19 uncensored tips from a woman traveling solo in India

Jaime making beautiful crafts with an artist in Srinagar city in India.

I’ve known my fearless and adventurous friend Jaime for a few years now. We met in Vancouver, Canada, enjoyed Burning Man together, and experienced many outdoor adventures and cooking nights with our friends.I’m very proud that she pushed herself to take a long break from work and set out to do a long term travel.

She is currently in India for a few months and despite the many scare stories, she’s been able to navigate through the country, connect with people and picked up street savvy tips on having the experience of a lifetime while staying safe. J

aime took the time to share how she picked up the courage to take a break from work to do long term travel and share a load no BS advice for travelers, particularly if you’re a woman exploring India. She talks about how to deal with men staring, how to minimize scams and the three important words you need to know in India.

Why did you decide to take a break from work to travel? 

I wanted to travel India since I graduated from university, but my parents thought I was too naive (they weren’t wrong) and I had no money to travel. Hence I postponed it for a few years. I was feeling there was something missing in my life: my independence and I wanted to really truly live my life to the fullest, battling my insecurities and just be me.

After a few years of working with a company, it dawned on me that it’s always been my dream to travel either South America or India. Three weeks of holidays is just not enough. I did a lot of research, like I pretty much interviewed all my friends plus more about India.One friend told me – the slogan for India is ‘incredible India’ take this opportunity to really see how incredible India is.

Pretty much all my friends who have been to India said it was their best place they have to travel, even as a lone woman. And when I heard stories of you traveling, I really wanted to fulfill my dreams of traveling.

Jaime in Leh, India watching the Dalai Lama celebrate his 79th birthday on July 6 with Richard Gere.

What would you say to people who fear getting out of their comfort zones and daily routines to travel?

I personally feel that it was the surrounding people like your friends (not the ones in Vancouver) and family who love you and care about give you the most fear. Before coming to India, my friends and family were like “What the hell – are you insane? Did you hear about the rape cases in India? Don’t go there.” Hence I was postponing my flights and was just not sure until my boyfriend Shuvi said, “Honey, don’t let their fear get inside you. Do want YOU want to do, it’s time to start living your life and not theirs.”

I used to be an executive assistant and hence an OCD planner. Everyday, every time there was something to do. If there was nothing, then I’d freak out. Coming to India, I had somewhat a plan (for my mom’s sake). But plans always change, and India really will teach you a lesson on “routine”, or that it’s impossible to have one since nothing is really on time in India, including people and transport.

Prior to starting my travels, I did an ‘Osho Meditation’ session in regards to ‘no mind’ and I learnt, there is nothing in life you should have possession off. Life is full of surprises so just sit, relax and wait for those surprises to come.

How has it been traveling as a woman alone in the areas you’ve been in India?

“This is one of the coolest temples I’ve seen in Bhagsu.”—Jaime

India is still a patriarchal society, so men are everywhere. And they just don’t mind their own business, they stare and you just have to get used to it. And also, they are full of shit (literally full of bullshit) and you can’t trust a single guy (even some young Indian men who are my friends).

You need to accept that they are many Hindus and Muslims so there is no sex before marriage in the culture. And many of them see ‘foreign women’ as an opportunity for some fun. So hugs are generally a no-no but a simple handshake is allowed. If you are too friendly with them (even the younger ones like my age) they want to take you as their bride even if you have a boyfriend or husband. So let’s say – play it safe.

What advice to you have for women traveling solo in India?

1. Be confident and assertive

I am not a mean person, but seriously India, you need to be a little mean because many men just won’t leave you alone. And a little meanness makes them GO AWAY. I had this guy who has a wife and kids and he constantly calls me and gets out of his way to try and see me to the point a female friend from Mumbai said, next time he calls you “tell him to stop calling or else you will call the police.” This is how straight forward it is. There is no niceness in this game, you just need to stand your ground.

Triund mountains, sleeping under sars, shepard and goats

Jaime trekked up the Triund Hill in Mcleodganj. “You would think we would be sleeping under the stars but instead we were sleeping under crazy lightning show, hail, snow, rain and crazy gusty winds which we thought we may get blown off the mountain. Thank lordie for my friends sleeping bag. And a Shepard just slept under a tarp like structure with his many goats and sheep,” Jaime explained.

Also Indian men have no boundaries and they think that foreign women have none. So they will take any chance for some fleshy advantages. If they touch you on the shoulder, brush it off, meanly. I think India has turned most solo travellers into monsters.

2. Three words you need to know in india:

“We did a wonderful overnight journey to Phuktal Monastary, Zanskar. But due to High altitude sickness we didn’t end up checking the place out fully. To our surprise the Monastery was closed. Thankfully we didn’t have to break into a school and catch a wild bird for supper. A homestay invited us to stay at their place and their 2-year-old was so curious about us.”—Jaime

(i) Neh-hi: No. You need to say it strong and loud and they will pretty much leave you alone, especially in Delhi.

(ii) Bai- yah: brother. Once you say it to an Indian men, they can no longer touch you because you have put them in the brother class meaning brothers don’t mess around with sisters.

(iiI) Namaste: hello/ good bye. Still say hello to women, and children. And that you are not aggressive, just assertive with men.

 3. Travel light

Traveling in India is exhausting, with many hours on public transport and having to find hotel rooms. Pack what you need only, not what you think you need. You can buy everything you want in India. Maybe not lighters but matches are available. So many women have such heavy backpacks they can’t even carry which gives men opportunities to grab their ass sometime (happened me in Delhi). Last thing for you is to be exhausted and not have any signs of defense.

When you are traveling as alone girl, you never leave any of your belongings behind. And there are some places that are dirty and full of urine, feces and puke. So you have to learn how to squat (with easy access to your own toilet paper) with both backpacks on. Always carry a small rucksack in front of you, not only you protect your breasts but makes you bigger and the men smaller. And combined with a scary looking face, they literally fuck off.

“I’m so inspired by this French woman Sonia. She is a single mother of two wonderful children. She has had continuos battles with family politics of being a vegetarian and a single mother, yet she still stands strong as a steel rod. Through her many journeys through India some 40 years ago she seeks simplicity, kindness and calmness – shanti shanti. Plus she loves dancing trance too!”—Jaime.

4. Indian women – probably the best people on the planet

If you are stranded in a bus/ train station at night or early hours in the morning, stay in the station at least until dusk. Luckily, many women travel with their families throughout India. So if you see an Indian woman, even if you don’t know Hindi and she doesn’t know a word of English, go straight to her and try to communicate with her in sign language. They are more than happy to have you join their company. I had a friend who slept in the bus station next to a group of women and their kids.

5. Indian men and unwanted attention

Indian men are not there to rape you, or harass you. But if you give them an opportunity, some of them will take it. So always stay on the safe side. You are already traveling alone, so unwanted attention is glowing around you.

“This was on a six-hour bus ride on local transport. They pack everyone like sardines. Luckily no one vomited.”

My friends cannot emphasize this enough: dress appropriately in India. Cover your chest, arms and legs, even if it’s 40 degrees. When I was in Praharganj, in Delhi, a group of young women were walking around in shorts and spaghetti strap. And men were staring at them in googly eyes. So really if you don’t want attention dress moderately like the Indian women.

6. Rape alarms and pepper spray

Touch wood, I’ve never had to use it, but I know I can if I need to use it. So again, if you have a chance get one. It’s better for you to feel safe traveling alone.

7. Paying a little more for protection

I know as travellers, we are always on budget. But staying in a place where you need to pass through many alleys just to save a couple hundred rupees is just pure stupid. 50 rupees is $1 US, do the math.

Also, since you need to be on alert all the time, a good night’s rest is heaven rather than hell, especially In Praharganj in Delhi where a lot of rape cases happen at night you do not want to be strolling around after 9 p.m., so get back to your hotel by 9 p.m.

8. Buses

Many travelers opt for the Volvo buses, but to be honest, I have been in India for two months and I haven’t taken a single Volvo bus. Normally local or non-AC (don’t tell my mother). As a general rule, if you are traveling in the daytime, take a local bus.

Jaime hanging out in Triund mountains.

For overnight journeys, take a Volvo (even though they drive like crazy) because it’s better to be with the travelers. Apart from traveling from Mcleodganj to Delhi where all the Tibetans take the non-AC bus, do yourself a favour and don’t count pennies.

9. Trains

I have met a few women who take the cheaper class trains. I spoke to a bunch of Indian travelers and even they don’t travel the cheaper classes because it’s not only less safe but a lot of people (from outside) can just pop into your compartment and steal your luggage.

Just let you know there are hardly any lockable doors on trains in India. Everything is open. The cheapest I take is 3-tier AC meaning that there are three bunk beds, and you are on the upper deck. Pretty much it’s all to yourself. If you are traveling overnight, be wary of the staff sleeping on the floors just before you enter the toilet. See if anyone is following you. And when you get in, lock it immediately.

10. Get used to exercising your kegel muscles

These are the muscles that keep you from wanting to pee. There are many times, and many nights I refuse to go to the toilet if the toilet is outside (not in your room) and many local buses don’t stop for pee breaks (maybe after 5 hours). So get used to exercising those muscles.

Jaime connected with another global explorer in New Delhi who took off six months to travel.

11. Having no expectations

Meaning ZILCH! India is full of surprises, I think that’s part of the “Incredible India” slogan. Remember, you may not get what you really paid for, for hotels, transportation, food, clothing, tourist sights, everything. So travel India with an open mind because you never know what surprises will bring you.

12. Always receive the item first before paying and check the price printer on the item

This goes for hotels, public transport, phone recharge, groceries . . . everything! Hotels: go in and check bathrooms, beds and bedsheets, air conditioning, TV, and especially the lock. All rooms comes with one or two bolted locks which you can lock from inside. Check locks that are working before agreeing with price.

13. Public transport 

People are always trying to scam you even for a few rupees (literally less than a cent). So do your homework and check around for the prices. There are many public transportation options, so make sure the receipt you get is actually what you want.

Auto richshaws: this is best way to travel and negotiate the prices first. I prefer these than taxis so if you feel a little unsafe, you can always jump off. They only go around 20km/hr and always stop due to traffic jams.

Prepaid taxis: if you have a smart phone really check the address they put on the slip, because in Mumbai, I was at the counter with one address and he printed a completely different address. So I spent 30 minutes arguing with the damn taxi driver. They are also the safest transport from the airport.

A local artist in Sinegar, Kashmir.

14. Phone/SIM cards

I’m writing this because obviously I got scammed. Pretty much it takes 24 hours if I register your SIM (security reasons). If they demand money at first, just pay for the SIM (50 rupees) and you will come tomorrow to pay the rest once your SIM is registered.

Obviously I didn’t and shelled out $22 for a 3G data plan, talk time and SIM. And when my SIM card got registered there was zero balance. Every time you top up, wait for the message that pops up on your phone saying “recharge successful” stating how much you put in, its validity, and then you pay. Do not pay them the rest until you receive that damn text.

15. Groceries

there is always a printed cost of the maximum they will charge you for an item. So make sure they don’t get more money than it is worth. When buying fruits and vegetables, make sure that you pick the veggies not them because they end up giving you the rotten ones in a new paper bag. So if you go back to your hotel with a sack of rotten vegetables, don’t start feeling sorry for yourself.

Scams are bound to happen to everyone in India, even the locals get scammed all the time. So take it with a grain of salt and say at least it was money and not your life.

16. Asking for directions

“I went to a birthday party in Bhagsu. You know it’s a brilliant party when you danced with people who are constantly smiling, when your knees and feet hurt, your clothes are stinking with sweat and it only costs you $8 which includes a full meal too!”—Jaime

There are no street signs anywhere in India and sometimes it is impossible to find a place. Don’t ask a stranger for directions at night, you are just asking for trouble. Ask shop owners and women. If a man approaches you and tells you to follow him-don’t. You are asking for trouble. If you have a smart phone with data, that’s also a good idea to find where the hell you are.

17. No where is safe in India

Many solo travelers and locals have agreed that there isn’t a single safe place in India where you can roam around alone at night or in quiet places. Even in Mcleodganj (where majority of the Tibetans live), I don’t walk alone at night. So be smart and always travel with another traveller.

When I was in Rishikesh (the yoga central of the world) some solo women were going to the beaches alone, and literally, Indian men would be masturbating on the next rock. So don’t think you are ever safe.

18. Tell people where you are going

Tell people where you are going, whether its another traveller, a local or even your parents/ friends at home. Sometimes as a lone traveller, you just want to go anywhere. Yes feel free to go anywhere but let someone know where you are going so they don’t get worried sick about you.

It also helps, when you are talking about the place you are going because a group of university students may approach you and ask if you want to share a taxi with them.  And if there is a female student, best to stick with her.

“We stayed one night at Golden Palace houseboat, accompanied by many younger children and having dinner ‘Kashmir’ style at their home!. We attempted to paddle a small route and failed miserably. It was nice just being a kid again.”—Jaime

19. If you get harassed, please don’t just do NOTHING

It drives me bonkers when I hear other female travelers who get harassed and they are too embarrassed to do anything. This does not teach the violators anything. I’m just waiting for that one guy to touch me and my whole hatred with harassment will just get dumped on him. I got pinch on the butt in a packed metro in Delhi with my big backpack. And instead of doing nothing, I turned around I shouted, “Who the fuck touched me?!” And they all turned around in shock. An Indian woman and I gave the man a good slap on the face with my Lonely Planet Book. It’s big and heavy for a reason.

On the bus, when a man tried to reach something over me, I turned around give him an assertive stare and he hasn’t done it since. Also, in Mysore I heard there are a lot of flashers. This is when pepper spray is handy. I don’t think the men will love it when their precious parts gets pepper sprayed on. Also take a picture of the flasher and show it to the police. The good thing about Indian men is that they literally fuck off if you put them in their place.

“Getting ready for our Zanskar Valley trek from Padam to Photoskar with our three little donkeys!”—Jaime

When me and two other girls arrived in Delhi by bus, we were surrounded by taxi drivers wanting to take us to our destination. Literally we pushed them, and said ‘neh-hi’ or simply, “fuck off”, then they give you maybe a feet of space. Then we ran to an auto rickshaw, quickly negotiated the price and left .

Lessons from the year of traveling

Big Buddha in Pai, Thailand.

  • Be open to how your days will unfold because the best moments happen when they are unplanned
  • Give fully with your heart without expectation of anything in return
  • Allow people to give to you while resisting the compulsion to “pay them back” by accepting with your heart, not your hands
  • Some bad experiences happen for a reason and sometimes lead to better experiences in the future
  • Negative experiences often represent the small dot that is part a bigger, more beautiful picture
  • Life is short, don’t waste so much time doing what you don’t like
  • Make time for the people you care about and not waiting until someone is sick or dying to spend quality time with them
  • Don’t let your mind dwell in past mistakes, don’t overplan for the future, just be happy and at peace with the present
  • Focus on what you have, not what you don’t have
  • Experience everything, assume nothing

In case you’re staying overnight at the Jakarta airport . . .

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This is in Terminal 2 close to the A&W.

I only booked a flight out of Jakarta because I thought I was going to see a bit of the city for a few days before I left. Thankfully I didn’t end up doing that because I heard both from Indonesians and expats that it’s not the best place to be of all the cities to visit in the country.

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This is in Terminal 1 close to the info booth on the first floor.

Since the city centre is far from the airport and I was catching a flight the next day, it was easier for me to stay overnight at the airport. I tried to look for a reasonably priced accommodation close to the airport but there was nothing available for less than 350,000 rupiahs a night.
If you’re looking for a place with good Wi-Fi, access to a plug and reasonably priced food, come to Terminal 2 of the airport at a restaurant called Dapoer Mie. You can get a free yellow shuttle bus outside the exit doors from the other terminals to get to Terminal 2.

I’ve checked out the menus for many of the restaurants in Terminal 1 and 2 and the prices at Dapoer Mie are among the best, ranging from 15,000 to 25,000 rupiahs for a meal. Drinks range from 5,000 (hot tea) to 15,000 (juices).

If you’re in Terminal 1, the restaurant Q Talk by the information booth on the main floor had a two for one drink special for 28,000 rupiahs.

Enjoy your stay.

How to take the BTS train in Bangkok

The BTS train station is a very cheap and easy way to get around Bangkok. It’s clean and has air conditioning that you will enjoy on the very hot days. Here’s how you take the train:

1. Get coins

The ticket machine only takes coins. You can exchange your bills for coins at the ticket office close the machines.

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2. Select the fare of your destination

The fares of the BTS station range from 15 to 52 baht from depending where you want to go.

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 3. Put your ticket in the slot with the green arrow to open the gate

Remember to keep your ticket until you exit your final destination! You’ll need to put the ticket in to open the gates when you exit the station. Otherwise you’ll pay about 40 baht to exit.

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Happy travels.

Is it safe to travel as a woman in Southeast Asia?

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Fantastic friends at Golden Temple Villa who always welcome me in their space and make sure I’m comfortable. They were so sweet to give me small birthday gifts after only knowing me for one week. One of the managers said, “My whole team must take care you while you are away from your mommy.”

In the last 9.5 months, I’ve stayed at village homes in the most unvisited parts of Cambodia, shared guesthouses with people I’ve just met after one to three days, shared hostel rooms with unlocked lockers, stayed at a traveler’s home after meeting in another country for two days and the only time I have ever had anything stolen from me and my friend is in my hometown in Vancouver, Canada. Twice. So is it safe to travel as a woman in Southeast Asia? I say yes. East Vancouver . . . depends on the time of day, haha.

Of course my family and friends are always concerned about my safety and I appreciate that. Sometimes, however, other people who have not traveled much fuel the irrational fears of our loved ones. I myself find when I don’t know anything about a place, I default to being a bit afraid and asking the same questions people ask me, “Is this area safe?”

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I met Poly in Bangkok at a bar and she offered to take me around the city the next day. After two days of spending time together, we’ve become good friends and my friend and I will be staying with her when we’re in Bangkok again.

In North America, we’re taught, “Don’t talk to strangers.” While this is good advice for children, there has to be a mentality shift as we get older and have better judgment. When you’re on a global exploration, it is much safer to talk to people, both local people and travelers, than keeping to yourself all the time. Most people are very open and the more connections you make, the more information you are armed with, the better and safer your experience will be.

I know it’s a scary concept to trust when traveling, but some level of trust is necessary to enhance your experience. And your intuition gets better the more you explore. I can usually tell in the first few minutes of meeting someone whom I can spend time with and who I’d prefer to avoid and say, “See ya!”

As much as I love adventure and new experience, I rarely take unmanageable risks like exploring new places alone at night or saying yes to go somewhere with someone where my intuition tells me not to. When I come to a new place, I take time to talk to people and scope out the area first.

I met Lalha through Couch Surfing and she has been an incredible host who introduced me to other great friends in Yoyjakarta, Indonesia.

While I was living in Siem Reap, I would return home no earlier than 10 p.m. almost every night and lived close to the city centre. Still, I take my basic precautions and don’t carry more money than I need for the night, my phone and my keys so I often don’t need to carry a small bag (which a thief can easily grab or pull people off their bicycles if it’s visible).

What is more dangerous than the constant fear that you will be harmed is the belief that most people in the world are bad and everyone is out to get you. It’s fascinating how much people shape their understanding of groups of people or entire countries with such small amounts of information. It’s like they are standing so close to a painting and only see the tiniest fraction of the whole  picture. If they take the time to step back, go explore a bit farther, they will see the beauty and complexity of the bigger picture.

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My wonderful adopted Cambodian family who is always taking care of me and looking out for me while I’m in Cambodia. Buntha, the husband, said, “You are never alone when you are in Cambodia, you always have family here.”

I’ve met many more honest people than dishonest people in the countries I’ve visited, particularly Cambodia. I have accidentally dropped some money in a very economically destitute villages and was surrounded by kids who played with us, and one of the kids picked up the money and gave it to my friend. I wouldn’t have even noticed if they took it and ran away.

One of my friends is a tour guide and he often helps tourists file reports and other administrative work if they lose their passport of encounter other problems. He is not a rich man by any means but he said, “I don’t like to accept tips if something bad already happened to the tourists. If they choose to give me a tip after a tour, that is ok.” I was really impressed. I told him, “It’s ok, if they offer it to you, it’s their way of showing appreciation and they can afford it.” And he replied, “I don’t feel comfortable accepting if something bad already happens to them.”

Between traveling in 10 countries in Europe, Cambodia, Laos,Thailand Indonesia and Taiwan, and the hundreds of interactions with people, the biggest problem I’ve had are annoying tourists. And to be honest, if someone does steal something from me, I understand the conditions in many places I’m visiting that would drive people to steal.

I met Kerry (right) at our shared hostel room in Edu Hostel (highly recommended!) in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. We were lucky to have this wonderful young university student accompany us around the city for the day to make sure we are safe.

In the end, as much as it’s crappy to have something stolen from me, I can easily replace the stolen items, I have my health, my friends, job opportunities and family to go back to. Many of the places I’m visiting lack the most basic health care and live on salaries barely enough to survive. So if someone steals something from me once, well, then it’s just a small dot in the big picture.

From my experience so far, most people I’ve met around the world are incredibly generous with the highest levels of hospitality that I’ve ever experienced, and often much more open overall than many people in the West. 99.5% of the time, my experiences have been safe, memorable and eye-opening.

If you don’t believe me, go farther and see the big picture for yourself.

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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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

Ferry from Bali to Lombok island

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.