Here’s some honesty recap at its finest:
When I first found out I was being sent to Bali, my instant reaction was that I wanted to get it over with. Not a normal reaction when someone finds out they’re going on a fully expensed trip to a beautiful destination halfway across the world, but that’s what happened internally. However, it was an opportunity and with that, I tried to see how early I could complete my booking, how quickly I could do the trip, and then come back home to Los Angeles and proceed with life. I think the real reason behind the resistance was that I had just started to gain a lot of momentum home-based wise with business things, and felt like being gone would hinder any type of progress. But what added to that attitude was that Asia had never been at the top of my list of places to visit. In fact, it had always been at the very bottom.
So after a week full of photo sessions, an album release show, doctor visits and lab tests, I finally found myself at the airport terminal changing out of a dress and heels because I literally had just gone to and finished shooting a wedding two hours prior. And that’s when the exhaustion came over me like a sumo wrestler knocking down its opponent. I felt done long before I even got to Indonesia. I just kept counting down “two weeks”. Two more weeks, and then I could exhale properly. But being myself, I wanted to make sure I was also well prepared going into the trip. So there I sat waiting to board my flight with Instagram pulled up on my phone in one hand, and the Internet browser opened to Trip Advisor readily typing away at my five-page itinerary listing all the black sand beaches and massive waterfalls I needed to visit and photograph in order to get the right content. After all, I wanted to make it count if I was about to hop on a 28-hour plane ride and do this thing.
The experience as a whole was neither bougie nor basic.
Let’s just say that the list got trashed after day two, and I never looked back at that Google Doc since. I didn’t get all the content I had planned on creating. I didn’t get to meet up with the creatives I was hoping to meet. I didn’t accomplish everything on my list of to-dos. What I did get, however, was deeper and more meaningful and a heck of a lot better than connecting with a model and snapping photos of them for an hour.
Although green and beautiful, Indonesia was not about beach days and poolside bars for me. Contrary to popular belief, it was not bougie at all. Instead, it was the cultural experience, which was far richer and much more momentous. For me, it was about visiting small villages, learning about traditions, and sharing meals with locals. It was about the life conversations I got to have with the people I was with, the laughter and silliness, as well as the inside jokes and sarcastic comments. It was about creating new dreams, altering old ones, and ultimately becoming re-inspired.
Between work, and life processing, and attempting to get back into the swing of things after Indonesia, I have spent the last two and a half weeks playing catch up with the people in my life. Everyone has been asking me how my trip was and unless I have several hours and a couple lavender matcha lattes accompanying me, each time I can only begin to scratch the surface of how dramatically it all has changed me in so many ways.
Yesterday, I had a long photo session day, which involved an ungodly amount of driving, and Polaroid photos. The client/friend I was shooting with wanted to document some of the day with her Instax, and so she asked me to take a couple of her. I don’t normally use a Polaroid camera and don’t have much experience with them, so I asked how to adjust certain settings. She replied, “you don’t, you kind of just point and click and see what happens, and you don’t know the outcome of the image until its fully developed.”
Indonesia was like the process of taking a Polaroid picture.
I had set everything up the best I knew. But it ended up being everything I didn’t think it was. I never completed my itinerary, and I never hit up all the spots I wanted to. I did, however, see and experience a life I didn’t expect. There was adventure and risk, and I had deep conversations about love, work, struggles, leaving legacies, obstacles, and faith. Basically, all of what life encapsulates. Everything that was supposed to happen didn’t actually happen. And everything that was not supposed to happen, happened. But even with the things that weren’t supposed to happen, they were good.
I’m finding God likes to shake you up like a Polaroid picture; you never know what you’re going to get. And even if it isn’t what you anticipated the picture to look like, memories were created and you can look back and smile at it.
Here’s all the personal junk God taught/reminded me while being in Indonesia:
Openness is a must.
Indonesia is comprised of so many islands, and each has their own unique style, culture, religion, and way of life. One day you could be in Bali, and the next in Lombok, and even being several hours away by boat you will see the shift in culture. People are still people, and that doesn’t change no matter what country in the world you are adventuring in. Ask questions, don’t be shy, try new things, be ready to dance with strangers and explore until your quad muscles are sore. Ask enough real questions and spend enough time with the ones you traveled or somehow ended up with, and you’ll come to find that we are all different and the same.
Relationships change things.
When you become friends with someone, your life changes even if it’s just a little. That’s just the reality of it. When you invest in someone and choose to learn about his or her life and hear their story, your life changes a little bit more because in interacting with them, they’ve somehow become a part of your story too. That’s just how friendship works, and I got to overcome active volcanoes and chase sunsets and soak in pools and laugh and eat and share some of life’s most amazing experiences with some of the finest and kindest people who have, in turn, left such a big handprint on my heart.
Love stories happen everywhere.
Not simply in books and fairytales. Not just where you’re from. Not just on dating apps. I never actually believed it, but chemistry is a real thing. It’s essential to note that life detail because that means that attraction can happen anytime, anywhere, even when you’re not looking out for it. It might not mean that you’ll actually be together forever or that it’ll work out, but the most beautiful thing that happens in the story is that for that one split moment, the two people choose one another. Who cares how it happens, or where it happens. In that particular timing, you were on the same page as someone else who meant the same to you, as you did to them.
Hearts are fragile, but don’t let that scare you from investing.
Sharing pieces of your heart is not a bad thing at all. In fact, sometimes, it is one of the best decisions you could make because it allows you to connect with another soul authentically. You just have to remember that when you give a little piece of your heart away, they now know more of who you are and hold something in their hands you’ll never be able to get back. You also have to be ready for the detachment process, and all that has the potential of hurting like a freaking mother. No matter how much time you’ve spent together or how long you’ve known them, when you grow to care and love someone—either as a friend or maybe something more, it does something to your heart when you have to go your separate ways. It’s like this bittersweetness of like, “Hey it was great to know you. I’m really glad I got to meet you in this lifetime, and I genuinely cared deeply for you. But as much as it sucks and hurts because you’ve really meant a lot, now we have to learn to live life again away from each other.”
Let yourself be uncomfortable.
The world is bigger than your every day, your daily grind, than what you’ve always thought you’ve known. It’s okay to believe what you believe, but know why you believe what you believe; know why you’ve chosen to do what you do. Sometimes, you’ll find that you were actually wrong after all this time and people were feeding you lies. On the other hand, maybe it’s the complete opposite but you’ll never know until you begin the search.
Settling is never an option; you don’t grow that way.
The older I get, the more I’m aware of how less I know and how much there’s still to see. There are still so many people out there I’ve yet to meet. There are cultures upon cultures I’ve not yet explored. And I just think about all the conversations I’ll get to have with strangers, and that is intriguing.
The greatest challenge is learning to step away from yourself, your lifestyle, your headspace, and view the world from perspectives not your own.