After 14 days, six flights, hours of boat rides and bus trips, hopping on seven of the 17,000 islands in Indonesia, the eight international travel bloggers have finally left Indonesia from Bali last Friday.
It has been one amazing trip, courtesy of the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy, that showcase what Indonesia has to offer. The first half of the trip saw us going from…
…the remote jungle of Kalimantan to witness the Orang Utans up close and personal, then…
…immersing ourselves – albeit in a rush – in history and culture at the Borobudur temple and city of Yogyakarta, to…
…a 3am start to see the magical sunrise view from Pananjakan, overlooking Mount Bromo, Semeru and Batok. We later climbed a-250 steps stair across the sea of sands to check out the crater of Mount Bromo.
We left the history, culture and mountains of Java to start the second half of the trip with a transit in Bali before flying across to the island of Flores, to explore the Komodo National Park.
It was during our time at the Komodo National Park that saw some of us with energy level dipping to its lowest, even falling sick. Luckily, the rest of our time in Bali, the last leg of our journey, was relatively easy – thanks to some last minute change of the itinerary – allowing us some time to recharge our energy before home time with some leisurely walk around Ubud, great personal conversations (my favourite part of the trip) and a spa treatment just before everyone left.
Was the press trip a successful one? It depends on how one looks at it.
Meticulous organisation is required when arranging a large group travels, with itineraries built by the hour. Thanks to our fixers, who were quick to attend our needs even when things changed along the way, we were treated to some of the best food, accommodations and service available in this country. At the end of it, while many of us felt some days could not get any longer and we could do with more free time, we all agreed it was one hell of an amazing trip. We all loved it. A successful one from that perspective.
As for the impact of the trip on Indonesia’s tourism, it’s too early to say what, or how much it has made. It definitely got a lot of people talking on social media networks, creating some buzz for the two weeks we were travelling, both within and outside Indonesia.
It’s a start to working with travel writers and bloggers. Ultimately, it would be nice to see the impact of this trip for the longer term.
The trip has given us the opportunity for a taste of what Indonesia has to offer, and it has a lot to offer. For a couple of the bloggers, it gave them the first step into the Asian continent; if there was any culture shocks on their part, it was hidden pretty well – or I was too tired to notice them.
The trip has certainly fueled the desire in many of us to explore this country more in the future on our own pace, taking it slow and immersing ourselves more within each place.
I am still in Bali as I write this, having extended the trip on a personal account to meet with some people here, and spending some time to clear my head and the knots in my body. There are post-trip homework that I need to do that includes some reports for the Ministry. Then there are also stories I need to pull from the trip and write about.
More thoughts on my own journey of discovery
I have been following the travel blogging industry (yes, we can call that an industry now, can’t we?) for quite some time now, through spending (too many) hours on social media as well as interacting with people in the industry. Perhaps it was one of the reasons I wanted, and luckily landed, a role to help organise this trip.
Prior to this trip, I know a little bit about how things work behind the scenes with press trips and living the life of a travel blogger, but I got to know even more as I travel with these bloggers and got to know them personally.
There is more to just travelling, having fun, tweeting and blogging about them. Those outside the industry, including a few members of the entourage travelling with them, often wonder how these travel bloggers can travel continuously. Some happen to have long term savings they could dip into, some are long enough in the game to make a living out of travel blogging, and some score, ahem, press trips.
But in most cases, press trips don’t pay the bills. The work that many of these bloggers do outside these trips is what pay the bills. Barely, sometimes.
Being a travel writer and blogger takes a lot of work, that for some this includes continuously maintaining the blog(s), social media networks and audience, even when you are on the road. For others, this also includes meeting freelance work writing deadlines, or moving them days ahead knowing you’d be stuck in areas with no internet access. Or staying up late on Indonesia time trying to interact and deal with your editor who just wake up on the other side of the world, knowing you’d have to be up in a few hours to start the next day.
Sure, no one’s forcing them to do this, and I am not saying all the above things to put them on a pedestal. It’s a lifestyle they have chosen and they’ve taken all the consequences that come with it. But for those out there looking at them with rose tinted glasses, I can tell you it’s not all fine and dandy.
A member of the travelling local team, who recently quit his job and got pulled into this trip as one of the photographers, got a chance to really get to know first hand what it is like living the life of a travel blogger. A funny moment happened when he said this during one dinner,
“I see what you guys do, I admire you guys, and it’s great, but…I don’t want it”.
He meant that with great respect and said it in a way that made all of us on the table chuckled. To him, it’s amazing to see these guys all still full of smiles and staying upbeat, knowing it had been many tiring and sleepy days in Insomnesia, I mean, Indonesia. (Credit to @michaelturtle who came up with that “Insomnesia” on one of his tweets)
The drive to keep going on this path, with many uncertainties, not knowing where they’d travel next, or even sleep, or where they’d find their next paying gig, is what amazed him. It takes a lot of guts to go on this path, and for him, it was something he knows will not work for him.
And indeed, it’s not for everyone. Some people prefer the certainties of a full-time salaried job, and that is okay.
Where does this leave me as part of my journey of discovery?
I had intended to sit and write every night during the trip, processing my notes from each day, to think of stories to produce, only to find myself falling behind on those notes and instead opted for nights of recuperation. I sometimes question my own determination to be a (travel) writer. For now, whatever little notes I have, are still scattered all over my smartphone. I barely touched my notebook.
The trip gave me a taste of what it really feels like being a travelling writer. I think it is safe to say, that I like having my base in Jakarta, and don’t see myself being a nomadic travel blogger in the near future – in case anyone was wondering.
The trip does present me with potential opportunities to create work and mix the things I love doing – writing, travelling and most importantly, sharing more about Indonesia’s tourism.
Freelancing can be fun in terms of the flexibility to come and go as you please, but it is easy to fall into the “go with the flow” mode, without someone kicking your butt. I have to be real when it comes to making a living from it. I have to chase those opportunities – they don’t always fall on to my lap.
For now, sorting out my notes for the time being might be a good start, so, while this is my own wrap up note for the trip overall, stay tune for more stories from the trip.
Note: All photos are taken and processed with my iPhone, and this entry is the first one I made on my iPad/iPhone WordPress app. I guess, I can travel without a laptop.