If every single person on the planet were given the opportunity to travel around the world, I believe they would have answered ‘yes’ without the slightest doubt. Each individual, however, has his/her own preferences, things that would excite them along the way, energize them, and make them wish to spend another day on the road.
Some people travel to see cultures so different from what they’re familiar with at home, some are more intrigued by exotic cuisines made from ingredients so alien to them, but there are also individuals who are willing to spend hours to traverse the globe just to find new party scenes. Ancient heritage sites, shopping centers, intricate temples, breathtaking landscapes, majestic animals, and extreme adventures are some other reasons for people to pack their bags and suitcases to travel to places far away from home.
I was first bitten by the travel bug in 2007 during my month-long trip to Europe. Then after a short trip to Singapore in 2010, the wanderlust began to really kick in. From then on the winds brought me to places in Asia I long dreamed to visit, including Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar, Sigiriya in Sri Lanka, and Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
But as the list of places I visit grows longer, I began to take my travels more profoundly. The trip to Timor-Leste opened my eyes on a dark chapter of the troublesome history between Indonesia and the former Portuguese colony, a chapter often narrated in a much toned-down version in Indonesia emphasizing the role of the Indonesian military to help pro-Indonesia factions prevent the liberated colony from descending into chaos. Meanwhile the visit to Angkor National Museum in Siem Reap gave me a better understanding of the relations between Jayavarman II – the founder of the Khmer Empire – and the Javanese Sailendra dynasty who in the 8th century commissioned the construction of what would become the world’s biggest Buddhist monument, and the inspiration for the Khmer king to develop a city unlike anything the world had ever seen.
Food, on the other hand, is an excellent way to understand how nations interacted, trade routes were established, and colonialism shaped many aspects of a region’s contemporary economic and socio-cultural landscapes. As far as historical trade routes are concerned, there was one particular place which played a pivotal role in the global power constellation, driving Europeans to venture deep into unknown oceans in search of a small chain of islands nestled among a vast archipelago straddling the Indian and Pacific Oceans: the fabled Spice Islands. The aftermath of that quest is still palpable today in dynamic geopolitical relations, as well as on dining tables around the globe.
In the spirit to get an in-depth understanding about what inspired the dishes we love, the places we admire, and the colorful cultures we see today, James and I are about to embark on a trip unlike anything we have ever done before. A journey whose magnitude goes far beyond our usual one or two-week-long trips which have been keeping our wanderlust, and blogs, alive. A journey evoked by the very spices we cannot live without.
It will be a six-month-long odyssey, spanning six Asian countries and covering many of the places along the classical spice route which brought distant nations closer than ever. Apart from the spice islands of Maluku (the Moluccas) in Indonesia, we will also explore ancient trading ports and other places in the sprawling archipelago, venturing further beyond to Malaysia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and India. We will end the spice journey in Nepal, a landlocked country which was never a part of the spice route but has enchanted us for a long time.
The big trip will kick off on July 1, and these upcoming months are the time for completing all our preparations – booking flights, getting visas, and resigning from our jobs. The journey has been more than two years in the making, and it is so big that I find it both exciting and frightening.
Already, the prospect of this trip has pushed me into uncharted territory. It has made me bike to work every day – not an easy feat in the chaos of Jakarta – and bring my own meals, so I can save the money I need to fund the expedition. But it all points to one thing: whatever comes in your way, never let go of your dream!