Mount Sinabung decided to erupt just about I landed at Medan’s Kualanamu International Airport. As I walked from the runway to the airport building, I began to receive text messages on my mobile. My friends were asking how I was doing. “The volcano is far away so I’ll be fine,” I confidently replied to them.

That was how I jinxed my trip.

Now, I am seated in a car on my way to Tangkahan, an elephant conservation area within the Gunung Leuser National Park. Throughout my journey there, the ashes began raining down in the area, visibility are getting lower, and the bumpy, muddy road become more pronounced.

As we drove on to a seemingly endless road surrounded by palm oil trees, my phone signal was getting weaker as well. “Well the true vacation begins,” I thought, not realizing that the jinx still followed me.  At a cross road, we took a wrong turn and when we reversed, the four-wheel drive got stuck in a ditch. The driver, his son and I had to get down from the car and push it out of the rut amid falling volcano ash.

Dirty, dusty, and dreadful, I arrived in Tangkahan. The place was covered in trees and the only sound that I could hear were the cicadas and streams feeding into the Batang River.

Tangkahan gave me a much needed recharge by connecting me with nature. After three days there I caught a public bus from the resort and had to face another bumpy five-hour journey, thankfully less dusty than my first, to Medan.

I transited in Medan and caught the next available bus to Samosir Island, a picturesque island in the middle of ancient Lake Toba. It took me another five hours to get to Parapat harbor, where I took a ferry to the island. When we set sail the lake was enveloped in mist, giving the area a mystical feel.

On the next day, I did what most tourists there did – rented myself a vehicle to get around. The hotel staff recommended me to rent a motorcycle, but since I couldn’t ride one I chose a bicycle instead. As I pedaled my way out of the hotel, I was greeted by smiles from passers by.

I thought they were friendly. Little did I realize that they were probably laughing at me, because the roads are getting steeper that I ended having to push my bicycle of a large part of the way. Still, it was an enjoyable trip because the views and the people there were fantastic.

All too soon it was time to go back to reality, work and Jakarta. The trip was not long enough, but I still gained something from it and am inspired to go out there again. I began to realize how my office is very supportive for our development, by giving all the staff a Personal Development Fund. The idea is that after working for Maverick for a year, we are eligible to draw on the Personal Development Fund that’s equivalent to a month’s salary. The funding can be used to either study something not related to work or travel somewhere we haven’t been before.

As I sat on the plane and looking at Java island, I couldn’t help smiling as I recalled the people, elephants, and the places I came across during this short trip that helped me relax and reflect on life outside work and the adventures of further travel.

Written by Dyah Ayu Arini, Maverick’s consultant who decided to travel solo to North Sumatra for her first utilization of Personal Development Fund.

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