People make resolutions on the first day of January every year hoping to achieve them by the end of December. Losing some weight, doing more exercise, eating more fruits and vegetables, having a better work-life balance, and spending more time with family are among the most common ones – some successfully get what they want, many falter and try to achieve the same goal next year. On January 1, 2011, just a few months after I started this blog and began traveling in earnest, I created my own resolution, with a twist. Instead of a 365-day timespan, I intended to fulfill it within ten years for the resolution was to travel to 30 countries/territories by 2020, something I knew I couldn’t do in just one year.
The reason for creating this resolution was simple; I wanted to keep the wanderlust within me alive for a long time because I believed that seeing places far from home would be among the most rewarding experiences I could ever possibly give to myself. I still hold that same belief, and overseas travel is still as rewarding as it was then. However, since the day I made that resolution until mid-2012, I was more keen on whirlwind trips just for the sake of ‘having been there’ and achieving 302020 (what I call my travel resolution) faster. The reality that it wasn’t such a sustainable option eventually hit. When I was in Myanmar for the first time in early 2012 I wanted to go to Bagan, home to hundreds of impressive ancient Buddhist temples. But when I talked to a staff member in the Yangon hotel where I stayed to arrange transport, she simply replied, “you don’t have enough time.”
Laos was the first country where I began to embrace a slower pace of travel, thanks to James’ suggestion to stay in the country longer than what I had planned – it was our first trip together after our initial meet up in Hong Kong a few months earlier. I had booked a return flight to and from Vientiane, the capital of Laos. But my newly-found travel buddy told me about Luang Prabang and convinced me to budget a few extra days in the country so we would have enough time to visit its ancient royal capital. I decided to agree with him and despite the oppressing heat and humidity, our time in Luang Prabang turned out to be one of the most relaxing and rejuvenating travel experiences I’ve ever had to date.
Fast forward to the second half of 2016. After my unforgettable first trip to Japan, I was thinking of going to a place I had always dreamed of visiting: Jordan. Thanks to an incredibly cheap promo for a return trip via Muscat, I booked the flights to this Middle Eastern country for April 2017. Three months before the date of departure, however, James instinctively checked the flights for Jordan and what he found out shocked us: the flight departing Jakarta to Muscat was for some reason cancelled. I called the online booking company (whose customer service officers were extremely helpful, fortunately) where I bought the tickets to clarify this and in the end they offered to reroute my departing flight through Kuala Lumpur with Royal Jordanian. However, because the transit time was too tight, I decided to opt for a refund altogether and chose central Vietnam to replace Jordan – my second time to Vietnam was a blessing in disguise as this replacement trip ended up being one that was filled with visits to beautiful ancient temples and tombs, a stay in a charming old town, and heaps of mouth-watering Vietnamese dishes.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t until our trip to Lebanon in April this year that my interest in going to Jordan reignited. A food writer in Beirut who guided a group of four people, including us, through the streets and alleys of the Lebanese capital to savor the diverse flavors of its cuisine told us that even though the za’atar (herb and spice mixture used in Levantine dishes) we had in Beirut was really good, the best kind actually comes from Jordan. Then there was the magnificent ruins of Baalbek which made me think of another ancient architectural wonder in this part of the world: the famous rock-carved city of Petra. Lebanon was country number 29, so heeding all these implicit suggestions during our stay in Lebanon, I decided that Jordan would be the country that would complete my travel resolution.
Finally, after canceling our original trip in 2017, I found myself setting foot on Jordanian soil two weeks ago, visiting the Middle East for the second time in a year. As opposed to the lush, well-watered landscape of Lebanon, that of Jordan’s is dominated by desert and barren hills, only occasionally interspersed with rare patches of greenery. Amman was bustling with life and felt very safe with a strangely stark contrast between its west and east sides. The ruins in Jerash were impressive, all scattered across a vast area which made me imagine how this place must have looked like when the Romans still lived here. The mosaics of Madaba were astonishing, a testament to this land’s richly layered history. The monumental structures of Petra were spectacular, each and every single one of them meticulously carved into the sandstone hills and mountains of the arid landscape. Wadi Rum was both magical (in the morning and at night) and unforgiving (at midday). And the food! I enjoyed Lebanese food so much, but most of the world already knows how good their food is thanks to the huge Lebanese diaspora. But Jordanian food… It’s seriously underrated.
In the upcoming weeks and months I will elaborate further on my travel experiences in this kingdom. But probably the question some of you might ask is this: what’s after 302020? Nothing, really. At this point I’m already convinced that I won’t need another travel resolution to keep me exploring the world because I know that’s one of the things I enjoy most in life. I will most likely return to countries where I only spent a little time visiting in the past (Thailand, the Philippines and South Korea) as well as satiating my curiosity of places I’ve never been to.
Last but not least, I’d like to thank Robin who encouraged me to start this blog almost ten years ago, Reza who opened my eyes and made me realize that it’s actually possible for an Indonesian to travel solo abroad, James whose eloquently-written blog posts inspired me to write better, and you, my dear readers who have been reading my posts and sharing your thoughts along the way. Without you all, this blog wouldn’t have gotten this far. Cheers to all of us and happy travels!