I just had my first backpacking trip to Labuan Bajo last week. I saw beautiful things there, but most of all, I saw something that I would remember for a long time about travelers.
The trip was amazing. I don’t think I have experienced the place enough, though (I’m not participating in the snorkeling part since I’m a bit afraid to snorkel in the middle of the sea). I plan to visit the place again later when I’m braver (and fitter).
Though it’s important, this post isn’t about the place. So for now, I will keep all the beautiful pictures and photos for another post (I’ll post one for the preview picture though). But I will try to explain how I feel through words.
This is about the travelers I met there.
It All Started with a Virus
I agreed to do the trip because I just got my (too close) encounter with Covid last March 2021. Realizing how fragile and short my life could be, I wanted to see more of this life: more places to see, more people to meet. So Asropil gave me the idea, to do backpacking travel with people I never meet before. Sailing, snorkeling, and hiking were on the menu – packed into 3 days 2 nights trip. To give a new traveler that full course low-budget vacation, it’s like giving a child a responsibility of mortgage and tax, I know. But I did it anyway.
During that trip I saw hills that shaped like triangles, two-colors sea, pink sand, flying bats rushing through the twilight sky, cluster of mangroves that are so green it reminds me of broccoli, stars and moon performing without interruption up above, deep blue and white currents, and lots lots lots of ocean breeze and island views that made me feel like I’m seeing Isla Nublar here and there.
The Post-Trip Loneliness
Routine life felt like a joke after that. Something changed inside me and I’m still in the middle of trying to set my feet again on the ground. I could still feel the buoying steps. The cold seawater on my fingertips. The fluffy brown leaves bed. The hard and slippery stone steps. It’s like my body storing all the memories: the smells, the texture, the colors, shapes, sensations, and right now it feels like it’s ready to blow up any second.
My minds full. I don’t know how to digest all of that yet.
I got home and suddenly I am afraid of how would I be able to come back into my before-trip life. I don’t think I could. I don’t think I should.
My carrier and bags still intact at the corner of my room, I don’t have the heart to declutter it yet. It’s like I’m planning for another trip already but I am afraid of the post-trip loneliness I will feel afterward.
I know this is temporary but it’s real. I wonder if all the local people would think the same if they taste the city life. Would they be able to come back to their sea and hills?
I never know that a trip could tip one’s balance this much.
I remember my fellow backpacker travelers and I wonder if they frequent the life of backpacking trips because of this? Because their balance was tipped all over the place and they could never be the same again after their first trip?
13 Travelers in a Ship
Actually, there are 26 people traveling together, but we were separated into two ships that travel side by side. My ship was ship #2: 9 women, 4 men. I counted 4 ship crews including the captain, one is a child no older than 10 years old yet he could jump between ships and lifeboats like it’s nothing.
I slipped the first time I set my foot on the dock. Me and my wobbly feet and bad decisions. I envy that child.
Since the 13 travelers were stuck with each other in a tight ship for 3 days and 2 nights, private stories were spilled since day #1.
A guy from the western part of my country told us about his canceled marriage plan. Another one lost her mother and is in the middle of her self-healing journey. Someone lost her connection with her daughter through a traumatizing event. Another one has an adulterous ex-husband. Someone else had so much stress in the office and wanted to decompress.
Not all of them sharing deep stories about themselves. Someone simply wants to make great content for her social media. Another one wants to polish his photography skill. Some just happy to dive deep into the sea (and he’s good at it!). Someone practically lives in the sea with sunbaked hair and sun-kissed skin, declaring that she will taste all the seas in Indonesia. Someone has visited 34 countries and counting.
Someone didn’t tell any stories but we know that he also has some problems in life.
More than once, I found them looking at the sea with empty stares. Inhaling more than the oxygen. Capturing more than the view.
Listening to their stories, feeling their insecurities and broken expressions, I wonder if they want to fill their emptiness with the hills and the sea. I wonder if the sunglasses worked not only to protect their eyes from the sunlight but also to hide their emotions.
I wonder if they find what they’re looking for in this trip. Do they feel better afterwards? I wonder if I’m the only one who thinks that way.
“Amanda, why don’t you eat right here, with us?”
I shifted my gaze from the wide sea ahead and my eyes met with that guy from the western part of my country. Sitting between the self-healing girl and the diver guy, he’s giving me a warm, knowing smile. I remembered he also told us that he used to have very low confidence, he didn’t feel comfortable around people.
I smiled too. Never thought that this random guy could find my cracked part that easily. Takes a broken soul to find one.
I stood up, took a last view of the night sea, and heard a whisper: “You’ll come back here again because this is where broken soul wanders.”
Thirteen strangers traveled in a ship. For a short time, we only have each other.
Since I spotted all of their broken pieces, what does that make me in the end, I wonder?