8 Ways An Indonesian Village Led Me to Live in the Moment


Staying in a village can really put you in the moment–for a multitude of reasons–and that’s exactly what happened when I spent 3 weeks living/teaching in Tiakar Guguak, part of Payakumbuh, Western Sumatra, in Indonesia, recently. It was quite an experience, one that was full of mostly pleasant surprises.

Minangkabau house

For one thing, the contrast between life there in the village and mine back home in N.J. was striking. I had just finished a busy semester of teaching, working on this blog, editing my book and a bunch of other things. It had been a super hectic couple of months.

Then, suddenly I was in a devout Muslim village with a family….with a view of rice paddies, palm trees and mountains. With roosters in most yards and water buffalo nearby and mini motorcycles–aka, scooters–everywhere. It’s a place where the culture itself and life’s rhythm are significantly different than what I’m used to.

Traditional market

Payakumbuh Traditional Market

It was a bit shocking (post on this coming soon), as you can imagine. But I got used to it rather quickly and really enjoyed it.

One of the reasons is that being there led me to live in the moment a lot more than I had for a long time. I tend to experience that when traveling anyway, but in this particular village, it was more pronounced.

8 Ways Indonesian Village Life Led Me to Live in the Moment

1. Unplugging From the Internet

The local Internet cafe was a 15- to 20-minute walk from ‘home’. The connection was a bit slow/spotty. Also, the floor I had to sit on was hard. So often, I just skipped it (except for using it on my phone.) Still, I was not online that much—not like here at home.

At first, it was challenging. Then, I liked it. Why? Because I ended up doing other present-centered things, like…

  • sitting and chatting with people on the porch or in the living room
  • playing with the local kids
  • going for walks
  • listening to the sounds of nature

Hanging Out in the Moment

2. Hanging Out With Children

Speaking of the local kids, they were a wonderful way to get into the moment. The reason? They’re already there. They just do what they do and could care less about later or tomorrow—unless they have something fun planned. This was especially the case in this village.

The kids in the photo below (especially the two boys, brothers, on the left) visited me almost every morning. Sometimes, we sat and attempted conversation. Other times, they made fun of me trying to speak their language. Most often, we got silly together and laughed. And all the while, we were enjoying the present.

Indonesian Children

3. Eating Real Meals–and When Hungry

Being in a village and staying with a family means eating when and what they eat. Sure, I had a few snacks hidden in my room, but I had to be careful because little ants know how to find just about anything. Also, I was eating real meals at a table–no mindless snacking in front of the computer or TV. So I was really present with the food I was eating; this made it even more satisfying.

And sometimes, I wasn’t 100% sure what I was eating. Or I knew and it was something very different than what I normally ate. This also got me to be present as far as what I was doing.

Indonesian (West Sumatran) Food

4. Bathing With Buckets of Water

In addition to using a squat toilet (relatively easy to get used to), I had to bathe using small pails of water, which I got from a large basin. To be honest, I didn’t care for this experience at first. But then, I grew to like it. Here’s why…

The cool water felt really good on a hot day–and since it was cooler than I would normally use, it felt different and got my attention. When I felt it on my body, I was automatically in the moment. I had no choice but to be! This type of bath forced me to slow down and take my time. When bathing with pails, there’s no such thing as a ‘quick shower.’ :)


5. Being Part of a Community

When you’re a guest of a community, especially a tight-knit one, you live life at a different pace. The pace of the people around you. And that’s very different–slower usually–than the over-scheduled, fast-paced life in the Western world. Also, you are expected to attend social gatherings (eg, weddings, funerals, etc.) and so, you’re constantly reminded of the cycles of life–and death. This also puts you in the current moment.

Community in West Sumatra

6. Spending Time in Nature

For me, nature and being in the moment go hand in hand. The village was ideal for this. There were tons of lovely rice paddies, palm trees swaying and lush shades of green everywhere. And dirt roads that were like trails. Because of the nearby mountains, there was plenty of hiking, too. All of this is ideal for slowing down and being in the ‘now.’


Payakumbuh Landscape

7. Becoming a (Temporary) Morning Person

Back home, I’m a night person who really wants to be a morning person. In the village, I became a morning person quite easily (due to the hot climate perhaps)—and loved it.

First of all, it meant that I slept when things were quiet—a good thing. Also, it gave me some time to myself. I’d go to bed a little early and read and then, in the morning, before the kids came to visit, I’d sit on the porch and sip my coffee, slowly (it was very hot) by myself. Many moments to savor.

8. Feeling That I Was in a Movie–One That I Was Also Watching

Because it felt like another reality there, I often felt I was watching a foreign film–one that I also happened to be in. It’s a unique feeling that’s hard to describe, but the best I can is to say that I felt a sense of ‘watchful observation’–not unlike what one might feel during a meditation. It was intense and cool at the same time. And definitely in the moment.

Me in the Moment

Me in the Moment

Your Thoughts/Reactions/Experiences?

Living in the Now

What are your thoughts re: living in the moment? Is it easy for you to do it–or difficult? Whatever the case, how to do get there? I personally need to play music, go hiking or to travel off the beaten path for it to happen.

Do you find it easier to be in the ‘now’ when traveling? If so, please share what that’s like for you (and feel free to link to a relevant post.)

Village Life

Have you ever spent a few days or longer in a village? If so, where were you and what was it like? Did you live more in the moment there?

If you’ve never visited a village, would you like to? Do you think it would be worth it despite some of the inconveniences? Or are you more of a city person?

39 Responses to 8 Ways An Indonesian Village Led Me to Live in the Moment
  1. My blog
    August 22, 2012 | 8:46 pm

    a good post

  2. George
    August 23, 2012 | 7:45 am

    sounds absolutely amazing I am beyond jealous. I just came back from doing a similar thing in India. Hard to get used to but amazing when you’re there.

    • CB Driver
      August 23, 2012 | 10:07 am

      Hi, George. Thank you! Must have been really wild in India–can’t imagine. Where were you exactly?

      So true about getting used to it, but then really enjoying it. Feel free to share a link to your post here if you’ve written one. Cheers!

  3. Stephanie - The Travel Chica
    August 23, 2012 | 5:40 pm

    Great post! And a good reminder about living in the moment when I have so many temptations and distractions to do just the opposite now that I’m back home.
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..8 Crazy Photos from the Incredible Salar de UyuniMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      August 24, 2012 | 11:04 am

      Hola, Stephanie! Thanks for checking this out. It is harder back home, isn’t it? I was pretty good for 2 weeks and now feel like I’ve gotten out of the moment. Will you be traveling again soon? Or staying home for a while? More Latin America in your future?

  4. Angela
    August 24, 2012 | 7:53 pm

    Great post, I so love unplug from the internet. I’m always worried at the beginning but then I really enjoy my time off my laptop!
    Angela recently posted..At a fazenda, exploring Rio de Janeiro surroundingsMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      August 25, 2012 | 12:24 pm

      Hi, Angela. It is really great, isn’t it? I wish I could do it more, but it’s hard to break away.

  5. Jade Johnston - OurOyster.com
    August 24, 2012 | 10:47 pm

    hehe i had to bathe in buckets of water during the fiji cyclone…. too much in the moment for me!!!
    Jade Johnston – OurOyster.com recently posted..New Zealand – Free And Cheap Things To Do In AucklandMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      August 25, 2012 | 12:24 pm

      Hi, Jade. I hear you. It’s not something everyone takes to–that’s for sure. And during a cyclone, I would imagine it’s even less fun.

  6. Nisha
    August 25, 2012 | 8:44 am

    I loved it ! Just loved it. I am of the same opinion that we should always live the moment with locals. :)

    • CB Driver
      August 25, 2012 | 12:23 pm

      Hi, Nisha. Glad you feel that way–it definitely adds something to one’s experience traveling.

  7. Lindsay Hartfiel
    August 25, 2012 | 7:17 pm

    Love this post! I think it’s definitely much easier to live in the moment when traveling because everything is so new. I would hate to miss out on an experience because I was too busy checking email or updating my facebook status! It’s not quite as easy during every day routines…but definitely something worth striving for!
    Lindsay Hartfiel recently posted..Re: XnlqDMgwWdMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      August 29, 2012 | 8:13 pm

      Hi, Lindsay. Thanks for reading/sharing your thoughts! It’s awful to miss out on experiences due to social media obligations. It has happened to me before and I don’t like it.

  8. Erik
    August 27, 2012 | 9:15 pm

    This sounds like one of those “I can not believe this is my life right now” experiences us with wandering souls look for. It’s awesome that it touched you so deeply and your able to describe it so eloquently. I’m still looking for that when writing about my NZ experiences. (It’s probably made hard for me because work circumstances conspired to bring me back to reality, and quickly) :-(
    Erik recently posted..New Zealand- Chapter Nine- The Milford Sound RoadMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      August 29, 2012 | 8:11 pm

      Hi, Erik. That’s exactly what it was like! And when I was in it, there were times when it was super intense (but mostly in a good way). Thanks for the feedback re: how I described it–appreciate that. Your trip to NZ looks like it was a great one. I’ve never been there, but I keep hearing so many good things about it, I must admit that I’m curious…

  9. Gray
    August 29, 2012 | 12:57 pm

    Great post, Lisa. Sounds like Indonesia was a wonderful experience for you. Yes, I do think it’s easier to live “in the now” when I travel, because I’m usually in a foreign setting, so I need to have my wits about me, pay attention, etc. At home, everything is so routine that I do it on autopilot half the time, while my mind is always on something else. And I have so much on my plate at home that all I can think of is “Finish this thing so I can move on to the next thing.” When I travel, I can slow down more. Then there’s the Internet. Boy, that really does suck up a lot of our attention, doesn’t it? I used to unplug when I traveled and it was AWESOME. I haven’t been able to since I started blogging, and that kind of makes me sad.
    Gray recently posted..Dining Around MinneapolisMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      August 29, 2012 | 8:10 pm

      Thank you, Gray! Your explanation of how/why you live in the moment when traveling is great; I think that’s what happens to me, too. There’s a lot more paying attention, etc. And you definitely slow down.

      Re: the Internet…yes, it is sad. It’s such a time suck and at times, it sucks! :) I have fond memories of the days of ‘pure travel’ and wonder if that will be possible again. Not sure.

  10. Christine | Grrrl Traveler
    August 29, 2012 | 1:07 pm

    Wow, sounds like such a beautiful experience! I feel like travel sometimes forces us to live in the moment but that experience was evermoreso culturally enriching. Hope I get to do that some day.
    Christine | Grrrl Traveler recently posted..Study Abroad: What is it like to study Yoga in India? (Part 1)My Profile

    • CB Driver
      August 29, 2012 | 8:07 pm

      Hi, Christine. Thanks for stopping by! It was a very cool experience–very culturally enriching. It was unique and I hope to return there in a few years. If you’re a native speaker–and it looks like you are–you could go there. I’m planning to start a volunteer program for not just teachers, but anyone with an interest in the culture who happens to be a native speaker!

  11. Tom @ Waegook Tom
    September 1, 2012 | 12:50 pm

    To answer one of your questions here, I’m definitely a city person – maybe because I grew up in a village of less than 100 people! I was always living in the “now”, but at the same time was jealous of the kids I went to school with who lived in large towns.

    I love what you write here too, Lisa. Kids can help you feel in the “now” – whenever I’m getting stressed at work and bogged down, I take myself away from my desk and just go and talk to my students as they always entertain. As for the morning person thing….I’m so a morning person, but have been working so hard lately that I’ve morphed into a night person! Need to re-align my schedule soon.

    By the way, what is that food in the photo? I can’t make out what it is at all!
    Tom @ Waegook Tom recently posted..The Best Bites in BritainMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      September 2, 2012 | 12:11 pm

      Hi, Tom. I had no idea that you were from a village. Wild! And great that you grew up living in the now. I hear you re: being jealous of the kids who came from more populated areas. I felt that way, too (grew up in a small town). I would do anything to go to one of the cities in NJ or to NYC itself, which felt like the ultimate.

      Great that you spend time with your students outside of class and get into the now by hanging out with them. I find kids (usually in other countries) to be so much fun.

      The food in the photo….let’s see. There are:

      -white ‘crepes’ (that’s what my friend called them): the crunchy thingees (not sure if they were tempeh or something else)
      -seitan (no, not satan! LOL)
      Might have been some fish in there and definitely some red chili sauce, which I absolutely adored (in Sumatra). It had a nice kick and a lot of flavor; the green sauce burned my mouth too much!

  12. Rebecca
    September 1, 2012 | 8:25 pm

    This would have been total culture shock! But what an experience! Can’t wait to read more.
    Rebecca recently posted..Sunset in DallasMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      September 2, 2012 | 12:04 pm

      Hi, Rebecca. Yes, it was definitely some serious culture shock–especially the first several days. I actually had to draw a map for myself since a) there wasn’t one and b) I was pretty disoriented. More posts coming soon–perhaps on culture shock itself!

  13. Elle of Solo Female Nomad
    September 2, 2012 | 7:55 am

    I think your post captures the essence of living in the moment. Every point that you made is how we all should live, and how all did a long time ago. Not relying on technology to keep intouch, but instead being part of the community. I have spent sometime living in a small village in Nepal, and just loved getting to know the local shopkeeper, or watching kids play in the street. Living in the moment is the main reason why I travel.
    Elle of Solo Female Nomad recently posted..Volunteering in Nepal – Journey With A PurposeMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      September 2, 2012 | 12:03 pm

      Hi, Elle. Thanks so much for your comment and sharing how you related to the post! It’s true that we did like this way a long time ago and I think it’s sad sometimes that we’ve gotten away from it (although I must admit that technology–when I had the chance to use it–was good to me on this trip, too). Being part of a community is a great experience, one that I wish more travelers would consider having. It definitely adds something to one’s experience.

      I took a peek at your post on Nepal and must say–wow! I would love to do something like that. Not sure if I missed it, but how much was it to volunteer at that orphanage?

  14. Elle of Solo Female Nomad
    September 2, 2012 | 1:44 pm

    Hello Lisa

    I must admit, now that I am part of the “techie” community, its a bit hard to leave it again. Although its wonderful doing without checking emails and facebook messages for a while! I think volunteering in Nepal is a wonderful experience, and was life-changing for me. Mainly due to the amazing children!
    The fee to volunteer for Nepal Orphans Home starts at $400 for one week, then goes up to $2500 for five months. You will see that the fee gets cheaper the longer you stay. The fee includes all food and housing.
    Maybe it will be a future post for you too! Thanks for peeking!
    Elle of Solo Female Nomad recently posted..Volunteering in Nepal – Journey With A PurposeMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      September 7, 2012 | 10:03 pm

      Thanks for the info re: the price, etc. I would love to volunteer there someday. We’ll see. I might need a less expensive program, however, since the ticket to get there would be a lot of money to start off with. As an ESL teacher, I don’t earn a lot. We shall see!

  15. Sabina
    September 7, 2012 | 8:34 pm

    Gosh, life there looks so peaceful and calm. I could get easily into the moment there, I think. I experienced something similar – including the bathing – when I was living in Dahab, Egypt for several months. Lots of Westerners move there and end up living there forever. But this village you write about seems quite a bit more basic. Living there forever would be too much of a challenge for me. Were you glad when it was time to leave?
    Sabina recently posted..A Delicious Lunch…If You’re a CamelMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      September 7, 2012 | 10:01 pm

      It was pretty peaceful there and yes, a little basic. I did feel challenged by some things (eg, the bucket bathing) the first several days–and also, by not knowing where I was. I felt quite disoriented. But once I was used to it, it was really cool!

      As for long-term living, I don’t know. I could be there for a couple months maybe, but I’d have to visit some of the nearby cities on occasion. AS for forever…no, I could not. The culture is too different for me.

      When it was time to leave, I was very sad. I decided not to say goodbye, but ‘see you later.’ Here’s a post I wrote about it if you’re interested… But even though I felt emotional about going, it was time to move on.

  16. Leigh
    September 10, 2012 | 7:03 pm

    That’s why I like hiking and kayaking so much. I unplug, get that nice exercise high, listen to nature, smell the air, eat when I’m hungry and at the end I feel really good. Sounds to me like your trip was a great success.
    Leigh recently posted..The Crypt Lake Hike in Alberta: A Ladder, A Tunnel & ChainsMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      September 12, 2012 | 7:25 pm

      Hi, Leigh and thanks. It was a very cool trip!

      I hear you re: outdoor activities. I love them–especially the two you mentioned. One can’t help but feel good during and after. Nothing quite like being out in nature!

  17. ChinaMatt
    September 14, 2012 | 12:54 pm

    That’s an awesome experience. Other than the bathing part, I’d enjoy it. I need to look for something similar for this winter, except I need a reliable internet connection so I can still work my regular hours–it might confine me to more traveled destinations.
    ChinaMatt recently posted..Hiding Beneath the CloudsMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      September 17, 2012 | 11:37 pm

      Hi, Matt. Thanks for reading! I hear you re: wifi. It was a bit tricky there–although I did learn of wifi at one of the teacher’s schools just as I was leaving. I used a it a few times and it wasn’t bad.

  18. Amanda
    September 21, 2012 | 2:20 pm

    It’s definitely tough for me sometimes to live in the moment – especially when there are so many distractions vying for my attention. It’s much easier when I don’t have access to a phone/Internet, but I’m really making an effort to just live NOW and not worry about anything else.
    Amanda recently posted..Thursday Traveler: Mike WelchMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      September 26, 2012 | 11:12 am

      Hi, Amanda. It is challenging, isn’t it? But very rewarding. It’s something I’m always working on and, as I’ve seen over the years, travel–especially off the beaten path–helps get me to that place.

  19. James @ Best Islands In The World
    October 23, 2012 | 7:05 pm

    Great post very thought provoking; The land and the buildings reminds me of the rural areas in the Philippines.
    James @ Best Islands In The World recently posted..Best Islands In The World – Popular Travel Destinations updated Thu Oct 18 2012 9:54 pm EDTMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      October 24, 2012 | 8:43 am

      Thanks, James–glad it made you think! Interesting re: the Philippines. I’ve never been there, but I could image the similarities. Would like to go in the future actually!

  20. Sarah Wills
    October 24, 2012 | 11:40 pm

    This sounds absolutely amazing, very jealous! I hope to be able to do things like this in the future with a Teach English as a Foreign Language Qualification. You’ve made me even more determined to get that now! Thanks for such an interesting post :)
    Sarah Wills recently posted..Tramping in the GrampiansMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      October 25, 2012 | 12:53 am

      Hi, Sarah. Thanks for your visit/comment!

      It was definitely a unique/cool experience…

      And you might find this of interest–I’m probably going to set up some sort of volunteer program there. It would be for anyone who’s a native speaker of English, so if you’re not a trained EFL teacher, no worries. Let’s keep in touch….perhaps, depending on where you travel, you might want to check it out…

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