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)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Question For The Automaton Generation: Who Do You Want To Be?

When I was thirteen I aspire to be many things.

I wanted to be a scholar
A professor
A well known educator…

But at the same time, I also wanted to be a writer,
A poet
And ultimately, an artist, because I want to inspire people…

Years from there my aspirations keep growing to many different things to the point it was scattered into many different interests in life.
I ended up becoming a misfits.
It was a bit sad really…

All those years from a very highly inspired teenagers into a depressed, don’t-know-what-to-do-with-life human being. Why? You may asked.

Simple. People happened.

We are living in a society where people love to be involved in our lives. Whether it is for positive or negative thing, people simply love to meddle. It is not wrong, this is just how we make relationship with others.

I was once a by product of a society that dictates what I should and should not do. There were people in my life who “dislike” the fact that I had such big ambition and “quietly” killed my ambition. They drove me into questioning myself if what I wanted was too big.

Then, there were people who would “force” me to thrive differently, not in the things that I actually wanted but it was simply because what seemed to be “right”. Today is even worse, there seems to be a baseline for what is called to be “accepted” in society, in terms of your wishes, your identity, even your ultimate goals in life. And this makes me sad even further.

I finally managed to get out of this “automaton” dictation by pulling myself apart. This doesn’t mean I become an actual misfit. On the contrary, I have a better social life now and people accepted me just fine.

What changes, however, was how I’m letting this society get into my mind. Like I said earlier, it’s inevitable and not wrong for having a society who meddles in your life. This is how human interact but what we need to protect is our core. Who we really are. If we can do that by being true to who we really are, we can let the “right” people meddle into our life, which will enrich us instead of tearing us down.

People who can sharpen our desires instead of crushing it. People who can inspire us because they are also running in the same journey as ours. All in all, we need to let people who have the best interest for us to be a loud voice in our life. If there are people who keeps negating what we want to do, we should consider the existence of that person in our lives. Maybe, that person needs to be put aside some times.

Challenge is good but if you are constantly being challenged and questioned, sooner or later doubts will start to grow and block you from becoming who you really are.

To find who you are and to be who you want to be today is a bit harder, simply because the world is a lot noisier than before. Social media is a gateway for us to be depressed or to freely expressed ourselves correctly. It’s both a lethal machinery that can build us or kill us.

We need a strong filter for these voices in order for us to be true to ourselves. In my journey, I find that getting alone for a while and distant myself from all the noises for once in a while really helps. It makes me think clearly and inspire me again to get to where I wanted to go.

I’m writing this to you, who might be in need of any encouragement to find who you truly are. I hope this can help you. Just remember, you will finally be comfortable with who you are when you finally can be honest about who you are.

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Talk to you later!

SC. (@callistasarah)

An Interview With Aveline Gunawan: The Clumsy Girl With Secret Obsession Towards Greenday.

I’ve known Aveline Gunawan (Ave), a photographer for Baby Axioo, since her first days in Baby Axioo. We share mutual best friends, and got involved in preparing for their proposal, birthday surprises, bachelor parties, pre-wedding photoshoot and even became one of their groomsmen and bridesmaids.

Although she might look like a high-maintenance princess on her Instagram feeds, Ave is a complete opposite in person. She is very down to earth and far from princess-sy attitude. She is a clown who is not afraid to make fun of herself in front of other people. Her talent in photography is undeniably and inarguably a God’s gift. I remember during our trip to Bromo, she took photos using a Samsung phone, iPhone, DSLR, Mirrorless camera, and Analog camera, and every single shot she took was beautiful! Because of her I believe the idioms that says, “It’s not about the gear, it’s about the eyes and the taste behind the lens.” A real photographer could take the most beautiful photo using any gear, and she has proven it.

Working in Axioo has been her one and only dream since she graduated from University. The journey to become where she is right now was not easy at all and that is why I decided to feature her in this month’s “Get To Know” section. We met at a restaurant after church, and started to the interview over a plate of pizza and desserts. One funny similarity that we share is that we are both an unstoppable munching machine. When we see foods on the table, we don’t even care to ask who owns it, we’re just gonna grab it and start munching!

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TPOB20: Who is Aveline Gunawan in your own eyes?
Ave: Aveline Gunawan is a clumsy girl from Surabaya. A girl who looks very elegant on Instagram, but actually a clown who can’t stop munching, and loves to listen to Greenday.

TPOB20: What do you do?
Ave: I’m a photographer in Baby Axioo, so I’m mostly busy doing photoshoot probably about seven different clients in a week, while at the same time juggling my wedding preparation.

TPOB20: How did you get into this industry?
Ave: I’ve been introduced to photography since I was a kid. Probably because my Dad was also quite passionate in photography. I remember him taking photos of me and my two sisters with his vintage camera, and also recorded our silly actions with a handy cam.

But, it was not until senior high that I finally considered to explore photography. When I was still a little girl, I wanted to be a bank teller because I thought I’d have a lot of money, not knowing that it’s actually other people’s money hahaha… And then I also wanted to be a comic illustrator because I like drawing. When I was in Middle High I wanted to be a part of Emo Band, mainly because of Greenday.

Until one day, I had this Motorolla phone that came with a camera. It became my first camera, and that’s how it all began. I moved to Melbourne for my bachelor degree in Communication Design. One day, a friend of mine asked me to take photos of their kid. That’s when I had the opportunity to build my portfolio.

After college, I went back for good to Surabaya and decided to focus more on photography. I wanted to apply to Axioo but then I didn’t have that much confident in me to actually send out my portfolios. At that moment, it just felt impossible. So I tried applying to other photography services in Surabaya instead, and none of them called me back. I was so devastated, feeling so incompetent. How could I apply for the big giant like Axioo, if no one in Surabaya wanted to hire me.

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Photo courtesy of Aveline Gunawan and Baby Axioo

One day, my ex’s sister was having a pre-wedding photo shoot in Bogor with Axioo. Usually, there will be one photographer with one stylist handling the photo shoot. But, that day, I believe it’s not a coincidence, the stylist wasn’t available to come so the owner herself (which happens to be my current boss) came all the way from Jakarta to handle the photoshoot. It’s a very rare situation, probably even the first and the last time ever. Anyway, that’s when I first met Fen Soong. The owner of my dream company. Of course, she knew nothing about me. We rarely even speak during the photo shoot I guess.

Fast forward two weeks later, Fen left a comment on my Instagram’s post, saying that she would love to meet and have a talk with me. Apparently, she found my Instagram through some sort of Instagram baby account, which featured my portfolio.

One month later, in September 2013, I went to Jakarta and arranged a meeting with Fen. She asked me to be a photographer for Baby Axioo. That was really mind blowing, because I’m fine being a photographer’s assistant as a starter. I was so flattered yet quite nervous at that time. She asked me to think about the offer. And so I moved to Jakarta and started to work for Baby Axioo since October 2013.

I realized that it’s totally God’s grace. Fen and I were a complete stranger, yet somehow we crossed paths. I crossed path not with some random business owner, but with the one particular business owner that I’ve been adoring.

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Photo courtesy of Aveline Gunawan and Baby Axioo

TPOB20: Why Axioo? And, why Baby Axioo?
Ave:
Apart from the fact that Axioo has such great name and portfolio, it just seems fun to work in Axioo. The team looks very solid. Apparently, when I joined, everything that I could imagine about working in Axioo is true! I got paid for having fun doing what I love to do, I gained not only good friends, but also a new family.

Why Baby Axioo? Hmmm.. I just love kids. When my sisters and I were kids, the two of them preferred to go to our cousins’ house to play saloon and other girly toys. Me? I preferred to go to my other cousin who was still a baby and play with her.

TPOB20: What are your work values that brought you to where you are right now?
Ave: 
Integrity. I believe that every client has to get the same treatment, the best of me. I can’t play favorites because they pay the same price. Second to integrity would be innovative I guess. I always come up with new ideas for photoshoot, thanks to Pinterest and a lot of brainstorming session with the fashion stylist. Or, sometimes I could get ideas simply by reading magazines, traveling, or looking at a window display.

TPOB20: What kind of thing disturbs or angers you the most?
Ave: I cannot tolerate a fake and sneaky person who always has a hidden agenda for his/her own benefit. I really despise people who act nicely in front of people yet talk bad about them behind their back. I value people who are sincere and kind-hearted.

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TPOB20: What kind of activity do you do to refuel your creative tanks?
Ave: Mostly traveling. Or, taking a time off for a while.

TPOB20: What is the most interesting thing about being a baby photographer?
Ave: 
I got to meet new people everytime I have a photoshoot. Mostly are Instagram mommies with very cute and adorable babies or toddlers. I love hearing their stories and their insights about being a Mom.

TPOB20: What is the most challenging thing about your job?
Ave: When the baby doesn’t cooperate. But, what would be like the MOST challenging is when both the baby and the parents don’t cooperate.

TPOB20: What was the biggest struggle in your 20s? What made you kept going?
Ave: 
I’m a sucker for lover. Thank God I now have a fiance. But few years ago, I could overthink and worry a lot about my love life. As a competitive person, I often compare my life with other and the seeds of jealousy could cripple me. I always want to be better than others and completely forget that the real battle is not against others but against my own self. I learned over time to put aside all the negative thoughts and choose to focus on being the best in what I do. The blessing that is meant for you will always be meant for you. God has designed everything and put each person’s blessing according to their capacity. That thought somehow managed to keep me going everytime I stumble.

At this point I got so distracted by some pizza crumbles that got stuck on her hair. That’s how much she fancies eating. (Don’t worry Ave, you still have time to diet and you’ll fit well in your wedding dress!)

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Photo courtesy of Aveline Gunawan and Baby Axioo

TPOB20: What is your biggest dream that you haven’t achieved until today?
Ave: Uhm.. probably being a vessel of blessing to others, like creating a job opportunity for other people so they can support their family, pay the bills, etc. I strongly believe that’s what God wants me to do next.

TPOB20: Who is your inspiration?
Ave: 
My boss, Fen. She is very genuine and caring towards people. She would go the extra mile to make her ideas come to life. She values and appreciates relationship and really take a good care of her employees.

TPOB20: Lastly, what are the perks of being 20 to you?
Ave: 
It’s the season where you can explore a lot of things, or should I say every thing that your heart desires, without being worried because you still don’t have any responsibility towards your own family. You are not yet married and still don’t have kids. Your old days seem far away. You are all fresh and healthy to do the things that you love to do.

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Hopefully her story would inspire you to never give up praying on what you want and pursue your dream until it comes to life.

Write to you later,

HG. (@gersonhenry)

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)!

The Done List!

I used to be in love with my to-do list, but it turned into a toxic relationship pretty quickly. I was Gretchen Wieners, and the list was Regina George. Have you ever felt personally victimized by your own to-do list?

“HAVE YOU EVER FELT PERSONALLY VICTIMIZED BY YOUR OWN TO DO LIST?”

To-do lists aren’t bad. Goal-setting has been a major practice in my life since age 15, thanks to my mom. With these grand visions and projects set for various aspects of my life, chipping away at it bit by bit helped me maintain my sanity.

This still wasn’t enough. When I started university 3 years ago, my inner Type A evolved into a monster. I developed a phobia of wasting time, an obsessive dependence on Google Calendars, and micro-managed every detail of my life across multiple Trello boards and to-do lists.

The problem with to-do lists is that they never truly end. Even after you cross off that last item and breathe a sigh of relief, there’s always something you can add – another task, goal, project, dream.

“THE PROBLEM WITH TO-DO LISTS IS THAT THEY NEVER TRULY END.”

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In my busiest seasons, I would beat myself up for not being as productive as I hoped. My day revolved around my work/school to-do list, with no flexibility for relationships, health and personal growth. What I did was never enough.

Summer 2016 was hectic season for me. I had just returned from a semester abroad in Tel Aviv, and dove straight into an internship in the Indonesian film industry. I didn’t have a 9 to 5 routine due to the nature of my job, and it was hard to face my to-do list. The list was a tangible reminder of how behind I was on my goals.

It just so happened that I was reading John Maxwell’s Laws of Growth, which was on my reading list that summer. Maxwell stressed the importance of evaluated experience. Experience may be a good teacher, but evaluated experience is a true accelerator of growth. Not only does this allow you to assess areas that need improvement, but it also allows you to celebrate progress.

“CELEBRATE PROGRESS. CELEBRATE THE SMALL WINS.”

On August 14, 2016, I created the template for my very first weekly Done List. There are plenty of apps and tools that can help you create your own, but mine looks a little something like this:

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One of the things I love about this format is that I can visually evaluate aspects of my life that were neglected throughout the week. Let’s say I had midterms all week. The “Academics” column would be full of bullets recording my study time. On the other hand, the “Health” column may need a little love because I had traded the gym for late nights in the library.

These categories are pretty straightforward. In “Tasks”, I’ll usually jot down errands, calls and miscellaneous chores that still deserve to be recognized. Under the “Relationships” column, I’m reminded that time spent with family or friends is an opportunity to add value to the person. Using to-do lists, I used to see hanging out with friends as a distraction. With a Done List, relationships are represented as an integral part of my balanced life.

I’m still in my early 20s (just turned 21 a few days ago!), and want to achieve my dreams without burning out. For me, I’ve found that a to-do list is simply not sustainable. It’s not only important, but absolutely crucial to celebrate the small wins. Give yourself a pat on the back, and be grateful for how far you’ve come. Acknowledge growth, and reward progress. This is the only way you can continue to sprint towards that finish line.

Whether you’re building a startup, leading a team at work, or still pursuing your degree – don’t be personally victimized by your own to-do list. Give the Done List a try.

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Signing off (and adding this to my Done List!) ,

Rae. (@raesaputro)