Life is like a roller coaster. Sometimes it takes you up, and sometimes it takes you down. The difference is, roller coster is safer than life. In roller coaster, you just sit down, relax, scream a bit, enjoy the journey, then everything will be alright. Life is not like that, I just cannot sit down and relax, then think that everything will be alright. In life, I choose my own path, not chosen by the roller coaster operator. If I am lucky, I will be walking in the right path, and if I am not, the path will take me to a detour.

Sadly, for me, luck is not a gift, but a result.

Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get. –Ray Kroc

I started my life from the bottom, I did not born with silver spoon in my mouth, and I did not have influential parents who owned companies in Indonesia and money in Cayman Islands. I was born and raised in middle class family that taught me about the life struggle –including how to open a snake-fruit, about how I have to work hard to get something that I want. For example, Dad never bought me a Nintendo, because I could not be a number one in the class.

“You do not need to study in Semarang.” Dad told me after my graduation from a junior high school in Ungaran. “If you are that smart, I believe that you can go to a good college.”. I got two meanings from Dad’s words, one is the high school quality in Ungaran is good enough, and two is Dad did not have money to afford my study in Semarang.

Small city of Ungaran

Sadly again, for me, smart is like luck, it is a result, not a gift. I have to study harder to get that smart predicate. Lucky me, the competition in Ungaran was not that hard, despite I cannot be the number one in class, still, I can say that I had graduated with good and reasonable grade. From four entrance examination that I registered after my graduation, four college accepted me as their college student.

Read my previous story, about my (travel) life in a decade (part one)

“Congratulations! See, this is what I told you before.” Dad said. “If you are that smart, you can go to a good college.”. Umm, I did not think that I am that smart, Dad, maybe it was because the others are lazier than me. Living in a hardworking family, really gave me an advantage on how to survive in this cruel world.

The advantage that is really worked for my travel life.

2013 – My Life as A Backpacker

Because I was traveling in budget, using low cost carrier, carrying big backpack, and sometimes sleeping in the airport’s floor, I could call myself as a backpacker, proudly. My most precious investment at that time was Deuter Air Contact Pro 55+15 –a bulky backpack that I bought but regretted it years later because it was too heavy and not looking good on my posture. With that backpack, I explored some countries in South East Asia and found this signature pose every time I visit a new country.

By the time I am writing this, I have visited 44 countries.

Puerto Princesa Philippines

Besides my parents, I have to say thank you to the low cost airlines, especially Air Asia, because they helped me to visit many countries in low budget and learned about being a backpacker.

There were some things that I learned from traveling as a backpacker, besides traveling is not always expensive, because we can manage the budget if we know how to do it. (Read my article about managing traveling budget):

  • Traveling is about survival, it taught me to face the world, to rely on myself, to make me independent.
  • Traveling is about being open minded, it brought me to new places to meet new people and learn new culture without being judgmental.
  • Traveling is about freedom, it gave me liberty to do whatever I like, eat whatever I want, and be whatever I want to be.

To be frank, I enjoyed my traveling time when I roamed as a backpacker than nowadays, because it gave me many amazing experiences to be remembered, also thousands of stories to be told and to be written in this blog.

2014 – New Continent New Achievement

As I recalled, 2014 was a big year for me. A year when I got some achievements related to two things that I like the most –besides your smile, traveling and writing. From traveling, I completed my journey to visit all the ASEAN countries by visiting Laos at 2014, and opened up a new horizon for myself by visiting a new continent, America, alone. This time, I did not bring my heavyweight Deuter backpack –I sold it for less than 1 million Rupiahs, and changed it to the lightweight and sexier backpack, Osprey Kestrel 48. (Read my story about finishing ASEAN countries)

So, how come, I could visit The Great United States of America at that time? It was all because of luck, I mean hard work, by joining a blogging competition that was arranged by Caterpillar, the world’s largest construction equipment manufacturer. I became the winner from Indonesia, and got a chance to visit their factory in Peoria, Illinois, along with other winners from USA (of course), Brazil, and Russia. (Read my story in Caterpillar factory)

“Can I extend the journey to other parts of USA?” I asked the Caterpillar team, after they informed that I won the competition. “It took me more than 24 hours flight to the USA, and I want to make my journey more colorful.”

“Yes, sure you can.”

That was the beginning of me, visiting a new continent, all by myself. The longest journey to America, the meaningful journey to find something inside of me. This journey really changed me, from the introvert and not-so-confident boy, to the introvert (still) with some confidence to do all the things that I want. I am not like Eric Carmen or Celine Dion who do not want to be all by theirselves anymore, I feel like, sometimes, I need to do all by myself, to know my potential ability, to push myself harder, then to understand myself more. (Read my story about entering America for the first time)

Selfie in America

From writing, I got one of the most memorable lifetime achievements, by winning a competition from Skyscanner Indonesia, that made me as Indonesia’s Best Travel Blogger of The Year 2014. Too bad the competition is finished now, I hope they did not regret the decision of choosing me as their Indonesian winner back then.

I love you Skyscanner! (Read my story about the competition, and the awarding night in Singapore, yup, you read it right, I was invited to Singapore to receive the award, along with some fellow travel bloggers from Indonesia).

2015 – Unforgettable Life as A Travel Blogger

It was a regular night in 2015. I was scrolling my Twitter’s timeline to find some interesting news and cheesy jokes, when I saw a random but catchy mention from someone that I did not know before. “After visited dozens of countries, where do you want to go next?” S/he asked me. It looked like a usual mention, like  random mentions that I used to get everyday.

Without thinking too long, I answered the mention. “Newcastle, UK, to watch football.” Watching football in St. James’ Park, Newcastle United home ground, is always be my childhood dream, a dream that I have to realise it someday. Yeah I know, why Newcastle United, why not Manchester United, Chelsea, or maybe Liverpool? The answer is, sometimes we could not choose who will we fall in love with, maybe with someone that we cannot have, or maybe with this shitty club in English Premier League.

“If it is your fortune, then it will be yours.” S/he replied. “Insha Allah. If God wills.”

“Amen.” I answered, without Rais.

The next day, s/he contacted me again, asking about the schedule, if I want to go to UK, to watch football. At this point, I thought that … is this too good to be true? But, like Newcastle United, I had nothing to lose. So I checked the fixtures, and gave it to this mysterious wo/man. The reply was same with yesterday “Insha Allah.”.

Unlike yesterday, today’s conversation continued with a moment that I will not forget it until the end of my life, a moment when s/he bought me a ticket to UK, to watch Newcastle United play with my own eyes. It was crazy, but it was true. Someone that I did not know, bought me ticket to somewhere that I had been dreaming of since my junior high school. St. James’ Park. (Read my sad story in UK, when I was scammed by people in Football Ticket Net)

Travel Blogger in Newcastle

Days later, after I finished this unforgettable trip, I contacted the mysterious wo/man again, asking why did s/he do it, and the answer was surprising me. “Every time I read your blog, my mood is getting better. Your articles give me spirit to face the day.”.

I was blushing. Deep down inside, I felt so warm. This was the greatest feeling that I ever experienced as a travel blogger: Making people happy. I realised that the happiness is felt by making other people happy.

Thank God, I can make it by being a travel blogger.

[to be continued]