When I found out I’d been accepted into a journalism program in Jakarta, I started counting down the days until I’d be boarding the plane. At 20 years old, it was my first time ever travelling alone. I felt like a real foreign correspondent where I’d be interning at Forbes Indonesia in a bilingual office as the only Australian.
But the trip was also a kind of ‘practice’ run to see how my boyfriend of 10 months and I would handle two months apart before I leave for a year’s exchange in Madrid. Before I left, we embraced in a tight hug and I handed him a stack of letters, one for each day that I’d be away.
It took us about 10 goodbyes before we finally separated, tears welling up in my eyes. Questions like ‘What if this trip shows us that it’s too hard to combat distance?’ and ‘what if we realise being apart isn’t what we want?’ circled my mind.
The next day I landed in Jakarta, a bustling city where the extreme macet (traffic) is a running joke. It’s a city that never sleeps, the warungs (street vendors) open until midnight and the booming speakers announcing the 4am call to prayer, make it almost impossible to sleep-in.
It was hard to imagine feeling lonely in the ‘Big Durian’ where smiling is a national past time, but I had my worries. Seven weeks apart didn’t mean that I expected a break up was on the horizon, but if I’m honest, there were some creeping doubts.
In some ways my boyfriend is like a real-life Bruce Wayne, comfortable with solitude. While I fretted about the future, he was completely calm. He flew to Perth to visit his dad and filled up his days exploring the Pink Lake in Lake Hillier and camping on the beach. He wasn’t going to sit at home, waiting for me to Skype him and even picked up an extra day’s work to keep himself busy. When I asked if he missed me, he said “I’ll just miss you until you’re back.”
I admired him because I, on the other hand, found it hard to be alone. I like having a few close best friends to share my thoughts and feelings with. So when I was flown to Bali to cover some stories, I befriended an older American woman who had a penchant for country music and took me on motorbike rides through the rice fields.