful looks (he was 19) or Mak’s tough-guy machismo with sideways glances making sure I appreciated his usually shirtless physique. Overall, not annoying, more cute. Pipi, the one who ‘found’ me at the harbor and got me to check out Matahari, was just funny and cheerful.

IMG_4806 A fifteen minute walk – either through the middle of the island or via the easterly beach – had me in the more populated areas. So whatever I felt like, I could have, whether it be peace and quiet and solitude, or to be amongst (some) people. My arrival day and the next day, I opted for peace and quiet with a few meanderings. On the third day, I took a part-day snorkel trip that took me around all three islands. Every day, I had good food three times and no few fruit juices.

IMG_4795My hopes were to recharge at Gili Air. Relax, eat, sleep, sunbathe, snorkel, read, write, whatever I felt like doing. I took a nap in a hammock, spent time looking out at the beautiful water. From Matahari, I could see Gili Meno clearly and in the background, Bali’s mountain, Agung. From the southern part of of Gili Air, I could see Lombok with it’s mountains and clouds. The sunsets were always pretty and there weren’t too many touts, particularly when I hung out at Matahari, so no irritating repetitions of “No, thank you” to every passing person was necessary.

Somehow, though, I’m not recharged. Here’s my confession: I’m tired. Worn out. Topped up. Dazed. Road weary. Overloaded. Numb. Tired.

I’m tired of traveling, which is not something I can believe I’m typing. The thing is, I’m not homesick and it’s not that I miss the old US of A so terribly. It’s just that things aren’t as shiny and exciting anymore. Also, I want to be doing something with myself, applying myself to some tangible end. Instead of getting the pangs of nerves and excitement about my next destinations, I feel a bit resigned to the whole find-a-flight, find-a-place-to-sleep, find-food routine I know I’ll face at each new place. I mean… I am glad I’m going to Singapore and spending a few days there, and I’m looking forward to the trek in Nepal, but … I’m just not psyched any more. The anticipatory thrill is missing.

My wish to fall in love on this trip hasn’t quite manifested in any way I can tell. Sure, I’ve met a heart-throb or two, and I truly adored Cambodia and New Zealand so much that I know I’ll return to both some day. But finding a sense of direction – or one finding me – hasn’t happened. I don’t discount that something could still happen – I hope so! – but, I’m not so confident any more that it will. And I’ve realized something else: I’m tired of being alone all the time.

I’m trying to relax and find my way through what my future will hold. No rash decisions here! I’m brainstorming in excel, writing any possibility down and giving myself a few days to either mull things over, or not, no pressure. I’m not worrying, which is good, although I admit to being a bit ashamed of myself for not making a full year of travel. If that sounds strange, well, I guess I pictured myself as the intrepid traveler, going on for the full year. And now I’m finding that that’s not me. Still, no decisions yet. My general plan at the moment is to meet my folks in Israel in mid-May. I’m researching possibilities there, such as language or volunteer programs. At the moment, my theory is that I need to stay in one place for a few months. Have something that feels like home, cook for myself, have an obligation to attend to, make friends whom I see more than once or twice before going to a new place with new faces.

This has been edging in on my thoughts for awhile now and, while it makes me sad, it also makes me realize that things are within my power to control. The thing is, I don’t want to miss out on the awe and amazement that being somewhere new gives me and at times, I feel that slipping away.

Then again… today as I sat atop the boat from Gili Air to Lombok to Bali, I looked up from the book I was reading and made myself blink a few times. We were passing the folded, green mountains of Lombok and for a moment, my heart turned over. I’m on a boat in Indonesia, watching the tropical jungle-y mountains, cloud wreathed, go by, I thought to myself, smiling. Pretty flippin’ cool!




  1. zoe...i think it makes perfect sense what you're feeling. i think we all want the things you're thinking about now. and traveling really makes that awareness come out. i think you're incredible for going out and wandering. and i think you're incredible for wanting to build a life somewhere. i just think you're incredible. listen to that heart of yours and follow it. when it's time to stop travelin, stop. don't hold yourself to some artificial time line. ya know? and where ever you've been will be stuff you'll hold forever. proud of you over here!

  2. Thanks for the encouragement, Terri! And you're right about the artificial deadline, absolutely. Hope you're doing well and that spring is thawing you all out over there!

  3. I think staying put in Israel for a few months sounds amazing! Language school or volunteering would both be really neat. If you decide that you want to travel around the US, you will of course be welcome to come see us in Atlanta.