Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by viravira on 4 September 2010 • Opinion
We got back from our 17-day Sulawesi trip a month ago. Overall, it was one of the best trips I’ve had so far. Many of the places we went to were amazing, some turned out to be lower than what I’d expected. But for me personally, the most highlight of this trip was that I (along with my travel mates Mumun & Reno) mingled with other travelers as well.
I don’t know why, but this was actually the first time I talked quite a lot to travelers other than my own group. In my trip to Vietnam and Cambodia last year (with Mumun & Renny) actually we met a lot of travelers as well, but somehow we preferred to keep conversations only among ourselves. Like, I would hesitate to start a conversation with others, afraid that they’d feel bothered, with a thought in mind that westerners in general are more private people.
Much to our surprise, the travelers that we met in Sulawesi were mostly Europeans. It wouldn’t be far off if I said that we were the only Indonesian travelers along our path in the island. Conversations were often made just for the sake of conversing, and they started mostly with questions like where one’s from, where one’s heading, and then exchanging information about the object of interests we had seen and were about to see in the trip, and stories about each of our itineraries, countries, cultures, and some ended up in exchanging email addresses and sharing some car or boat rents to cut down on budget.
When our trip almost ended in Makassar, I got a chance to read an update by my favorite travel blogger, Nomadic Matt. The piece was about him having a hard time to casually just say hi and chit chat with people back home in Boston and New York City, while he can easily do it on the road with other travelers. I felt so related to that. In Sulawesi, we easily got involved in conversations with travelers from Holland, Austria, Denmark, England, etc, as well as hotel staff, drivers, boatmen, etc.
I compare it with how it is in Jakarta, the big concrete jungle where I reside, where suspicion and negative notions are floating in the air we breathe. You don’t really talk to strangers just for the sake of having a conversation.
I’d like to change that. Am I able to? I don’t know. But this trip surely has changed my habit a little bit, in the way that I am now more likely to smile or nod to, or greet people that pass me by in the streets, and simply with my neighbors in the building. And I feel much happier that way. I may not turn into a saint all of a sudden, but I do feel like I’m a nicer person that way. I hope I can keep this up for long before I can develop simple nods, smiles, and greetings into conversations. Ain’t life more beautiful when everyone is friendly to each other?