Koko’s recommended stay at Edu Hostel Jogja, Indonesia

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Communal space with comfy cushions, two guitars and a foosball table.

Edu Hostel Jogja is definitely the place to go if you are looking for a witty, clean, and comfortable place to meet other travelers in Jogyakarta, Indonesia. For 70,000 rupiah (about $6 US), you can stay in a shared dorm with six beds, a free tasty breakfast on their rooftop with a nice view of the city, free Wi-Fi, access to computer stations, and great service. Other guesthouses in parts of the city charge at least 100,000 rupiah per night and don’t include Wi-Fi.

The hostel’s design reflects Jogyakarta’s creative culture with the integration of beautiful art, vibrant colours, witty signs and inspiring quotes. The communal environment is what makes Edu Hostel a few steps above the great European hostels I’ve stayed at before. And they also use solar panels on their roof!

Creating a community environment with intentional design

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This sign is at the stand-up computer station, which was purposely designed without seats to encourage people to talk to each other instead of being locked at the computer.

On top of being a comfortable and very functional place, I love that Edu Hostel attempts to create a community environment with smart an intentional design. For example, there is no Wi-Fi in any of the rooms because they want to encourage people to talk to each other. So they only have Wi-Fi on the first floor, which is an open space and you can enjoy the catchy music they play, creating a fun vibe. Even the computer stations on the first floor are stand-up stations to discourage people from being plugged in all the time.

When you walk up the stairs, on each floor you can find inspiring quotes along the way. When you reach the top where the food and drinks are, you can see a 90-degree pool that people can swim in while looking at a 360-degree view of the city. When you’re done your meal, you are responsible for clearing your dishes by bringing them to the table station.

Simply smart design

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Quote on our hostel room wall.

I really appreciate places that are user-friendly and design things in a way that makes sense for people. It’s often very hard to be simple.

Here are a few examples of some of the smart design aspects of Edu Hostel:

  • The plug outlets to charge your electronics are placed inside your locker so they’re not in plain view when you leave your room. At first I kept wondering why they didn’t have any outlets in the room, but now I know it’s for security.
  • The toilet is separate from the showers so if one person is doing their business, that doesn’t stop your roomies from taking a shower. Usually  hostels have the shower and toilet in one room.
  • You have to buzz in with your keycard to enter the room area on each floor, which adds another layer of security.

I’d still choose staying with a local person on Couchsurfing over a hostel but unfortunately the people I messaged were either busy or out of town, which is why I ended up staying a Edu Hostel in the first place. But I’m glad I did and I was still able to connect with some couch surfing hosts in the end, which is a whole other adventure I’ll talk about in my next post.

I love intentional spaces that are created for people and Edu Hostel is impressive, inspiring and great value for the few dollars you pay per night.

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Restaurant patio

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Solar panels

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A sign at the elevator telling you how many calories you will lose if you take the stairs. After reading this, we took the stairs.

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Colourful wall decor between floors.

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One of several speakers playing good music around the hostel.

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Don’t settle for less than you deserve

The last few years I’ve often been frustrated listening to people complain about the same things about their unfulfilling jobs or relationships. I’m including myself as being one of those people sometimes.

When I finally noticed how much I was complaining to my friend about the same issues, I realized I had two choices: stay in the same situation and keep complaining, or taking control of the situation to get out of an unhealthy environment. This doesn’t mean running away from a problem by any means. Usually if I have a problem, I will do what I can to change it to improve the situation or speak up to the right people. But if the person in charge isn’t willing to change, then at that point it’s up to me if I choose to stay in the same cycle.

A big barrier I see people often creating for themselves is they don’t believe that they deserve the better job, a better partner, a better lifestyle, a better school, whatever! So they settle. And I hate settling or when people believe you should just take what you can get because I know I deserve better, and so do you.

I’ve grown up so independently and made my own decisions to do what I want, whether it’s choosing jobs or choosing to take a year and a half off to explore the world just because I want to. So when I meet people, particularly in places where women do not have full independence to make their own decisions, it is very frustrating to listen to how restricted they are. And hearing these stories often used to make me even more irritated that some people I know who have the full freedom to get a better job or partner don’t do so.

Settling for unhealthy relationships

I’ve seen and heard too many stories of people sacrificing their own interests or careers because they lose their identity with the people they are dating. Some people have stopped doing their hobbies because their partner would make fun of them while others have completely lost touch with their closest friends who know them best when they have a new relationship with an inadequate person. So they settle.

Some people fear being single and literally don’t know how to be a single person. It’s dangerous to rely on someone else’s approval to feel validated because people can be easily manipulated without realizing it. Your opinion of yourself is ultimately the only one that matters. It can take a long time,  but embracing and accepting yourself is extremely important.

Yes, I’m totally going to do it; I’m going to quote a professional whom I watched on Oprah years ago. What she said really stuck out to me when she was commenting on people in abusive relationships. She said, “A relationship is not about one person filling the gap of another. A strong relationship is two whole people coming together.”

Settling for unfulfilling jobs

People often treat their jobs like they treat their relationships: They settle for a job that is mundane and just good enough because they know it will be there, the other party is confident the person won’t leave because they think they don’t have any other choice, and simply because they have been in that relationship for a long time. So quitting may not seem like the most logical thing because they’ll have to start over and fear the unfamiliar future. It’s like taking driving the same route all the time because you know how to get there and you won’t get lost in an unfamiliar path.

But if you explore and take a different road, you will discover all the beautiful things that exist on different paths that have been waiting for you the whole time. Even if you get lost, it’s part of an unpredictable and exciting experience that you deserve to enjoy.

Unless you are one of the few people in the world who knows what you are passionate about, trying anything and everything that interests you is the best way to discover what drives you. It’s taken me about eight job roles the past 10 years to realize how much I love training and educating people. I never imagined myself being some kind of teacher but I find it very rewarding when someone learns a new skill. The more experience you get from volunteering, working, trying new courses or exploring new hobbies, the more tools you will have in your belt to get different jobs.

Our generation is very different from our parents. Both my parents were lifers in their jobs and I’m exactly the opposite. My mom was with the same company for 36 years while my dad worked as a nurse his whole life. As for me, I haven’t been in the same role for more than a year and a half the past 10 years. I’m constantly looking for something that is challenging, changing, rewarding and fulfilling.

When I was watching an interview from one of the owners of the quickly growing and very successful company Stella and Dot , the owner remortgaged her house when she had two kids and made other sacrifices to make the company even bigger. The interviewer said, “You’re quite the risk-taker.” And she replied, “I’m a risk lover. I’m more afraid of feeling trapped in a job that I don’t like.” Read more on these smart, savvy and centered women who built a business now worth 450 million dollars from the ground up.

“With Stella & Dot I have found my calling. I’ve done other things that have been commercially successful, but it’s not enough. It left me wanting more, and that feeling of wanting more led me down this path. What we do really matters. We empower women.”—Jessica Herrin

A healthy foundation

Like a building, people need to have a strong foundation in order to rise up  and reach their goals. Having a strong foundation includes having confidence in yourself, having a solid group of people who will support you and knowing what you deserve. When you have a strong foundation and get knocked down by a negative person, you can easily rebuild in time.

But if you don’t have a strong base, negative people will build to their own vision, not yours. And before you know it, you won’t even realized that you’re in a one-way system. Do what you need to do to explore your own interests, pursue your goals and build the vision for yourself.

Getting over the fear

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Friendly girls we met in Bali, Indonesia

I came across a good quote that said, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” It may feel easier to stay in the boring job or unfulfilling relationship because it’s comfortable. There is a routine, you get something out of it, but at your mental and emotional expense in the long run. We have one life to live, so live it.

I really believe that people grow when they put themselves in challenging situations, face it, and do it again. Staying in our comfort bubble won’t allow us to do what we really want.

One of the most challenging things I had to get over was shyness when I was growing up. People who know me now wouldn’t believe how socially awkward and quiet I was as a child and a teenager. But at 16 years old, I pushed myself to speak after having such little confidence in my ability to make friends. When I discovered I didn’t completely repel people, I started talking more and kept pushing myself to speak until I got more comfortable with people. Now I’m 28 years old and can make friends easily wherever I am in the world.

But I could have easily stayed in my bubble, taken the same road and simply avoid people wherever I could. You know that quote that says do one thing that scares you a day? It’s not a bad exercise.

Read the story of Choan Sambat, an inspiring Cambodian man who overcame many obstacles to get an education and use what he earned to open up a school to educate children in his community. He had a vision for himself to get an education, become self-sufficient and give back to his community. If he can accomplish what he did with few resources, we all have the ability to pursue our goals.

Next steps

If you have a part of your life that you want to improve, do the following:

  1. Go to a quiet place and really think about what you would like to improve in your life: your job, a skill, your relationship, your hobbies. Or write down must-have qualities that you want from your partner or future partner.
  2. What vision do you have for those parts of your life?
  3. Tell yourself why you deserve it
  4. Brainstorm your next steps to pursue it and find good friends who will support you in reaching your goals and hold you accountable to take your next move

“If you cry because the sun has gone out of your life, your tears will prevent you from seeing the stars.”― Rabindranath Tagore

Don’t settle for less than you deserve! If people say you can’t do it, you can say, “Watch me.”

Riding without a destination in Lombok

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Beautiful ride at 6:00 a.m. from the ferry to Kuta, south of Lombok island.

Riding a motto around Indonesia (where possible) is one of the best ways to explore the islands. Lombok island, which is east of Bali, has been such a nice place to take it easy and explore for a few days.

Driving from the ferry to Kuta, Lombok

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Inside the ferry from Bali to Lombok island with TVs to entertain their guess from 1:00 a.m. to 5:30 a.m.

There is a ferry at Padang Bai in the East of Bali that leaves every hour all day and all night to Lombok. Three of us took the 1:00 a.m. ferry to save on accommodation and paid 112,000 rupiahs (about $12 US) with our mottos.

We drove about an hour and a half from the ferry to south of the island in an area called Kuta, which was the most beautiful drive I have done by motto in Asia so far.

Compared to the traffic and countless tourists in Bali, Lombok has much less tourists unless you’re in an area called Senggigi and it is very quiet. The roads are nice and smooth, even in the small villages surprisingly and people aren’t driving at 90 km an hour passing each other.

Riding without a plan

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The wonderful kids who kept us company around their home.

While I was in Cambodia for eight months, I was constantly reminded that the best things happen when my days were unplanned. But sometimes my old habits kick in and I have this recurring urge to make sure I am going the right direction and make as few mistakes as possible. So thankfully for me, I’m constantly with locals, travelers or expats (people from other countries who live in Asia) who are pretty easygoing and remind me to just go with the flow and getting lost is not a bad thing.

In Vancouver, getting lost is often a frustrating experience, but often “getting lost” or not knowing exactly where you are often leads to the most unforgettable experience. In Lombok it’s really hard to actually lose your way completely on this small island. Before we started riding, I asked my friend Natalie if we should get a map but she said “Nah, it’s ok, I usually like to go places without a map and just asking people.”

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These are the first people we met when we stopped for a drink. The man on the left taught us a few words in Bahasa Susak, one of the several languages spoken in Lombok.

We originally planned to just spend the day on one of the other small islands and just make stops as we pleased along the way. We first stopped by a local market and I just drank something just to be around local people. As soon as we sat down, people around us start talking to us, even with the language barrier. Thankfully Natalie can speak some Bahasa.

The usual questions both in Bali and Lombok are, “Where you from? Are you married? Where you go? How long you in Indonesia?” Talking with them was a great way to start the day and we learned a few words in Bahasa Sasak, the indigenous language of the people in Lombok.

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The wonderful people who stopped to ask if we needed directions.

Even on this small island, there are several variations of the language across the island. Most people will at least understand, if not speak, Bahasa Indonesia, which is the common language across the country. When I said, “Bremebe kabar” which means “how are you?” in Bahasa Sasak to people just a few km outside of Kuta, many of them gave me blank stares. I’m pretty sure my pronunciation wasn’t that far off. But when I say the same thing in Kuta, everyone understands me.

Natalie and I guessed that some people speak one version of Sasak and others speak Bahasa in other parts of Lombok. It’s very interesting languages can differ so much just 10 km or less between different areas.
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After 30 minutes, we continued riding around and it was so relaxing and beautiful to just ride through the small roads and a variety of landscape. As we drive, we’re very obvious foreign visitors, people smile and say hello. This genuine and warming greeting reminds me a lot of the people, especially children, in Cambodian villages.

We took a break and sat on what we thought was an empty field with no one in sight. Before we know it, a few kids stared at us and started talking to us. Then just a few minutes later, there were 23 kids who surrounded us, laughed and spoke with us. Natalie spoke with many of them in Bahasa. This was definitely the highlight of my day.The kids were so friendly and funny. Unlike Kuta, the rest of the places we went to don’t have many tourists so people were very curious about us.

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We offered some of our snacks to them and I was surprised that all of them refused. Natalie told me in parts of the islands, when one person says “yes” or “no”, the group usually follows together.

We said goodbye the kids and continued driving around. People both in Lombok and Bali always come up to us as soon as we stop somewhere to ask us where we are going and if we need help. It’s so nice of them. On our way to one of the hills, we asked for directions to a few people and they all crowded around to talk to us because we were in a rural area that few travelers would go to. I could have easily spent the rest of the afternoon with them, they had lovely smiles like most people around the island.

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Another new friend we met.

While the local people in Kuta are very kind, particularly our guesthouse family at Dyah Homestay, they seem to be a bit less sociable than the people who are on the other parts of the island where there are less tourists. People in Kuta aren’t unfriendly at all, they don’t engage as much in conversation with us. Maybe because they are so used to having tourists around, and they may be even sick of them. I don’t think many of the tourists who would come to Lombok care to have a good conversation with the local people. Many just surf, smoke, eat, drink and keep to themselves.

When we were almost done riding after a few hours, Natalie asked me, “Do you still want a map?” And I said, “Hell no! We’ve met the most amazing people just riding around.”

Explore without a destination, you never know who you will meet and the surprising things the world will give you.

First week in Bali, Indonesia

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I’ve been in Bali almost a week and a half now and there is so much to write about! I’m captivated by the rich and complex history of each of the 17,504 islands that make up Indonesnia.

I’ll admit I didn’t know much about the country before coming here to meet my friend so I’m learning as much as I can while I’m here. I’m resorting to seeing very historical sites and local places, taking pictures, and learning the details after.

DSC_0801While Indonesia is made up of hundreds of ethnic and linguistic groups, they have one common language which is Bahasa Indonesia. I was surprised to learn how diverse and complex the country was, but that’s my own fault. My friend said between islands, it feels like you’re traveling between different countries. I really love listening to the language, and some words sound like Spanish or Italian.

It would be incredible to spend months on a variety of islands to really get a deep understanding of the different cultures throughout the country.

Thanks to my wonderful friend who is living in Bali, I’ve seen so much in a week. So far we’ve seen beautiful temples, rice terraces, went whitewater rafting (on our second day), ate a variety of local food, saw ladyboys and more on all sides of Bali. Driving around on a motto is one of the best ways to see the islands because we can stop anytime we want to and the gas is about $1.50 US to fill each time.

I’ll write more in depth about each aspect of the trip over the next few posts.
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Brown Rice: A new Cambodian-owned restaurant in Siem Reap

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Chorch Cho and Has Piseth, two of the four ambitious Brown Rice owners.

I’m very glad I was in Siem Reap for the opening of Brown Rice, owned by Ing Somaly, Choch Cho, Has Piseth, and Seakngoy Try. The restaurant is the product of the owners’ shared love of food and their dream of having their own business. “I really loved the idea of having healthy food for people and providing a peaceful environment for them to meet and build connections,” said Somaly.

Quality food

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Vegetarian spaghetti

The fact that I am friends with the owners doesn’t affect my opinion of the restaurant having a welcoming atmosphere, delicious food and fantastic service. I tasted a variety of the menu’s dishes, which was a great blend of Khmer and Western food, including curries, BBQ and Italian dishes. And don’t forget to try the cocktails. Drinks and food costs between $1.00 to $3.50.

Brown Rice’s dishes are cooked by the talented chefs who also work at Soria Moria, an award-winning training hotel and restaurant and the popular restaurant Molopor Café, which are both in Siem Reap.

Values

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Students enjoying dinner.

Brown Rice is a values-based restaurant that prioritizes quality food, taste and service.

1. Health

All around Cambodia most restaurants serve white rice by default. But it’s important for the owners of Brown Rice to promote healthy eating because of the benefits to the customer. “The cost of brown rice is double that of white rice. But we sell it at the same price as white rice because we want people to have the affordable option of eating healthy,” said Piseth.

2. Respect

The owners work hard to treat their staff with respect and want to be role models for other businesses on how to treat staff well. “We are not just making this for profit. 5% of our profits go to staff on top of their salary, whether the staff is a cook or cleaner so we can share our success,” said Cho. The owners also want to give their staff opportunities to learn new skills and get professional development training.

3. Community contribution

Brown Rice provides a meeting room upstairs for anyone to use, whether it is an organization or students. “We want to provide a space for youth to share ideas, do research or organize social events for free,” said Seakngoy.

The owners are also discussing how they can use their profits to contribute back to society. That way, guests who eat at Brown Rice will play an integral part in the restaurant’s community contribution. “But ultimately, we want guests to come here because we have good food, not because of the little things we do,” said Cho.

How to get to Brown Rice

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When you’re in Siem Reap, try one of your meals at Brown Rice and chat with the staff. They would love to have you as a guest! Whether I’m at the restaurant to catch up with friends, enjoy a cocktail or use Wifi, I always enjoy the environment.

Brown Rice is a five-minute bicycle ride from the centre of town. You can tell the tuk tuk driver it is 200 metres after Pannasasra University of Cambodia (or just say PUC) if you are driving from Wat Bo road and it will be on the right side of the road. If the driver still has trouble, he can call one of the restaurants’ numbers for directions: 017886422, 0979064300, 092669645, 017370132.

“We chose this location because it is a quiet area. I know it sounds strange for a business to be in a quiet area but we wanted our guests to be able to chill and relax,” said Cho.

Bon appétit!

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Morning glory