Indonesia: Sink or Swim
When we started planning Indonesia, I remember telling Ben this was going to be the culmination of all of our skills we had built up and learned over the past year. In 5 weeks, we went to 4 major islands (plus 2 minor islands), hiked 2 volcanoes for sunrise, watched sunrise and sunset from a few temples, got our advanced open water, tripled our total dives from 6 to 22, and worked throughout whole time. We took 7 planes, 5 ferries, and countless cars/bikes. Needless to say, it was daunting when we started to map it out. But, it was Indonesia! We were so excited for the beaches, for the Instagram perfect hotel rooms, the pinnacle of digital nomad life, and the island life. Too bad we forgot to schedule it in!
The skills I thought we would test would be scheduling, researching new cities, making decisions, and mastering time zone changes. And we did use those skills but, true to form, the trip taught us there is beauty in the unexpected, and regardless of how much planning you do, everything will work out,(forgive the clichés, please!) Miraculously, we only had to change one flight and only got ripped off for private cars a couple times (at some point you pick between missing the connection or paying a little extra, ha!). The skills that ended up being the most crucial were those stepping outside our comfort zone, pushing through our exhaustion, and reaching outside our somewhat-insolated nature to socialize. It was diving where these skills were honed the most.
We dove in Nusa Ceningan, Gili Trawangan and Komodo (basically the last 3 weeks of Indonesia). With these diving trips, I have become a diver. I think Ben and I have both been converted. I expect every trip we take for the foreseeable future to have a bit of diving in it. We spent our time quizzing dive masters on Mexico, California, Hawaii, and South American dives. Anywhere within a few hundred dollars or a few hours flight was fair game. We discussed what it looks like to become dive masters and live the dive shop life. This was inspired, and cemented, by the Labuan Bajo/Komodo crew.
We completed our Advanced Open Water certification in Gili Trawangan to prepare for diving Komodo. It’s some of the best diving in the world, but it comes with a fair amount of current and more advanced dive scenarios. Our first dive in Komodo also happened to be the last dive for Alisha, our fellow diver on our first dive here. She had been in Labuan Bajo for a couple years as a dive instructor and was getting ready to move back to Canada. On that magical day of diving we had unreal visibility, we saw a Manta at Panga (which never happens, obviously!), and we got invited to her going away party. “Ooo, a party”, I thought.
This is where the story would end for us most of the time. Ben and I both struggle with follow through for new social plans. It’s one of those skills that we are actively working on during this trip (and afterwards!). So, recognizing our predisposition to sleep and laziness, we showered and changed--we did NOT lay down for a nap. And, we made it out to drinks! Any fears of being the tag-alongs quickly subsided and plans to leave after an hour became 2 hours. And then 3 hours. Conversations went from small talk/introductions to diving and national park legislation to gay sex—straight people have a lot of questions apparently. The night was cut short by a few local men coming in to very angrily explain we were being too loud for Ramadan. But, with a dive the next day, we took the hint and decided it was time to go anyway.
We woke up, chugged some water, and told ourselves we would go diving and then come straight back to chill and catch up on sleep. Our new instructor, Fede, was great. We dived one of the top 20 dives in the world, Batu Balong, Ben saw another Manta, and afterwards we found ourselves explaining Joss shots to the new diver in the group.
Joss shots begin with an energy powder (think those gross packets you see at gas stations) and then you add vodka, swish, and swallow. Delicious and deadly!
Of course, after explaining Joss shots, we had to try a round. So, the second day of diving did not become an early night. Instead, happy hour and log books turned into Joss shots and a nighttime swim. An early night turned into drinking and dining and losing track of time with fast friends.
Once again, we told ourselves the next night we would head home right after diving and catch up on some sleep. Diving all day and drinking all night is not as glamorous as it sounds; we were exhausted. But after our beautiful dives on the third day, Fede invited us to a BBQ at his house. He is Argentinian and planned to buy all the meat and do all the grilling. How can you turn down Argentinian Asado? You can’t.
We arrived to the BBQ and heard what sounded like a drum circle. I am not going to lie, I almost turned around on the spot. A drum circle was about 10 levels more energy than I had in me. But, Ben nudged me along, and I was reminded that Indonesia was testing all our skills, so we rounded the corner and found a water jug drum circle and Fede kicking bamboo to break it apart. It didn’t take long to overcome any social anxiety and exhaustion. We were served eggs and cheese grilled into peppers and asado. So much asado. We hung out, we talked, and Ben joined a band with Sarah, one of our dearest friends we’ve made on the trip (name and instruments pending).
In short, Komodo gave us the chance to live the local lifestyle; albeit the local lifestyle of an expat. We lived slightly out of town, we woke up every day to dive, we spent far too long in immigration, and we spent the nights we weren’t working drinking with the dive masters. I don’t know if Ben and I have ever felt so immersed in a group so quickly.
All in all, Indonesia has been amazing. It’s been full of new adventures, crazy schedules, sun, beaches, and good friends. Looking back on the past month, and the past year, it seems like we learned a thing or two. And, it’s paying off!