Jakarta Post Weekender
The Traveler’s Tale
What does travel really mean to us – is it about the adventure and discovery, or just being able to say that we have been there and done that? Yunetta Anggiamurni gives her perspective.
“And at night I like to love to listen to the stars. It is like 500 hundred million little bells.” This was how Antoine de Saint-Exupéry expressed his adoration of a beautiful starlit night in his masterpiece, Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince). Although it was supposed to be a book for children, the work has become one that adults should read because the writer’s message is clear: Are you an open-minded person?
Above all, de Saint-Exupéry tried to encourage readers to do one important thing: travel.
Indeed, we view traveling as the quest for freedom, of choosing the place we want to go, of having the luxury of not worrying about daily work obligations, of satisfying our thirst for new experiences, in visiting places and meeting new people.
But for most of us, traveling also requires time, money and delicate negotiations with friends, family, children, boyfriends, girlfriends and so forth. In short, no room for individual needs.
I would love to samba in Copacabana …
A celebrity friend of mine made the above statement to a national newspaper. She wholeheartedly fulfills all her commitments, yet holds a simple dream to be on Copacabana beach, dancing to the sounds of samba and dozing under the tropical sun. Yes, a bit of getaway travel, even for awhile.
Another friend, a young employee in a private firm, has always been in love with Jamaica, the excitement of reggae music and Rastafarian culture plus, of course, the legendary Bob Marley. Unlike my famous artist-model-writer-politician friend who may have adequate funding but inadequate time to realize her dream trip to Brazil, this less fortunate buddy is still struggling to save up the money for the trip to Jamaica.
To compensate, he includes everything and anything Jamaican in his personal style: striped black-red-yellow-green hat, jackets, shirts and an MP3-player full of songs by Bob Marley and Steven and the Coconut Trees. Well, at least he keeps his Rastafarian dream alive.
A few months ago, I was in a meeting with the PR director of one of the world’s biggest supply-chain companies at one of Jakarta’s most sophisticated restaurants. I asked him about our plan to meet again to discuss a deal, but he could only scratch his chin.
“I spend 90 percent of my work traveling. I have upcoming business trips to Bangkok, Beijing, London, Rio de Janeiro and Kingston so let me think how I can fit it into the schedule,” he said.
In the end, I agreed our next meeting would be in Jamaica. It was indeed a long journey but a big business opportunity as well, so what the heck!
Out of curiosity (was I just being naïve?), I told him that he must definitely enjoy the laid-back Jamaican life, lively music and sandy beaches.
He shrugged his shoulders and said casually: “Well I know reggae. But I never think too much about it… I frequently visit Jamaica so it’s pretty much just the same thing, only to add some points to my frequent traveler mileage…”
I knew instantly that it would be just another meeting focused on business, in a restaurant by the beach with reggae music providing the background noise for our conversation.
Several days after my meeting, as I waited to board my return flight at Kingston’s Norman Manley International Airport, I met a young Indonesian working as a doctor for Medecins San Frontieres. He had just finished a meeting in Ocho Rios, a small Jamaican town. He introduced me to his colleagues, two female Indonesian doctors who were working for MSF in Havana, Cuba.
I realized that without much publicity and acknowledgement, there exist out there young Indonesians who have “given up” their nationality and truly become international citizens. They are hard-core travelers, as some of them must move from one rural area to another in Dhaka, Port Harcourt or Khartoum as journalists, humanitarian workers and volunteers in international development jobs.
As I landed back in Jakarta, I went straight to a book launch held by an old friend who had just published his newest novel, a chic romance infused with the exoticism of traveling. Indeed perfect for the best-seller list!
Yes, the trip to Jamaica was mind-blowing for me. I realize that I must be categorized as a common traveler, going on trips to various cities and regions, mostly for business-related matters, staying for a couple of nights at standard hotels equipped with pick-up transfer facility. My novelist friend also felt the urge to share his view of the sexy side of traveling: seeing the Can Can show at Bal du Moulin Rouge, sipping Starbucks coffee in Las Ramblas or standing on the exotic Karluv Most bridge in Prague.
As Indonesians, we also are no different from those Westerners who go crazy about “exotic” Bali when we rave about Singapore’s Great Big Sale. It is the same sense of sexiness in telling your friends that you ate a plate of pasta in Rome, not in Plaza Indonesia, or had your hair braided on Kuta beach, not at a hairdresser on Main Street U.S.A.
And then I read this from intrepid traveler Agustinus Wibowo:
“Traveling has changed my life completely, from a useless bookworm to a hardcore traveler. Traveling makes me learn how to respect different cultures, different people and to learn that our world is not as beautiful as we dream. There are far too many things to discover and contemplate, and our world is beautiful and ugly, happy and sad, colorful and plain.” (www.avgustin.net/blog/)
It’s hard for me to disagree with him. Still, for my personal contemplation on a recent weekend, I decided to learn more about the latest trendy items from Chanel and Miuccia Prada. As a common traveler, at least I can improve the level of my fashion knowledge before my next fun-filled and sexy trip to the malls on Orchard Road.
To: Faisal Yusuf, who is currently in Kabul, Afghanistan, where Friday is a day off and Saturday and Sunday are normal working days…