Bowo Hartanto was working as a marketing communications analyst at a private company in Jakarta when he decided that his true calling in life was to travel the world. Before going off on his global adventure, however, he thought he would see Indonesia first.
And see Indonesia he did. In 2008, he landed a job working for a Norwegian anthropologist conducting research on Indonesian tribal communities.
For one year, Bowo traveled to remote locations in Sumatra, Java, Bali, Borneo, West Nusa Tenggara, East Nusa Tenggara and Papua.
It didn’t take him long to realize the beauty of his own country. “The journey really opened up my eyes. It taught me that Indonesia is indeed a paradise on earth,” he said.
Moved by his travels, Bowo, 26, started the www.traveljunkieindonesia.com blog with the goal of inspiring more Indonesians to see their own country.
He said that he was concerned that many young people here think that traveling abroad is much cooler.
“On Facebook, I see young Indonesians who are very proud to show off photos taken from holiday trips to other countries,” he said.
His blog aims to change this perception by showing that you don’t need to visit other countries to have fun. “Why would you go to other countries when the real paradise is right here?” he said.
Bowo believes that with all its amazing potential, the tourism industry should be more established.
“Instead of spending their money in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, young travelers should take the time to see the small cities in our own country and help develop local tourism,” he said.
Bowo, who now lives in Bali, mostly writes about tourist destinations in Indonesia that have not been covered by the mainstream media.
His knowledge and inspiration come from the firsthand experience he gained during his one-year journey. And he’s always eager to discover new places.
Bowo acknowledges that he got hooked on traveling around Indonesia because he loved the beach.
“There’s nothing better than lying on a white, sandy beach and reading a good book,” he said.
But he now knows that Indonesia has more to offer than its beaches and he uses his blog to drum up interest.
“We all know that Indonesia is big, but most of us are afraid to really get out there and explore it,” he said.
Bowo said that of all the places that he’s been to, West Papua’s Raja Ampat, also known as Four Kings, was his favorite.
Raja Ampat, which covers more than 40,000 square kilometers of land and water, is divided into the four main islands of Misool, Salawati, Batanta and Waigeo in addition to thousands of smaller ones.
It also includes Cenderawasih Bay, the largest national marine park in Indonesia.
“I have a strong hunch that Raja Ampat is one of the most beautiful places in the world,” Bowo said.
In the Coral Triangle, the area is known to have the highest coral diversity in the world, making it a perfect diving site. “It’s definitely one of the places you must go to before you die,” he said.
In one of his articles, Bowo also writes about the beauty of Menjangan Island, part of the West Bali National Park. Unknown to most tourists, Bowo said it has some of the best beaches in Bali.
It still has perfectly preserved corals and crystal-clear waters, which means that people don’t have to go scuba diving to appreciate them.
You can just plop into the water anywhere with a snorkel and mask and get ready to enjoy the scenery, he said.
“You have to bring an underwater camera if you go to there,” he added.
Bowo uses social networking Web sites Facebook and Twitter to draw people to his blog in an attempt to spread the word about the beauty of his homeland.
Even though it’s still a new project, he is starting to see some success. Earlier this month, he received an award from a prominent marketing magazine for his efforts to promote Indonesian tourism on the Internet.
Bowo said that Travel Junkie Indonesia is a long-term project. “It’s not about money. It’s all about what I love to do,” he said.
Bowo has since widened his travel horizons beyond Indonesia.
He has been to all countries in Southeast Asia, save for the Philippines.
He is also saving up and looking for sponsors to help finance his dream to start seeing the rest of the world sometime next year.
Currently, he is writing a nonfiction book, “Bali Adalah Negaraku” (“Bali Is My Country”), about a group of foreigners living in Bali who now call it home.
“If those foreigners love Indonesia so much, why can’t we?” he said.
News Source: The Jakarta Globe
Photo Source: traveljunkieindonesia.com,