Last year I kicked to the curb and made a decision to undertake at least one a month-long, or even longer, journey every year. Last year my destination was Morocco, this time around it was Indonesia. I also took along my girlfriend Marci. We wanted to test a concept of solo travel for couples.
Marci came across an offer to get very cheap (ca. 270 €) return tickets for the summer to Singapore. I had no other trip planned yet and southeast Asia had been on my wish list for quite some time already, so we bought them. Throughout the following months were we trying to figure out where to actually go for Singapore is just a city-state serving rather as an entrance point to the rest of Southeast Asia.
For some reason, we completely omitted the Asian mainland. Probably because it is where most travellers go. We were left with Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines than. The Philippines are quite far away. Malaysia has just a small bit of Kalimantan island (Borneo). My original intention was to embark our journey on over there and then follow it up with other Indonesia islands. However, any flying tickets from Borneo are very expensive, but those to Singapore. The only remaining alternative was Indonesia.
Plan of the journey
We somewhat agreed on our intention to visit Bali so we could cross it off of our list before it becomes a domain of rich tourists. We don´t like tourist sites so we wanted to add some wilderness as well. Looking at the map of the area the most beautiful as far as nature goes appeared Lombok. And since those are nothing but small islands and at Java there are several big airports we decided to fly back to Singapore from there. All that was left to do was to find the cheapest tickets to Lombok. Those were a flight with a change at Kuala Lumpur (the capital city of Malaysia), which came in handy. Another well-known place off of the list.
The main focus of our trip was the nature and the people. Therefore were we trying to spend as much time as possible in the mountains and less time around tourist sites. At times, we even managed to make locals feel surprised or even slightly uncomfortable because of our presence. Most of them are not used to coming across tourist. We visited tens of waterfalls and climbed two volcanoes.
Apart from fulfilling our main goals did we, for example, visit three huge cities – Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta. Those are something unimaginable as well, you just got to see it for yourself!
An important task was to verify the concept of solo travel for couples. It came out well on Lombok and on Bali.
Trying to be a digital nomad I planned to devote 20 hours every week to work even during our travels. Regrettably, it only turned out to be something around 16 hours weekly. Marci did bits of necessary work no one else in her company could do.
Solo travel for couples
Solo travel for couples is a concept I´m going to devote a separate article to. On our travels we applied it during our stay on Lombok. It meant we were meeting and parting ways again for several days during our stay there. Both of us got to meet many locals and enjoyed lots of adventure thanks to the separation.
We switched to seeing each other daily but sleeping separately or, on the opposite, travelling separately during the day when we arrived in Bali. Therefore, we could visit more places in total and give each other recommendation where to go and where not to go.
Between countries were we moving by airplanes.
For ferry crossings, we used ferries. Those cost just a couple of crowns there, just don´t expect any comfort really. Especially ferry from Lombok to Bali was disastrous.
In Indonesia were we renting scooters. On each island separately. On Java were we renting those only there, where we were staying overnight.
We were also travelling by buses and trains on Java, both of those being quite tolerable. By inter-city buses were we travelling on Bali as well. That one was, on the contrary, the most coterminous bus I have ever been to.
The best way how to travel a short distance in Southeast Asia is to use a Grab app. It´s an Asian alternative to our Uber. Unlike Uber, Grab is many times cheaper. For example, on Lombok we paid 0.5 € for the whole car for about 4 km drive across a city.
We were booking our accommodation two days prior at most. Generally were we staying in hostels, paying just a few euros. Three times did we treat ourselves with the luxury of cheap hotels. Several times we rather decided for a homestay – staying with locals through booking.com – over a hostel.
The most expensive thing on the whole trip was, no doubts, the flying tickets. All together those added up to approximately 10 thousand excluding the 50 € we paid for the bus to Berlin. Food in Indonesia costs around 1.5 €, accommodation no more than 8 € per night. Entrance tickets were 1 € on average. Exceptions were a double-entry to the Java biggest temples for 35 €, expedition to the Ijlen volcano costing a bit less than 15.5 € and Lombok zoo, each ticket for 12 €.
Altogether, this a month-long journey added up to approximately 970 € for each of us. That´s about the same price as the cheapest ten days trip to the area Czech travel agencies offer. And most of those are only half board so you end up paying extra money for the food and most of the activities in the destination. Therefore we enjoyed three times longer and many times more diverse and adventures journey! In addition to it, during our travels I made nearly as much money as I spent. So I came back not much poorer.
This year´s mega trip has certainly been my best journey so far. Though not as adventurous as last year´s Morocco, the more pleasant it was.
Translated by Dan