Dear Indonesia

Dear Indonesia,

Tag, you’re it.

One of the hardest questions that travelers can be asked is, “What’s your favorite country?”.  It often sends our brains scrambling while an immediate, knee-jerk response like, “Ooooooh that’s a difficult one”, fills the quiet void that question created.

For me, the answer is you.

I found myself growing nervous when I first left New Zealand, a place that had been so organized, so easy and so straightforward that I barely had to think. I would leaf through the pages of my my Lonely Planet Indonesia book, and I would feel my heart start racing. I couldn’t pronounce any of these names for these ports I’d need to catch ferries to and from, and these local bus stop terminals that seemed like they were in the most inconvenient of places. Even though I had been once before, everything about you just started to feel like an overwhelming mission. I questioned whether I could handle it, whether I could do it, whether I had the amped-up energy and motivation that solo backpackers need to keep themselves going.

But Indonesia, you ended up being the place that started to bring me back to life. You reminded me of why it was that I spent 10 months backpacking around Asia, or why I spent weeks running around Mexico, why I spent that summer navigating my way through China with a notebook of prepared Mandarin phrases to guide me along the way, why I spent those months country-hopping my way through Europe.

It was on the Gili islands when I first saw the old Alexandra come back, the one who had become lost amidst a hectic and hard few months.

Gili T

The Gilis reminded me so much of why I love traveling: Those moments when you realize that you may be traveling on your own but you’re not ever alone, when you create a family from total strangers, where a hostel become your home, when you all become instantly and forever connected no matter where your lives bring you. It was a feeling I continued to have throughout Indonesia, from my four-day boat ride across the Indian Ocean to Flores, from my three days of recovery at a flashpacker hostel in Bali up to when I left and say farewell.

There is so much about you that I love, Indonesia, I don’t even know where to start. I remember the day I landed in your chaos, the sticky heat crawling all over my skin, my shirt drenched as I wandered around looking for hostels, a siren of motorbike horns beeping as they whizzed by my, “Yupp,” I remember thinking, “I am most certainly back in Asia.”

But there is something different about you, something that makes you stand apart from other Asian countries. Each one of your 17,000 islands is so different that it makes traveling to a new island feel like traveling to a new country. And from the king-of-the-world moments, like climbing Rinjani or soaking in the scene at Kelimutu, to the underwater adventures like diving with mantas in Komodo National Park to the celebrated and festive holidays that paint your streets with the brightest colors of the rainbow – you, Indonesia, are one of a kind.

Mount Rinjani Summit


I wish I could have stayed longer, and I wish I could have come back in June like I wanted to. Six weeks was not nearly enough to even make a small dent, but I focused less on making it perfect and just enjoying what I could in the time that I had.


It isn’t to say you didn’t frustrate, because at times you were just so damn…ridiculous. That absurd million-hour local bus ride where the man behind me with long fingernails insisted on draping his arms over the top of my seat no matter how many passive aggressive attempts I made to make clear that my seat was my space, to the man whose smell was so potent I nearly passed out to the time I rode three hours with chickens on my lap. Then there was that time when the taxi drove us round to run up our bill an extra 3 U.S. dollars straight through to that time when our the doorknob to my room in Flores broke and no one felt the need to fix it.

photo 4

And the toilets. God, the toilets. I was on a two-year break dirty squatty pottys (if there even were toilets), and I forget that feeling of nausea that sets in as you try to tell yourself that it’s just a toilet and it’s going to be fine. I just hardly ever felt properly clean. My hands were never really washed, my hair was a humidity-stricken mess and my fingernails never looked good even on their best days. I would sweat out dirt.

 photo 3

Yes, there were most definitely times when you tried and tested my New York patience, and there were most definitely times when you won. But I am forever thankful to you for bringing out that side of me that I so missed. It wasn’t always easy, and it wasn’t always there to stay, but you helped me to realize that everything in life happens for a reason.

I will be back one day, Indonesia. You and I both know that. I could spend the rest of my life trying to discover all that there is to your 17,000 islands, but even a lifetime wouldn’t be enough. So it isn’t a  good bye, but instead an “I’ll see you later”. Sulawesi, Timor, Papua, Sumba, Sumbawa – I’m coming back for you.

Love Always,

Allie (Yes, I am still figuring it out.)


Gili T

Gili T

Komodo National Park


This is my last post from my adventures in Indonesia. Next up: One last good bye to Australia done the best way possible.

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