Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by mumunmumun on 3 June 2017
The Indonesian traveling community had just lost another one of its good guys. Vindhya B. Sabnani, or Ipink as we called her, passed away possibly on the 23rd May 2017. Without going into details, she died suddenly in Ende, Flores. Although sad in so many ways, I believe she’s in a better place now, possibly gossiping with another friend of ours, that would rather be known as just Cumi, that had also gone too soon a few months prior. Being the happy people they were, I’m sure they’re glad to see each other again, and possibly making a lot of noise in the afterlife.
Photo from Cumi.
I’m not here to dwell much about their bubbly personality, kindness, or abundant love they had for their friends and family. As much as many of us are broken hearted by the loss of Ipink and Cumi, and would like to share all the funny things we’ve experienced together, I thought I’d share on how the Indonesian travel industry has lost some of their great people and their contributions, based on my perspective.
Ipink, as happy-go-lucky as she seemed with her constant laugh and odd practical remarks on life, co-founded and developed ‘Ibu Penyu’ trip organizer. It focuses on marine based destinations, supporting healthy and responsible tourism. She had concerns about how trip organizers and travelers were doing and had affected destinations. She learned from it and implemented the better ways in her business, possibily building her own best practice. To my little knowledge, there isn’t a lot of tour organizers that have the same concerns as she did, and she was the one to advocate it to her travel organizer friends. She was involved in Koperasi Tamara, a collective of independent trip organizers that had a mission to create good trip organizers all around the country. Training and standardization of organizers were the talk on the table.
Photo from Arif Rahman backpackstory.me.
Ibu Penyu had also wanted to be that organizer that lets people enjoy a destination without harm, such as having to pick up a starfish for the sake of photos or patting a whale shark just because they’re adorable and can allure more new customers. Through her social media, people might have known her to advocate responsible traveling, not to damage the nature, and how we, mere visitors, are just guests who should have the utmost respect for the locals.
She was also an organizer that helped you have fun. While a lot of trip organizers prepare a tight itinerary, she kept it loose and took you out of your comfort zone by napping at an exotic place, swimming like you just don’t care about sun burns, and eating like there’s no place food in the world. From chats with her, I had come to understand that many people had forgotten the simple things in life and she reminded them by giving spare time, in hopes to return the essence of happiness more than photos with beautiful backdrops.
Cumi, on the other hand, might be perceived as absurd. His brand, with his mini colorful speedos and colorful blog, maintained itself till the end. If you check out his blog, understandably, people may think he can’t be taken too seriously. Whether it mattered of not, he thought of changing his image, but his readers and groupies (yes, he had groupies) just didn’t approve. As a man that liked to please his friends, he kept his absurd image. And apparently it worked. As weird and mocked that it was, he had one of the most engaged blogs and had surpassed long time bloggers in terms of page views.
Cumi, interestingly, was very religious. There wasn’t a single sit down with him that was without a religious reminder of the afterlife, even if 80% of the time we were gossiping.
“You go in and out of malls, buying things to look good, but you don’t take the time to buy something for Eid Fitri?! That’s very wrong,” was something that he said about buying Lebaran clothes, that I had despised for a long time. His logic worked, even though he was wearing a body-fitting t-shirt with a cartoon character on his chest. It’s something I’ll remember every Eid Fitri, including the up coming one.
But don’t get me wrong, our gossips were also about the industry, what communities were doing and where they were heading, what mission they had under their belt, or why they didn’t work and collapsed in the end. He always encouraged people he thought has potential to start blogging or maintain what they had going on, while suggesting improvements and helping in anyway he could. He never hesitated to share his opinion on how bloggers could improve their brand and business. He helped others pass their obstacles if he could. He also helped friends reminding them not to overly think what people say if it didn’t help and to put a better value to their work should they deserve it. All in all, he wasn’t just a blogger who wrote, he did more for the community.
Brands were also big fans of his, since he delivered results such as awareness and engagement by numbers of flying colors. He worked hard to achieve page views, something that I thought was obtained organically, yet he deserved it by working for it.
These were the two people that the industry has lost. Whether they were really significant or not to the industry is debatable, but what’s more important is that they were the wheels that moved the business within their own hemisphere. We all claim to be travel bloggers and travel enthusiasts, but have we done more like Ipink and Cumi? Have we supported the people around us, the industry? Have we understood the local people that we bother when traveling to a destination?
We’re left to continue what they have supported during their lifetime, well at least, I’ll try my best to do so.
I think the last time I saw Ipink was when we were catching up from lack of sleep. I remember thinking ‘it’s so nice to have a friend that understands the need for sleep. I don’t have many of those’ before snoozing off. I guess that’s how I’ll remember her last, as a person that let me into her home, share her princess king-size brass frame bed, and her life on the road. As for Cumi, last time I saw him was on the last day he was in Jakarta. He had always been a good friend that helped me for work and the person that provided a little spiritual light on my life. Both shall be missed, dearly, but note that we’ll meet again on my ultimate journey.
Photo owned by Vindhya Ibu Penyu.