Postcards From Labuan Bajo: A Birthday Trip With Travel Society!

I still remember last year strolling around several Instagram accounts, hoppin from one photo to another, and stumblin upon many photos of the beautiful Labuan Bajo. That was when I decided to intentionally find more infos on how to travel to this part of Indonesia. Particularly as I was craving for a good holiday day on the beach, yet was so bored with Bali. I was keen to explore more hidden gems of this country.

Travel Society was like that thirst-quencher in the middle of a sunny day. Our convo begun with warm greetings and ended up in a collaboration as they invited me to join one of their sailing trips to Bajo! If you are looking for an affordable travel experience to Labuan Bajo and some other places in Indonesia, yet with comfortable place to stay and friendly guides to accompany you, Travel Society should be on your call list.

They have regular dates every year for an open trip to Bajo that you can check on their Instagram account. Out of the dates they provide, I picked the one in September not knowing that it fell right on my 30th birthday!

Celebrating your birthday with a new experience was definitely a great idea. As for me, I celebrated it with a living on a boat for 3 days and 2 nights, visiting 9 islands (Kelor, Manjarite, Rinca, Padar, Namo, Taka Makassar, Gili Lawa, Kanawa, and Bidadari) in total, trekking several hills to watch sunrise and sunset, snorkeling to find manta, getting up close and personal with the Komodo dragon, laying on a pink beach, and swimming in a clear turquoise sea. Well, I got a pretty bad sunburnt as a birthday gift, but it was definitely worth the experience!

I’ll share more about these trip, but for now, please enjoy my postcard series from Labuan Bajo!

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First island in the itinerary, Pulau Kelor

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Menjangan (deer), which is the Komodo dragon’s lunch menu.

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Enjoying the sailing trip a little bit too much.

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Fishermen ready to go to work.

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A convo at golden hour.

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That beautiful hue of gold behind a hill.

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Sunrise watching from the top of Padar Island.

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One of the best islands, Taka Makassar, which pretty much reminds me of Maldive.

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Floating hotels at Gili Lawa.

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Resting to catch a breath.

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Sand-dipped toes on Bidadari Island.

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I was so tempted to say “Dracarys” LOL!

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Sunset at Labuan Bajo.

Write to you later,

HG. (@gersonhenry)

 

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Postcards From New Zealand: 9 Days, 7 Cities, 6 People, 5 Hotels, 2 Islands, 1 Car!

The trip to New Zealand last August was loaded with plenty of remarkable “first time” experience for me. For example, it was my first time..

flying solo in a long hours flight with two layovers
going on a road trip (this includes being a good co-driver, trying so hard not to fall asleep while paying attention to the GPS, and also surviving hunger and the urge to pee when there’s no gas station and mini mart anywhere near us)
seeing snow
hiking a mountain, which was located in the middle of a city
staying in a cabin hotel (and had to walk at 6.30am in the morning to the toilet, fighting the winter breeze, and end up shivering, thinking I might die of hypothermia, while doing number two).
experiencing flood in other country (LOL).

I kid you not, road trip in New Zealand should be the thing you must do before you hit 30. Or, at least before you die.

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Along with 5 traveling companion, we started the road trip from Auckland (North Island), dropped by at Hobbiton, then went all the way down to Wellington (exploring Martinborough, the city of winery), then took a ferry ride to the South Island, arrived at Picton, passed Nelson – a very beautiful city, I might wanna spend my old days there -, stayed at Hanmersprings (where I shivered (almost to death) in the toilet), moved to Christchurch, dropped by at Lake Tekapo, Mount Cook, ended the trip at Queenstown, and made a 7 hours trip to visit Milford Sound (which pretty much reminds of Kong Island movie).

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The NZ Road Trip Buddies: @demasryan, @yolandelwanda, @arisleonardo, @wisiannysusanty, @felwijaya.

I’ll share more stories in the upcoming post, so please stick around! Feel free to comment or reach me via Instagram if you want the full NZ itinerary along with budget planning, and hotel recommendations!

Write to you later,

HG. (@gersonhenry)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Story of How I Decided To Summit An Active Volcano With No Training or Preparation Whatsoever

Gunung Merapi, which literally translated means mountain of fire, is one the biggest active volcanoes in Indonesia. Earlier this year I was feeling a little restless at work and had the bright idea to attempt to summit the Mountain of Fire with two ex-military guys.

For context, I’d been back in Jakarta for about a year and wanted to start hiking. One of the things on my bucket list is climbing Mt Rinjani in Lombok (which HG & DR did just last year), and I was looking for a few easier hikes to start training for it. Merapi sounded like a solid choice for a first serious hike as it was accessible from Jogja and could be completed in a day, i.e. without having to carry a ton of camping equipment around. The trek from basecamp to summit was supposed to take about 4.5 hours.

I can do that, I thought. I’ll be fine.

I definitely underestimated the Mountain of Fire. Let me just make this clear—Merapi is a beast of a hike. It’s not the distance, which is a manageable 3.4 kilometres from basecamp to the summit. It’s not the altitude, which is just under 3,000m above sea level. And it’s not the trail, which is a single meandering path up the mountain that’s actually quite well-marked. But the thing that I didn’t know was this: Merapi is insanely steep.

You know how even decently fit people find themselves a little out of breath after running up a flight of stairs? Imagine climbing up escalator steps for five hours—for some sections of the hike, it was more like two escalator steps at a time—and then imagine doing that with an extra 10 kilograms on your back. And all the while, you’re racing time to make it to the summit in time for the spectacular sunrise you’ve been promised.

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The hike is broken up into five sections. By taking the distance and dividing it by the estimated time it would take, you can tell that the section between Pos I and Pos II is the steepest and most difficult. That and the final scramble up to the summit itself, of course.

The other thing about hiking Merapi is that you have to start in the middle of the night, because during the day the active volcano emits more sulphurous gases. Full confession: this hike was only my second all-nighter ever. But as someone once said, adventure gets out of bed before the sun does!

(Okay, it was me. I said it.)

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Adventure gets out of bed before the sun does, but once the sun is up feel free to take naps. Stef took a nap out in the open, exposed to the winds at high altitude, which in hindsight was not the best idea. When he woke up 20 minutes later, his body’s core temperature had dropped and he had to put on extra layers, huddle in the carne, and drink hot tea to warm up again.

We started the hike at 1 am, and it was painfully steep from the get-go. Within 10 minutes I was gasping for breath and wondering what on earth I had gotten myself into. Of course it was no problem for my ex-military hiking companions, but I kept needing to pause for breath, and soon enough the three of us were trailing behind the rest of the group. Stef, seeing me struggling, offered to take my water pack and some of my extra weight. Still, it was tough going.

But there was no turning around, there was no going home, there was no sitting on a rock in the jungle by myself waiting 7 hours for everyone to go up and come back down. In a way, quitting simply wasn’t an option, and that kept me going, taking step after step after step. Eventually I relaxed into the rhythm, going at my own pace. I stopped worrying about trying to keep up with the pack, or making it to the summit by sunrise, and focused instead on just doing the hike (and surviving it).

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It was, in a way, oddly therapeutic.

Picture the scene: it’s 0200 or 0300 in the middle of the night—you’ve lost track of the time in your sleep-deprived haze—and you’re making your way slowly up the side of a volcano.

There are no lights for miles around, except for the torch strapped onto your forehead, cutting a swath of light through the darkness ahead. There’s a cool breeze every once in a while, rustling the leaves of the trees around you. Other than that, the only audible sounds are the scuff and step of hiking boots and the rhythm of your own laboured breathing.

At some point, the forest thins out and you catch a glimpse of the view.
It’s dark, of course, but you realize you’re standing near the edge of the mountain, with a steep drop-off. Below you is a scattered sea of lights, dimly lit and twinkling in the night.

You realize you’re looking down into the valley, into sleeping towns, and you realize how high up you are. That feeling—of standing on the edge of the world, of having made it this far up—made the aching in my legs fade.

That moment kept me moving, kept me reaching, kept me pushing myself.

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At about 05AM, we stopped by a little cave just below the Pasar Bubrah station. This far above the treeline, the ground was sparse and rocky, but just as steep. My body felt exhausted and one of the guys was starting to get cramps in his legs. We decided to stop at the cave to avoid aggravating our pre-existing injuries, and because although I had just enough energy left to make it to the summit, I didn’t know if I’d be able to get all the way back down the volcano after that.

The three of us swung our packs off our tired shoulders, drank lots of water, ate some snacks, and made ourselves comfortable while we waited for the sunrise.

We didn’t have long to wait. All around us, the endless darkness began to lift. The blackness became a grey, and then took on an orange tinge. Slowly the forms began to emerge—the blanket of clouds under us, the creases and ridges in the mountain.

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Our cameras were out and we began shooting. It was cold, the wind whipping around us as we stood exposed on the side of the mountain. My fingers grew numb and I got to the point where I put it away and just stood there, watching the sun come up, watching colours flood back into the landscape, watching our surreal, otherworldly surroundings come into view.

It made everything worth it, huddled there together above the clouds, with an amazing 270 degree panorama around us. The ache in our muscles dulled and stilled, and it felt all the better because the pounding ache reminded us that we’d earned it, in a sense.

Soon, our guide came back down the mountain to pick us up and head back down. We stumbled down the mountain with shaking jelly legs, using hands to scramble down the steep route, grabbing on to branches and rocks to take some weight and pressure off our legs. To be honest, it was a miracle that none of us fell head over heels on all the way down, but we made it in one piece.

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Climbing the Mountain of Fire was a long ordeal. We set off at 1 am, and didn’t get back down to base camp at 10 am. Is it crazy to say that in my mental calculations, I had only thought of it as a one-way journey? I had envisioned 4-5 hours of comfortable walking, and instead spent 9 hours pushing my physical limits on a difficult terrain on an incline that killed me. The next day I could hardly walk, and everything hurt.

But were there any regrets? None.

We fought gravity for four and a half hours, snatched 20 minutes of sleep in a little cave, soaked up a beautiful sunrise against striking mountains, and welcomed a new day from above the clouds.

The rest of that Jogja trip is another story to come. But until then, I urge you: Go climb your mountain! Go do something big and bold and outrageous. Go outside your comfort zone, but stay within your limits. I promise you won’t regret it.

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To more adventures and stories to tell,

SL. (@sofietyger)

 

Postcards From Sydney: Fallin’ In Love For The Third Time Around

“Sydney? Again?”
Most people reacted like that when they heard that I’m going to Sydney for the third time. They failed to understand why on earth would I keep coming back and forth to Sydney.

“If I were you, I would use the money to travel to other cities on earth,” so they said. As much as I agreed on their comeback, somehow, there’s something about Sydney that makes me feel like it’s always a trip to second home (probably, partly because I still have a close family who lives there).

Now, after the third visit, I departed from Sydney shedding a little tear wondering whether I can come back for more or not. How about I just spend the next season of my life in Sydney? It’s all in my head. Not sure whether I should act on it right away.

This time in Sydney, I found comfort and felt confident in wandering around and exploring the city alone. I enjoy every single experience of getting the wrong bus, walking a bit too far because I took the wrong turn, hopping on and off the trains all by myself. Will tell you more details about this trip, but for now, please do enjoy some photos I captured from this beautiful city.

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First time witnessing double rainbow at Shelly Beach. 


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Captured this by iPhone 5S. One eye-spoiling sunset!


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Symmetrical. Captured this when I took the wrong train to Macquarie.


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Stumbling upon this “urban”-ish and “instagenic” train tunnel.


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In Indonesia, I had to hike to high places to watch sunrise. In Sydney, I woke up and opened my eyes to this beautiful sunrise from my cousin’s apartment. 


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Marchin’ on a hill.


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Sunbathing. Not On A Sand. But On A Grass Field.


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Climb Up, Climb Up.


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Nap Time At The Park.


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Should I Dip My Feet On The Water?


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Architectural.


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Temptation For A Munching Machine. 


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Reminds Me Of That Groceries Store Corner That I Saw Once In Monocle.


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The Popular Bondi Beach.


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What You Lookin’ At?


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Will I Find Love Inside?

 

Write to you later,

HG. (@gersonhenry)

Golden Sunrise From The Peak of Sikunir

There’s always a brighter side to every story.
Even to the most devastating one.
That’s what I believe.

What’s the key to seeing the brighter side of a bad situation?
How to keep walking in a dark tunnel, that seems to have no end?
To have your hope anchored firmly to the One who is in control upon your life.
To keep a fit and well-trained faith, even when things seem to make no sense.
To have an unshakeable conviction that when things don’t happen the way you want it to be, it’s not the end of everything.
In fact, it’s a beginning of something that you would categorize as better.
To remind yourself that it’s never a setback, but it’s a setup that will launch you to higher places.

Pardon the poetic side of me. But you get the point. Hopefully.

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Taken by Nydia Orlatta.

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Sitting at 2350 Metres Above Sea Level

The trip to Central Java that I had last April could be defined as an evidence of what I wrote in the paragraphs above. Departed from Jakarta by train, along with 8 travel companions (which, for some of us, this is our first travel-together experience, hashtag hopefully there’s no drama), all of us left the big city with high hope to hike Mount Prau. We wished for a clear night sky for star gazing, some of us were tripod & camera-ready to capture the milky way, while the rest simply longed for their first hiking experience.

Sadly, that’s not what happened.

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In the middle of our train ride to Purwokerto we found out that Mount Prau has been temporarily closed due to bad weather. Two hikers died of a lightning strike on their way down from the summit. I don’t know about the others, but part of me responded like a kid, blaming the weather (which indirectly blaming God) and asking for an explanation why that sort of thing had to happen when we were already on our way there. We couldn’t postpone or cancel the trip.

Sometimes life is just like that. It doesn’t give you time to stop. It pushes you to move forward and deal with whatever it is that comes your way.

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So we continued our trip and decided to enjoy it the best way possible. Whether we end up at the top of Prau or not, that’s totally beyond our control. But even if we can’t, that won’t stop us from having fun. After a short, yet remarkable, culinary experience at Purwokerto, we continued our trip to Dieng Plateau by car.

Dieng welcomed us with drizzle and fog. There were no stars. The local guide suggested us to forget about Prau and hike the Sikunir Hill instead. With such weather, it would take more than a luck to be able to watch sunrise the next morning. However, we went to sleep with our hearts full of expectancy. We didn’t get to hike Prau. That’s okay. Now, we might not even be able to watch the sunrise. Hell, no. I refused to believe that. “We are going to watch the most beautiful breath-taking sunrise tomorrow!” So I said, stubbornly, in my prayer.

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At 3-ish AM, we all woke up and prepared ourselves for Sikunir. The car we rented took us to the basecamp, at the bottom of Sikunir, where we had to continue the rest 900m (about 30 minutes or less) of the trip by foot. If you’re a first-timer, don’t worry too much about bringing a lot of stuff, all you need is  bottled water, jacket, and pair of comfy shoes. The route was already carved into stairs, which makes this place a very tourist-friendly destination.

When you are almost at the top of the hill, you’ll find rest area with toilets and chairs. From here, you can choose the left path that will take you to a lower viewing point, or the right path that will take you all the way to the top of the hill. For sure, I chose the right path.

As I climbed my way up, I looked up at the sky and saw no fog or clouds. The star-decorated sky was more than enough to lit up an indescribable hopeful feeling within me, whispering to me that within only a few hours I’d witness a breath-taking sunrise with my naked eyes.

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The time gap between our arrival at the top of Sikunir to the appearance of that stunning strike of orange in the midst of a dark-blue sky wasn’t too far away. The moment she appeared, time stood still. The orange line then started to grow bigger and forming a circle, igniting the surrounding sky with a combination of magenta and purple. The dark blue sky transfigured to a lighter shade of blue, accompanied with white puffy clouds.

I smiled and uttered a thankful prayer. Apparently, Sikunir is listed as one of the best sunrise spots in the world, and is included as one of the five best sunrise spots in Indonesia (along with Bromo, Ijen, Borobudur and Punthuk Setumbu). Who would have thought that Sikunir, which was originally a second-option turned out to be the best spot for sunrise-watching? Our eyes were being pampered like a good session of massage and spa after being polluted with only laptop and phone screens, and smokes from old vehicles in the city for years!

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Gerson’s eclipse. LOL.

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My limited words could never perfectly describe the beautiful scenery. Hopefully some of the selected photos here will answer your curiosity. Although, if I could give you an advice, schedule a trip to Dieng with your friends and experience it yourself! The trip only cost us about IDR 1,2million per person with train (to Purwokerto) and airplane tickets (from Semarang), rented car, and a nice homestay with hot water, clean bathroom and comfortable beds! It would cost you cheaper if you eliminate the car renting cost and airplane ticket.

We left Sikunir with empty tummy, yet with hearts full of memories! Near the car park, there were some local food trucks that provided breakfast (like a bowl of warm instant noodle, and Dieng’s signature sweet potato balls).

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This trip has been such a good reminder to me that it’s never the end of the world when things go south from how you want it to be. When life slams its doors and screams rejections towards you, don’t let yourself get carried away for too long. Use it as a launching pad to seize whatever good news that will come after the dark. Who could ever predict that what was once considered as the second-best option turned out to be your ultimate memorable life experience.

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Cheers to this awesome travel companions! (Nydia, Bella, Dennies, Kevin, Praba, STP, Luis, and the other Dennis).

Write to you later,

HG. (@gersonhenry)

PS: More stories from this Dieng trip will be up in other posts (hopefully, soon)!

Say Hi To KLTR Coffee Roasters!

Finally the owner of Koultoura, which has been one of my favorite coffee shop, decided to bring their coffee madness to the center of Jakarta! With a nicely revamped concept, they introduced a different name, KLTR Coffee Roasters, which was opened for public in August 9th. While Koultoura has always been a nice casual brunch & coffee spots for family and friends, KLTR embodies a more serious, classy and exclusive ambience that is suitable for the business people working around the area.

Located at Apartment Pavilion Retail Arcade, Jl KH Mas Mansyur Kav 24, Jakarta, KLTR Coffee Roasters is ready to welcome you with their fine selection of great foods and coffee! I got to try most of their menu during the soft-opening and the highlights for me are: the Beef Yakimeshi (with poached egg and truffle essence), Pork Ragout, Pork Ham (with scrambled egg croissant), and the French Toast (maple pork bacon with whisky ice cream)!

If you’re looking for a nice spot for lunch meeting, or you happen to work around Sudirman area, visiting KLTR Coffee Roasters this week should be a priority!

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Pan Seared Barramundi

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Crab Cake

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Beef Yakimeshi

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Pork Ragout

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Pork Ham

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Salmon Iberico

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Two Stack Pancakes

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French Toast

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Strawberry Yoghurt

 

Write to you later,

HG. (@gersonhenry)

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Congrats, Joe!

Postcard from Sumba: Keeping the Child-like Wonder Alive

What is growing up?

Really, what is it? Nobody really knows what it means and school does not really mention anything about it in the curriculum.

Is it about making more money? Is it about being responsible? Is it about getting married and having kids?

Everyone is entitled to his or her own definition of growing up. I happen to find my own definition during my recent trips to Aussie and Sumba. Without trying to disrespect anyone’s definition, this post is made for the sole purpose of cognitive sharing and discussion.

To me, growing up means taking more adult responsibilities without losing your child-like wonder.

Read that line one more time before we move on to the discussion.

You’ve seen it all the time, everywhere. Kids who just wanted to be kids but end up losing themselves in the process to adulthood. Is growing up really that mundane? I believe in working hard, getting recognition and earning money for my future family. I call that being responsible. But IMHO, the biggest challenge is not about getting all of those. The biggest challenge is keeping your child-like wonder alive in the midst of growing up.

That’s why I travel out to the wild and to the outdoors. Where my inner child could run free and breathe without being suffocated by the air conditioner in my office cubicle.

That was why HG and I created this blog anyway.

I guess my challenge to you today is pretty much the same. Will you be willing to get out of your seat and explore the wild to keep your child-like wonder alive? I hope these photos of kids from Sumba will help you remember how much alive we used to be when we were kids. But hey, it’s never too late to live the life you always wanted.

Keep exploring,

DR. (@demasryan)

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Arrival.

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Playground.

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Met these two girls on the top of Bukit Wairinding.

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They were so playful.

sumba, anak sumba, walakiri, wairinding, wahana visi indonesia, jamboree, sumba timur, the perks of being twenty, demas ryan, sekolah mama cinta, desa tertua sumba, bukit persaudaraan, m

A little too playful until one of them got hurt.

sumba, anak sumba, walakiri, wairinding, wahana visi indonesia, jamboree, sumba timur, the perks of being twenty, demas ryan, sekolah mama cinta, desa tertua sumba, bukit persaudaraan, m

Bukit Wairinding on a golden hour.

sumba, anak sumba, walakiri, wairinding, wahana visi indonesia, jamboree, sumba timur, the perks of being twenty, demas ryan, sekolah mama cinta, desa tertua sumba, bukit persaudaraan, m

No gadgets, just whatever the found on the field.

sumba, anak sumba, walakiri, wairinding, wahana visi indonesia, jamboree, sumba timur, the perks of being twenty, demas ryan, sekolah mama cinta, desa tertua sumba, bukit persaudaraan, m

Walakiri Beach, a playground for all.

sumba, anak sumba, walakiri, wairinding, wahana visi indonesia, jamboree, sumba timur, the perks of being twenty, demas ryan, sekolah mama cinta, desa tertua sumba, bukit persaudaraan, m

Crystal clear water.

sumba, anak sumba, walakiri, wairinding, wahana visi indonesia, jamboree, sumba timur, the perks of being twenty, demas ryan, sekolah mama cinta, desa tertua sumba, bukit persaudaraan, m

The softest sand I’ve ever stepped on.

sumba, anak sumba, walakiri, wairinding, wahana visi indonesia, jamboree, sumba timur, the perks of being twenty, demas ryan, sekolah mama cinta, desa tertua sumba, bukit persaudaraan, m

She was so passionate in what she created.

sumba, anak sumba, walakiri, wairinding, wahana visi indonesia, jamboree, sumba timur, the perks of being twenty, demas ryan, sekolah mama cinta, desa tertua sumba, bukit persaudaraan, m

He was just playing while waiting for his dad, a fisherman, to come back to the shore.

sumba, anak sumba, walakiri, wairinding, wahana visi indonesia, jamboree, sumba timur, the perks of being twenty, demas ryan, sekolah mama cinta, desa tertua sumba, bukit persaudaraan, m

Chilling by the beach.

sumba, anak sumba, walakiri, wairinding, wahana visi indonesia, jamboree, sumba timur, the perks of being twenty, demas ryan, sekolah mama cinta, desa tertua sumba, bukit persaudaraan, m

Sunset view from Walakiri.

sumba, anak sumba, walakiri, wairinding, wahana visi indonesia, jamboree, sumba timur, the perks of being twenty, demas ryan, sekolah mama cinta, desa tertua sumba, bukit persaudaraan, m

One out of many pre-wedding photoshoot sessions that I encountered.

sumba, anak sumba, walakiri, wairinding, wahana visi indonesia, jamboree, sumba timur, the perks of being twenty, demas ryan, sekolah mama cinta, desa tertua sumba, bukit persaudaraan, m

Into the wilderness.

sumba, anak sumba, walakiri, wairinding, wahana visi indonesia, jamboree, sumba timur, the perks of being twenty, demas ryan, sekolah mama cinta, desa tertua sumba, bukit persaudaraan, m

A school in the wilderness.

sumba, anak sumba, walakiri, wairinding, wahana visi indonesia, jamboree, sumba timur, the perks of being twenty, demas ryan, sekolah mama cinta, desa tertua sumba, bukit persaudaraan, m

Rayhan who bit my finger.

sumba, anak sumba, walakiri, wairinding, wahana visi indonesia, jamboree, sumba timur, the perks of being twenty, demas ryan, sekolah mama cinta, desa tertua sumba, bukit persaudaraan, m

The fourth generation of Sumba. He wasn’t even sure of his own age.