London, June 4th, 2022
As I typed these, I was sitting at a very unusually quiet corner at London Gatwick Airport, waiting for the first leg of a series of long-haul flights that would bring me home. After 32 days of being away from home for my “ultimate solo bachelorette pilgrimage,” a.k.a. post-pandemic solo revenge travel, my reality slowly brought me back to Earth.
That day felt much quieter than the previous 31 days. My eyes were still a little damp from all the sobs that lasted for hours last night. I was definitely sleep-deprived, and also felt bizarre – in a couple of hours, I would be leaving all the faces and places that have provided me not only a shelter to sleep at night in the past month, but also to build my own temporary nest among the foreign and unknown.
The past month had got me high on life and love – and it had been way too long since the last time I recognized those feelings of appreciation of what life could serve and offer. I forgot how much joy one can absorb and digest. I did not remember that there were a few better parts of me which had been asleep for quite long that I barely recalled even existing – and they had awakened again in the past month. There was a spectrum of emotions and feelings I hadn’t experienced in a while, and it was such a lovely pleasure to welcome those rainbows, butterflies, and even thunderstorms again. It was everything but numbness, unlike the preceding two years of surviving the strangest years of everyone’ life.
As I typed these, I was trying to recall the chains of events from May 4th when I left Indonesia for the first time since the pandemic, to yesterday night when I decided to watch a West End musical as my chosen epilogue to close my current travel season.
It started with a huge smile, and even bigger hopes, and ended with a massive amalgamation of emotions I had not yet been able to unpack and describe, therefore came out as tears instead. I felt sad and wretched to leave this place and all the fortuitous lessons it taught me about. I’d started to miss the faces that have become my transient homes as I was seeking comfort and bits of familiarity among the sea of newness. I regret the way I had to end some interactions – I could’ve asked for one more harmless question, given a longer hug even when the entire train was watching, or looked into the pairs of eyes for the last time like I truly meant it, without being scared of bursting into tears immediately – but what was done was done.
I would be back to where I belong in next to no time, and I wasn’t ready – because it would mean returning to the uneventful and uninspiring routine that suffocated my creative and buoyant sides, on top of having to let go of the long-overdue surge of happiness I had finally tasted again in the past month.
I had realized how much I loved who I am when I am on the road – and I am scared of the possibility of falling out of love with myself again after all these.
Bandung, June 12th, 2022
A week after I arrived in Jakarta, my boyfriend drove me to my hometown on that Friday night. I recalled the weekend as being a very strange one. I remember stepping into my bedroom, which still looked exactly the same as how I left it on the morning I went for that one-month vacation, feeling all bizarre.
I remember days and weeks leading up to that vacation when I felt so full of hope. After two strange years, I finally had something huge to anticipate, something I had postponed in the last few years thanks to how life and the world unfolded, which would occur soon enough, and that I would probably feel happy again by then.
There were glimpses of future joys that life had in store for me, and that they would soon become my own journey and memories instead of simply dreams.
I remember waking up early in the morning before that vacation, the view of the cityscape surrounded by the mountain range from my bedroom being so visibly clear, and that was the lightest I had ever felt in a very long while. I recall thinking, believing, and reassuring myself that the month of May 2022 would’ve been a great one. (And I was very right.)
I remember the nights leading up to that vacation, when certain new routines would unanticipatedly find their way to me. There were thoughts, wonders, and anticipations about what would happen in the next few weeks, when space and time would no longer become boundaries, and would instead allow the welcoming and blooming of something new. I was a little nervous but also looking forward to those days. I might be a little scared as well, but the excitement far trumped the anxiety.
For once, after what felt like an eternity of being confined in a limited space and not being able to explore life freely, I finally saw those streaks of happiness and excitement which would soon reappear in my mundane life again, hopefully giving meanings and purposes to it once again.
Something big was bound to happen in the near future, and I couldn’t wait to experience those, and perhaps finally feel like myself again.
And I was correct. For an entire month, I felt so high on life and love, and it was the best feeling I hadn’t had in a very long while.
Until a month passed, the dreams became a happy present, and eventually a distant memory.
Today, I am back in this room, only able to remember all the hopes without experiencing it all over again.
I sat on my bed, trying to collect myself after those waves of reminiscences about what had happened not too long ago in that particular room.
Now, all the anticipation had gone, and I have returned to a dull routine of working from 8-to-5, not even being able to stay close to my beloved furry kids or my family thanks to my work placement and requirement.
I realized I had nothing excited to look forward to in the near future, let alone something or anything that was bound to happen, and I felt dejected.
Jakarta, June 15th, 2022
My first few days back in Indonesia felt just as strange. I had to stay at a two-star hotel for my first night because of a last-minute issue with the accommodation I planned to move into, followed by moving to a new shared house that I rented without a plan in advance and just out of a last-minute necessity, sleeping on a wide mattress without any bed sheet nor blanket for the first few days, and adjusting to the pace of working back at the office in the capital city which never felt like home to me.
I couldn’t stand being alone in my temporary bedroom and was always on the lookout for another available shared house to move into the next month. Somewhere that hopefully would feel a lot homier, where I could finally rest my case of constantly seeking new places in Jakarta to reside. A den that would finally make me feel belong in the bustling metropolitan city.
My coping mechanism was to be near familiar faces. Either I stayed at my undergraduate friend’s apartment when I wasn’t working at the office or invited my high school friend to crash at my place for the weekend. My boyfriend would come to visit on weekdays if he finished on time at work. I was even happy to be in the office because I get to see my friends and co-workers. The only time I could bear not being in the same room with anybody is when I write or sort out and edit the thousands of pictures I took from the trip.
Exchanging texts with friends I had made in the UK was quite a consolation as well. Some of them ended up looking like emails due to the multitude of stories we wanted to catch up on and share with one another. A few had become very uplifting, and most were heartwarming. Few came with the dreading feeling of fearing changes – after all, we may not see each other again and unlike our previous text exchanges, we now no longer have something to look forward to, at least in the near future.
I remember sleeping in my friend’s apartment, 30 floors rising above Jakartan ground. I had to pull up the curtain since I was never able to sleep in complete darkness, and I found myself staring outside for a good hour, listening to the songs I kept coming back to when I was in the UK and Ireland.
The sky being a little cloudy, and initially, I thought it was starless, but after a good minute of staring into those infinite spaces, specks of stars began appearing underneath layers of thin clouds. It was beautiful.
Within seconds, hundreds of stars had become visible to my naked eyes. There was a full moon hanging at the centre, bright and unbothered. I recall thinking if those people are seeing the very same thing, just from a completely different perspective – and if that means we’re not too far apart after all.
The moon will stay the same today, tomorrow, and in a few years – it would be as if nothing has changed when it’s the time for me to see those people again. By then, too much will have passed but my hope is that the feelings and excitement of reuniting remain the same. And I will look forward to that day when we will look up at the sky and notice the same side of the moon, instead of the opposite.