15 Ways to Practice Self-Care in Indonesia and Beyond

–By Kayla Stewart–

It’s no secret that it’s been a long month for ETAs in Indonesia. Between coming back from a long break – full of travels for many – and dealing with the realities of a troublesome new administration back home, many ETAs have found themselves wondering how to cope, relax, and rejuvenate.      

This is where self-care comes in. Self-care is a self-initiated act that you do to address your personal needs. It’s a powerful act of self-preservation that affects your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. In short, self-care is loving yourself in the way that only you know how.    

In America, self-care often looks like the curated posts you may find on your favorite Instagrammer’s page. Photos of perfect yoga poses on the beach, perfectly-made acai bowls, and mantras from a Rupi Kaur book have become the face of taking care of yourself. While these are all absolutely forms of self-care (and, admittedly, worthy of practice), everyone has different needs, and thus, different ways of showing love to themselves. In Indonesia, many ETAs have had to get creative and create new forms of self-care. As ETAs wrap up our final months in this beautiful archipelago, here are some ways to practice self-care for every personality.   


Borobudur Temple is a great place to get take a step back and see some great views. Photo courtesy of Kayla Stewart

1. Watch a new Netflix/YouTube series. 

Getting lost in a T.V. show about the dangers and possibilities of technology or a documentary about the adventures of a world-renowned chef (yes, these do exist) can be a great way to detach from the madness of the world. It’s been said that art reflects life, so finding a new favorite could just be another way of stepping into a new world.  

2. Read a new book from one of your favorite writers

Reading notonly helps your brain, but it opens new doors that TV shows and movies can’t. Check out some of the top books from the past year, or revisit a few classics.    

3. Say daily affirmations

Affirmations are the practice of positive thinking and self-empowerment. In many religions and philosophies, it’s believed that thinking positively will yield positive outcomes. Whether it’s daily or weekly, try listing three to five positive things about yourself, your life, and your expectations. You may be surprised to find that life will look a bit happier. 

4. Set new goals

Goal-setting helps to keep humans focused and on a mission. It also gives you a tangible action to complete by a certain deadline, which can make time go by faster. Set some goals for your last few months in Indonesia and some goals for what you want to do next, and you’ll probably find that you will become more productive and balanced.

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Setting new goals can open a lot of doors. Photo courtesy of Kayla Stewart.

5. Exercise

When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins work with interceptors in your brain that reduce the perception of pain and trigger a positive feeling in the body. Several studies show that people who exercise regularly have lower rates of depression and are often more positive. Whether you have a gym, a pool, or a road to run circles around, exercising will help to keep you healthy and happy in Indonesia.  

6. Practice yoga  

Yoga is one of the most visible forms of self-care around the internet, with good reason. While the benefits of yoga range from increased flexibility to weight reduction, yoga is also just incredibly relaxing. If you don’t have a gym at your site, you can also use YouTube videos to help you practice. Start implementing sun salutations before your morning classes and watch life become a little bit easier to manage.      

7. Take social media breaks

Social media is both a blessing and a curse, especially during these uncertain times. Unplugging every now and then doesn’t make you a less-informed citizen, it makes you an emotionally intelligent person. Step away from the screens and Facebook arguments and check out a new book or watch an old movie instead.    

8. Set aside time each week to talk to loved ones

Whether this be spending time with your sitemate, calling home, or both, setting aside time to see and spend time with your friends and family is imperative. Apps like Skype, Google Hangouts, and a new video calling feature through Facebook Messenger makes this easy.  

9. Eat foods that are satisfying and won’t cause harm

*Nasi goreng is good, but not feeling terrible is even better. Try to take advantage of your local market or grocery stores for fruits and vegetables, and swap *nasi for *tahu when you’ve had a little too much fried food.

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Whether it’s an acai bowl or coconuts from your local market, getting those nutrients is always a good idea.

10. Eat foods that are satisfying and aren’t the most healthy

…And sometimes, don’t opt for healthy foods. There are those rough days when you really need a piece of *Martabak or ice cream from a rooftop bar. Balance is key, and indulgence is part of that balance.   

11. Dance

Seriously. Throw a dance party in your room. I suggest Beyoncé, Sampha, or Anderson .Paak for background music, but I’m biased.

12. Create a Spotify playlist of your favorite songs

Spotify has music selections for literally every type of music taste. As a huge music fan, I can vouch for the power of having an awesome playlist in your back pocket. Try some of the already made genre playlists, or create your own.  

13. Try a new cafe

Coffee culture in Indonesia is impressive. Enjoy sipping a new roast while not being bombarded with patrons as you would in a coffee shop in your average U.S. city. Cafes are often near museums or cultural landmarks, so make sure to talk to your barista and get to know the surrounding area. 

14. Arrange a manicure/pedicure/spa day.

And no – this is not gender specific. Nail hygiene is a really fun and relaxing method of self-care. Whether you like plain, clear nails or rock neon greens, getting your nails treated or enjoying a massage are things that are much cheaper here than back home that everyone should take advantage of.  

15. Plan a trip

Volcanoes. Lakes. Mountains. Snorkeling. Temples. Diving. Dancing. Friends.

And that’s just on Java.

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(From left to right): ETAs Kayla Stewart, Edmund Pacleb, Siham Abdi, and Julius Tsai enjoy a morning at Borobudur Temple.

Remember that you’re in Indonesia, the land of peace, serenity, and incredible views. You’re surrounded by unfathomable beauty that could just be an island away. Plan a trip with your sitemate or friends and family from home, and get excited about the incredible adventures that lie ahead.

*”Nasi goreng” is fried rice. It can be prepared with various ingredients and is one of the most popular dishes in Indonesia.  

*“Nasi” is rice in bahasa Indonesia

*“Goreng” is fried in bahasa Indonesia   

*Tahu is tofu in bahasa Indonesia 

*Martabak is a sweet street food in Indonesia

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