Traveling with Meaning

800px-RO_BV_Brasov_train_station_interiorIt has been quite a while since the last time I wandered around somewhere all alone. Trying to get lost in a foreign place, without giving a single attention to anyone and anything.

With the booming leisure economy around the country, I too want to have new adventures as well.

But I don’t long for a trip that is meant to fill my Instagram feed. Some people may do. I don’t. I appreciate those who do so but that is never my thing.

The last time I had a meaningful adventure was the trip to Baduy territory in West Java. I led some yoga sessions by the river around Baduy Luar territory and inside the kampong of Baduy Dalam. I loved it so much because the sensation is so incomparable I cannot really describe the joy in my heart. We – a bunch of new friends and I – not only had experiences of living as Baduy people but also had a chance to spend a night and had a cordial talk with the kampong leader. And this was unbelievably awesome. Not so touristy but who cares? I want the experience.

In my view, travelling with meaning means the combination of all the following components.

Respect of local cultures

When I had a trip in Baduy territory, someone advised that we leave our modern self care products at home. We thus were not allowed to bring with us things like soaps, toothpaste, detergent, etc. Despite that, we were still allowed to bring along our gadgets so long as they were properly kept and unused inside our bags.

As we were having our meetup with the local chief, someone in my travel group also asked if it was possible to rent a full attire of Baduy. And that I think was a great idea. To have that rare, perhaps once in a lifetime, experience of living a life of a Baduy person in a single day is incredibly fascinating. At least for me. I do not mind washing my body with only water, without soap or any foamy substances, in the river near the housing complex of Baduy folks because the water is as pristine as I have ever seen. Ground or mud is still tolerable as the river flows well. No unorganic, hazardous chemical trash whatsoever. And the prohibition of self care products use is just fine with me. I definitely cannot live without modern self care products like lotion, soap, etc but it won’t kill me if I stay away from them for a while.

Blend in

To get the raw experience of traveling in a certain place, try spending more time at natives’ houses instead of inns, hotels, or another type of available accomodation available around you.

I had this rewarding experience when I spent the night and had a cordial dinner with local Baduy men. And it felt awkward to eat dishes they usually eat but we never ever had before. The taste was not exactly like my favorite dishes but hey, isn’t traveling the best moment to experiment with our too spoiled taste buds that have gone numb to a vast variety of flavors and ingredients available on earth?

Take risks and enjoy

Do you hate or fear risks? Well, who don’t? But again, traveling may be the best time to become more adventurous than you usually are. Do something out of our characters. Do things we generally avoid or loathe. It is the time to redefine your perceptions of the world around you. So make the most out of it!

Don’t lose your identity

Though it is okay to plunge into the lifestyle, culture, and mindset of the people around us while traveling, do not ever forget who we are, the values we believe in, the boundaries we promise to never pass, etc. It is tempting to go astray, with that “you only live once” dogma as an excuse. Avoid going home with a certain feeling of guilt that sets in and ruins the holiday mood.

As for me, as a practicing muslim no matter how adventurous I am, I will never ever want to eat pork and drink liquor and have sex with strangers under all circumstances.

Love your homeland more

Now that we like this new place a lot, it does not mean we can stay forever. This reminds me of living a life with zen. Seize the moment and then when the time comes, do let it all go wholeheartedly. And letting all go means after trips, go back to the routine as if you are living your dream life.

Interestingly, at times after any trips I find myself a little bit more appreciative and grateful with where I am now. Remember that peace and relief know no physical boundaries. They are in us. So do not treat traveling as an escapism method (though many of us do). Traveling is the method to live a life to its fullest. It is not an escape from life itself.

Learn about yourself

I like to travel to experience things. And I make notes on how I act and behave in certain situations. Especially under unexpected situations.

I was once lost in Shenzhen and felt frustrated enough as I had no hotel address and I lost some money as well, which was quite a shock to me. To add to the horrible moment, I do not speak Chinese Mandarin at all. The fear engulfed me for half an hour maybe until miracle happened. The tour guide came to my rescue.

Forge friendships

“I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light,” said historical woman figure Helen Keller. I cannot agree more.

Unlike many others, I do not like shopping very much. I am minimalistic and trying to be less materialistic, too. So instead of loading more baggage, I am loading more friendships.

When I went to Korea, I had this lady guide whose name is Rose Park. We knew each other as I was the one and only person in the group that she led at the time who spoke a little Korean. I love Korean and the culture so I had learned a few basic expressions that would be helpful to survive in case I get lost. As I got home after the trip, Ms. Park and I exchanged some emails. I expressed my gratitude in my heartfelt email I wrote her and she returned as well.

Getting to know new acquaintances is an important aspect in any journey that I take. There is more a sense of fulfillment in a trip that ends up with us having more new people in our friend list than, perhaps, more clothes in our wardrobe. (*/)

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