Traveling in rural Sumatra can be a challenge and will stretch you outside of your comfort zone.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re on the road.
- Expect the unexpected. Things will likely not go exactly as planned. Transportation could be late, people could get sick, or attractions could be closed for one reason or another (landslides, volcanic eruptions, flooding, etc.) Roll with it and redeem the time! As I like to say, it’s not really an adventure unless something goes off course! Guaranteed something else exciting will turn up instead.
- People will be thrilled to see you. Many of the destinations in the region are very rarely visited by travelers. For some, especially children, seeing a foreigner walking through their village is a HUGE event, and they will likely want to talk to you or just follow you around.
Be prepared to have your picture taken with people’s mobile phones a lot. You will definitely have more pictures taken of you than you will have taken of others, particularly if you spend time exploring populated areas and eating in local food stalls. Also, don’t be offended by people yelling “Hello, Mister!” or “bule!” They’re just being friendly. The question “Where are you going?” is not a rude invasion of privacy, but just a simple Indonesian greeting (“Mau ke mana?”) that doesn’t translate well to English or western culture, and doesn’t really require an answer more detailed than “just walking.” If you’re not prepared to be friendly and give up a little of your time to smile and play along, perhaps traveling in the region is not right for you.