Letter to the Editor

I received this letter in the forum, and since it’s been asked numerous times since I started javajive in 2002, I thought I’d address it on the main page rather than in the forum. Often when people email me similar questions, I write them back instead of posting anything here. These are simply my opinions and don’t necessarily reflect a reality felt by other expats. 😉

Hi Brandon,

I just arrived on your site and Indonesia looks so beautiful. Since i have been obsessed with ‘Round the world’ trips or at least a looooong trip to Asia, I have some pragmatic questions….Don’t feel obliged to answer i just thought i would ask:

-How did you do financially?
-Did you just go there with a plane ticket and figured things out there?
-Do you have a “job” there, something that brings you a revenue?

I am curious on how to make things possible for myself to do similar trips.

I am myself an expat, but my switch is a lot less exotic (from france to the US for the last 9 years.)

I really want to travel before life binds me too much. I am already married and it makes things a bit more complicated in terms of moving/money/ conflicting desires etc….

Just would love to hear more about the practical side of your whole adventure.

Thank you in advance,


First off – I always appreciate letters like this – and do my best to answer them. I’d really like to address this one publicly because when I was deciding whether or not to drop my entire life for the chance to live abroad it would have been great to hear other peoples’ experiences and perspectives on problems, benefits, and other issues. Here is goes…

I’ve always been restless, and I’ve always been curious. Those two qualities can be volatile or can lead you down some amazing paths. Generally I think they do a bit of both – and certainly have in my case.

I finished university in spring of 2002 – after 7 years (?!) of studying engineering / product design / and fine arts. When offered the chance to teach computers and p.e. at an international school in Indonesia I was completely uninterested. Why the hell would I want to move to a ‘third-world’ country I’d rarely heard of? And teaching?? Wouldn’t that be like throwing thousands of dollars and 7 years away by not working in engineering? I turned the offer down.

After some intense ‘searching’ I realized that I was much more afraid of regret – the feeling of not knowing what ‘could have been’ – if I were not to go. Three months later I was on a plane to Jakarta.

“How did you do (it?) financially?”

Well, the company paid all expenditures, flight, visa, moving expenses, etc. It would have been much different if I simply bummed it over here – but not impossible – more on that later.

“Do you have a “job” there, something that brings you a revenue?”

I have been working at an American based international school for the entire time I’ve been in Indonesia. I have taught a variety of subject areas, including Computers, ESL, P.E. and Swimming – but basically I’m a computer teacher – and in charge of the web design and advertising. It provides a decent salary, great housing, no taxes, and three months of vacation time per year. With a full time, live-in maid, it’s quite an easy life. All in all, it’s probably the perfect job for an expat in regards to the vacation time and working hours. Sure, I could make more money as a design engineer – but I’m only 27 years old – the rest of my life awaits me.

I have settled into quite a ‘normal’ routine compared to my first year here. I just bought a new car, belong to a nice gym, have favorite restaurants, sit in coffee shops with a book, go out with friends, and take side trips like anyone in the States would. Life as an expat no longer feels so ‘crazy, wild, or adventurous’ – but that can get old after a while. I suppose we all become calloused to being an outsider after a while.

This entire experience would have been much different had I simply arrived with a suitcase and a smile. Finances can obviously greatly put a hold on vacation plans. On the other hand, many of my friends who’ve backpacked and held only temporary jobs have been quite carefree and happy. I occasionally wished I could have had that experience first.

It’s much different to approach a trip with traveling in mind vs. living abroad. If you’ve been hoping to travel and have saved a decent amount you could travel quite extensively on little cash in Southeast Asia. Indonesia is one of the cheaper places I’ve been – if you are willing to sacrifice a bit. Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Philippines are all quite reasonable places to stretch a dollar. Singapore will kill your wallet but offers some wonderful sights – and for us living in the vicinity – offers a glimpse of ‘home’.

Perhaps you could find some temporary work via the Internet – teaching English or other. If you’d be interested I could help you with some decent job search sites for S.E. Asia.

“I really want to travel before life binds me too much. I am already married and it makes things a bit more complicated in terms of moving/money/ conflicting desires etc…”

I suppose my answer to this would be homage to Nike – ‘Just do it’. My mother is in her 50’s and accepted a position in Cape Town, South Africa a few years ago. She was obviously firmly rooted to her life in the States, and yet every one of her family and friends encouraged her to go. It was as if the experience breathed fresh life and youthfulness into her – and proved to her children that there were no excuses to fear change.

“Since i have been obsessed with ‘Round the world’ trips or at least a looooong trip to Asia…”

By using the word ‘obsessed’ you’ve already expressed a deeply rooted desire – and it won’t quit until you submit. If you never take a chance, don’t you think it could morph into regret and wondering at a later time?

I’ll make this very clear – I’ve never regretted the decision to come to Indonesia.

I’ve experienced hardships, difficulties, and rampant frustrations (evident in my old posts), but they are more than balanced out in the end. There has been no time in the past three years in which I held regret about coming here. I will remain here for a little more than one year longer – but will forever hold a connection to Indonesia and her people. This entire experience has altered the entire course of my future – and I’m forever grateful for that. The astonishing things I’ve experienced, the variety of places I’ve seen, and the people I’ve encountered have etched everlasting memories upon every level of my being.