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Photo by Celia Mitchell (2015/16 Semester Photo Contest Entry), Indonesia Semester.

Drawn Together (Instructor Introduction)

There are some places in this world that we find ourselves drawn to.  Sometimes it is through pure circumstance, sometimes a longing we have, or something that resonates about a particular place.  The massive and diverse archipelago today known as Indonesia is one of those places for me, for all of the reasons mentioned above.

“What about each of you?” I wonder.  A handful of strangers who will soon become a “traveling family.”

So I wonder: What about Indonesia is mysterious to you?  What are you drawn to?  Are you ready to take the leap, let go of what you set out to find, and embrace the unimaginable things that await you?

What are you up to right now as you sit and read this?
Which experiences have shaped the story of your life?
What do you hope these coming months will bring?
How did you even end up at the start of this trip to a new place with new people and the promise of all kinds of new experiences?

In any case, congratulations on making the big decision to go out and challenge yourself on this trip.  It is fascinating to see where a choice like this can lead in a person’s life.  A very exciting part of travel is how it opens up particular kinds of opportunities for learning about yourself and learning about this world you are a part of.  For many, the space created is transformative, and being a part of that space with others is a humbling privilege for me.

I’ve always been drawn to experience many things, and I hope you are too.  After getting a degree in Asian Studies, I went from teaching at colleges in the US and high schools in Japan, to working on educational development with a non-profit in rural Cambodia, supporting local staff and researching best practices; from working in refugee resettlement in Philly to being an advisor for international students studying in Seattle.  Even studying and practicing emergency medicine on an ambulance in Denver.  Most recently, I have spent years as an instructor on trips throughout Asia.

In between my work overseas and in the US, I have been traveling around on my own having adventures, making connections, and learning new things.  During this time, I’ve spent around one month in Indonesia.  I may have those short experiences, along with a background of knowledge in the region and many related topics, but in many ways, this course will be just as full of things to learn and experience for me as it is for many of you.  And that is something I very much look forward to.

Someone once asked if I could give only a single piece of advice before our travel, what it would be.  My answer was “to care, with humility.”  The degree of impact that travel through Indonesia can have depends on how much you open up your thoughts and feelings to Indonesia.  If you don’t care much, or fail to acknowledge your expectations and assumptions, it will be hard to be affected much.  Let yourself learn and care about the people and the places, the history and the cultures, the stories of daily life and the state of the natural world, and Indonesia will suddenly reveal that it is able to have an incredible impact on your life.