07 Aug Changing Travel Plans and Leaving Indonesia
When some poor travel planning and a surprise twist of fate left us with a chance to completely change our travel plans we were left with a dilemma – should we stay in Indonesia as planned or head off somewhere completely new? Here’s what we decided.
When Travel Gets Tough
I think it’s pretty clear by now that Andrew and I didn’t have the best time in Indonesia, in fact, our six weeks there were tough – but they did teach us a lot.
The first two months of our trip in New Zealand and Australia had been pretty easy and when we hit Indonesia everything changed; suddenly we were confronted with squat toilets and cold showers, long, hot train journeys, strange food, an unfamiliar language and a new currency. In addition, we were finding it difficult to balance periods of exhausting fast-paced travel with long static stretches of time working inside hotel rooms; we also became obsessed with our travel budget.
It all came to a head when Andrew got sick during our trip to the Gili Islands and we resolved to make some drastic changes to the way we travel from now onwards.
The Komodo Dilemma
One of the things we’d been looking forward to in our Indonesia travel plan was visiting Komodo Island to see the famous dragons. To get there we’d planned to fly from Bali over to Labuan Bajo, the jumping off point to Komodo Island. However, we left it so long to book flights that they quadrupled in price. In a strange twist of fate we also received an email from Air Asia while we were on the Gili Islands; our flight from Indonesia to the Philippines had been cancelled and we now had the chance to reschedule our travel plans completely.
We were left with a dilemma, should we stay in Indonesia for the full 60 days we’d planned and head off to Komodo despite the cost, or cut our losses and leave Indonesia early?
After the emotional battering we’d taken in Indonesia, we both instinctively felt we could do with a fresh start in a new country, but we were still torn. Wouldn’t we regret not visiting Komodo and fulfilling our original travel plans? Weren’t we just giving up and running away the minute things had gotten tough?
After much deliberation we asked ourselves two key questions; firstly, did we really have a burning desire to visit Komodo? Catching a glimpse of Komodo dragons seemed like one of those travel experiences we ought to have; it felt foolish to visit Indonesia and not see one of its most rare and talked about animals, but were we itching to see them so much that we wanted to spend the extra time and money on it?
The honest answer was no. Whereas we never would have passed up the chance to snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef or Skydive in New Zealand, despite how much it cost to do so, we just didn’t feel the same burning passion to visit Komodo.
Changing Travel Plans
So, that left us with another question to answer – what were we really, truly excited about doing? The fact that we’d failed to get extended Philippine visas while in Indonesia meant we had a few spare weeks in our schedule but how did we want to spend them?
The answer: by visiting a completely new country that wasn’t even on our original travel itinerary – Malaysia. We hatched a plan to spend some time in Kuala Lumpur before visiting Borneo to trek in the jungle and attempt to see wild orangutans. Now, we felt excited again and it turns out we had good reason to – the next few weeks were filled with some of our most incredible travel experiences yet.
It was time to fly to Malaysia.
Have you ever changed your travel plans; do you think we made the right decision leaving Indonesia early?
Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)Posted at 14:08h, 07 August
If you guys are happy with your choice, then you know you made the right one! 😀 Honestly, I think Tony & I would have done the same thing (we kind of did when we were in China, if you recall) and these days we tend to relish the unexpected places our trip takes us. I think there is some virtue in planning because it helps you crystallize what your own desires are so that you can make the most of your time and money, but it’s always important to realize that plans can and will change based on your current situation. Some things just don’t turn out the way you thought they would and when they don’t, the smartest strategy is to adapt and update based on your new information. If you planned to spend 60 days in Indonesia (or China, in our case) but find out after 3 weeks that you really don’t care for it, why waste your limited resources (whether they be time or money) just so that you can see an old plan through. The fact of the matter is that when we plan for the future, we always do so with less information than we ultimately will have, so when you get new data that suggests your old plan was a bad one, change it! This is why we don’t plan too far ahead anymore unless we really have to because you just never know which places you’re going to love and which ones you’ll hate. It can be scary leaving things open-ended and hovering in that uncomfortable place of not knowing for a while, but it just means that when you decide you want to jump ship and head to Malaysia, you can!
AmyPosted at 08:44h, 08 August
We definitely learned to adapt our travel plans in Indonesia and eventually we let go of the guilt we felt at not fulfilling our Komodo plans – that whole process was another learning experience for us; hopefully learning to be flexible will make our future travels easier. We are also now getting used to having open-ended travel plans and as of the end of November we currently have no clue which country we’ll travel to next or for how long, we just know that it’ll be somewhere in Asia (Taiwan is looking likely sometime before April after reading your posts about it!).
TylerPosted at 21:35h, 07 August
It’s awesome that you were able to be honest about the Komodo experience. Since we’re still in our planning stage, Anais and I are constantly asking ourselves whether something is must-see vs. want-to-see.
Looking forward to seeing your Malaysia experience!
AndrewPosted at 08:12h, 08 August
Thanks Tyler, I think we just have to remember that we are travelling for ourselves; as you say, just because something is considered ‘must-see’ by most people doesn’t necessarily mean that we ‘want’ to see it. It’s about creating the right balance. I’m sure we would have had a great time if we had decided to go to Komodo Island but I doubt we would have had as good a time as we did in Malaysia. We can’t wait to write about Malaysia too!
RhondaPosted at 22:41h, 09 August
Good choice. When we were on our RTW we made a rule that we’d give every place/ experience 3 days. If, after 3 days we loved it we’d stay longer, if we hated it we’d move on, whether or not it was a must see or what have you. in our 9-5 life our vacations were so scheduled and limited it was more necessary to pick something and go with it. On the road for an extended time we quickly learned you don’t have to love a place just because everyone else does and you may fall in love with a place you’ve only heard negative comments about. It’s all about what is right for YOU.
AmyPosted at 17:28h, 10 August
Hi Rhonda, I like the sound of the 3-day rule, we’ll have to give that a go. You’re right, on a vacation you do really have to pick somewhere and go with it but the beauty of long-term travel is that you can choose where you want to go for how long and change your plans at the last minute – something we’re still getting used to!
RhondaPosted at 20:27h, 13 August
well it’s a tough job but someone has to do it! lol..might as well be YOU!
AndiePosted at 10:59h, 07 October
It’s very condescending how you just say you dont have a good time in Indonesia as if it’s a bad place to travel when the real reason is you dont do enough research/cant speak the language/skimp too much. It’s really not that different with travelling in other south east asian countries where english is not the main language.
AmyPosted at 11:18h, 07 October
Hi Andie, thanks for taking the time to comment. This is a blog based only on our personal opinions of the places we visit and personally we found Indonesia tough. I fully recognise that many people will absolutely love travelling in Indonesia; similarly, I’m sure many people would dislike places we absolutely love. I think I’ve made it clear in my previous posts about Indonesia that our bad experiences there were due to a combination of factors; the fact that we struggled to balance long periods of freelance work with travel, that we were adjusting to both long-term travel and to travel in Asia and yes, that we didn’t do enough research or planning. That was our overall experience and these are our opinions – I don’t think you can define it as condescending.
AnnaPosted at 17:32h, 04 March
I would have to agree with Andie. Sounds to me like you can’t handle a little roughing it up.
AmyPosted at 17:48h, 04 March
Thanks for your comment Anna. Since visiting Indonesia, we have spent several years travelling, living and working in different parts of Asia; we love this corner of the world and have spent most of our time here happily. However, Indonesia was tough for us, not just because we were ‘roughing it up’ as you so charmingly put it, but because it was the first Asian country of our trip and we were adjusting to long-term travel and dealing with some personal issues. I have said time and again that Indonesia is a beautiful country, we just didn’t have the best time there but that’s absolutely no reflection on the country itself.