Beyond Pictures, Sightseeings & Experiences

“What do you learn from your trips? What inspiration do you get on the road that changes your life?” Mr. Agus, my travel writing coach, asked me.

I like taking trips, discovering new countries, cities, people. Because I, myself, experienced the travel, I can easily answer the numerous questions regarding the trips that I receive on social media. Most questions concern about what to see, where to go, how to get there, what is the cheapest way, how to get a visa, etc. At first Mr. Agus’ question seemed clear, but when I tried to answer, I found I couldn’t think of how to answer.  It was a tough question, and I could only smile. 

“So, what are you going to write about?” Aisyah, my classmate, asked me on our way home after class.
“I’m totally lost,” I replied. “I don’t know what to write. I have no idea what story I should use to deliver a special message to the readers.” 
“Neither do I,” Aisyah said. “My trips are always just fine: no drama, no hassle, just fun.” 

Although I am only 29, I have had the good fortune to travel to 22 foreign countries, in addition to 16 provinces of my home country, Indonesia. I tried to retrieve all the memories I made on those trips and found that even though the memories confirmed that I enjoyed myself, none of the memories provided worthwhile reasons for me to write for others to read. I even reviewed my trip photos, recalling the context in which I took each photo, while at the same time asking, “does the photo offer a story worth telling? And if I write this story, what will the premise be so the message will benefit the readers?” 

After a week of introspection, I started to wonder why travel as an activity even interests me. My negative thoughts made me ask myself “What is the problem with the way I travel? What kind of travel style do I have, if any? What do I think while traveling?” I asked myself lots of questions to get to the core of the problem. 

I can’t deny that I travel for pleasure, having fun, taking pictures and sharing them on Facebook and Instagram. It gives me pride that I can explore the world. But now I ask: what’s the point?

I reflected that, when I travel, I try to capture the big picture of a new place. I keep a distance between me and the subjects of the photos. It seems that I look, but I don’t see, and I hear but I don’t listen. Every traveler misses many things when visiting a new place, but I seemed to miss the most important thing: it’s the lesson I should take home. 

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with taking pictures, having fun and sightseeing. But traveling consumes a lot of time and money, so traveling should provide more than simple pleasure. 

Travel should enrich me: something should make me more tolerant and less narrow-minded, or travel may make me more confident, allowing me to accept more responsibility for projects at work. Perhaps I may begin to care more deeply for the environment, or start to realize that self-understanding is more important than fulfilling the requirement for being “cool.”

There are always a bunch of lessons for me to take home, but only if I open the opportunity to learn from each experience I encounter on road. ~ Ritueli Daeli 


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