5 mistakes I made when I traveled to SE Asia

…for the first time

Samarinda, Indonesia

…and what I do now, when I go!

When I first MOVED to Indonesia, I had never been to SE Asia before, nor did I know anyone. But, I took a leap of faith and went to teach English as a Second Language (ESL) for a year.

I had recently lost my office manager position, after about 7 years, due to budget cuts. However, I knew I needed to travel and I knew I needed to get paid for it. So, I got my Teaching a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate and starting applying. I found out that schools in Europe wanted teachers with experience and also wanted you to be able to apply in person. South America was a little more flexible but SE Asia was actually mainly looking for teachers with no or little experience and you could apply through Skype interviews.

I applied to EF in Samarinda, East Kalimantan, Indonesia. After a couple of interviews, I had the position and was scheduled to leave in a couple of months.

So, what do I do know? Well, I research where I am going. I knew that this little city was majority Muslim and there had been some expatriates, mainly teachers, but wasn’t like Bali in the sense that it was a big tourist hub.

In my mind, this meant I needed to be a bit modest but it is also a very tropical climate; i.e, humid.

What did I do? Packed everything I thought I would need or could possibly need or might need. Yeah, I had three big a** suitcases and didn’t need half of it. But, it was my first time and I had no idea.

Now, after traveling back and forth and visiting as often as possible (SE Asia is one of my favorite regions on the planet) I have what I only need to take, down to a science.

Mistake 1: Taking everything I thought I could possibly ever need. After all, I was going for a year.

Solution 1: Bring only the clothes that are necessities; light weight skirts and pants, maxi dresses, flowy tops, and maybe a pair of jeans. Bring a pair of tennis shoes, comfortable dressier shoes, a pair of wedges,and a couple pairs of sandals and flip flops.

Mistake 2: Not thinking I could buy what I needed while there.

Solution 2: Bring toiletries, but not of excess. You can buy everything you need there, once you run out.

Mistake 3: Thinking that just because it was a warm tropical climate that I wouldn’t ever need any type of jacket or sweater.

Solution 3: Do bring a light weight jacket and a light weight cardigan. It gets cold inside buildings and it does rain a lot.

Mistake 4: Not learning a few basic Bahasa Indonesian terms before I left.

Solution 4: Think taxi rides and markets. There language uses the same alphabet as English, and it was surprisingly easy to learn.

Here are a few for you:

  • How are you?
    • Apa kabar?
  • How much?
    • Berapa?
  • Please
    • Silahkan
  • Thank you
    • Terima kasih
  • One more
    • Satu lagi
  • No more
    • Tidak lagi
  • If you hear someone say “gila bule” it means crazy foreigner
  • Cantik means beautiful

Mistake 5: Not getting a local SIM prepaid phone card as soon as I got into the airport and there was no free wi-fi.

Solution 5: There are vendors selling prepaid cards. Just take your SIM card out and insert that one. This way, you won’t be on roaming and you can call who you need to.

I look back at when I lived there: the experiences, the friendships, and the places I got to see, and the only thing I would change are those 5 mistakes.

Always take that trip. Always have those experiences. I am a firm believer that we should all live abroad, at least once. We should also have our children live abroad. It opens our eyes. It makes us see a different world and a better world.

Is there anything you would of done differently when you went to live abroad?


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