Solitary ‘malakies’: How to make the most of travelling alone

Malakia is a bad word. But, it’s colloquial and familiar… so, between friends, it’s okay to use it…it’s even less bad when you use the word to describe yourself (for the semantics of malaka – malakia – malakies, just ask a Greek.)

‘Keep your wits about you when you’re out there on your own’… I’ve been told this on numerous occasions. Ironically, when I’m savvy (or street-wise)… things tend to go wrong… when I do malakies…or stupidities… I tend to be lucky, and things almost go even better than planned.

So… my malakia? I lost my hostel keys. I sat at Oyot’s cafe, Freedom Bar… eating my gado-gado-with-extra-peanut-sauce-and-extra-chilli…. drinking a can of cold Sprite… and catching up with the news on WiFi. The owner of this place was playing live music… a bit of Eric Clapton… a bit of Bryan Adams… a bit of my favourite song, ‘Leaving on a jet plane’… I started reading an article on a woman’s experience in Bali (she didn’t paint the best picture)… her own insecurities of travelling solo in Ubud shone through more than anything else.

At about 8pm… when it was dark, and the end of happy hour… I read a line in her article, saying something along the lines of: why would I hail down a scooter, on my own, for a price… with serial killers targeting backpackers and all that…

The combination of the words ‘serial killers’ and ‘backpackers’, admittedly, freaked me out. I then made the decision to go to my room for an early night.

Despite my intentions, when going to pay for my dinner, I couldn’t find my keys. I searched once… twice…three times… no keys. I shared my alarm with Oyot, who tried calling his friend (who apparently works in the kitchen of 7seas)… but no answer…

I walked down the dirt road, with my partially broken head torch to make my way through the darkness… and I hear: ‘Lina!’… it was the man with the long hair… ‘where are you going? Drink with me.’ I responded with a polite ‘no, thanks’… and headed 10m further on my way…

Again, I hear: ‘Lina! Come talk with me in my shop!’… it was Bamboo… I explained that I couldn’t stay, as I lost my keys, had a headache…. and needed to go to my room. Bamboo talks a lot. He likes to share many stories about himself, his culture, Bahasa Indonesian, his grandmother, his girlfriend, snorkelling… it’s easy to confuse his intentions… so, I was weary…

He asked me whether he could talk to me in my room… hmmm, not the best idea, I thought to myself…

He asked me to go with him to the other end of Gili Air to see the sunset… hmmm… too romantic an experience to share with a male stranger; seems like the formula for unfortunate mis-happenings. I politely refused, and said I needed to be on my way…

100 meters later… ‘Lina! I follow you?’ … Hmmm, please don’t, I thought to myself…. I felt like I must have had 10 conversations with people in my attempt to simply go to the hostel… and sort my key situation out.

The final deviation to my route was at 7wDive… where I had met Sylvia and Damien… they had the lights on; the music playing from the laptop; each appearing a bit drunk with hazy eyes, sporadically singing and dancing, and each accompanied with a glass of wine!

Wine! How delightful! I was warned in advance that I would have no access to wine in my 6 months of travelling (unless, of course, I wanted to pay an arm and a leg for it)…and being true Frenchies as they were… they were well-equipped and very generous, and offered me their company and quite a few glasses of their cold white wine! As the story goes, in the end, they offered me much much more… but I will come to this…

I continued on towards the hostel… with a view to rejoining the Frenchies at 7wDive. 100 meters or so later… the dirt path is pitch black… and the ordinarily well-lit 7seas was 100% closed shut… no staff, no reception, no light.

With 150,000 Rupiahs (about £10) in my wallet… an outstanding bill of 50,000 Rupiahs to my name… no ATMs, no one to borrow money from to pay for alternative accommodation…and no daylight, I thought to myself: Lina, you are such an idiot. How can you possibly lose your keys on your first night staying on your own? You haven’t even gone anywhere – just from the hostel, to the cafe, and back… Why did I do such a big and stupid malakia?!? 

I returned to 7wDives… sat opposite the very merry Frenchies… and was introduced to two new Frenchies: Pascal and Jose… as I slowly sipped at my wine, I took in my surroundings… the sound of the sea, the gekkos, the selamat minoom’s (enjoy your drink)…the locals playing chess… the man sleeping on a hammock on the beach… the other man sleeping on the beruga… and I, slowly slowly, became more and more nonchalant with my circumstances.

Accommodation options for the night suddenly became available… Sylvia wasn’t worried (I suppose it’s hard for her to worry, as she’s been a solo female traveller for years)… she says: You can go with Pascal and sleep on his boat… you can sleep here, outside, on our hammock… you can join the locals, and sleep on the beruga… you can join Damien, he has an extra bed, and you can sleep there… you have many options).

In ordinary circumstances, one may argue that all of my options were suboptimal… but as I, too, became merrier with un peu de vin blanc …each option seemed glamorous… exciting…adventurous… an ‘authentic’ travelling experience… I suddenly felt far more alive knowing I could essentially sleep everywhere, rather than painfully searching for accommodation… with ‘good prices’… ‘hot water’…’no cockroaches’… ‘by the beach’… ‘no mosquitoes’… this annoying check list of criteria we all seem to have when we’re searching for something.

3 and a half hours… 4-5 glasses of wine… many stories of France, travelling, Indonesia, and life generally later… it was midnight… and time to go ‘home’. I decided to stay in Damien’s spare bed in his little cheap flat that he hired in a village, away from the tourists, in the centre of the island…

There was a power cut (they seem to be frequent; maybe 3-5 times a day)… with our torches to hand… we walked through dirt, swarms of mosquitoes, locals, and the fear of cockroaches, before we reached his flat…

Damien feels uncomfortable speaking English… he’s fluent in French, Spanish and Portuguese… but, for some reason, despite 8 years of English schooling in France, he never really got into English….as a result, we spoke mainly in French.

He was very kind, polite and generous. On the way to his place… after he warned me that his flat was ‘very boy’… he made my bed; gave me his spare toothbrush; lent me his insect repellent; offered me a towel if I needed a shower… all of this in candlelight and torches, as the power cut lasted the whole night…it made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside to know that he, having travelled on hardly anything for 6 months, offered me the little that he had to help me…without knowing me at all.

He went to his room, and he left the door open… and then I hear: Lina, quelle age as-tu? And I reply: Qu’est-ce que tu penses? Before either of us could realise, we spent two hours discussing in French, between two rooms, in what felt like extremely suffocating heat… about everything: travelling; Indonesia; his girlfriend of 7 years that he’ll be proposing to in November; marriage; religion; my boyfriend; living in France…. it’s the first time in my life that I’ve ever spoken in French for over 2 hours! I never realised I could do that!

As most of my stories go, you may be wondering what my point is… Maybe there is no point? Maybe it’s to highlight my malakia? Or to highlight that malakies make travelling solo more exciting? Maybe it’s to suggest you lose your keys when travelling – and see what happens? Maybe it’s about trust… and the beauty of being interdependent with others? Maybe it’s about the genuine goodness of people – and that helping a complete stranger can likely be one of the best rewards in life? … Maybe it’s about all of the above? Who knows.

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4 thoughts on “Solitary ‘malakies’: How to make the most of travelling alone

  1. pour moi, as time goes by and wine settles… i seem to remember all the horror stories and true crime scene shows I adore.

    i think it is often a little bit of awareness and luck… don’t lose your key again doofus!

  2. Pingback: Sylvia’s malakia: Her ‘stupidest’ solo travelling story, in my own words « Time Out – New Beginnings

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