I've always maintained that the world we live in is huge, and how we may never finish exploring it in a lifetime. But how do we define exploring anyway, or travelling for that matter? Is it having a holiday somewhere far, or climbing a mountain and placing a flag at the summit, or living and working in a country outside of your own for a period of time? And does that mean being in these different cities and countries are just boxes we tick?
Truth is, I don't know.
I could spend years in a city and not really know it.
In fact, I could've spent weeks and weeks in Flores.
Labuan Bajo and the islands surrounding it including Komodo Island barely scratched the surface of an island that also offers picturesque villages in the mountains, many other port towns, and even crater lakes in volcanoes.
I met tons of other travellers, and it was clear we were all in search of somewhere... new. And different.
Everyone knows Bali, the Island of Gods.
We know the beaches, we know the bars, we know the clubs, the resorts, the volcanoes, the waterfalls, the jungles, the temples etc. We even know of many other islands to take day trips out to.
But as travellers we're always looking out for somewhere different, somewhere new.
It's this insatiable appetite to keep exploring, to keep collecting passport stamps, train tickets in languages we don't speak, trying new kinds of food from all over the world.
But Bali, I barely recognised.
These days, the areas of Kuta, Seminyak, Legian and Ubud are almost Disneyland-like in how they don't feel quite real. Most tropical beach paradise getaways do end up being taken over by tourism, but it's slightly disheartening when it becomes mass scale tourism, like Bali, Phuket, Krabi, etc.
For places with such beautiful natural sights, one wonders if they're made to hold thousands and thousands of tourists, and here's where socially responsible tourism matters.
Speaking to a Flores local, he mentioned companies building resorts had to be socially responsible and build them out of environmentally-friendly materials, nor were companies allowed to destroy the hilly islands to flatten them for construction projects. Meanwhile across the harbour, there was a massive resort / hotel being built with steel, and the hill facing the sea was destroyed to make flat ground to build their resort upon.
Even in the small town of Labuan Bajo, walking around, you see quite some other construction projects going on, including a massive one near the harbour and market.
You get the palpable feeling things are changing, more tourists are coming, more travellers are making the trek out.
One of the things that made me love Flores was meeting so many friendly locals, from those driving the boats, those at our hotel, some working at the multiple cafes and restaurants up and down the main street in Labuan Bajo. You get the feeling Flores is still theirs, and so are these islands. It's hard to properly quantify what is authentically anything, but it feels authentically local. Those areas in Bali just... don't.
And part of me feels like those parts of Bali have been robbed of their soul a little.
That I hope, never happens to Flores.
From my trip to Labuan Bajo in Flores and Indonesia, I've turned some of my photography into my brand of everyday products which you can check out below. Worldwide shipping is available so if you're looking for a tote bag to take home to remember your travels if you too have been to this part of Indonesia, and if you'd like to support this passion project of mine, look no further!
View the full product catalogue at the shop here.