Our Unexpected Journey to the Togean Islands

 

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Patience is key in Indonesia! Waking before the sun to catch our taxi to Ampana was only the beginning of a very long journey. The taxi arrived approximately two hours after it was supposed to and we soon discovered that the taxi service was also a mail service! What we thought would be an eight-hour stroll through the mountain turned into a thirteen-hour expedition due to the hundreds of drop-offs we made along the way. Not to mention, high ways are nonexistent so taking the back roads was our only option. With a suspension-less van driving on narrow roads full of pot holes and loose gravel; forget napping, head propped against the window; thud, thud, thud. Being a motion sickness prone person, not vomiting was my main focus therefore enjoying the scenery was practically impossible. Luckily, after that treacherous experience, we finally approached our destination, Marina Cottages, fingers crossed that a room was available for us. After receiving great news, we immediately hit the hay Zzz Zzz Zzz.

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But trust me, the journey was worth what we encountered next! This last minute, unexpected, and unplanned adventure was our greatest idea yet! The phrase “everything happens for a reason” certainly holds true. Our luck that week was quite shocking. We arrived at the island with no reservations at any of the resorts, knowing it was high season, we still took the risk. Luckily, we found a room at Poyalisa but could only stay one night. We quickly discovered that although Poyalisa was an island surrounded by spectacular snorkeling areas, the disorganization of the resort was more stressful than it was relaxing. So leaving Poyalisa was a must, but searching for an open resort was a struggle. Fortunately, we voyaged to Poki Poki, a small oasis nearly 15 minutes from our last resort which felt like home the moment we arrived. The manager, David, was overwhelming friendly and rather delightful, understanding our situation he did everything in his power to give us a place to stay. The next morning we awoke to a note delivered by boat in which was written the best news yet, he made room for us on his island!

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DSC_1105At first glance, it seems as though living in a luxury such as this is extremely unaffordable but actually you get a long of bang for your buck! Each room begins at 200,000 Rp per person (approximately $15), but the cost for a superior room (one that can accommodate families) is only 50,000 Rp ($4) per person more! However, that price includes an unlimited amount of drinking water, tea, and coffee as well as breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Extra expenses not included are sailing to and from islands, snorkeling equipment, dive courses, alcohol, soda pop, and snacks. Although the three course meals vary slightly, here is a basic outline of what is served:

  • Breakfast – fresh papaya, delicious bananas, delectable crepes or pancakes, flavorful eggs, moist bread with your choice of strawberry jam or chocolate spread.
  • Lunch – all you can eat white rice, a variety of vegetables including but not limited to green beans, pumpkin, cabbage, potatoes, and spinach, fluffy scrambled eggs, and barbecued, smoky, fresh fish.
  • Dinner – delightful noodles usually served with fresh tomato sauce, warm pumpkin soup, large lobsters are available for a small additional cost, an array of flavorful vegetables, and of course, the ever so delicious fresh fish.

Since internet is not available and signal is nonexistent, the dinners are intimate and focused on togetherness. Sitting around the same dinner table, asking acquaintances to pass the rice, is a comforting way to make new friends, learn new languages, and be inspired by the lives of others.

DSC_0115      A guided trek through the jungle was a great way to end our Togean Island journey. Crawling through bat filled caves, learning how palm sugar is made and how delicious it tastes, and touching a chocolate tree for the first time was the cherry on top of it all!

Such a worthwhile side trip after several weeks of volunteering at the eco-tree house in Masamba!

 

Much love and happy travels,

Anya!

The Long Road to Masamba & Tree House Living

There’s a whole world out there and if travelling has done anything for me so far, it’s given me perspective. Coming from America and jumping straight into
Jakarta felt more like we rocketed to another galaxy than just another country. So much DSC_0111to see, and so much that we did not yet understand. Jakarta was a
shock to the senses, a city of 10 million people was really hard to comprehend and I’m not sure we ever did. A few days in the city was eye opening and gave
us a healthy dose of travel adrenaline, the fire had been lit. From Jakarta we began our journey to our first volunteer project in Masamba; a small village in
Southern Sulawesi. An easy flight over the Java Sea brought us to Makassar, a port city surrounded by palm tree covered islands and sandy beaches. It was here
that I felt like we were really getting into the heart of whatever was drawing us in. Just outside of the airport doors we climbed into our taxi. The driver was a young man named Ibnu. We navigated the winding roads to a village just outside of Makassar. During the trip he explained to us how he also has dreams of travelling the world, but when one of his dollars only equals the smallest fraction of the countries he wishes to visit, travel remains exactly that…a dream.

We said our goodbyes to our short lived taxi friendship and entered the bakery where we were told to we would meet with a man named Faiz. Until Faiz found his way
to us we made our introductions to the bakery owner and his family, each of them more cheerful than the last. Through broken english and scribbled notes the owner even
helped us purchase bus tickets for later that night. With about 5 hours to kill before our trip North we decided to explore the surrounding area.
Every scooter passed us with a smiling and waving rider. The realization of where we were really began setting in at this point. Without anything linking us to our
life back home we were fully engulfed in the moment. As the mid-day sun beat down on us we made our way back to the bakery. Dropping our heavy rucks, we took a seat
near the back of the establishment. It was here that we met a variety of people, all of whom were curious and friendly. Some of them even offered their homes to us should
we ever be back in the area. A couple of hours passed and we finally met Faiz and one of his friends Uched, both of which were just one year older than us. We climbed
onto their scooters and raced the setting sun to the far edge of the village. A warm golden light blanketed everything, and it seemed like everyone was outside enjoying
each others company, and enjoying the warmth not only from the sun, but from each other as well. Children and adults alike joined together to play games outside,
farmers harvested crops, mosques chanted and old gray men smoked cigarettes on their front porches, each giving a toothless smile and a wave as we rode by.
The 40 minute ride took us into a place known by the locals as “The Rocks”. Giant black stones lay scattered around the area. Some towered above us while others looked
like they had fallen victim to gravity a long time ago. Many of them had holes straight through them ranging in size from a grape to a bowling ball. As we explored the
area heavy drumming noises came from a neighboring village, after asking Fiaz what it meant he said, “It’s what we do when there is a wedding soon.” Music, setting
sun, love of my life in hand, I felt utterly and completely…complete.

At around 10 pm we boarded the bus to Masamba and before we knew it we were headed North on the Trans Sulawesi Highway. The driver blasted traditional music to stay awake as he quickly manuevered the giant vehicle through roads built for small cars. The sun rose and we arrived in Masamba. Immediately after exiting the bus, scooter taxi drivers swarmed us, already knowing where we were going; Rumah Pohon (Tree House).

It was more amazing than we ever could have imagined. A member of the tree house guided us down a steep natural pathway into the forest. At the base we were finally
greeted with a full view of our new home. Like a forest castle it towered over us. We could see that the walls of the second level were made out of used plastic bottles
that stood upright on top of one another, held together by a string running through it from the lid to the bottom and then through the next. One string of bottles afterDSC_0316
another created walls 15 feet high and 40 feet long. The outside walls of the first level were made of wood that had old shoes nailed to it creating a massive
artistic barrier. Another wall was made up of used yogurt cups, it just went on and on. Winding bamboo steps guided us up to the second level where we entered
into the creative space / art studio. Here there were dozens of pieces of art, some standing over 10 feet high and 6 feet wide. Our room was spectacular. A wooden
sliding door led to a room made for two. A white mosquito net framed the corners of the sleeping mat on the bamboo floor creating our bed, and two windows on opposite
sides of the room filled the room with natural light. The place was perfect for us and we felt at home immedietly. Later that day we had the opportunity
to talk with Edy, the creator of the tree house project and his wife, Devi. Together we sat DSC_0346on the the terrace that hung over the cool turquoise river and
he gave us an insight into what his purpose here is. To our surprise we found out that this project is only 1 of 14 others, all based in different areas of Indonesia
and all focused on educating the local people about recycling, organic farming, and preservation of the natural world. We also learned that all the trash that the
tree house is made of came from the the local village of Masamba, and all the wood has not been cut down by them, but picked up from locals who have been
logging around the area to create space for building, agriculture, and palm oil plantations. Rumah Pohon is a standing symbol of the waste we create as humans and
the impact it has on our environment. Edy and his team are doing everything they can to show the local people that they need to recycle, and that they can’t throw
their trash on the ground. All their efforts seem to fall on deaf ears as most visitors come for 5 minutes, takes selfies, laugh and run through the structure like
it’s a playground, and then leave. Never stopping to reflect on what the tree house means, or how the enivronment is being affected. Edy once told me, “People come
here and take pictures with the trash, and I ask, why do you not go home and take pictures with your trash there?” His latest painting was of a monkey taking a
selfie, hoping to invoke some sort of ironic cynasism in the visitors. When asked why he doesn’t just leave if no one wants to listen he plainly says,
“If I leave, then I lost, and the people learn nothing…nothing changes.”

The days passed slowly, beginning with a sunrise swim out in the river, then a coffee on the terrace as the jungle came alive around us, then painting, cleaning and
helping out with organic farming. A favorite activity for us was teaching English to 3 local girls, ranging in ages from 17 to 11. It felt so rewarding to help
teach people who genuinely wanted to learn. Getting things done during the day proved to be difficult due to the insane amount of visitors that came wanting pictures with us.DSC_0180
This in itself was exhausting and quickly our attitudes changed from surprise and smiles to actually trying to avoid people or having to firmly say “no” over and over. In the evenings the visitors would leave and it was just be a few of us left behind. Some nights we would drink traditional wine, play music, dance and laugh together. Sharing stories and cigarettes we blended our many cultures into one, this was a place where our pasts did not matter and all that was real was the here and now. We were even invited to a wedding in a remote village that hadn’t seen a Westerner in decades. Seeing the traditional ceremonies and dress was absolutely surreal.

It’s incredible how humans have this ability to make a place home so quickly, and how the people you meet can so quickly feel like family.
Just like memories, we made so many friends at the tree house. Friends from every corner of the world. Two of them were Jody and Laura, a german couple on holiday
around Central Sulawesi. With them we got back on the Trans Sulawesi Highway, headed further North with visions of sandy beaches, crystal clear water and coconuts danced in our heads.

Happy Travels,

-Kevin P.

Don’t Call it a Dream, Call it a Plan

Jakarta, Indonesia 20045952_2071996479493245_81616819_n

After 21 hours of soaring through the sky, we finally planted our feet in Indonesia! Culture shock hit hard the second we left the airport and set foot into the taxi. Knowing that Jakarta has been named the city with the worst traffic congestion in the world, I was holding on to the edge of my seat the whole way, but our driver’s severe case of flatulence during our thirty-minute ride to our hostel made the experience that much more unique and unforgettable. Eyes wide open, nose plugged. As though driving on the left side of the road wasn’t unfamiliar enough; driving in the middle of the lane, inches away from other vehicles, weaving in and out at high speeds, no turn signals in use, was far beyond anything I could’ve ever imagined.

Jakarta’s traffic laws are very intriguing. Here are some of the bizarre ones;

  • Drivers often use the shoulders as passing lanes
  • Honking is used to signal that other vehicles are too close
  • Most cars do not have functioning lights or turn signals
  • In an emergency vehicle accident, an ambulance does not come to your aid, someone on the scene of or involved in the accident must drive the injured victim to the hospital.
  • Many Indonesian families only have a motorcycle as transportation, therefore seeing four people on a motorcycle is quite common.

Using the bathroom here is a whole other story. The first woman’s bathroom I used was surprising. The toilet was on the floor, with two footprints engraved on either side to help you squat. Most restrooms do not provide toilet paper, but instead provide a hose to spray yourself off afterwards. However, in the rare occasion that toilet paper is provided, flushing the paper down the toilet is a major no-no! You must wipe and throw your garbage in the open, communal trash can beside your bare feet; “shoes off please” signs are placed just outside the door. I’m still trying to break this habit I’ve developed over 20 years!

The locals here have a heart of gold. Curiosity, smiles, and helpfulness is surrounded all around us. Kevin and I certainly stood out in Jakarta. However, being the minority here is a very welcoming and beautiful thing. After our first “can I have a photo with you” question arose, the same question never stopped; and I loved every minute of it. Although their English was broken, “beautiful” was the word they used to describe Kevin and I. After each photo taken with them, their appreciation and gratitude showed immensely through their smiles and kind, soft handshakes. Everyone here has been so helpful; showing us the way to the ATM, guiding us across the congested traffic streets (cross walks do not exist here) warmed my heart with so much joy.

For our very first stop, we couldn’t have chosen a better place to explore. Tomorrow we take flight to Makassar where we begin our first volunteer project! Stay tuned for many more adventures, crazy stories, and life experiences!

-Sarah

Mount St. Helens, Washington

We finally made it out to Mount St. Helens yesterday and were not disappointed in the slightest. On May 18th, 1980 an earthquake triggered an eruption here that devastated over 250 square miles of natural habitat. Today, the effects of the blast can still be clearly seen. Trees are scarce and animal life is few and far between. The snapped and upturned trunks of giant trees serve as a stark reminder of the violent eruption that took place here 37 years ago. It is such a unique landscape that is a must see if you are in the area.

Hiking around the base of the mountain almost felt like another planet. Between small patches of trees, shrubs and rocky outcroppings were these swamp like areas filled with water that look near black. And, as a plus, showing up right before the main areas of the park opened up meant that we virtually had the place to our selves. Couldn’t ask for a better day.

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North Face of Mount St. Helens

What we are up to! (Short Update)

Just over two months to go before we board our first plane for Jakarta, Indonesia, which is, subsequently, about 34 hours of travel time all together. The reality of this adventure hasn’t really set in for us yet, nonetheless, we are sooo excited!

But first things first!! On June 17th we are finally tying the knot! One good thing after the other right? Planning for it all has been quite hectic, but baby steps. Our apartment has been slowly losing its ‘fill’, which is actually like a weight lifting off our shoulders. Life gets simple when you realize how much stuff you don’t need to be happy!

The first couple months of our journey has a rough outline. From Indonesia we plan to take a quick hop over the Java Sea to Singapore, there we’ll try and couch surf for a night and then make our way halfway across Malaysia by train to the capital, Kuala Lumpur. After that we head to Northern Vietnam, and the months to follow are still as open and free as ever. Like all travel plans they are subject to time and change so remaining flexible will be KEY for us.

Our days are filled with work, planning, school, and prep but even though they are stressful times, they are happy times. Portland is a beautiful place, one that we are going to miss dearly, and remember fondly. The picture below is how we brought in the first beautiful day of Spring right in the heart of Portland.

Stay Tuned and Happy Days

-Kevin

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Bringing in Spring the right way

My 50 Liter Life

 

Sooner than soon, everything I own must fit inside a 50 liter backpack!

I’ve recently come across this concept of minimalism and instantly fell in love. I loved the idea of letting go of objects that do not add any value to my life. I also loved the concept of traveling with less; sometimes, less is more. Traveling as a minimalist has so many benefits; wherever I am, I will have everything I need, I don’t have to worry about checking in my bag at the airport, and packing takes little to no time at all! Becoming a minimalist has been an exhilarating and exciting experience! With little thought, I knew that lessening the amount of stuff I own would undoubtedly enhance my life and help me stay focused on what my true passions are; constant change and adventure!

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Ahnu Montara Hiking Boots

However, this transition has forced me to come across a huge dilemma. Being a girl who loves shoes (and who owns about 20 pairs), my toughest challenge yet was de
ciphering between which pair of shoes to bring! The
one thing I knew was that I had to be realistic and practical. Since most of my days will consist of traveling by foot, I knew I needed a really good pair of hiking boots! Unfortunately, what I soon discovered was that the amount of options for women’s hiking boots were slim to none. I found this to be extremely frustrating, given the fact that there is an endless amount of options
for men’s hiking boots.  Nonetheless, I continuously searched for the perfect fit and I couldn’t be more pleased with the Ahnu Montara boots I chose! These shoes are perfectly designed to fit snug against the curve of your foot, to protect you from water, and to enhance your stability on steep slopes. My feet are so excited to walk in these shoes on my backpacking journey through Southeast Asia in a few short months!

Stay tuned!

-Sarah

 

What to Expect: Chapter 1

Welcome to our Blog! In just over four months we (Sarah & Kevin) will be beginning our backpacking and volunteering trip through Asia. As we take you along our journey we will share with you photos, friendships, lessons of life, projects and most importantly, our connection to others.

Since we have some time before our departure, we would like to take this opportunity to share with you the prepping that goes into an endeavor such as this. We will be giving hands on reviews of the gear we are using, as well as travel tips that we come across. Additionally, we will be sharing our adventures here in Oregon until we take off! So keep an eye out!

We both humbly thank you for being a part of our adventure.

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