One Year Into My 4-Year RTW Adventure

One year ago today I embarked on my newest RTW adventure — a four-year 80-country land travel trek from Indonesia to Portugal through every single country in between, including all seven -stans.

Alas, it is with a bit of surprise that today I am writing to you from none other than Indonesia…still. Although I keep leaving and exploring other new countries, I always seem to return here.

Nusa Penida island
The north shore of Nusa Penida island, a place that is rarely visited by foreigners despite its close proximity to Bali


Well, I’ve fallen in love with Indonesia. The country is beautiful, the culture is fantastic, the food varies with every region/island, and there are more amazing places than anyone can ever hope to visit in a single lifetime.

From virgin beaches where I can skinny dip to my heart’s content like Pantai Sundak to impressive temples like Borobudur and breathtaking mountains like Rinjani, I’m having the time of my life exploring this country. Plus I’ve learned to speak and even started blogging in Bahasa Indonesia, the local language, so now exploring is even more fun because I can chat with the people who do not speak a word of English.

Mount Rinjani Skyline
Mount Rinjani skyline, Lombok

Additionally, no country has ever treated me so well. Somehow I have managed to get in with the “in crowd” here. I’ve done a film, a television appearance, even been featured in a magazine highlighting my travel exploits. Some of my best friends here are well-known Indonesian travelers, writers, bloggers and actresses.

Derek Freal in MyMagz Jogja
I’d be a fool not to stick around and pursue some of these opportunities

And the opportunities keep rolling in. I’ve been offered two different modeling jobs, one in Jakarta and another brief shoot in Solo.

  Only Downside? Visa Issues!

My visa for Indonesia expired over the weekend. I planned to go to kantor imigrasi and extend it, however they were closed on the weekend, I was in transit on Monday, and it just so happens that yesterday was a holiday. Great. That means I have once again over-stayed my visa here and now must pay a fine. I’ve had six Indonesian visas this last year and I have overstayed five of them. Oops. For the amount of fines that I have paid the Indonesian government I could have nearly purchased a new laptop — something I sorely need as I have a feeling this one is about to crap out on me.

  [ UPDATE ]   I paused while writing this to go to immigration, a visit that when horribly awry when I was denied my extension and ordered to leave the country tonight. I’m not. But after sending out a negative tweet about my experiences I have spent the last six hours in a tweetwar with local Indonesians who think I am upset with Indonesia when in fact I was upset because I was being told to leave the country I love.

  What About Your RTW Trek? Where To Next?

That is a good question. Although I am continuing to visit new countries, I’ve long since abandoned the land travel only aspect of this trek. Land travel is great for one-way adventures but not when going back and forth. Too time-consuming.

Pha That Luang, Laos
Pha That Luang, Laos. Photo courtesy of my friend Jim, The Tripologist

As Indonesian visas are only allowed to be extended once, for another thirty days, at the end of June I will be headed to Laos. (I had planned to visit there last year but had to return to Indonesia for a television appearance.) As of now I still plan on getting my extension, albeit from a different immigration center in a different city. We’ll see how that goes — fingers crossed!

  Cold Hard Numbers

Countries Visited: 8 (10%)
Trips To Indonesia: 4
Visa Runs To Singapore: 3
Toothbrush Count: 21
Airplane Flights: 47
Train Rides: 22
Bus Trips: 18
Boats/Ferries Taken: 7
Distance By Motorcycle: 9,000+km
Flat Tires: 5 — one in Vietnam and four in Indonesia (all while passing through the same city)

And yes, I got the fourth flat about ten minutes after that tweet :/

  Worst Experience So Far?

Besides today? Getting sick in Vietnam. Very sick. I was hit with a stomach bug after accidentally swallowing some cave water that left me unable to eat for a week. At the same time I also came down with a nasty respiratory infection that got so bad I had to visit a hospital. The doctor gave me a bag full of medicine and a 13-pill/day regiment.

This put me far behind on my trip from Hanoi to Saigon by motorcycle. By the time I was well enough to get back on the road I had only 24hrs to get out of the country and nearly 1,000km left to go, far too much to travel in such a short time. I had to leave my motorcycle with a local and take a 20hr train ride to the airport, instead of selling it in Saigon as planned to get my investment back.

So, if anyone is planning on visiting Vietnam soon then let me know — you can travel half the country by train/bus and then pick up my motorcycle to travel the rest of the way, if you want.

"Rusty" the Honda Win I used to travel the Ho Chi Minh trail
“Rusty” my Honda Win 100 is waiting for a new owner to pick her up

  Upcoming Posts

I have about a dozen posts in draft form at various stages of completion. Because I’ve been so busy I haven’t had the opportunity to finish them. However I plan on being online about 18/hrs a day for the next month, playing catch-up.

Vietnam: Casual Communism
Why Vietnam Gets A Bad Rap From Tourists
Your Guide To The Phong Nha Caves Of Vietnam
Motorcycling Vietnam: A How-To Guide
Nusa Penida: Indonesia’s Hidden Paradise (Shhhh!)
The Best New Travel Blogs Of May 2014
Travel Blogging Advice: How To Understand, Maximize And Embrace Google+

I hope to have all these posts and others finished within the next 2-3 weeks so be sure to subscribe to the   HoliDaze Weekly Update   Or, if you prefer less emails, join the   HoliDaze Monthly Newsletter. Thanks!

  In Closing…

What do you want to see out of The HoliDaze?

Where would you like me to visit?

What/where would you like to know more about?

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About Derek Freal

"Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel."   Cultural enthusiast. Adrenaline junkie. Eater of strange foods. Chasing unique and offbeat adventures around the world since 2008. Derek loves going to new destinations where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, or places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo -- supposedly its healthier and more efficient. For more information (about Derek, not squat pooing) including popular posts and videos, check out his bio.

24 thoughts on “One Year Into My 4-Year RTW Adventure”

  1. Yeah, immigration is an annoying word….but kantor imigrasi is the one that really gets me right now! Especially with two holidays this week and them changing their minds over my visa status. Arrggghhhhhh!

  2. Keep calm, man! Try the ki jogja tomorrow, maybe they already know you so you’ll get your visa extension easier. Try to be positive!!! Everything’s gonna be alright! I believe in it.

  3. Hard to believe it’s been a year since tbex. Definitely let me know if you need some suggestions for Laos. I’m pretty sure you’d love the southern half of the country.

  4. Ahhh but tomorrow is another holiday, right Cecilia Dea? At least that’s what I’ve been informed. So it will be Friday before I know anything, and next Tuesday at the earliest before it gets approved. And last Thursday was the first day I went to kantor imigrasi to try and prevent all this from happening. Damn bureaucracy :/

  5. I know, time flies fast eh Jim? Yeah, I’m looking forward to Laos. Will talk more about that as the time draws near and I actually buy a plane ticket. We all know I have a habit of changing plans at the very last minute. (And I use the word “plans” loosely as my plans are at best vague ideas based on current whims.) After Laos or wherever I go next I have a friend in Indonesia who will get me the 6-month Indo visa — if I want to return again and not have to deal with visa issues every 30 days.

  6. Yeah it is, means kantor imigrasi is closed :/ seems you are lack of luck this time. I hope Friday will be a good day for you! And hope friday will change everything. Haha yeah damn bureaucracy all around Indonesia!!!! I feel that too, most of the time! :/ ya inilah negara berkembang, has no good services

  7. Yup Ha Ze one year since I left the States vowing never to return — instead of returning every few months as I have been for the last few years. Time does fly fast indeed! Who knows where I will be a year from now 🙂

  8. Hey Derek

    Sorry to hear about your Indonesian visa issues, but the positive is you have your health and there’s plenty more countries to visit. If you fancy stopping by Chiang Mai any time soon we’ll be here for the next 6-8 weeks. Really loving it here, so glad we stopped and got some work. Speak soon mate..

    • Very true Chris. Sometimes (err, most of the time with me) travel takes an unexpected twist but usually it is in a positive form and not a negative one. Speaking of, how are things in Chiang Mai? Hearing conflicting reports from some of our fellow bloggers, not to mention the media. Seems like the ones hardest hit are the ones who have been there the longest. Hope everything is well on your end 🙂

      If I cannot get my visa issues resolved by next week then I’ll be looking for somewhere else to stop on my way into Laos, as no airlines fly from Indonesia to Laos directly. I liked CM last time I was there, although regretfully last time I was there I had a new client to satisfy and was forced to focus on work, instead of exploring the area. As such I’ve been meaning to return there first chance I get. Will keep you updated 🙂

  9. Yup Kenin, TBEX last year was my going away party. Hopefully y’all are able to make it to Mex this year and rock the ‘EX like you did last year — remember how well you two did on the round of Matador prizes that one night at the bar? 😉 Good times!

  10. Immigration is a real pain :/ I’ve been through awful experiences thanks to my blue Indian passport. You do have more liberties (jealous here 😛 ), but yeah, sometimes it feels like immigration officials just exist to average out amazing trips by throwing in some awful moments!

    • I agree with you there — both about how a western passport can often make immigration experiences somewhat easier, and about how immigration does have a tendency to balance out what would have otherwise been a flawless trip. Personally I’ve even been detained and taken in the back room for questioning once — even missed my flight as a result of it. Despite the fact that the questioning was over, they continued to hold me until my plane left, then released me. Interestingly enough that was while trying to leave the country, not get it! :O

  11. Good luck with all your visa hassles! Remember, as much as you love one place, I’m sure you’ll find there are others you could fall in love with too. If at the end of it all you still find Indonesia is where you want to be, you can always try moving there permanently (although I dont know how possible that is, theres always ways).
    You are going to LOVE Laos. It’s bloody awesome. Great reading about your adventures!

    • Hahaha well it turns out my visa hassles have gone from bad to worse. I got the extension I wanted from a different immigration center, however that extension was revoked a few days later and immigration started coming to my house and my girlfriends / friends houses looking for me. I was traveling elsewhere in Indonesia but it didn’t take long for word to get back to me. Of course that is never a good thing when three immigration agents are combing a city looking for you, so I turned myself in. Turns out that a tweet I had posted a few weeks ago (one that I deleted minutes after posting, but not before this psycho stalker took a screenshot of it) had been sent to immigration. In it I happened to use the F word in reference to “kantor imigrasi” (immigration office) and guess what? They didn’t like that. So after presenting myself to the immigration office I was questioned for 9hrs about that tweet (why did you send it, how did you feel then, what do you feel now, etc etc etc) and then thrown into a cell. Even as I type this, four days later, I am still here awaiting deportation. That will be nearly a full week from now — which funnily enough is around the time that my visa extension would have been over anyway. Ahhh the traveling life…you never know what to expect 😉

      • crikey Derek! I guess in MOST if not all countries in the world its best not to piss immigration off even if your anger is completely justified. take care of yourself. At least there are like 200 other countries in the world, right?

        • Exactly! Actually last year got detained at immigration for saying the F word. They took me into the interrogation room and questioned me over why I said it, yada-yada-yada. Held me until my flight departed (yes, this was while trying to leave the country) and then released me, forcing me to purchase a new ticket for later that day. And now once again for dropping the F bomb I find myself back in immigration custody.

          Well, at least now I will remember to watch where I say that word hahaha 😉

  12. It’s interesting that even in leaving your home base you gravitated toward a home-away-from-home-base. Right now my home base is New York and I just started traveling. There is a great feeling, for me, about having a place to come back to — and it’s awesome that you’ve chosen that place for yourself, not based on where you happened to be when you started.

    Enjoy Indonesia!

    • Technically I started my travels by moving to Tokyo in 2008 but for years I still had a home base back in the States. It was nice at first because I would collect souvenirs to try and fill up my house. But after a while I realized there was no point in returning “home.” I have no family there and my friends, my “family,” well they were all married and starting to have kids of their own. As such we didn’t have the freedom to hang out and catch up like we used to when I first began traveling. So in early 2013 that is when I decided to sell my house and embark on a one-way RTW adventure.

      It’s completely different doing it this way. You cannot amass souvenirs and have to shift your travel mentality. But I do love Indonesia and so I make sure to always return here every few months. As such I am no longer going through with my plans of taking a one-way trip from here all the way to Portugal. As I have joked around before, this is what I call a RTW fail — when the first new place on your RTW adventure captures your heart so much that you no longer feel the need to keep searching for that place to call home. While I will never stop traveling, likewise I will never stop returning home to Indonesia 🙂


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