Distance covered: 40 km (25 miles)
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We build a barrier of fear around these unfamiliar places.
We’re told to beware of the seafood, the salad, the water, the ice, local transport, thieves and hustlers. We prepare ourselves with vaccines, padlocks, medications, travel insurance policies.
We’re filled with fears by those who have never been, and simply don’t know. One December, while I was living in Thailand, a good friend of mine was warned off visiting me because it was ‘tsunami season’.
And it’s true that there are hazards, both natural and man-made, both microscopic and apocalyptic in scale. It’s true that there are issues of crime and disease, hygiene and road safety. It’s also true that billions of people survive here every day, and the proximity of death brings them closer to the heart of life.
If you stay here for any real length of time, you will get sick, you will get scammed, you will lose skin on asphalt. And it will be worth it, to learn and grow as a human being.
When you stumble outside your comfort zone, the first spasm of fear is drowned by an immense surge of freedom. The barriers fall away before you. There is nobody here to tell you what to do, or how to do it. Gone are the constraints of time and money. Here, even laws can bend and stretch.
And so, in a world of endless possibility, only one question remains: what do you want to do?
Yesterday we landed in Bali, the most highly touristed of Indonesia’s 17,500 islands, a tiny Hindu enclave in the heart of the world’s most populous Muslim country. When I first arrived here, five years ago today, I wasn’t sure whether to expect a tropical paradise or a tourist hell-hole.
Fortunately the vast majority of tourists stick to the same few places and can be easily avoided. The local people are wonderfully warm, and the entire island is saturated in faith and culture, from its world-class beaches to the lush rice fields of the interior. It’s an island that holds a special place in my heart.
Today Marinho and I are resting, recovering from jetlag, and making our final preparations. Tomorrow the true journey begins as we go in search of this boy I photographed five years ago…
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Terima kasih! (Thank you!)