Trip With Sari Musdar

Trip With Sari Musdar
Spring Euro Trip With Sari Musdar

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Fun fearless female travelers - Me at The Jakarta Post (22 April 2012)

Traveling solo? Why not? For many women, solo travel brings its own joys and challenges, leading to extraordinary yet daunting once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Some female Indonesian travelers share their stories on how they conquered countries around the globe on their own.

When Matatita was a little girl, she got used to be away from her parents during school holidays, in which she spent time at her relatives’ houses outside of her home town of Purwodadi in Central Java.

Her parents would take her to her aunt’s or uncle’s home, give her some money for her stay and pick her up later at the end of the vacation.

The real adventure started when she studied anthropology at Yogyakarta’s Gadjah Mada University. She often went to remote places, where sometimes there was no access to any means of communication.

“Such situations sharpen my wits, making me more alert, physically and mentally,” Tita recalls of the time.

Ever since then, packing her backpack and spending time on the road is on her must-do list. The 40-something woman prefers to go solo, saying that she can explore a destination more easily when she is traveling alone.

“I don’t like traveling in groups and I barely do so. I feel like I enjoy traveling by myself because it brings more joys. I can decide everything by myself,” explains Tita, who is married with a 2-year-old daughter.

“If you travel with many people, you need to compromise with the others as you might have different preferences. Your focus narrows.”

A slew of solo backpacking journeys has taken Tita to fanciful hot spots of dozens of provinces across Indonesia, Southeast Asia and Europe.

In 2010, after attending a cultural event in Paris, she decided to extend her stay in Europe, exploring Belgium, France, Italy, Greek and the Netherlands by herself. That was her first time traveling around Europe alone.

“My hubby, whom I knew when I was in university, does not protest or worry because he knows that I can take care of myself,” Tita says.

Since she likes scenic waterways, she spent lots of time walking along famous canals when she was in Europe. In Indonesia, she opts for hanging out at vibrant traditional markets.

“As a matter of fact, traveling around Europe is much easier than in Indonesia because the European countries have very good transportation systems that link one country to another within the EU [European Union]. Plus, you can buy all bus or train tickets in advance online,” Tita says.

Asanti Astari, 32, is another “wander woman”. After seeking a travel partner without any luck, she decided to trek through Scandinavian countries Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden in just 18 days.

“If I was just waiting and waiting for a travel-mate, I would have never have gone to see the other parts of the world,” Asanti says.

It is tough encouraging oneself to travel overseas solo for the very first time, Asanti says, but once you start the journey, everything is OK because you have started to find out about the situation and the environment.

Becoming a solo traveler appears to have brought tons of benefits for Asanti as she gets to be more independent, is able to make a quick decision on her own and manages her budget wisely. For traveling in Europe, Asanti set a maximum budget of ¤50 per day.

“I got lost a few times because I was not a good map reader. But being in a totally new place can sharpen your creativity in communicating with local people, who cannot speak English. Traveling solo also helps you to become more aware of your surroundings,” Asanti says.

Another solo traveler, Sari Musdar, says traveling alone is more about “me time”.

“I don’t mind taking a trip with one or two of my best friends, but going solo allows me to observe the country and its culture as much as I want,” says the 36-year-old who has visited Australia, Southeast Asia and Western Europe.

“It is more flexible because you set your own itinerary. You have your freedom. You don’t have to wait for someone else. If I get lost, I tend to enjoy it, taking it as a challenge.”

When a woman decides to take a trip on her own, the question that often comes up is: Is it really safe for a woman to travel alone?

“Nothing bad ever happens. Maybe it is because I don’t look like a rich woman,” Sari says, giggling.

Tita says it helps not to show off any wealth. “So far, so good. I usually dress appropriately and avoid wearing jewelry while I am on the road,” she says.

However, there was an unpleasant experience when Tita went to Wamena, Papua, in 2007. She was stopped by people who claimed to be intelligent agents and asked to see her permit to stay in the area.

“It was strange because I am an Indonesian and I don’t need a special permit to stay in another part of the country. I was not afraid. I just felt uncomfortable about it.,” Tita says.

“Another thing is, they were not Papuans. It seemed like they did not come from the neighborhood. The Papuans themselves were really nice as they welcomed and treated me well.”

And don’t they get lonely? “I meet new people and other travelers during my stay at hostels along the way. We have chit-chat and share our traveling experiences. That’s the best thing about traveling alone,” Sari says.

The travelers have even penned their experiences in travel books, aiming at providing guidance, especially for novices and travel addicts out there.

Tita, for instance, has published three travel books — Tales from the Road, Euro Trip and UK Trip, while Asanti wrote the Scandinavian Explorer. Sari has launched a book titled Panduan Hemat Keliling Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Luxembourg and Trier (Budget travel guide around Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Luxembourg and Trier).

The books feature tips on how to travel smart on a low budget. “While the first book is more on my personal stories in Papua, the other two (Euro Trip and UK Trip) encourage women not to be afraid of traveling solo,” Tita says.

Women, Tita continues, tend to be reluctant to go overseas on their own because of language and budget problems.

“I want to show people that those issues should not lessen their spirit to go around the world. If you want to travel somewhere, just do it, smartly.”

source : The Jakarta Post, 22 April 2012
twitter : @sari_musdar

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