Spreading the Travel Bug

Spreading the Travel Bug
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When student Saphira Tanka Zoelfikar visited Singapore and Malaysia in 2007 with some friends, she was amazed to see the amount of helpful information available to tourists at each destination. As someone who has spent a lot of time traveling around Indonesia, Vira, as she is known to her friends, began to wonder why the tourism industry didn’t make the same resources available to travelers back home. “We were upset with how they were promoting the country, so we decided to do something about it,” Vira said. Together with her friend Murni Amalia Ridha, or Mumun, Vira started a Web site to provide travel information for visitors, at www.indohoy.com. Vira and Mumun have since traveled as far and wide as Kalimantan, Sumatra, Bangka-Belitung and East Nusa Tenggara to gather information for their Web site, paying for their own trips along the way. Vira said that for her, the most memorable trip was their 17-day tour of Sulawesi. “Sulawesi is a very unique island, because you can experience many different landscapes,” she said. The island’s valleys, mountains, forests and beaches are all in close proximity, she said, which makes seeing the sights easier than on Indonesia’s other islands. Vira and Mumun still regularly update their Web site with blog entries, photographs and travel destination ideas. But these adventurers are not the only ones turning to the Internet to share travel tips. Domestic travelers in Indonesia are increasingly using online networks to share their stories, seek travel partners and look for tour clients. By doing so, they hope to compensate for the lack of proper tourism promotion in Indonesia and help others find their way to exotic locations across the archipelago. Amalla Vesta Widaranti, or Vesta, founder of the Liburan Lokal (Local Vacation) community on Twitter, is another traveler who has found that the Internet is the best place to share her experiences and encourage others to follow in her footsteps. Vesta has worked as a travel guide since 2004, when she still had a full-time job as a marketing researcher for an e-commerce company. In 2010, she quit her day job, joking that it had started to interfere with her side job. “I realized that travel is my passion, and when I started getting clients regularly, I thought it would be better to focus on what I really wanted to do in life,” Vesta said. She still maintains a good relationship with her former employer — as the company’s travel guide. She has also handled office outings for big companies like Unilever, Plasa.com, Bubu.com, AC Nielsen and Think Web. She takes care of the transportation, accommodation, itinerary and shopping destinations, so that her clients can simply relax and enjoy the trip. In her spare time, Vesta keeps more than 68,000 followers updated on interesting travel destinations in Indonesia and abroad through her Liburan Lokal and Swanky Traveler Twitter accounts. She does all this despite in addition to taking care of her two children, aged 9 and 3. When she travels for work, she usually leaves the kids at home with her husband, but if she’s going somewhere with good hotels, then she’ll consider bringing the whole family. “I took my first child traveling when he was 7,” she said. By that age, she said, he was old enough to say what he did and did not like, which was important for keeping him comfortable. Sigit Adinugroho, another online travel consultant, said that many people made excuses about why they couldn’t travel, whether it’s family, work or money. But Sigit has always believed that where there’s a will, there’s a way. By reducing the amount of time spent shopping, eating in restaurants and visiting malls, Sigit said that he believed more Indonesians would be able to afford to travel. That’s why he started a travel blog at ranselkecil.com, with the information cleverly divided into travel notes, arrangements, tips, transportation, accommodation, food and so on, all written in Bahasa Indonesia. “We use Indonesian because we want to appeal to more Indonesians to travel,” Sigit said. With lots of photographs and descriptive entries about each destination provided by 18 contributors, Sigit hopes the Web site can inspire others to want to see the world for themselves. Vindhya Sabnani, who works in marketing for a travel magazine, finds that one obstacle for Indonesians who want to travel is that they don’t want to go alone. Her solution is to create a Facebook event and invite a few friends, who then go on to invite a few more friends. “I used to go traveling with 20 people, but now I limit the number to 10 so it’s not so crowded,” she said. This year, she added, the most popular destinations among her extended network are the Komodo and Derawan islands. For younger Indonesians who wish to travel around their own country, or go abroad, quiz-hunter Lucia Nancy recommends checking out various travel competitions for the chance to win cash prizes or free holidays. Last year, Lucia was one of the 66 lucky finalists in the Aku Cinta Indonesia (I Love Indonesia) competition held by online news portal Detik.com. The finalists were divided into 33 teams of two and were given two weeks to travel to different cities around Indonesia and put together travel blog entries, complete with photos, and post them online. On Aug. 8, the winners of various prizes in this year’s competition will be announced, including Best Team, Best Photo Essay and Readers’ Favorite, with cash prizes of up to Rp 100 million ($11,800) awarded to the winning teams. This year, Lucia plans to enter a similar competition, called Adira Faces of Indonesia, held by multi-financing company Adira. Participants must submit a travel story with photos to the Web site at www.adirafacesofindonesia.com by the end of the year. Winners will be announced in January, and will receive up to Rp 2 million in prizes each. With so many opportunities online — and a bit of luck — those who long to travel but think it’s out of their reach may just get the chance to hit the road. Saphira Tanka Zoelfikar at www.indohoy.com Amalla Vesta Widaranti @liburanlokal on Twitter and www.liburanlokal.com Vindhya Sabnani @vindhyasabnani on Twitter Sigit Adinugroho @hellosigit on Twitter and www.ranselkecil.com Lucia Nancy @lucianancy on Twitter ACI at aci.detik.com Adira Faces of Indonesia at www.adirafacesofindonesia.com News Source: Jakarta Globe Posted on Good News From Indonesia by Bambang.

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