My Life Purpose Is…


Am I too greedy?

But really, I want to achieve many things in life.

Researchers as quoted by stated that living with a clear sense of purpose may help us live longer.

Living long is just a life full of cyclical events without having an ultimate goal. It can be larger than you or even as simple as your own welfare and well being.

Humans just have to live with an evident goal to arrive (or rather, they wish to arrive). Or else, they wander aimlessly on earth and live recklessly.

That said, I can hereby define my life goals as follows:

  • Helping others with yoga and healthy lifestyle: When the world population is aging faster than ever, I see some opportunities. Teaching yoga would benefit others a lot. And I believe so much in the benefits of yoga for well being and overall health because I have proven that myself.
  • Writing great, timeless stuff: All my childhood, teenagehood, and early adulthood were filled with literary fascination. Though no one in my nuclear and extended family had produced a literary work that sells out there, I want to write one. Sure I have been very much involved in some book projects before but none is sold under my own name. So I am looking forward to publishing one. Or more. Isn’t it great to spend the rest of my life writing not only books but also many other for posterity, that can give them a glimpse of the era when I am living on earth?

How about you? What is your life purpose?

Funding Globetrotting Lifestyle for Non-Bourgeoisie Members of Society

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Is globetrotting possible if you’re less priviliged? (Photo by

Let’s be transparent. Do you think globetrotting is possible for everyone on earth regardless of their economic status?


It is very sad to see that some people are still disillusioned by this misleading campaign from European backpackers and digital nomads.

Each of us has no equal access to globetrotting lifestyle. What I mean by this lifestyle is someone who leads a life and constantly travels around the world and – what irks most – still makes money. A lot of money even!

And the example is just before my eyes.

There sat a Caucasian guy, with a towering and slender figure. His iPhone is not new but still it’s an iPhone. It’s not an Android phone with some Chinese, less known brand.

And a girl with hijab sitting wistfully opposite him, waiting for a chance to ask a question in her mind.

She ‘interrogated’ him mercilessly,”Okay, so I want to live a life like you, too. I want to travel around the world. How can you do that? Tell me.”

She is in her early twenties and I couldn’t blame her for her naiveness.

The white guy in his Western coast accent paused a while.

He weighed and selected his words really carefully, as if he had been dealing with a hopeful, gleeful children inside a dream bubble. He didn’t want to prick that bubble and destroy her wishful thinking in a second.

But he really had to get the bitter truth across.

“Hmmm, actually that’s not an easy question. True that I have privilege to be thankful for: I was born and grew up in the United States; my family is quite well-off; I have a proper education. I feel so lucky for all of this….”

He was lost. But he didn’t give up easily. He continued consoling her.

“But having that said, I also made efforts to deserve this.” The guy still tried to convince her that this lifestyle is possible but there are caveats she ought to not ignore.

The guy took advantage of his being a native English speaker by taking an English teaching gig at a developing country. Though he seemed a bit hesitant about whether being a white person automatically justifies his or her validity to teach English (he is very critical about this superficial standard).

Living as an English teacher won’t make him rich. But in a developing country, liviing on a wage of an expatriate English teacher is still doable and noble even. One is well-fed and not looked down by the society. It’s totally a secure job if one is fond of teaching and language and has nothing else to be passionate about in life.

What is often forgotten, he said, about this lifestyle is that someone is prone to financial instability. As he put it, “You’ll also have to live in a modest manner, though you’re not downright poor either. And at times you’ll realize that in such lifestyle, life can be so ‘dynamic’, everchanging and flimsy.”

That did break her heart and hope. I took pity on the fervent girl.

So when I was reading some travel blog where I stumbled upon an article that boasts numerous ways to make money as a globe trotter, I was far from being impressed. It was written by an illustrious travel blogger I have never heard of before. Despite that, she seemed to be enjoying quite a success back in her homeland. On her private travel blog, she claimed her blog is one of the best travel blogs there are. The design looks professional; the wording is awesomely enchanting and clean and efficient; the quality of images is above average; accessibility is well thought. Every single detail is talentedly crafted, I observe. I appreciate her hard work.

Yet, her advice in the listicle offers an oversimplistic approach that may be misleading to most less critical young readers and hopefuls.

Not all of the advice is doable, such as teaching English as a second language (TESOL). First thing first, you cannot teach just because you speak English as a mother tongue. Teaching is not something everyone can do without proper training, certification, and other professional preparation. Being able to speak like a native even is not enough to pove that one is capable of teaching a class of foreign students.

Web designing, writing a travel blog, photography may be some other popular options to survive during the globe trotting journey. But sometimes you have to know the limit is.

But it’s worth trying still even if you think this lifestyle is not for you.

I have tried once and failed. Pretty much because I’m not a carefree person with less regular schedules and routines. I want some consistency in life and regularity helps me focus better with anything I do. I couldn’t focus on my art when I am still worrying about how I can survive the next month or the other month. This anxiety may emerge without apparent symptoms but I felt so haunted by it. And in the uncertain economy, stability of economy seems to be everyone is after. One way to get that stability back is by trading some of your freedom. (*/)

Living Carless in Jakarta

architecture auto automobiles bridge
Life without a car in Jakarta? Feasible, if you know the tricks.

There are times when a relative told me to go home by car on Ied el-Fitr. I am bothered a bit because I am no car person. I have no willingness to spend my money (and have no substantial money to purchase one) for a private car.

A car especially on Ied is something you have to show off to the relatives back home that you have really gained and massed financial success in the capital.

But I am no fan of pretentious lifestyle. So I completely ditched the idea of driving a car. Plus, I have no money to get me one in CASH. This is important because I believe very very strongly that purchasing in cash is the most possible way to buy something at a cheaper cost. I also get stress-free. I don’t have to calculate or think how to pay installments from month to month.

Upon learning that the domestic car sales have slumped 17.8% this year, I can tell you more and more people think the same way like I do. Or at least they put off getting a new car for various reasons.

Living without a private car in Jakarta where cars are anywhere to find is possible. Seriously possible. And I am not alone in fact. Some people living in Jakarta without having a private vehicle at all.

And I am no kidding because I have been living such carless life for more than 9 years!

How is this possible for me?

First, I have a strong determination that I want to have a decent lifestyle here, meaning living a life not beyond my means.

Buying a car means another source of expenditure. A car is a liability instead of an asset, unless I drive my car every single day as an online driver.

But hell no! I am a writer. What I do is sitting almost all day long. And thus what makes sense is I should invest in having a properly ergonomic work station, a functional laptop that would last as long as possible, super fast internet connection so I can literally work anywhere. Mobility by any private vehicles ( be it a motorcycle or a car) is never on the top of my list.

Certainly I have to move from a place to another but I am not on the wheel all the time. And I have no urgency to be very very punctual. But even if I do, I can manage my time better as I am a childless bachelor. Furthermore, I have less stuff to bring (minimalism helps) along for work. Being a single man in Jakarta is very very easy as opposed to a man with a large family and responsibilities on the shoulders and mind.

Having a personal car also means I have to sacrifice my time to take care of it. I must regularly go to an authorized service center and get it overhauled. This is important as I have literally no knowledge of machinery or mechanics or such thing so imagining I must repair a car by myself is way too wild even in my dream.

Living here without a car is, however, made less feasible if one has built a family, no matter how small it is. Living with a spouse means one has at least can go together on a single ride. And that means the demand of getting a car is escalating. Everything is more practical – though not necessarily more economical – with a private car ready in a garage.

So when someone asks me if I should get a car now, I still clench my opinion firmly. Not for now!

Besides, seeing and drowning every single day in the massive deluge of Jakarta traffic, which some expats say “legendary”, is already overwhelming to me. I am still staying away from being part of the problem that is known to trigger climate change.

What do you think of not having a private car or motorbike in a big city like Jakarta? Is it even possible? Because I feel that that is so possible. (*/)

man walking on road under the sun
Walking in Jakarta may not be a pleasant experience but all you need is picking the right time to walk. (Photo source:

“The Happy Prince”: The Not-So-Happy Life of an Irish Literary Giant

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When I watched “The Importance of Being Earnest” movie in my junior year as an English Literature undergraduate student back then in 2004, little did I know that the author whose name was Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Will Wilde was in fact a queer writer from Ireland. A prolific artist during his short-lived life, he was known for his literary works, from poets, plays, to prose (novels and short stories).

As Rupert Everett’s directorial debut, the biopic movie tells us the tragic end of life of the renowned author. Here he was depicted as sickly, old and broke. So pitiful to see such a celebrity and prominent figure living a horrible life far away from home. He passed away as a miserable man in the age of 46 in Paris after having lived a tumultuous period of life.

Born in a wealthy and famous family, Wilde was no stranger to worldly pleasure. He knew too well how to have fun. To show his hedonism, I remember his scene with scantily clad young men dancing, and him playing the piano joyfully and how he loved drinking liqor till drop.

Everett’s acting is raw and wild (without ‘e’). And I am not kidding by saying that. He had to appear stark naked and be forced to get his head clean shaven and bathed by an officer to visualize the downfall of Oscar Wilde after being accused of committing the crime of sodomy in his golden days.

In the country where LGBTQ issues have become incredibly hot, super sensitive topics, you cannot expect to watch this at the nearby XXI cinemas.The 105-minute movie contains some nudity – male nudity to be specific. Besides that, I’m also exposed to some profanity, drug use and sexual references. Some private parts of the male actors are also shocking if you’re a hardliner, puritan muslim.

As a Jakartan, I would probably say this is not the right time to watch this. But considering that Wilde’s fans would not mind being rebellious, anytime is the right time to watch the movie and celebrate the wild, free spirit of this Irish poet and playwright that the world of literature shall never forget.

This movie acts as a reminder that even though life can be really short, all you can do is live it to its fullest, no matter how sweet and bitter it can become. Just enjoy the ride.

Just like the swallow in his short story, Oscar Wilde has fulfilled his life calling, that is to do his best with the talents he had. (*/)

“The Happy Prince” based on my amateurish review holds an approval rating of 80%. (*/)

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Unstoppably Spreading the Love of Extensive Reading

I’ve been living in Japan for 37 years. Prior to that I had been teaching English in America for 5 years. I’ve been doing Extensive Reading (ER) for at least 35 years. And I’ve been teaching in my current university for 31 years, in charge of the reading program for probably 35 years. So what my doing is not a new fad.

How I came to this field is sort of strange and unique. In undergraduate days, my major was elementary education and early childhood education and my minor was learning disabilities. Basically I was trained to be a reading specialist.

But then when I got out of the undergraduate, in the mid 1970s teaching jobs were very difficult to find but I got a teaching job in a maximum security prison in Southern Illinois, as a reading teacher.

In this particular prison, they started sending me the Spanish speakers, most of whom were Mexican and Puerto Rican speakers and they were prisoners. They were sent to me because they couldn’t read. Well, of course they could not read because English is not their first language.

So I started out by buying EFL (English for Foreign Learners) and ESL (English as a Second Language) books. I split off one of my reading classes and started to work with these Spanish speakers. And that made me back to graduate school and I really enjoyed that.

Prison was also a very interesting place but I don’t want to spend the rest if my lfe teaching there even it’s my job.

As a young man, I was always longing to travel and teach and be a writer, which is also a priority. In 1982 I moved to Japan, started teaching in a conversation school for several years and eventually got hired by an institution.

Back in the mid 1980s, many American universities opened Japan campuses. So I started teaching at the University of Pittsburgh campus. And I got hired by my own school (Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University, Japan).

He is now enthusiastically helping teachers around the world believe that they can make a difference. That is why teachers become teachers. To open new worlds for students and extensive reading can do that!

(As told by Prof. Marc Helgesen himself)

Teachers Who Changed My Life

It is May, which is the national education month in Indonesia. The second of May is celebrated as the national education day.


So I took time to ponder for a minute or two, trying to come up with the answer of the question:”Who are the teachers that changed your life?”


After some time, it’s hard for me to tell which teachers have the most impact on my life to date. All of them are influential in their own way. But I have to choose, here is the shortlist.

My parents

I may have hated my father and mother for teaching me mathematics until I shed tears. I flunked the math test and got an alarmingly low score in the academic report after I hid the answer sheet distributed earlier.

Mr. Subur Wardoyo

He introduced me to Oscar Wilde (the queer Irish versatile literary star), Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald (that Jazz Age American writer), Ernest Hemingway (a drunken, sturdy built literary giant) and a lot more American writers I can aspire to. Mr Subur Wardoyo was just an amazing, easy-going, open-minded, the most liberal-viewed lecturer I had ever had on college. She taught me both in my undergraduate and graduate program. He is simply one of the best and this year we – my college pals and I – lost him. You’ll be really missed, pak Subur.


Mr. Sapardi Djoko Damono

Yes, that renowned Indonesian poet! He taught me Literary Sociology and I chose it as the topic of my thesis. I was a bit slow in the writing process. I almost gave up but a voice kept screaming inside my head:”You’ve gotta finish what you’ve already begun!!!” So I rekindled my spirit and made it. He made me realize that learning is not a sprint; instead it’s a marathon. A long long marathon.


Mr. Warsono

I still remember him teaching Writing III class in my junior year and how he instilled the passion of writing into me. And the soft-spoken lecturer was just legendary, thanks to his moustache and smooth cursive longhand on the blackboard. I guess one of the most anticipated classes in a whole year was his class. What made me even love him more is the fact that I managed to earn a great final score at the end of the sixth semester, which boosted my confidence and without him, I would never become the writer I am now.


Ms. Indri

She is my Math teacher in high school. So outspoken, so mean verbally, so un-ladylike. She kicked, she was foul-mouthed, she was just what she really is. No pretense.


She taught us math like she never cared about what we would speak behind her back in breaks. Who didn’t? She threw bits of chalk at us when we were too slow to submit our answer sheets. She smashed the eraser when a student stood frozen, unable to figure out the answer of a math problem written on the blackboard.


As an anti-math student, I hated her so much. But I had no choice but to deal with her like every other day. Math was a subject I never liked and she made me like it.


So I tried my best to survive in her class in fear of getting physically humiliated (being pinched for example) and boom!!! I hit my all-time highest math score: 8.


There were nights I could not go to bed early because I still could not believe I made it. I was stunned by my own math talent. I therefore realize that nothing is impossible if I study. I may not be a genius but I know I am not useless looser. I can work hard and stay focused and claim the results.


Though she looked so frightening, Ms. Indri sometimes threw us some jokes with a flat-faced facial expression that made you wonder whether she was in fury or just was being crazy.


Ms. Tri Alfa Inayati

I still remember, as a fourth grader of elementary school, I heard a compliment about my cursive longhand. “You should be ashamed. You’re a girl and your handwriting is less neat than Akhlis’,” she said to a girl in the class.


I felt sorry for hear. But my heart could not contain my joy upon overhearing this remark. Cruel to her. Flattering to me.


Since then I polished my longhand and had ever since been often designated the secretary of class.


I appreciate her for making me realize I was that rare species of boys in class with clear, tidy cursive longhand. I cannot thank her more. Because now I write like every day and make money off writing.


How about you? Do you have your own list of teachers who have changed your life? (*/)



Forest Bathing the Indonesian Way

The other day I read an article about forest bathing tradition in Japan. There is nothing new about it but when it is scientifically proven to be of great help for human kinds, suddenly this captures my attention.I knew that walking or hiking in woods helps us in some way regain our deteriorating health and well being.But that is nothing if done all by yourself.Walking in woods and breathing in lots of oxygen is good.And walking in woods and breathing the fresh air with close friends is even much better. So I guess.It was May Day holiday and we had a quick plan three days before that. We picked a relatively close destination that won’t cost us a fortune. We don’t have to spend a night there. We just wanted to have some, wait, as much fun as possible in a single day.We rented a car and off we went to Cibatok, somewhere in the foothill of Mount Salak, which you can see from Jakartan skyscrapers’ rooftops in an early morning with clear sky and lovely weather.Cibatok in Bogor is located around 90-minute trip by car from Bogor train station. And you would see a hilly landscape that houses many hot springs and waterfalls, big and small.

Galen Stolee and His Love-Hate Relationships with Photography

Galeen Stolee is an American doctoral student from the University of Harvard. His undergraduate was Film and Media Studies at University of Santa Cruz, California. He became interested in photography as a hobby.

How did you start to love photography?”

It grew out of my love of films since I was a little kid. I made the change over two still images. There is something more practical about photography. Film making is something that requires so much plannning. You must have a whole vision and it takes months to do. I am now kind of in the moment person. So photograph became a gate to the creative outlet.

I used to be shy and introverted. I liked taking photos but shy to talk with people. Haha. So my early photos are snapshots of people from faraway and abstract things. Actually you have to ask for people’s permissions when taking their photos but well it took time to be that brave.

I moved to Vietnam at 21 and went to teach English. I wanted to explore the world. And I lived in Ho Chi Minh City and took a lot of photos.

I then moved to Nepal after living in Vietnam. I worked as a photo journalist and documentary photographer but I also had my own small art spaces where I was teaching people photography, film making, etc. I did it partly because I started to get bored of seeing my own works and wanted to see others’.

As a photo journalist, I became closer to my subjects. Being a photo journalist gives the permission for you to do that. I got slowly better at approaching people.

“What’s your tip to better approach people?”

Start with familiar places where you visit pretty often. This place is where you can easily introduce yourself. Use the camera as your tool to open conversations. You can say,”Hey I’m a photographer. I’m taking pictures. And I like your place here. Can I take some photos of it?” And then once you have taken the place photos, you can work your way up to asking if you can take their photos.

The second tip is always remember that though some people say they don’t like their photos being taken, secretly everyone likes their photos taken. They might resist a little bit but we like attention. The fact that someone is curious about us is so exciting.

I also got to do longer term documentary projects with some organizations in Kathmandu. I knew some people whose houses were destroyed by the local government because their houses were illegally built and the area was about to be a public park to attract more tourists.

This proves to be the key to becoming a good photographer. It’s not always about the right setting, camera, etc. It’s really about how close you can get to your subject matter. At this point when I started interested in saddhu’s life in Kathmandu, I was going from ‘not wanting to get too close with people’ to ‘right into their face’. It felt okay because I spent much time with them and they had become more comfortable with me around them.

What is the most unforgettable experience when you took photos?”

I’ve taken some life-threatening photos actually. Several of them were in Haiti, when I was on the side of a mountain, in a moving big truck. I didn’t know it had gone off the edge.

Memorable experience can be when you take a photo and capture someone’s expression and there is so much in his or her expression that you can never forget that. Those mean a lot to me.

“Now that you’re studying Social Anthropology, is photography the ‘gate’ to your another passion/ academic pursuit?”

I started by traveling the world out of curiosity. The more I travel, the more I get awakened. I have responsibilities as a privileged American to be able to visit all these places. And I feel the urge to do something about it by telling people stories, raising people’s awareness, doing more non-profit work.

In my twenties, I still did things out of order, and I thought I knew how to change the world. And as a 25 year old, all of us don’t know how to change the world. And all I need to step back and slow down. And stop believing that I must feel guilty of all problems in the world and fix every problem.

“With your experience in the media industry, can you share some qualities that publications seek in photographs?”

That is complex. We are talking about the market, capitalism. What does the market wants? That’s what a media company listens to instead of what the photographer wants.

Sometimes photographers only need to take photos of criminals in jail. To me, it’s not a photo that I want. But when you ask me what’s valuable, it may be stuff like that. And it takes alot to change our habits around media consumption. It goes into my research what is happening in the election. Media companies tend to appeal to our most base instincts that part of ourselves that are so automatic.

But in photos like the winner’s photo of the competition today, that’s much quieter photo. That is a type of thing that we skip a lot in the click bait and Instagram age. It doesn’t offer much value.

I think for one who wants to have a career in this industry should know what is valuable and also don’t want them to give up what they see as valuable. There are not only just monetary values.

“For those who want to pursue a career in photography, what tips can you share with them?”

As a photographer, you will have enough to live on from time to time but it’s about counting months left to survive, living from job to job. Nowadays, everyone has a camera because they have smartphones. There is a lot competition. It’s a lot harder to get yourself out there. There is more and more online media are doing YouTube. There is still a lot of room to bring skills of photography in it.

Ultimately you have to combine photography with something else. It cannot stand alone. You can combine it with journalism skills, social media skills, and other skills that the world needs. In short, try to diversify.

“Why do you now take less photos?”

When I went to Haiti, I had just felt there was something more that I wanted to do than just capturing people’s images. There is something even about the word ‘capture’, you feel like you’re taking something from someone. And I didn’t like how that felt. In some cases I thought I was just helping but there are cases when I felt just exploitative. And I went to Haiti because I saw stories from there were just so negative. Everything is about poverty and their dysfunction. There are more about it to be heard.

I think one of the things I learned through that experience is the meaning of taking photos. Is there something about that that just doesn’t feel right. And it ended up becoming reflected back at me from people in Haiti. There is a lot of belief about the power of the camera. Many people belief cameras steal our souls and took away something from us. In Haiti, natives are so used to seeing foreigners especially Americans and Europeans coming and taking photos and leaving. And they just don’t know what these foreigners do with their photos. Did they become rich and successful?  No one knows. They took these people’s souls and now they are gone. I hear such complaint from people in Haiti. And it really shook me to the core because I had been feeling that for a long time. But most people never said so because they are too polite.

So when I came here in Indonesia, I took very few photos. I just never really wanted to want that previous relationship with Indonesia. I just wanted to be present, to meet and interact with its people. One day when I met Bajau people, I took photos again. And this was perhaps the last photos I took.

Now I move to Anthropology to learn about people and cultures in a different way than just the visuals. I still love photos but my time of doing that is over for now.

“Some young people want badly to live such a life, traveling around the world and experiencing the life of photographer. But how is that feasible, financially speaking?”

That is a difficult question to answer. Obviously I have a lot of privilege: I grew up in California; my parents made good money; they sent me to good schools. I was lucky to have that to be honest. Yet that being said, at 21 years of age (in 2009) I was Googling to find ways to live in other countries. What kind of jobs that made it possible for me to live overseas? And I found the answer: working as an English teacher. These teachers teaching English in other countries get paid well. That was my entry way.

And I started to freelance in different magazines. And I got paid by photos and articles I generated. It was enough to live on. It was hard but I don’t think that is possible for everyone else. It depends on what your skill sets, expertise, studies. There are more ways aside from this. If your background is tech, you can work as ‘digital nomads’, working online from anywhere around the globe. I find more and more Indonesians doing this.  You also have to live modestly and accept that life can be very unstable and precarious. (*/)