Passion and Purpose | Surabaya, Indonesia

My most recent pit-stop in my dream of world adventures was to Indonesia. This was my fourth time to the country but first to Surabaya — its second largest city (as well as Malang and Bromo). This was a school trip where our main focus was to teach English and embark on a construction project at a local village school. At least, that was the purpose we were told of, but during this trip, something that I learnt was that one should always seek his or her own purpose and pursue it with passion when travelling.

For me, my initial purpose was as simple as to explore and enjoy the unfamiliar. And that was exactly what I did.

Our stay in Surabaya was rather fortunate as the amenities provided exceeded my expectations, accommodated at a eco-resort facility, Kaliandra. After sometime, it turned out to be like a little village rather than a hotel. The staffs there were incredibly chilled and remarkably hospitable and what truly struck a chord in me was Kaliandra’s mission. They weren’t a profit-oriented organization but rather focused on things like ecotourism, organic farming, cultural awareness and adventure programmes to help both the local and international community. Being a small part of this big goal was really amazing. And this beauty was similarly reflected in the place which boasts of authentic Indonesian architecture and natural flora and fauna.

For the most part, our daily routine was to get up at about 6am and head down to the local school — Ulum Secondary School. The first few days involved us adjusting and breaking the ice but as time went by, the students there warmed up to us really well. Just looking back, they really taught me a lot. Their school was a single block and their classrooms lacked proper lighting and sturdy furniture yet they were so passionate and willing to learn — it was their holidays and they were coming back specially to sit through our lessons!

They took so much pride in their work and would only draw a line if they had a ruler. They knew how to share and would break their ruler into two to ensure their desk-mate had something to use as well. Leaving the school on the last day was awfully painful as most of us broke down. That moment was really special — as we boarded our vehicles, the students lined the corridor of the building to wave their final goodbyes. It was at that point in time where we all realized we had made, however small, some impact on them.

Apart from the school we were based at, we got the privilege of visiting a home for abandoned and special needs children. And as expected, it was nothing short of inspirational, at least for me. These individuals, or as we’d like to call them ‘physically-disabled’ or ‘mentally-disabled’, ironically are so able in what they do.

From being able to weave without hands to play the piano without sight, they showed me what passion was and taught me how ability was not something we were born with but something we choose to pick up and shine in.

And of course, the trip wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one of Indonesia’s many volcanic craters. I have to say that that day was perhaps one of the best days ever. We stayed up till about 3am after a night of star-gazing to take a jeep up Mt. Penanjakan and patiently waited for the sun to rise.

One word: Magical.

I then rode a horse to the base of the volcano, Mt. Bromo and hiked up to its peak. And as cliché as it may sound, there were no words to express my feelings.

Let the pictures do the talking:

Before leaving Indonesia, we also got a chance to go on a safari tour in Surabaya’s Safari. It was really cool being able to see the diversity of animals up-close and personal:

But perhaps the thing that really left the deepest impression on me was two kids — Ryo and Udin. They were neighbours and best friends who lived right beside the school we were working at. I met them since the first day and ever since, they stopped by the school everyday to pay a visit. Though small in stature, they became huge inspirations to me and although we could not really communicate much, they taught me a lot. They showed me the meaning of friendship as they would constantly be by each other’s side and promised they’ll remain friends for life. They reminded me to dream bigby aspiring to graduate from the village school we were working at. They shared with me their passion to learn as they would continually ask me for the English equivalent of things around them. And most importantly, they taught me the importance of having fun as we would go off catching bugs and running around during breaks. When I had to say goodbye to them on the last day, I couldn’t hold back my tears and as they walked back to their homes, they turned around occasionally to wave goodbye, and I knew that was probably the last time I would see them.

This experience isn’t new to me but it often leaves me to question if we should form relationships if we know they aren’t going to last. But something tells me we should. Not because we wish to gain anything from them but because that’s what travel is about.

Going places, meeting new people, exchanging cultures, and passing on the joy and inspiration we have gained along the way!

So, to Ryo and Udin, thank you for inspiring me and perhaps through this piece, I have somehow managed to pass on some inspiration to you — who’s reading this right now.

This short ten days have opened my eyes to Indonesia and its beauty — both the place and its people. But through this experience I realize the only way to fully indulge in this beauty is to travel with nothing but passion and purpose.

~ Article & Photography by Nathaniel Soon (@nathanielsoon | @restlessearthling)

Laura Allen

Firm believer that companies can unlock great business opportunities in tackling social and environmental challenges in their communities. Outside of the world of social business, Laura is an avid cyclist and rock-climber, and is passionate about topics such as the FutureOfFood (she co-founded a community farm in Singapore) and mindfulness.

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