Today marked the end of the Java Sojourn and the beginning of the Path to Penang. A bittersweet goodbye at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta Airport and an exhausted welcome at Kuala Lumpur International Airport bracketed another transit day. Goodbye Indonesia, hello Malaysia!

Suggested song: Ordinary World by Duran Duran

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Jakarta cab ride

The events of the day are quickly summarized: A quick, 40 minute cab ride to the airport, followed by the regular airport procedure (immigration, Starbucks, security, waiting boarding), sitting onboard the plane (delayed by 30 minutes due to torrential rain), spending 2 hours in the air, landing at KLIA (Starbucks again), catching the train and then a cab to my home away from home.

So, enough time on my hands to think and ponder. The journey is halfway over, yet it feels like I had just arrived. Indonesia was interesting, it’s people the biggest surprise: it is so easy to get a genuine smile out of an Indonesian that you forgive them anything. Now, while I have not experienced them as the most energetic, driven or initiative-taking people in the world, Indonesians have such a benevolent docility about them that makes them strangely lovable. Sometimes a bit vexing, mind you, but lovable.

The sights, what little I saw of them, were splendid, the pace of exploring them relaxed and the country has so many more islands left to still discover. So, I might be back to see more.

Thinking about the past week led me to another subject: What is travel to me? Or more generally, how do I approach the world? I had been thinking about that before, wondering why challenges, even difficulties, hold so much interest for me. Are experiences won through adversity really more valuable than those that just come easily? Well, maybe it is the appreciation you have for them, if you had to put in the work, that makes the difference.

 

Point in case, why did I walk through Jakarta and not just take the bus? The sights would have been the same — but the experience would not have been. The smells, the humidity, the aching feet, they are all part of the story that we build when we travel, no matter if literally through faraway countries or through life in general.

And while we may hardly always be the total master of events, it is still up to us how we frame the story. For me, I inadvertently seem to have fallen into seeing my story frame as that of the quest.

Now, I am no hero, but the classical hero’s journey, as represented in legends and tales told in every culture since time immemorial, holds a considerable appeal to me. It involves the protagonist, willingly or unwillingly, leaving a comfortable existence to accomplish a goal (slay the dragon), find an object (the Grail) or discover deeper truths (the truth is out there). Along the way may lie many hardships and obstacles to be overcome; helpers and mentors provide assistance; personal flaws have to be addressed and, hopefully, overcome. All this, so that in the end the protagonist returns, transformed for the better. In other words: less of an idiot than before.

That’s why I keep walking when my feet hurt. Because there is a goal to any quest, even if it is just being able to say to yourself in the evening: I managed this! After all, many quests have as their central plot device a MacGuffin  — just watch North by Northwest. Now imagine if the goal were truly worthwhile! Achieve something, and, if your heart is kept open and the twinkle in your eye remains, become better! Awesome!

That’s why I like quests. Give it a try! Go on  a quest, no matter if it’s big (finding true love, for instance) or small (finding a really good coffee)!

Well, I guess I have bored you enough for the day! Tomorrow I will be back with, in proper form, telling you all about my first day in Kuala Lumpur.


Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur Starbucks Comparison

Yupp, Non-Fat Sugar-Free Vanilla Lattes still tasting the same here.

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