Meet Monika, she travelled the world for various reasons: food, culture, networking, weather, nature, festivals. Also participated in various short-term exchange programs during study years, such as the internship and Erasmus semester in Germany, the volunteering program in Turkey, intensive study programs in Belgium, Poland, Finland, and more. So much fun, so many wonderful people and experiences! This is her story.
Tell us your story! What your life looked like before? Why did you decide to change it?
Hello from the other side of the world! My name is Monika and let me tell you my story, which may seem a little crazy, chaotic, or inspiring. You choose how to interpret it! If you take anything from my story, my goal is achieved.
I was born in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, where my life was beautiful but not extraordinary (or I was thinking so). I was from a middle-income family, graduated from school, entered university, and worked in a company. The usual clichés people are told to do. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it! I was in a very comfortable zone without much hassle or challenges. I had all the support of my family and friends. At the same time, I wanted to be independent and build my life the way I wanted it to be (thanks to my amazing parents who allowed me to do so. To spice things up, I travelled the world for various reasons, be it food, culture, networking, weather, nature, festivals, you name it. I also participated in various short-term exchange programs during my study years, such as the internship and Erasmus semester in Germany, the volunteering program in Turkey, intensive study programs in Belgium, Poland, Finland, and more. So much fun, so many wonderful people and experiences! But things didn’t stop here…
In 2012, after graduating with a master’s degree in Sociology, I received an offer to work as a lecturer at my Alma Mater University, which was a great honour. Teaching students and sharing my knowledge, and participating in various national and international projects, seminars, and conferences seemed like a dream (knowing that I was still very young, only 24). I was able to pursue a career in academia and perhaps I was already a well-known scientist? However, I felt like something was missing. Something more adventurous, something more unknown, unfamiliar.
Why did you decide to change it?
My friends call me a ‘citizen of the world’, because I have the soul of a traveller. I like to wander, explore, discover, try, and experience. Weekend trips, trips for a few weeks or months were very common in my life. I was constantly on the move and looking for an escape and memorable experiences! However, I have also been looking for opportunities to challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone. One day I had a video chat with a very close friend of mine who was living and studying in Indonesia at the time under the Indonesian study program ‘Darmasiswa’. She said, ‘hey, Monika, their invitation to new students is still open, go and apply!’. After not so much of deliberation, I did so. I felt stuck in my current position as a lecturer at the university, and this was my chance to experience something ‘bigger’ and unknown. Indonesia sounded like a country from another league! Thus, in the year 2014, I applied to participate in the program and my life has changed 180 degrees. I understood that thoughts have echoed, that is, thoughts become words, words become actions, actions become habits, and the ‘consequences’ of this action are visible to this day.
The biggest lessons you learned on the trip. What did you understand about yourself? Maybe you found yourself different when you always thought?
I know one thing for sure, travel teaches you how to live life, be true to yourself, but also to overcome your own attitudes/principles. While in Indonesia, I heard the strangest questions from random people, like whether I took a shower/already eaten, was I married/unmarried, where I was going to/coming from… most of the questions that are personal in Europe (it was something I had to accept). In addition, their desire to take pictures with foreigners was so incomprehensible to me (that’s when I realesed that I’m semi-extrovert person and I sometimes need personal space haha). However, I embraced their curiosity, straightforwardness and kindness. I also wasn’t afraid to not know something, but I was ready to learn. It was one of the strongest personal achievements, I guess. Openness to the unknown.
That said, I learned a lot not only about the environment around me but also about myself. Living for a long time in a completely different country than you are used to, encourages you to become more flexible, and more open, it expands your horizon. But there is one BUT. You must be willing to adapt to the changes, to accept the cultural-social norms offered by the country, to make the most of the experience and ensure personal growth. I believe this experience has made me an even better and stronger person. A person who knows how to enjoy big and small things, who can teach but also be taught, who can accept any setbacks but is strong to move forward, who does not accept things as given… and a person who can simply enjoy ‘here and now’.
If you would do everything from the beginning, what would you do differently?
To be honest, I wouldn’t change a thing! I believe everything is happening for a reason and that I am in the right place right now. I also believe in the ‘law of attraction’. You attract people/opportunities and vice versa. Wave after wave. Thanks to the various opportunities I have dived into, I have learned the most fascinating things about different countries and cultures, developed long-term friendships with many great people around the globe, met my soulmate (now-husband), and quite accidentally received another great opportunity to pursue a PhD in Management and Commerce in Australia. Would I be in the same place if I hadn’t left for Indonesia in 2014? Probably not. Now, the world is my oyster.
If someone is secretly dreaming about the lifestyle you are living now, what would you advise them?
My advice would be ‘dream less, act more’! Just sitting on the couch and dreaming hasn’t brought anyone to their goal yet. Reserve your energy to achieve your dream goals, gather all your courage (and money), and move on! Ask yourself, what can happen to the worst? Fear, unfamiliarity, or uncertainty should not diminish our dreams and desires to live a better, more colourful life. The only thing you can regret later is doing nothing and losing your chances, your lessons, and your experiences. Remember, you can always return to the starting point… Don’t hesitate, act now.
Is it scary to go on the adventure of a lifetime? What was happening in your head?
From my point of view, it was more exciting than scary. I didn’t go to Indonesia or Australia with preconceived notions or expectations that people usually travel with. Fewer expectations, fewer disappointments. I had a mindset of ‘what must be, will be’. I was ready to accept everything coming my way. For me, it was more about the journey rather than the endpoint. I wanted to let life surprise me and it certainly did!
What are the most amazing things about living the way you live?
What I like the most in Indonesia is the kindness of people, their humbleness, a great sense of humour, as well as their entrepreneurial skills, and their ability to live ‘here and now’ without rushing anywhere. I remember a local man saying, ‘Why climb a palm tree to pick up a coconut if it falls sooner or later?’. This thought makes me smile every time! Another great thing about Indonesia is its nature. Their, breathtaking beaches, lush rainforests, majestic mountains, active volcanoes and so much more. Just jump on the motorbike and go see incredible places. Last but not least – its rich history and culture, variety of food, traditional clothing, architecture, music, and arts. Everyone can discover something that suits their wants, desires, and interests.
I have now returned to Indonesia for the third time (the first time was in 2014, then 2017, and now in 2022), and there are still some things that amaze and excite me! I think it’s the beauty of travelling. This time, however, is a bit different, because after completing my PhD in Australia, I’m here as a part-time ‘travel influencer’, seeking to share my travel adventures, tips, and inspirations with those interested. Everything is still very new and raw, but I look forward to what happens next.
Living the way you live. What was the hardest thing in this whole experience?
The hardest part for me is not seeing my family and friends whenever I want. All other things are manageable!
What do you suggest to people dreaming about this lifestyle? What are the first steps in preparation? What are your next steps?
If you decide to go on the adventure of your lifetime, you have to plan, but not too much (because usually, things don’t go as planned). You need to do your own r esearch on the country you are traveling to, its culture, religion, social-cultural norms. It is always good to have at least some understanding in order to avoid cultural shock (which, however, is inevitable). But hey, that’s why we travel!
You also need to save money, and arrange all the travel-related documents, such as visa (if a visa is required), health insurance, emergency contacts, and other documents needed. Pack light for your travel and don’t forget to bring along your camera and memory cards/hard drive, as you’ll make thousands of memories, I promise!
And, of course, set the right mindset! That is the core thing.
Is there any adventure you are planning?
The future is always uncertain, isn’t it? We plan and things change. At the moment I plan to stay in Indonesia for a few more months and build my social media presence. Then, I plan to head back to Europe, Lithuania (home sweet home is calling me), where we plan to settle down with my husband. Before that, a small trip to Turkey is on the list. We would also like to visit Thailand and Japan in the near future, to wander around Europe. But let’s leave it for the future to decide! Travel will, of course, be one of our priorities. More wonderful destinations, epic views, and adventures are guaranteed.