Choosing where to travel when you have options and a bit of time can be daunting. All too often we fall into default mode, which is Disney World, or Costa Rica (because it’s close) or choices that are easy, or seemingly accessible.
The problem with this kind of planning is that everyone else does the same thing. As a result, you’re guaranteed large crowds of tourists. I know: not only did I grow up in Tourist Central (Florida) I also worked for Disney World on Opening Day- yeah, THAT opening day.
And while many of the easier options seem like a good bargain, there is absolutely nothing like getting completely, utterly and totally away from it all. Here are a few tips on how to do that.
- For once, chose remote. You probably, as most Americans do, have far more vacation time than they use (https://www.marketwatch.com/story/55-of-american-workers-dont-take-all-their-paid-vacation-2016-06-15). For ONCE, take extra time off. Plan to go somewhere simply extraordinary, in this case, Indonesia. Will it take you a while to get there? Of course. Or, if you’re retired and have the option, plan to explore and adventure rather than go tried and true.
- Getting to Indonesia is a very long trip. Plan to stop and stay overnight along the way in Bangkok or Hong Kong or Singapore. This way you break up the lengthy trip, get over your jet lag, and add a few other superb destinations to your portfolio. I overnighted in Taipei, which was easy to get around in due to a highly sophisticated metro train system.
- Do your research, ask friends who have been, and consider the type of experience you want. If you want to get away from the tourists, I have two suggestions for you: SeaTrekBali.com, which has two gorgeous ships you can book a cruise on (sailing ships, not Viking, thank you, and that makes ALL the difference) and a hideaway in Ubud, Central Bali, called Alam Indah, for when you get back to dry land permanently.
- Do something you’ve never ever ever done before. For me, choosing a trip on SeaTrekBali got me up front and personal with orangutans, then pampered me for eight days on a magnificent sailing ship with ancient ironwood decks, food fit for a king, and the chance to sleep atop decks and watch the stars circle the sky. Each day we moored off a different island, had a broad variety of experiences. One thing I loved about SeaTrek was that there are no required activities or excursions. You can paddle a kayak, SUP, hike the island hills or chill on board with a beer and do nothing but stare at endless turquoise waters. Or you can come ashore, and as we did, to come face-to-face with the last living dinosaurs. On other excursions, Sea Trek took us to island villages that nobody else gets to visit. And that is a treat. No crowds, just a few fellow passengers and you, visiting remote villages and experiencing island life far from Bali’s jammed beaches.
5. Make sure you set aside time for serious rest and relaxation. Part of this means getting away from your cell phone, which SeaTrek ensures. While that may sound scary, it’s the biggest gift you can give yourself. Not only does this draw you into the magic of the moment, you remember how great it is to have terrific conversations, to not be constantly tethered to others’ needs, and to have time to yourself.
I had a friend who recommended the superb Alam Indah hotel in Ubud. This secluded spot, built in 1995, is protected from the busy tourist town by the sacred Monkey Forest. The bungalows are breathtaking, the early morning shenanigans by the long-tailed macaques are hilarious, and the beautifully groomed grounds are soul-renewing. I had no idea that Ubud, right next to us, was such a bustling town until I motored in my last day for a trip to the market. The forest is such a barrier to busy-ness that you feel as though you’re on your own private island. There is so much to look at just on the grounds, and the luminous pool is as wicked wonderful as it looks. The staff are beyond gracious, and work hard to make sure you feel just as pampered as possible.
The American dollar at the time of my trip to Indonesia was worth some 1360 Rupiah, which buys a great deal for nearly nothing. The Alam Indah (http://www.alamindahbali.com/) offers the kinds of rooms you’d expect to pop $500 for anywhere else for around $90 a night or so, along with a free breakfast, and free rides to town and back when you have a shopping itch.
There are parts of Indonesia which are indeed crowded. Denpasar is among them, choked with heavy traffic. However, both SeaTrek and the Alam Indah pick you up, get you past the crowds and the demanding taxi drivers, and whisk you away as quickly as possible to a completely different world.
6. Finally, DO IT NOW. None of us is guaranteed tomorrow. Dream, plan, and then just get it done. You will be very glad you did.
In future articles I’ll discuss what to bring, and some other tips, as well as more from this adventure. Stay tuned.