Finding contentment…while carrying your life on your back and clueless as to where you are going

Just call this number and have a car come pick you up, take you to Padang Bai, and hop on the ferry. We’ll let you know which island we are on and then we will come find you when you get here! It sounded plain and simple. A trip to the Gili’s, a chain of three islands between Lombok and Bali, for a few days of sunshine and relaxation by the water. It sounded all too easy and like an enjoyable vaca away from vaca with only two problems I later found out.


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1. “Finding” your friends when you have a 1 in 3 chance of guessing the right island, only to get to the right island and realize you have no way of contacting them makes it a little more challenging than anticipated.

2. I’m really, really bad at just relaxing. I’m not the kind of person who can simply lay out on the beach, read for several hours, and get my tan on. My body starts to feel like it needs to do something and my mind begins to go crazy, resulting in an anxious, sunburnt me.

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Source: Global Gallivanting

So I did the only thing I really could since I was carrying my ginormous backpack with me and looked like a lost 4-year-old that ran away from home who carried all my belongings with me. I hiked a little ways up the dirt road, which consists of only cyclists and horses carrying small carts to transport people, and plopped myself down at a bar asking for water and the wifi password in hopes of connecting with someone, anyone who could just tell me where my friends were or a place to stay for the night until I found them. Finding a place to stay I realized would be no problem as every local you pass asks you the same conversation, especially if you have a backpack on.

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“Where are you from?”
“America.” (I smile, knowing exactly where this conversation is going). “Ahh Obama, America! Where are you going?”
(I smile again) “I’m trying to find my friends, they are meeting me here.”
“Oh, where they staying? You have place to stay?”
“They are staying somewhere, but I don’t know where.” (Another smile, this time a little more on the anxious side as I realize I have no idea what I’m doing for the night and need to figure it out sooner rather than later. At this point they have a confused look on their face and immediately change the conversation)
“Ah Yes, please, come in. Such nice smile, white teeth! What’s your name?”
“Namasa Genevieve. What’s yours?”
“Jeneby?” (This is one of the many spellings my name receives here)
“You can call me Gen, it’s a little easier.” I say with a little laugh since I know my name is a bit of a doozy.
“Ahh, Jane! I’m Tarzan! Come, sit down. We have fresh juice, coconut, maybe trip to moon?”

This is the same conversation nearly everywhere I go and will drag on to them eventually wanting to know your entire life story. And fyi, a trip to the moon is far from anything resembling Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me To the Moon” which was what I thought at first before reading more about this “Moon drink”. I stuck with the coconut and ended up getting wifi and then sat myself down in a hammock as I anxiously started wondering if I would ever find my friends. After sending out a few SOS messages to them and my wifi access expiring, I thought to myself, “What are you freaking out about ‘Jeneby’? You are on one of the most beautiful islands, sitting in a hammock, drinking out of a legit coconut, and about to catch the sunset over Mt. Rinjani. What else could you be doing right now?” Good point, self. I kicked off my sandles, and let myself sink a little deeper into the hammock.

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A few hours passed and within those few hours I was brought back to what it was like before recent technology advances. Because I didn’t have my face submerged in my cell phone texting/Instagramming/Facebooking away, I actually interacted with real human beings. Two strangers at that! Two diving instructors from Germany who came here originally to visit the island for a few days and ended up moving here because they loved the lifestyle and found that it had everything they needed. I came to realize this was a common story for many of the locals, but that’s a different post for a different day. Before I knew it, I had made plans to meet up with them later for drinks to catch a live band and a pre-full moon celebration.

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I eventually did find my friends a few hours later when I decided to trek further down the road, drenched in sweat carrying my life on my back and looking for a hostel I could at least stay at for the night and put my stuff in so I could go out and enjoy the evening. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to hear someone call out my name, nor have a place to put my things away and take a shower. Even if it was a freezing cold, salt water shower. I also don’t think I’ve fallen asleep as quickly as I did that first night, even despite the giant cockroaches, geckos, and ants that were crawling up our wall. Oh Indonesia, the tolerance you’ve created in me!

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I do know that after spending a few days in a place where it takes less than 30 minutes to run the entire diameter of the island of which you’ll say hi to the same face at least a couple of times and become “a local” in just a matter of 24 hours, teaches you something valuable about contentment. Relax. Breath. Something that should be so easy to do yet our anxiety, list of things to do, and motions of always looking at what the next step in life is prevents us from relaxing and enjoying the present moment. When we can learn to relax and let go of anticipation, expectations, and worrying about what we can’t control in the future, we are able to be present in the moment and aware of what surrounds us at that moment.

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I’ll admit, it’s a little easier when you’re on a tropical island with nothing to rush off and do. But this can be incorporated in a day to day lifestyle. What if we set the alarm clock a few minutes earlier and woke up the first time it went off, resulting in giving us some time to actually relax and enjoy our cup of coffee and breakfast? What if we took a few breaths while stuck in traffic and instead of yelling at the person next to us who forgot what a turn signal was, we instead turned up our favorite song and sang along to that instead? It’s truly amazing what a few breaths can do to help bring awareness to the present moment and how each moment can have something beautiful about it.

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What can being lost in the Gili’s and letting go of anxiety teach us about contentment? Contentment is learning to relax, even when your heart is racing and your mind is filled with a chaos of thoughts, worries, and anticipation. Or as the locals on Gili Island say, “No worry chicken curry, we’re on chicken time.” I like chicken curry, and I don’t know what chicken time is. But if it involves relaxing and living in the moment, I think we could all benefit from living on chicken time a little more often.

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