Dreams of Borobudur

My wanderlust has tugged at me since I was a little girl. The sole purpose of my savings account was for all the trips I would take one day. It only seemed logical; isn’t that what everyone should spend their money on? While envisioning all the places I would go, I vividly remember flipping through a glossy National Geographic and laying eyes on a full page spread of these large, bell-shaped stupas, which were protected by serene Buddhas. The Buddhas looked out into lush mountains as the midday sun beat down on their stone heads.

Intrigued and curious, I tucked this high priority place into the I have to go there someday compartment of my brain, filed just behind the pyramids of Egypt. These stupas further fueled my wanderlust, secured it so strongly in my cells that I wasn’t concerned with the name of this place, or where it was. I just snapshotted those funky stupas into my brain and knew, like children know, that I would someday find myself there. When that happened, my most elusive travel dream would be fulfilled.

When Kate and I started planning our trip to Indonesia, I had a flashback to a National Geographic page when this same, nameless temple complex came up in one of my searches. I had to go there. We added an extra flight to Yogjakarta, a city smack dab in the middle of Java, just one hour away from it. Within reach, it was no longer a someday spot, and it finally had a name: The Temple of Borobudur.

In early April, in the dark, ungodly hours of the morning, Kate and I hiked up a trail muddy from the wet season drizzle, and we patiently watched the sunrise atop Setumbu Hill. The sun slowly crawled out from behind Mount Merapi and into a sea of pinks, oranges, and purples. The view of the temple complex was left up to the imagination. Dense fog settled over area like a security blanket protecting Borobudur from the distant, active, and impulsive Mount Merapi.

The Indonesian man who took us to the top of Borobudor had lived next to the temple complex all his life. He was long winded from having shared the secrets and symbolism of the reliefs since he was a kid. With every story, he managed to weave in a sexist joke, gauge our faces for a reaction, then laugh like it was the funniest thing he had ever heard.

Despite his stand-up routine, I had trouble paying attention; I was too excited to get to the top.


When I got to the top, I felt the giddiness and gratitude of seeing a sight I had always dreamed of laying eyes on. Seeing the giant, bell-shaped stupas that had been crouching in the crevices of my mind satisfied a deep-seated craving. Their tops practically kissed the wispy clouds.

The stupas wound around the edge of circular platforms like icing on the edge of a tiered wedding cake. The rest of the temple followed the design of the lotus and dropped down around us like its petals were opening up. The diamond shaped perforations on the stupas provided a breeze for the little Buddhas inside, who were a sweet surprise. I peeked in on them, not realizing they had been there all along.

The unsheltered Buddhas peacefully watched over the mountains that wrap around Borobudur. They sat like they had for thousands of years with folded legs, and upturned feet and palms. Their eternal meditative state brought a peaceful, calm air over Borobudur.

Even insects found peace on their enlightened heads.

I found peace too in knowing that tiny places in the world can make big dreams come true, places that a little girl once saw in a travel magazine that left her cells pulsating with wanderlust.

However, as much as the Temple of Borobudur was a dream come true, wanderlust is not unleashed or tamed in one fell swoop. It’s a consistent tingling underneath my skin reminding me that the pages of my National Geographic will always and forever beg to me, “bring me to life!” 



Borobudur is one of those magical, elusive places that I had always dreamed of visiting. What are your big dreams?



  1. wanderinglost | 8th Jul 14

    Excited to have found your blog – it’s great! Definitely adding this to my bucket list. On mine are the salt flats in Bolivia, Capadoccia, Turkey, Iceland generally, and Bhutan generally…. though the list is incredibly long and growing daily!

    • Words of a Wanderer | 8th Jul 14

      Thank you so much! I’m glad you you enjoyed it! It’s funny you mention the salt flats because just a few days I just looked at collection of pictures taken at the salt flats! I never knew they existed! After seeing those pictures, that spot definitely went on my list! I know what you mean about a growing list.. mine has grown exponentially since I started traveling- but I wouldn’t have it any other way! Happy wandering! 🙂

  2. words of a wanderer – 10 Unforgettable Experiences in Yogyakarta | 22nd Jul 14

    […] 1. Visiting the Temple of Borobudur. […]

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