Downtime in Yogykarta


Sitting in a cab at a traffic light, I’m watching the red numbers count down from an impossibly high number while the meter spins mercilessly upwards. We haven’t had many bad days, if any really, but today, today is a bad day.Who has two minute red lights anyway? It started at 3:45am when we woke up for our flight after a sleepless night thanks to our dorm mates drunken debauchery, then barely making our flight despite leaving earlier than our hotel recomended.The day spiraled from there, with an accumulation of small things made large by their temporal connection.
It’s a downside to long term travel, getting burnt out, trying to fit too much in. We should have stayed in Thailand and not tried to fit in Java before Bali. I made the mistake of over planning, a lesson I’ve learned well by now. But the tickets were booked long ago and we couldn’t afford new ones, so there we were, burnt out and tired.
On a beach in Koh Tao meeting up with old friends from Nepal we all noted how travel has changed over the past few months. And they, like us, feel after nearly four months of constant movement, it’s time for a vacation from, well, our vacation. For those who haven’t taken extended trips it’s difficult to explain that it really isn’t all fun. In fact, budget, long term travel often can be very taxing. It is of course, immensely rewarding, but easy it is not. Every day, while often full of adventure is coupled with constant logistical issues often to be navigated with limited language commonality. Most of the time the logistics and issues seem meaningless or trivial things compared to the joy of travel itself. But sometimes, it doesn’t. Some days you want to do nothing, some days you are just tired. But eventually something changes, a perfect sunset perhaps, or a delicious meal at a roadside stand with locals, or just a moment where you stop and realize how amazing it is you are where you are. Then once again you can continue on your adventure joyously. But that just wasn’t happening easily for us, so we decided to stop. For four days with no plan.
So how to pass four days in Yogyakarta Java? Easy, there are plenty of things to do. Within a few hours are two world heritage sites and not too far away is Mt. Bromo. But  didn’t  do any of that. Why? In part, all these things cost a fair bit of money, we’re a bit templed out, and the idea of cruising through the country side on a motorbike headed nowhere in particular, or even watching movies in bed all day sounds better than forcing ourselves to do something just because we feel like we should. Instead we passed time wandering the streets, learning about local food by random ordering/pointing from street vendors, discovering cute cafes hidden on residential streets, and enjoying conversations with incredibly friendly locals. We also watched a fair number of movies on HBO.
On our first day we wandered the bulk of the touristy area, visiting the water castle. By the end of the day we had walked nearly seven miles. Though exhausting there is always something cathartic about walking. We also ended up renting a motorbike, one of our favorite activities in Asia. We drove west out of the city and high into the hills. Besides the obvious escape from the hot, crowded city into the cool, thin air of the mountains it was relieving to be on our own. Lately, we’ve been surrounded by so many other tourists we’ve almost forgotten we were in a foreign country. Our drive took us to a national park where locals (and not a single other tourist) took their families for the day. I’m uncertain why we felt relief in seeing people passing the day in a generally typical way, but perhaps it was the reassurance that of normal life functioning around us. This strange feeling of being in flux, in constant movement can be exhilarating, it can also be jarring and exhausting. The simple observation of life in routine function perhaps felt grounding. Whatever it was, the ride, and the rest proved to be exactly what we needed before our last overnight trip (by bus, then all day train, ferry, and another bus) to Bali. We leave tonight, we’ll arrive at our hotel in Bali in 24 hours. It is our first last. Our last train ride, our last overnight bus. While I’m not sad it will be the last time I’ll have to sleep upright on a bus, it is a reminder of how soon our trip is to end. Less than thirty days, it is quite unfathomable.


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