After high school I decided that taking a gap year would be a good idea, it would give me some time to think about my next step in life and I would have time to really experience life without having the pressure of university due dates. So I decided to take a six-week long volunteering trip to Indonesia, Flores Island. In the beginning, I was unsure how the trip would play out since I’ve never done such a thing before. But now, after my time there I am completely convinced that so far it has been one of the greatest experiences in my life.
I traveled to Flores Island by myself to work in the Komodo National Park. The program was fantastic. I worked together with the head of the National Park to see if any improvements could be made for the park. We started the project in translating all the sign in the park (which were only written in the local language Bahasa) to English since many international tourists come here every day.
After that, I was assigned to make a map of the park containing all the walking trails and attractions, since the one they were using at the time was outdated and incorrect. At first, it was a bit of a challenge, but with the help of the locals and the people leading the park, we found a way. Within the project, I worked a lot with the park rangers who guide the tourists and run the park, which was a lot of fun. When we weren’t walking the trails or working on my project we were sitting together playing cards, listening to music or dancing. They were very open-hearted and inviting and let me part of all their life. During the week, when I sometimes stayed out on the island where the park is located, we ate dinner together every night.
Furthermore, the locals were very embracing and gave me the chance to really experience their lifestyle and let me take part in their day to day life. I made a lot of great friends there and spent time with them every day after my work was done.
During the weekends, where I was able to have free time, I also had the chance to explore the island, find out more about the people and went on some great trips together with the program staff. Almost every night we ate dinner at the house of KaTris, the aunt of one of the staff members. There I learned all about how people live together on Flores Island. They showed me local card games and songs, how to cook traditional food and taught me some Bahasa (Indonesian). Unfortunately, most people did not know English very well, but it turned out to be no issue in understanding one another. At the end of my trip, they even made a big surprise leaving party for me and all the people I had come to know were invited to dinner and then to party afterwards.
Overall it was just an overwhelming and amazing trip. I learned so much about the culture and the people on Flores, about the national park and the Komodo dragons, and made some great friends. I am planning to return to Flores next year to visit all the great people that I had the pleasure of meeting. I am more than glad that I took this trip and I will only advise everyone to do similar.