In a world full of fear, anxiety, negativity, and panic - I thought today I just wanted to share some love and kindness. Last month I visited Lombok, Indonesia with a mission to reunite with my girl. I ran into Sophie 8 years ago in Mui Ne - a small fisherman’s village in Vietnam. It was my first time backpacking in South East Asia. First time taking sleeper bus and crossing the border without fear. First time sharing my hostel room with a bunch of strangers. Sophie later reminded me about my short fling with an English boy we met at the hostel. Oh boy I even forget about that part but…what was I thinking seriously? We both couldn’t help but cringe and laugh at his hairstyle. Oh well, young kids.
Soph and I clicked instantly. It’s not hard to love her anyway. She is a ray of sunshine, funny, witty, confident, incredibly brave, and strong. Just my kind of tribe. Sophie has the biggest heart and she cares so much about kids and women she decided to run an orphanage center in Cambodia with her friends since 2012. We parted ways in Vietnam, fell in love with Cambodia and continue traveling the world.
For the last 8 years, we’ve been trying to catch up and travel together again. Sometimes we’d find ourselves in foreign countries - maybe not too far from each other, for example; Sophie in Montreal and Gyscha in New York. Or, Sophie in Turkey and Gyscha…somewhere in Europe. Or, Gyscha in Thailand and Sophie in Cambodia. So when I found out she’s going to spend some time in Lombok before Nepal, I knew I just have to book my flight ticket and find her!
Reunited again in Lombok, Soph introduced me to her Indonesian family. Papa and Mama Juri. When I asked Soph how did she meet the family, she said it all started when she visited Lombok for the first time 6 years ago and couldn’t find any accommodation in Kuta Mandalika, Lombok. Then an old man stopped his car and asked if Soph and her friends needed a lift. At the beginning, Soph didn’t trust the old man. She really thought the man would trick her and ask for more money just like some of the taxi drivers she met before. But to her surprise, he didn’t ask anything. The old man agreed to drive Soph and her friends to a few hotels in the area but unfortunately all the hotels are fully booked. They started to worry they’d have no place to sleep that night. The old man picked up the phone, called his wife and asked if these backpackers can spend a night at their tiny house. Mama Juri didn’t mind at all and let Soph and her friends spend two nights at their little shop for free. Sleeping on a tiny mattress, Sophie found herself very lucky and blessed that night to cross path with the sweetest and kindest couple. This beautiful family, even if they don’t have a lot of things in life and seem to struggle to make ends meet but they don’t mind to share and love giving back. Papa and Mama Juri who are pretty well-known in Kuta Mandalika for their good hearts started to invite Soph for coffee and simple breakfast the next morning. And this beautiful relationship continues until today. Every year, Sophie would return to Lombok for at least a month to hang out, surf, even help the family. Sitting together at a small local restaurant one night, me and Soph had this conversation about how travel has changed our lives and the art of “enough”. It's pretty amazing how strangers can be family and we can always find home in a new place. And obviously, good people always attract good people.
Looking at these pictures and thinking of Mama Juri’s sweet smile - I am grateful for beautiful days where we get to share delicious home-cooked meals, love, and little adventures. To have a quiet, peaceful week in Lombok with a bunch of beautiful souls and celebrate life make me really appreciate the good and simple days also the freedom that sometimes we take for granted. Especially with everything that happened lately, life suddenly feels a lot more chaotic and uncertain. We don’t know when this is all gonna end and back to normal again, but I do believe everything’s gonna be OK. While there are so many things we can’t control and panic obviously doesn’t serve any good, I keep reminding myself to choose joy and live one day at a time. To create, no matter how small. To stay focused on my goals and projects. To be kind and give love. To be more grateful, positive, and appreciate the little things.