My Most Memorable Travel Experience

January 12, 2012 Travel 13 Comments 72,058 Views

My Most Memorable Travel Experience.

Since a lot of people keep asking me, what my most memorable travel moment was, I would like to use the opportunity to fill you all in. It’s a fantastic story of a little girl and her mum:

Me and my mum.
Me and my mum.

I have been travelling all my life. As you might already know, my first years were spent on the African continent and ever since then, the travel-fever struck me. Today I’m 25 years old and still trying to get around as much as possible. I have visited over 70 countries and I’m planning to see many more. In 1995 my mum decided to take me out of elementary school for a year to travel to Indonesia. She has always wanted to go there and decided that this was a good (and easy) time to take me out of school (since I was only in 3rd grade).

Getting ready to board the plane.
Getting ready to board the plane.

Our travels took us to Flores, Komodo & Timor before we decided to visit Sulawesi. My mum loved (and still does) travelling off the beaten path, so the Togian Islands where the right destination for us. Togian is situated right in the middle of the Sulawesi “mouth” and getting there was far from easy: First we had to fly to Mandao, then down to Gorontalo and from there we went on a 6-7 hours boat ride.

But it was all worth it! Togian is paradise as you know it: White sandy beaches, palm trees, crystal clean blue water and no tourist in sight. It’s also a real diver’s delight with some of the most amazing reefs. We’ve been to Togian three times, last in 1998 so I don’t know if this is still the case today. Anyway, we stayed for about three weeks and not only did I make friends for life but I also started my acting career ;) Some Indonesian movie was being filmed there and I guess the director quickly made a chance in the script … Quite an experience. But this was not my most memorable moment after all. It actually happened when we left the island.

Getting ready for the big moment...
Getting ready for the big moment…
Nisa's big moment.
It was so much fun being a part of the movie.
I made a couple of  really friends during our stay in Togian.
I made a couple of really good friends during our stay.

There was no regular ferry to and from the Togian Islands, so we decided to set sail with a local fisherman. His medium-size boat looked sea-worthy and therefore nothing could stop us (yet). Turns out, the boat was fine but the captain seemed to have his first day on the job. As I said earlier, the trip usually takes about 6-7 hours. After the 9th hour, we started wondering and soon realized that we were lost at sea … After about 11 hours, land finally was in sight.

We steered into a cove and right after we did, a giant whale surfaced in front of our boat (and I really mean in front of our boat: maybe 2-4 meters at the max).  I’ve never seen a whale before, so you can imagine how exited this 9 year old girl must have been ;) Later we found out that it was a humpback whale … No, still not the most memorable moment.

After the excitement with the whale, land in sight and the obvious relief of the captain and crew, we came closer to the shore. A little (at least it looked little from the boat) village called “Tilamuta” was going to be out “docking station”. At first, all we could see were these huts made out of cardboard, wood and corrugated iron, when all over sudden heaps of canoes started coming our way (there must have been 50 – 60 of them). We had no clue what in the world was going on and were just told to get our belongings – and we did. One of the crew members (who spoke a bit of English) told us that we had to get onto the canoes, since the boat couldn’t go any further because the water was too shallow. Ulli wanted me to  go on land with one boat and she would take another (I think she didn’t trust the tiny little canoes to hold us both). I did as she said.

When arriving at the beach, I could already see hundreds of people waiting there. As soon as I lay a foot on land, everyone started touching me and my hair. I was used to people touching me and especially my blond hair but never ever like this … It seemed like there were a millions. Ulli came up behind me, took my hand and we started walking … with the entire village in tow, still touching us on every single body part. Later we found out, that we were the first white people to ever set foot here.

We walked for about 10 minutes until we arrived at the chief’s house. He invited us onto his patio, brought us tee and offered me the only white plastic chair there was. While Ulli was chatting with some of the guys, I sat down and started zapping through the Indonesian TV channels (If you have travelled to remote places you’ll know that there is one thing that cannot be missing: a TV and a gigantic satellite dish). So I was sitting in this white chair, with the only remote control in the entire village and hundreds of kids watching me. It all must sound really decadent but they actually wanted to me to do so.

Little Nisa watching TV.
Little Nisa watching TV.

Anyway, we would have liked Tilamuta to be our home for the next couple of days because we wanted to explore the area and watch the whales. But, we knew that there would be no such thing as a hotel … As soon as the chief realized that we were planning on staying, he offered us his house. Of course we couldn’t accept but he insisted. Before we could say anymore, his wife was already preparing dinner. So we accepted his generous offer and stayed for the next week or so…

The days in Tilamuta were so much much fun!
The days in Tilamuta were so much much fun!

This experience was the most memorable of all my travel moments until today. Thinking about it, makes me a little nostalgic because we never managed to go back there again…

What about you? I’d really love to hear about your memorable travel moments…

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“My Most Memorable Travel Experience.”

  1. Excellent write up. The vintage photos are great, especially the one of you watching the blurry TV. Indonesia is truly a wonderful place to backpack.

  2. Nisa

    Thanks Kurt! Indonesia is my most favrourite country for travelling. We’ve been there every year once or twice since our 6-month travel, so this must mean about 20 times or so. For me, everything about Indonesia makes it a very special spot… My goal is so visit every single island haha ;) And because there are so many, there’s always something new to explore.

  3. Sandra

    I loved reading your blog and looking at all of your photos. It’s so interesting reading about your travels and how you have visited so many places from such a young age! The old photos are brilliant. I love this story about being the first white people on this island and being given the chair and remote!! Fair play to your mum for bringing you to all of those places when you were young, you must have so many great memories! This has got to be my favourite blog!

  4. Nisa

    Hey Sandra! Sorry for my late reply. I’ve been really busy these last couple of weeks with a new job … Thank you so much for your lovely words – they really mean a lot to us! We’re glad you enjoy reading our blog posts ;) Take care & all the best, Nisa

  5. Great post. I got chills. It must have been something wonderful to see all that at a young age. Travel is a gift our parents can give us, more than anything tangible. This reminds me of how my Father always made an effort to have me jump on a plane with him for his business trips. I saw things that my classmates haven’t seen…but now as an adult, there is still so much I haven’t been exposed to yet. Many countries to see on my list!
    safe travels. t

  6. Totally Tiana! I hope that I can do the same once I have kids. Those times really made me the person I am today and I would never want to miss any second…

  7. Nisa, this is such a compelling story. I really, really enjoyed reading it and I can absolutely underdstand, that this must have been one of your most memorable (travel) experiences ever. I was also pretty stunned about the “whale-story” and “film-story”. I know you for such a long time, but I’ve never came across these stories. Amazing! PS.: I love the photos!

  8. Hi Ines! Thanks so much for your lovely words! Year, the whale story was pretty freakin’ awesome. Oh and the film thing was heaps of fun, even though I didn’t really enjoy it at first. But everyone was so nice to me and I felt like a real movie star :D Take care! Best, Nisa

  9. Lutfianna

    Even though I am an Indonesian, it seems that you have more fun time in my country :) I never been to Flores but seeing your pictures makes me envy much and wondering how fun it’d be to stay there. Anyway I love the photos and also the stories! That’d be fun to explore every island in Indonesia, count me in! :D

  10. Nisa

    Thanks Lutfianna! Since this trip, Indonesia has sort of become my second home. I try to return there every year to explore new places :) Best, Nisa

  11. Your story is touching. As an Indonesian, I never even traveled to my country’s remote places such as this one since I live in Jakarta all my life. What’s ironic is that travel to these places is much more expensive (if we go by plane) comparing to international destination (Malaysia, Singapore, etc).

    Anyway, I enjoy your blog, thank you and hope to meet you in person soon :)

  12. Nisa

    Hi Iman!
    Thank so much for your words! Indonesia really does have a lot of unspoilt places that still need to be discovered. Yet I’m sure that I will never ever have an experience like this again…
    And yes, the domestic travelling in Indonesia can be quite expensive, which makes it even harder to explore these regions as a local…
    Take care & all the best,
    P.S. I’ll drop you a line the next time I’m in Jakarta :)

  13. Rima Ht

    Whatta adorable story. Thanks a lot Nisa, you told everyone in this world about Indonesia. We hope you love Indonesia as we do. Lot of culture, lot of love, Indonesia. :)

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