Laying awake under the mosquito net I’m staring at the ceiling of the bungalow. The air is still thick, and covers are useless. Silently I listen to the orchestra of sound around me. Each species rhythmically singing it’s tune, as if they’ve all been practicing for centuries. Despite the exhausting humidity and general uncomfortable feeling that comes with constantly being covered in a film of sweat I’m at ease. The noise is deafening – as if someone is blasting a system right by your bedside. However, I’m pleasantly tired. It’s as if every moment was meant to exist just like this.
I was 48 hours deep into a long, weary journey from Bali to Jogjakarta. During that time I had traveled by local bus, suspiciously un-seaworthy ferry, crappy bus, inconceivably crappier bus, taxi, foot, and finally – train. To give you a sense of how far I traveled Jogjakarta and Denpasar, Bali are roughly the same distance as Los Angeles is to San Francisco. In other words, about a 5 hour car ride in America. Without going into too much detail, as this particular stint is a story on its own, I was filthy, I was exhausted, I was hungry, and at the end of my rope. To make matters worse, my SIM card had run out of credit and I hadn’t been able to find a place to stay.
A lot of people look at me sideways when I tell them I use Couchsurfing. I usually get a shake of the head “you’re crazy.” Or a gasp, “You let strangers stay in your house?” Or, my favorite, the quizzical, “Isn’t that dangerous?” To which my normal reply is “Getting in your car and driving to work is dangerous, does that stop you?” I’ve met some amazing people and forged life long connections through the Couchsurfing network. For those who have no idea what I’m referring to, Couchsurfing is an online network that connects travelers with local residents. You can stay or host or just meet up for events.
The trip didn’t come without its fair share of challenges. I was accustomed to traveling through the developing world on a dime; sleeping on couches, eating unknown food at street stalls, and sitting next to chickens over long rides on public buses. Squirrel…well Squirrel went on a cruise through the Caribbean once. Needless to say, New Zealand by van offers adventure and excitement for everyone, regardless of their travel resume.
Unable to sleep through yet another flight you succumb to watching the sunrise. As the light brightens you’re rewarded with what might be the most stunning view you’ve ever seen: the sun rising along the Great Wall of China, from the air. You smile, it’s kind of funny flying over the Great Wall, gliding over one of the great wonders of the world only to arrive in the land of the people it was built to keep out.
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