Journey through 2023

Travel Highlights

Embarking on the recount of my 2023, let's kick off with a quotation "As we reflect on 2023, let's celebrate the moments that shaped us and embrace the lessons for a brighter future." 
In the remarkable year of 2023, I expanded my horizons by adding five new destinations (countries) to my ever-growing list of adventures. The journey began in Tirana, Albania, on February 19th, followed by a visit to Lisboa, Portugal, on March 2nd, Zagreb, Croatia, on April 7th, and Athens, Greece, on April 16th. The highlight was a five-week adventure in the United States, starting from June 8th. The United States became the 41st country on my list of visited destinations.

Welcome to 2023

On New Year's Eve, December 31st, 2022, we indulged in a delicate dining experience at MoAn Ristorante in Bellinzona, Switzerland. The evening featured a sophisticated 7-course Italian fine-dining menu, starting at 8 p.m. and extending past midnight, marking the transition to 2023. Despite the lavish spread, we reluctantly skipped the 7th course due to the late hour and our satisfied appetites. This gastronomic adventure, although the most expensive dinner of my life, was shared with my American friends, Randall and Tim, where our bill surpassed 400 Swiss francs. Tim graciously took care of the bill as a token of appreciation for the hospitality we extended to him during our eight days together in Paris before reaching Bellinzona. 
Continuing the culinary celebration, the following evening saw the addition of friends Jane and Nadia, as we gathered for another splendid 4-course Italian-Swiss fine dining experience at a higher elevated locale. Thus, the beginning of 2023 unfolded with the finest flavors the region had to offer.

Releasing a new single

On January 7th, I departed from the charming town of Bellinzona, catching a flight first from Milan Malpensa to Budapest and then continuing to Jakarta, Indonesia on the 9th. Returning to Indonesia after a significant period away always fills me with excitement, providing ample opportunities to reconnect with dear friends and immerse myself in the enchanting beauty of Bali. 
After a couple of weeks, my European sojourn resumed, and I found myself in La Côte D'Azur in France. The azure skies and the blossoming mimosa early in February created a captivating backdrop for my stay. The primary purpose of this leg of the journey was to capture footage for my new single, "Mofanö’ö Akhi," a melodious piece in my native Nias language, representing one of the 1340 ethnic groups in Indonesia. It’s now available for streaming on YouTube. The music video serves as a visual journey, showcasing the stunning Mediterranean coastline stretching from Ventimiglia, Italy, to the southern reaches of La Côte D'Azur.

Passing the complex exam 

Regarding my academic journey in Budapest, where I embarked on my PhD studies in August 2021, an essential milestone is the completion of the first stage of the program—a comprehensive oral exam. In Hungary, all PhD students are mandated to undergo this examination after successfully fulfilling two years of coursework. 

In my case, meeting the criteria involves earning a minimum of 120 credits, along with the acceptance of a research proposal. My initial submission of the research proposal in February 2023 faced rejection. Fortunately, I was granted a second opportunity, and the subsequent submission proved successful. This accomplishment paved the way for me to undertake the comprehensive exam on June 1st, a critical assessment that serves as a litmus test for our entire PhD journey. Failing this exam marks the conclusion of the PhD path, as unfortunately experienced by a classmate from Mongolia who, unable to pass, concluded her PhD journey at this stage. I express my sincere hope that she may find another opportunity, either in her home country or elsewhere, to continue her academic pursuits. 

Complimentary upgrading to a business class 

After concluding my trip in the US on July 12th, I returned to Budapest for a couple of days and then caught a flight to Jakarta. Returning to Indonesia from Hungary marked the beginning of an unexpected adventure. Despite being a loyal customer of Turkish Airlines, my journey took an unfortunate turn when I had to shell out nearly 100 euros for excess baggage fees. Istanbul Airport became a mandatory stop before my final destination in Indonesia.

To add to my travel woes, my flight to Jakarta was overbooked, a predicament that seemed to be affecting numerous destinations at that time. I wasn't alone in my misfortune; some other passengers and a young Australian woman, who had flown from Rome to Jakarta, found herself without a boarding pass for the onward journey to Jakarta. Tears welled up on her cheeks as she faced the prospect of missing a separately booked connecting flight from Jakarta to Australia. Fortunately, the travel gods smiled upon her when a kind soul gave up his seat for the distraught Australian passenger. 

A total of 16 passengers of flight number TK56, myself included, were left waiting for an additional 24 hours for the next available flight. However, fortune favored the delayed, as we were compensated with 600 euros each, luxurious accommodations in a 5-star hotel, three meals, and hassle-free transportation to and from the airport.

The stroke of luck continued as I received a new boarding pass, only to discover that my seat had been upgraded from 21C to 1A—business class, a dream come true. While purchasing a business class ticket had always seemed financially out of reach, fate intervened, granting me the opportunity to experience the peak of luxury in the air. Business class, with its seats that transform into beds, is designed for weary travelers seeking rest during long-haul flights. However, the excitement of the moment kept me wide awake for almost 12 hours on the Istanbul-Jakarta leg. I reveled in watching movies, sipping on complimentary drinks, and taking full advantage of the free Wi-Fi onboard. Sometimes, unexpected detours in our plans lead to the most extraordinary experiences.

A research project at the University of Nias 

It’s my 3rd time going back to Indonesia since I moved to Budapest. Different reason from my 1st and 2nd visit: holiday purposes. This time I came to Indonesia for a research project, as past of my PhD journey. I conducted research at University of Nias among sophomore teacher-trainees. During the fall semester I resided and rented a small room in Gunungsitoli, as my parent house is 3 hours away from the university. During that period, I observed 2 classed and had some opportunity to teach classes and share the research knowledge I obtained from Eötvös Loránd University, where I’m pursuing my PhD studies. I was lucky that the EFL teacher-trainees were very cooperative, especially their lecturer, Mr. Elwin Zebua, how took a major part for this research project. Thank you very much.

A Journey of serenity to welcome 2024 

In the closing chapter of 2023, I embarked on a modest yet enchanting trip to the shores of Samosir Island, a volcanic gem nestled in the heart of Lake Toba. Despite a luxurious start to the year, the journey to Carolina Hotel on this island, particularly from Nias Island, proved to be a captivating adventure. The odyssey began with an 8-hour ferry ride from Gunungsitoli to Sibolga on the morning of December 28. Arriving at the main port of the Sumatra crossing from Nias Island during dinner time made it impractical to continue the road trip to Parapat. The next day, I finally reached Parapat at 3 p.m., a journey that took longer than anticipated.

Samosir Island, neither too vast nor too petite, boasts numerous ports connecting it to the mainland. From Parapat, various ferries, including those capable of carrying cars, wooden ferry boats, crisscross the waters. Unbeknownst to me, the choice of disembarkation on the island holds significance, a lesson learned too late. Lacking serious online research on Samosir’s accommodations, my decision on where to stay was only made aboard a wooden ferry boat (cost: 15.000 IDR). Disembarking at the Tomo port, I opted for a transport offer of 100.000 IDR to Carolina Hotel, located in the Tuk Tuk area—an hour’s walk from the port. Regrettably, I discovered that the ideal port from the mainland to Tuk Tuk is Tigaraja, and one of the ports in Tuk Tuk is conveniently situated in front of Carolina Hotel. A costly lesson indeed. Choosing to share a room with a friend, we found ourselves in a lakefront room, embodying the picturesque setting I always seek. Despite the oversight in transportation, the trip proved to be of excellent quality. My leisure activities included reading, relishing culinary delights, singing, and the highlight—a thrilling hour driving a ski boat, although at a cost of 400,000 IDR per hour.

As the tourism industry hit its peak at the year’s end, I reveled in the tranquility of Samosir. News of Bali being inundated with tourists and traffic congestion only reaffirmed the wisdom of my decision: a trip to Samosir. Samosir provided the solitude and luxury I cherish. And so, I step into 2024 with gratitude for a delightful year-end retreat, hoping the coming year brings joy and wonders to all.

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