Trip of Wonders Indonesia 2016: Sixteen Days After

It’s been sixteen days and the things I brought home from Indonesia are still haphazardly tossed around my room; traces of bag tags, boarding passes, trip itineraries, empty bottle of sunscreen, and a lot more. It may be because I'm just too lazy to put everything in order, or perhaps there’s this part inside me that still wants to hang on to the mementos I’ve collected. The memories still linger on as I scan these articles from my recent Indonesia trip, one of my greatest trips thus far.

12 Days, 10 flights, 6 key destinations, 39 participants from 6 different Southeast Asian countries, 1 country. Trip of Wonders 2016.

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I was juggling my job as a teacher and my passion as a traveler/blogger when an invite came from the Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia to explore some of the fascinating destinations around the country. I really felt honored after receiving it but at the back of my mind I was thinking of my 300 students who will be left behind for two weeks without my supervision.

Securing permission from my superiors was easier than I thought as they saw the excitement in me. Their approval was also the signal for me to pack my bags and look forward to the adventure that I never thought would come my way. I’m blessed to have the best job in the world and for the people who surround me with love and understanding on my pursuit of unending discovery.

I’ve been to Yogyakarta and Bali before, and found it very interesting that even though both are in the same country, each has a totally different character. Me and my buddy have this two-month summer backpacking trip every year and we're planning to explore more of the different islands of Indonesia in 2017. Fortuitously, we got to experience it earlier than we planned to.

We’ve been traveling for quite some time now and this is actually the first time that I wasn’t that obsessed on what route to take, the current money conversion and even just the simple daily assessment on whether we should spend our last money on dinner or beer. We were very well taken care of that all we needed to do was to wake up on the agreed time and enjoy the experience, as what traveling is supposed to be.

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I was also faced with the fact that I will be traveling all day, every day, with 40+ souls that I’ve never met before (from Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand). It was as if we’re off to a field trip on the very first day of the class, on a freshmen year. 

I may not be the most sociable person, but I learned how to deal with people more as I learned the ways and means of each country represented by each participant. I’ve been to those countries before, but have never actually met someone that would be my travel buddy for twelve long days. It was such a humbling experience.

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I was amazed at how Filipinos and Indonesians are very much alike in so many ways. Other than our looks, which were almost practically the same, our ways and gestures were also very similar.

Like a homecoming of some sort, I felt comfortable and relaxed as we explored different destinations around Indonesia. It felt home, as I try to put the puzzle pieces together and sort what’s ours and what's theirs, and the commonalities. 

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It was a rollercoaster ride of emotions, but at the end of it all, when all that’s left is me and my surprisingly not-so-dirty backpack, I felt this pang of nostalgia as I browsed the photos from the Trip of Wonders Indonesia. It’s actually the friendship that developed that made all those amazing destinations worth remembering. It’s that cheer I got when I almost summited the mountain at Padar Island and those laughter inside the bus during lull times. That’s what makes everything more meaningful.

I miss the thrill of exploring new territories and sharing it with my newfound friends. I don’t miss the early call times and the rush going to the airport. I miss my comfy bed from the upscale hotels but I do miss my bed and pillows more. I miss Bintang and the super fun beer nights. I do miss each person that shares the same passion as me on traveling and discovering new things. I really really miss that fried chicken we had on a restaurant in Yogyakarta which is the best meal for me during the trip and the best fried chicken in the world!

So please join me as I chronicle each memorable road we took. Down to one of my most memorable trips ever. Into lost cities and uncharted territories. To some of the 18,000 islands of Indonesia. To our delectable food exploration. To not getting lost but finding new buddies. To the wonders of Indonesia. 

An hour after my flight back to Manila I went straight to my home, grabbed some coffee, took a shower and went straight to my class that I missed for two weeks;

Ma’am Carla, what happened to you? Why were you away for so long? Did you get sick?
Nope, I’m A-OK, I just visited an amazing place in which I'll be telling you in a bit.
Oh, that’s why you're tanned!

Special thanks to Indonesia's Ministry of Tourism for making this trip possible. 
As always, views and opinions are all mine.

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