5 Favourite Travel Products

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Traveling has played a big role in my life since I was 17. Since then, I have been traveling a lot to different cities and sometimes different countries due to my work. Packing light has never been my virtue, but I do not usually travel heavily either.

Here are my favourite travel products that I always bring wherever and whenever I go:

5 things I always bring wherever and whenever I travel.

Passport holder

I swear by MUJI’s products, especially their travel range. In Indonesia, MUJI is not that affordable (at least according to my standards), so I bought only two items that I know I will use the most. I love their travel documents organiser (a.k.a. passport holder!) and hanging travel case.

A knitted tube scarf

Easy to wear, can double up as either my “blanket” or my “pillow” in the airplane.

Slip on sneakers

Actually, any pair of sneakers will do, because I think it’s way more comfortable to have long walks through the big halls of airport lounges in sneakers rather than in boots or ballerina flats. I like slip ons better as they are easy to put on and take off.

Kindle

I used to bring a couple of books for long haul flights, but since Adit got me a Kindle reader as a birthday gift, I cannot travel without it. For me, it is way more comfortable to read on a Kindle than a tablet as it does not hurt my eyes and the battery lasts way longer — even for weeks!

A Kipling Seoul laptop backpack

I first got myself a Kipling when I was 13 years old. I got a small backpack and I had been using it on a daily basis ever since. Turns out, it lasted for more than 10 years! So, when I was 23, I finally got myself a new one. I admire Kipling because of its durable and light material. It also has distinctive prints. I choose a Seoul backpack as I can fit many things into it, including my laptop. Most of the time, I only need this bag to bring all of my carry-on items. It also fits into under the seat in front of me while in the airplane.

What are your favourite travel products?

Davos Notes: 1

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We were sitting in a Morosani Posthotel’s lobby, waiting to get picked up by the shuttle service after a fun so-called Bollywood Night, when Michael started telling me many things his wife is. Michael is from Nairobi, Kenya. He is 30, a father of one. I first met him during my flight transfer in Dubai. His wife was about to give birth to his second-born.

I had been pretty anxious about the trip. I just got married and was about to start a new life in another country, with no formal job and no formal education planned, in a matter of days.

I asked Michael a simple question: “What does your wife do?”

He told me a lot of things she is doing, which are mostly done from home, or could be worked upon from pretty much anywhere.

“My wife — she’s everything for me. She’s amazing. She’s pretty, she’s smart, she’s rich. Her family is rich, especially compared to me; I’m just a commoner. I don’t know what she saw in me, but she fell for me first. I did not dare to fall for a woman like her. She was too good to be true, and still is. But she did, and you see, we got married. I would not be where I am without her. She is very kind, very supportive, she lets me attend this event as long as I get back before the second-born comes out! But yes, she is amazing. That’s how I would describe her: simply, amazing.”

At that moment, I wondered. Will there ever be anyone who thinks I am amazing for him/her?

The Little Traffic Light Men

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I was flipping through the pages of a novel when I got recouped with that particular bookmark. A bookmark made of plastic with lenticular changing image of Ampelmännchen upon it. The uncanny word, in German, can literally be translated into “the little traffic light men”. A definition I still find rather offbeat, in a good way.

Not long ago I learned that the little traffic light men are symbols inherited from the times when Germany was split into the East and the West. Each region had different figures of Ampelmännchen. This bookmark, though, affixed the one East Germans are very proud of and keen to preserve by keeping them on their traffic lights. The kind of men who have big head, short legs, and are wearing the petit bourgeois hats.

I looked at the bookmark and remembered that it was one of the first presents he has ever given me. Bought two years ago, when he was going on a business trip in Berlin. Whichever city in the world he flies to, he always comes back with a memento for me to keep. With this bookmark sneaking through one of my belongings, now I cannot help to cherish our fondness of traveling and how it has brought us to where we are right at this moment.

I remember the years of 2010-2012. Even in those years, both of our jobs already demanded plenty of travels. Despite still only being friends, whenever one of us was going to travel, the other must have wished a “good luck” or “safe travels” to the other, at least via text. We were not that close, not at all, but the gestures somehow had always been there, as if those were what we were supposed to do to each other. Little that we knew we were going to travel to so many places together, not having to wish each other “safe travels” ever again.

Two years ago — just one week after we went on our first date, to be exact — I had to leave Jakarta to attend a conference in Vatican City for almost two weeks. We could only text each other and have video calls some time, making it felt like a trip that would have wreaked us apart. I got home just in time for my 22nd birthday, a day when he surprisingly showed up with a piece of cheesecake and candles for me to blow upon. On the contrary, the distance made us so much closer, I thought.

Nonetheless, just a few days later, I had to leave again to Shanghai to compete in an international university while he had to fly to Berlin for work. Another chance to blow the chance of being together, perhaps; turning us into nothing more than two fiddling dots located at two different parts of the world.

I was having late lunch at IKEA Shanghai with my friends when he let me know he was going to board and take off for Berlin. Just like the old days, I wished him to have good luck and safe travels. Only this time, I did it through a phone call.

“I wish I could brush a long kiss upon your forehead before I fly,” he said. All my blood, then, rushed to my cheeks, flushing them without my consent.

“I wish I could feel you brushing a long kiss upon my forehead before you fly,” I answered.

Off he went. But, apparently, the circumstances mixed time differences up and brought us even further than we used to be — something that we have gotten used to two years later now. Like today, when he and I got separated by 10 hours of time zone difference, and more than 16,000 units of kilometres.

In Berlin, he told me he really wished I were there, as he believed I would have loved the atmosphere. That I would have loved the ability to stroll around the vibrant streets of Germany. We had not officially been dating that time, but he had crafted dreams inside my mind, promising he would one day fulfil them.

As soon as he got back from Berlin, we knew we were going to sail the seas together.

A couple of years later now, things start to make more sense. One by one, they fell right into place — the places where we wished those things would fall into.

Here I am, sitting in the same land where he bought this Ampelmännchen bookmark, oveywroughtingly waiting for us to reunite. To travel the world side by side.

But for now, be my guest, Ampelmännchen.

Photo: Ampelmann.de

Little Notes of Life

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An afternoon in Firenze, Italy

I am a great believer of the saying that getting lost allows you to (re)discover yourself. Thus, I travel a lot, and most of the time alone. Sometimes I understand myself better when I get lost between historical buildings that are also landmarks of a city; and I get to love the person inside me stronger when my feet are enjoying the sand and the salty sea situated on one of Indonesia’s coasts. Today, I just finished a 10-day trip to Italy; spent a few days working and the rest, basically, wandering around the old city. Wondering about my life, being drowned amongst the crowds in front of the Spanish Steps. Imagining of the things that could have happened, or could not have happened. Recalling the events that have built my life up onto this moment and made me meet the people I’ve shared my life with; and the (expected) events that did not really make it.

The year of 2013 has just been here for roughly 45 days, yet so many things have come up. Plenty of things have happened, and most of them have given me a bunch of lessons to be learned. I think it would be very important to take note of them. As a reminder.

I was once a very rational person; I used to assess almost everything with my logic to give my heart a thick shield. To prevent it to be broken once again, especially when I have run out of glue to fix it. But then, love happened, and things changed. They changed a lot. But, at times, we just got to go back to square one. And start over. And be rational again.

One day, I might have a look at these notes once again; simply to prevent them from being forgotten. Consider this as a manifesto. Well, I love manifestos. I thought, someday I would have to write one like that. Perhaps that one day is going to be today. (Although these notes would probably only account a bit of it.)

Why don’t we give it a try.

Feelings are often real. But the words we use to express them, most of the time, are illusory. So, carefully think about the words we choose to use. Never say “I love you” just to create an illusion of feelings, nor to make our counterpart love us. The worst of “I love you”s are those that are not wholeheartedly said. Therefore, when you say it; make sure you mean it.

Being young is not only about leaving a mark in the world. It is also about letting the world leaves a mark within us. May it be through an event, or even more, through a person. So go. Fall in love, make mistakes, break your heart, and probably start over.

There is no such thing as “unrequited feeling”. However, perhaps, the level of requital that we get might be higher or lower than our expectations. (Perhaps it’s best not to expect anything at all, and let it be a surprise. Let life surprises you.)

When God takes away something you (thought you) have, usually you are going to get something better. However, be grateful of what you have at the moment. Keep it. Protect it. Or you might end up losing something that matters the most in your life. (And try not to regret when that happens, especially when you have failed in protecting it. Let it wander to a better place, a place that would keep it safe.)

Never fall in love in your sleep. What usually comes as a dream might suddenly show up as a nightmare. Since then, your sleeps and naps would never be the same anymore. Be in love while you are awake. Be in love knowing the risks you take, the ‘dangers’ you will face. Be in love with a person, not the idea of him/her that you have projected yourself. Be in love with a person, not the idea of him/her that he/she tries to project for you to believe in.

(Always) believe that there is probably a person out there who deserves to get the best of you. (You might meet him/her soon).

The only person in the world who could make you happy is yourself. Before others. (I usually compliment myself with ice creams too, though. Ice creams make me really happy.)

Most of the time, feeling exhausted also means that you have not make your life wasted for nothing. Keep going.

The worst feeling that you could ever possess to someone is the feeling of possessing him/her, as if that person is completely yours. Because you could never, ever “own” a person. You could only be happy when the person you choose to be with also chooses to be with you.

Words might hurt you, but words shouldn’t. (this one’s courtesy of Adriano Qalbi)

Last, but not least,

Be happy. Because you only need yourself to be happy, and because you can. Allow yourself to be happy. With or without someone else. Isn’t it such a great feeling to realise that we can be happy on our own? As soon as we have allowed ourselves to be happy on our own, then we can be happy with another person.

Enjoy your February. It’s my favourite time of the year, usually. I hope it’s going to be yours too.

Traveling tips

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I traveled out of the city for a conference sometime ago for approximately 5 days. Everything I had to bring (including business attire) fitted in a small luggage and a small backpack. My friend brought two big luggages, one travel bag, and one carry-on women handbag. I can never travel like that. :p

I usually travel alone – yes, just like Ryan Bingham on “Up In The Air”. Here are some basic tips from me – especially if you are going to travel alone for the first time.

  1. Travel light – Yes, it is one of the most important things. If you want to have a fun trip, do not bring too many items (especially clothes). You won’t suffer wearing the same jeans, shoes, and jackets/coats everyday. It would be difficult to travel on your own if you bring so many luggages. Only bring what you can bring while traveling a far distance on foot. Before I pack, I always go to this website: The Universal Packing List.
  2. Research – Read a lot about the place you are going. Almost everything can be found on the Internet. You can also buy books about those places. Before I travel somewhere, I usually read about it on a number of websites. Here are my favourite websites: WikiTravel, TripAdvisor, and VirtualTourist. Also check about the public transportation and its costs.
  3. Re-check your documents – Read again! Do the names on your passport and ticket match? Do you need a visa to visit the place? If you do, have you applied? How long is the visa application process? Make copies of them and put these copies in all bags you bring.
  4. Prepare your cash – Some people choose to exchange their money abroad. Truth to be told, Rupiah is not that “internationally renowned”. It is never listed, therefore it can be assumed, people don’t ask for Rupiah and it makes Rupiah depreciated. We might lose much by exchanging our cash abroad. So, exchange your cash here (and not in the airport though)! I recommend Dua Sisi Money Changer (they have branches in Grand Indonesia, Senayan City, Plaza Senayan). They are very helpful, offer good rates, and sometimes have the currency others don’t. My family relative recommended Bali Inter, but they once sold CHF on IDR 10,000/CHF and wanted to buy my CHF for only IDR 8,000/CHF. What a rip off. Good thing Dua Sisi saved the day by buying my CHF at IDR 10,000/CHF.
  5. Prepare your cards, too – Your ATM card is probably accepted overseas. BCA is a part of the Cirrus and Maestro network, Mandiri is a part of Visa, and so on. Check your bank’s website to know how much will it cost to withdraw your money abroad (for emergency situations). However, I was advised that using credit card overseas is better than using debit card – because credit cards have fraud insurance. I once withdrew my cash using my Mandiri ATM card in London. I withdrew GBP 30. When I already arrived in Jakarta, I received a message (Mobile Banking), saying there is a debit transaction worth a few million Rupiahs for around 3 times. Apparently someone “recorded” my card details and used them to shop in Tesco, London. I lost my entire savings worth more than IDR 8,000,000. I then contacted Bank Mandiri in Jakarta and claimed, because I still had my card with me in Jakarta and had proofs that I was not in London; so then Bank Mandiri accepted my claim and returned my cash.

Last but not least… Have fun! What’s your traveling tip?