It was 2007, I was still a sophomore student of my bachelor study back in Indonesia. While attempting to collect data for my paper on Central Asia regional issues, I stumbled upon a website of a young Indonesian man who travels from China to Afghanistan, across Central Asia countries. Although I was just looking for articles of oil issues in the region, I could not resist not to stare at his exotic snapshots of Central Asian countries which names you barely hear: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan as well as the beautiful pictures of vast land of Western part of China (such as Uighur Xinjiang, Tibet) which picturesque views are always drowned by media explosion of its separation from mainland China. All the pictures were displayed very idyllically, the most rare and striking pictures I have ever seen my entire life. After tinkering his website for some time, I came to know that he is not only good at photography, but also writing and languages (other than his native Indonesia tongue, he could speak more than 5 languages such as Chinese, Japan, Persian, and other languages of Central Asia). Since then I start following his blog, his stories and reading his books. Unconsciously, he just became my inspiration. I never said to anyone nor that I realized that he inspires me until just recently.
Five years later, in February 2013 during the launching of his recent book to be exact, I finally met this man, Agustinus Wibowo, the man who subconsciously has been my inspiration for traveling (if not for life). It was nothing really special because for me his writing is more special than his short-talk explanation of his journey. He might never realize this fact but his writings (aside from Paulo Coelho’s writing which has touched thousands of souls) have changed my life. I would never have a courage to go to the land of nowhere by myself before reading his stories. In many nights after strolling upon his blog, I would be dreaming on how incredibly beautiful those lands are, how exotic their culture are, how their face resembles me with people of my own yet they are so different in tradition, culture, language and other social aspects of a human being. He made me want to travel, to learn languages, to be good at writing and telling stories of fairy tale lands. He does not only help me inventing my dream to travel around the world but also fuelling my courage to follow through. And I came into conclusion that ‘You never know how powerful your writing until it changes people’s life. So never estimate the power of writing.’
Back to my present life, yesterday (precisely 1st day of 2015) while walking towards the temples with my roommate, an adorable Nepali girl, she suddenly came with a question ‘Olivia, what is the place that you miss a lot?’. I did not answer the question immediately because I did not have a specific answer. ‘Um… to be honest, I don’t really miss any place, I move to different places frequent, there is always something new and I always need to move on’. Then she said ‘Ah your life is so interesting. I think you should write your biography’. I nodded. It is something I always want to do and someone just hit me straight to remind me one of my purpose of life, to inspire others that traveling is about learning and that there are so many beautiful things that you can learn by stepping yourself outside your comfort zone when traveling.
While waiting for her doing her ritual in the temple, I was mesmerized by how different and authentic the blend of culture and religious ritual in Nepal. I saw statues of Gods (along with statues of animals who they believe are best friends of the Gods), the candles, the flowers for offerings, the campanes, the small doors, the artistic windows made from woods with high details of sculptures. In short everything that I could only read and imagine from Agustinus’s writings. Then I came to realize, I have just become like him! I travel around the world to the most exotic yet unpopular places by myself to explore the differences of the society. Early last year I was backpacking solo from Vienna (Austria), Budapest (Hungary), Bucharest (Romania), and ended up in Sofia (Bulgaria) by land (bus and train). Places whose names I firstly heard during my 1st year of my bachelor degree (because I did International Relations for my bachelor degree) .
Agustinus was only 25 when he decided to start his journey, ignoring his prestigious degree from Tsinghua (one of the best universities in China) and rejected a scholarship offer to continue his further study. I might have a different path from him that I chose by my own decision. I just turned 26, graduated from one of the best universities in Indonesia, currently conducting my further study from a scholarship that I always wanted since my first acquainted to Australia, 6 years ago. I might not spend years of my life traveling and living in those exotic countries, learning the social-cultural-political issues of the society that I could hardly heard from mainstream media. Yet I think him and me still have one thing in common, the excitement of traveling to the odd part of the world. I travel to the land of nowhere whenever I have time (and money) not just for the sake of seeing beautiful tourist objects, but also to understand that the world is full of things undiscovered and that by discovering it you will realize how vast the world is and how amazing life is.
At night that same day (1st Jan 2015), I was having a dinner with two of my university friends in Australia who happen to be in Kathmandu for different purposes. One of my friends started a conversation by asking me ‘So what is your NY resolution?’. I did not answer immediately as I was trying to figure out the right quick answer. However, instead of saying that I want to write a book of my traveling journey I ended up answering her ‘I want to travel to South America’.
Ah, perhaps the universe just directed me to find my two main resolutions for 2015.
Happy New Year from Kathmandu (Nepal) everyone!