As I walked along the familiar surroundings of the University of Melbourne, I stopped by to have a quick look at one of my favourite stores – Student Flights (an Australian travel agent). My eyes darted towards the range of brochures behind the travel agents’ row of desks. In my head, I was quickly crossing off the continents I did not want to explore before a travel agent interrupted my thoughts.
I wasn’t looking to book any flights. I wasn’t looking for any brochures. All I was looking for was an inspiration. It’s March. In 2010, I spent December in Brazil and Chile. In 2011, I spent December in South Africa and Tanzania until early January this year. What about 2012? Where will fate lead me to? This curiosity and excitement have always led me to dream about my future destination. I don’t dream about the surroundings or what the place would look like. I dream about what being at that place would feel like.
I digress. Back to my initial thought of writing this post. Whilst having a conversation with the travel agent about Africa and what my future destination would be, his remark was something that took me a bit by surprise – “You are probably one of the very few.. rare Indonesians that would travel to all these places. I don’t think they’d ever consider travelling to Tanzania as a top destination on their list.”
This made me think back to the time I was at the Visitors’ Centre at Lake Manyara on the 1st day of my Safari. A big book of visitors from all around the world was placed where visitors wrote down their name, comments and most importantly the country they’re from. I scanned the pages looking for the word “Indonesia”. It was like looking for a needle in a haystack.
The countries that stood out were Australia, Canada, US, Scandinavian countries. Even Singapore was mentioned. But no signs of Indonesia.
Why is it that majority of Indonesians always stick to the usual Asia, Europe and US? Are there any Indonesians who have ever been to Africa? And if they have, why isn’t it a popular destination that should be at the tip of every Indonesian traveller’s tongue?
Being born in Jakarta, I kind of understood why. People in Jakarta are excessively obsessed with trends. I have never seen an Indonesian woman wearing daggy attire to the shopping malls. It is also safe to say that Indonesian women have perfect hair and perfectly manicured nails. I have yet to see an Indonesian backpacking traveller. I can’t begin to count the number of Louis Vuittons, Chanels and Hermes’ bags adorning the arms of Indonesian women. Being seen as trendy is their main priority. So of course if everyone of your friends have been to Europe, you’d put it as the top one on your list too! Europe and US are seen as the shopping destinations whilst Singapore is considered to be an extension of Indonesia – it is where the rich Indonesians invest whether it be in bank accounts or properties.
So here is my plea to my fellow Indonesians.
The world we are in is changing at a rapid rate. But there are some places that will be constantly the same. In 5 years, Europe will still be the same. The Eiffel tower will always be standing. The Tower of Pisa will always be leaning. The Sagrada Familia will still be under construction. The canals in Venice will still have the gondolas. The Buckingham Palace will still be there in London..and the guards will still not flinch no matter how hard you try. The Big Ben will still be ticking. The Arc de Triomphe will still greet you in Paris. But… In 5 years…
Africa will not be the same. Westernisation would have changed the face of many countries in that continent. Like Tanzania. In 5 years, the wildlife in Serengeti would change. At the rate the world is going, more and more animals are in danger of being extinct. Do you want to show your child a lion being held captive in the zoo? Or show him/her pictures of lions in a book? Have you perhaps thought that to a child, seeing a lion out in the open – free to roam – is the best lesson he/she would ever get. As the technology world continues to engulf young children, don’t you think you owe them this experience in their life – to be close to nature.
Salvador, a city in the North East of Brazil, will not be the same. The preparations for the World Cup is changing the face of the city. I was lucky to see the city in its true form. But when a million people will flock that city, it would not be the same Salvador as I knew it. The face of the slums would change – for the better or worse.
Cuba will not be the same. The death of Fidel Castro has been viewed by many as the end of Communism in Cuba, mainly thanks to the meddling of the US. When capitalism knocks on Cuba’s door, being sold to them by the US in a colourful candy wrapper, the Cuba as we know now would cease to exist. Cuba is one of the last few countries in the world where Communism has worked. It was the birth of many a great revolutionary figures such as Che Guevara (he was born in Argentina but became a key part of the Cuban Revolution).
My plea to you, dear Indonesians, is to go out of your comfort zone. Life is not only about the comfortable materialistic things that give you temporary happiness. When the lustre of your LV bags and beauty fade away, would you want to remember your life in terms of how much money you have and how much shopping/partying you did in the fancy hotels? Isn’t life much more than that? Why is it that you are so fixated on earning now so you can ‘enjoy in your 40/50s’.. Would you skydive when you’re in your old age without your dentures falling off?
Travel to the vast islands at our own backyard – from Irian Jaya (West Papua) to West Timor to the Komodo Island and Flores. Travel to places that take your breath away. Travel with your hair messy. Leave your LVs.
Expand your horizon.
Get lost in a completely different surrounding.
Your fellow Indonesian,