It’s not true that perfection doesn’t exist, Indonesia

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There are places that are perfect to me. Perfectness doesn’t mean lack of defects, but only that we don’t mind those that exist. They are an integral part of a given place or phenomenon.

At the same time, the advantages are so numerous and so overwhelmingly great that you really don’t see, don’t feel, don’t wonder, don’t think and don’t analyse the imperfections.

That is, unless you’re totally and absolutely pesky, unbearable, pretentious, self-entitled (not to be confused with demanding), eternally unhappy and not knowing what you really want from life, discontent and constantly searching things without defects, nitpicking and generally… being a pain in the ass everywhere you go.  But obviously in your own mind you’re only someone who knows his rights and has high expectations.

I know it may sound strange coming from me, since I’m an extremely demanding person, but in some areas I have certain limits. That’s why even I find certain forms of complaining ridiculous, for example German tourists on Sumatra, in Casa Nemo, a beautiful small hotel on a beach, complaining that the glass in which the beer is served is not cold enough.

Like, really? Not cold enough??? In 99% of places on Sumatra there is not a single ice cube in a bar (not to mention outside of bars), so are you serious? Your glass is not cold enough???

Balquis – the petite owner of the hotel – has the patience of a saint. I’m probably more irritated by this situation than she is. But I can see how miserable she feels because of that. She devotes every minute of her work to fulfilling the needs of everyone.

“They should be happy that we try to introduce a standard such as a cold glass, but we can’t help having only a single refrigerator and not being able too keep up during the peak of the season. That man has already demanded his beer to be replaced three times because the glass was not chilled enough.”

Sulawesi – the most distant place in the world. Not because it’s so far away but because it’s really hard to get there. Travelling there is difficult, only a few people speak English and the civilization simply stopped progressing there (which has many advantages to it, but easiness of travel is not among them).

I hear an American explaining at the reception desk in a HOSTEL that the towels are worn because their colour is “improper”. The girl at the desk barely understands what “colour” means in English, and she surely doesn’t understand the word “improper”, but he persists. He brings her his white shirt, places it next to the towels and explains what colour they should be. Ok, maybe those weren’t exactly Hilton towels, but really, I’ve seen worse. If someone wants a snow-white towel while staying in a hostel there is only one way of doing it: travel with one of your own.

Togean Island – the most paradise-like place I know (even more than Sunblass Island in Panama, and the scenery there is like straight from a postcard). A tiny, almost uninhabited island. Three hotels. The cheapest one, ran by an Indonesian family, is 10 euro per night with three meals (that’s an outrageously low price, even in Indonesia). The people who work there are a loving family, the kindest people in the world, always with smile on their faces. One day I’m sitting on a bridge, watching the sunrise, and I’m joined by the older brother – the head of that family. He was exhausted and mentally crumpled. It was a really non-typical sight considering how eternally happy Indonesians usually are…

“A tough day in paradise?”

“Maybe it’s paradise to you, but to me it’s hell. The hell of constantly hearing what’s wrong.”

“What could be wrong here?” (It was a question that I sort of blurted out automatically. Because, seriously, it’s one of those places where every moment is meditation. You are here and now and everything elsewhere is just worse, uglier, less pleasant… so what can be wrong???)

“We provide people with inexpensive accommodation, food included, and tea and coffee is also available all day long, and also included in the price. And yet, they complain that there are no western toilets here, that the cabin is small, that water is only available in the evening, that it smells of moisture here…”

The most interesting thing is that if you want a better standard, then other hotels that take 15 or 20 euro per night they do have western toilets and larger cabins. Water, however, is never available during the whole day – that’s how it is on Togean. We’re lucky and we have the great luxury of HAVING ACCESS TO IT at all (because, reportedly, sometimes water has a bad day and disappears totally).

Everything comes down to choice – you can have it more expensive and with the toilet you want, or less expensive and without such a toilet. But people would like it both cheap and better. And in the end it’s exactly the same as in our studies: what does the consumer want? Everything, and for free! That’s so very constructive!

Another example – in Bukit Lawang – in the middle of the jungle – some Dutchman complains that cappuccino is not made properly and that the milk is not steamed enough. “If he wants the same steamed milk as in Amsterdam then why does he leave Amsterdam at all?”

The bartender is sometimes feeling down due to all that complaining. For the people there it’s one hell of an improvement that they have enough potable water or that they have a coffee machine (which was quite shocking to me, frankly speaking), but there will always be somebody for whom the milk is not steamed enough.

Yes, I’m also a pain in the ass sometimes, but I work very hard on myself so as not to be. And whenever I can, I bite my tongue, my lips and anything I can, because a moment later I realize myself how pointless it is. Because once you choose the discomfort of travelling without an organized trip, you have to become open to the fact that things aren’t going to be like in your country. If you complain, then at least complain about something important and worth it, in order for someone to open his ears when you open your mouth. Use it for something that’s going to move the world forward. But that glass, the tree planted in a wrong place, the towel in the wrong shade of white… really?! These are YOUR #firstworldproblems.

I understand a lot but… everything is a matter of choice and in the modern world the choices are almost unlimited. Do you want five-star holidays – no problem, go to a 5* hotel on Maldives. There you can complain all you want if something’s not right. But if you’re travelling through developing countries – please remember that those are not Maldives!!! Don’t expect the standards of your country in local hotels. They are local in order to provide you with local experience. Don’t torment people who work there so much and don’t bring shame upon your own country.

The only nation that has more demands than Germans and Americans are Russians. I always have to explain that I’m UKRAINIAN (ok, I know that’s a long shot and that Ukrainian women have the same weird and non-practical requirements)  and that not all Russian-speaking girls walk in pearls and high-heels to the beach (some of them don’t know how to walk in high heels even when they’re not on a beach) and jump onto the bed whenever they see a cockroach and call the manager to come and bring national guard with him, if possible.

I often write about idiotic behaviour of tourists during travels because it really moves me, pisses me off and embarrasses me. Being a very demanding person, I can understand many frustrations (sometimes I’m also frustrated to the limit – and I’d like to apologize here for all the sour faces that I’ve ever made). But we have to adapt our standards according to the place where we are and the price that we pay. Let’s not kill a swan for not being an eagle. Maybe it doesn’t fly so high, but…

You need to answer honestly the following question: do you want to experience what is most beautiful about travelling – the strangeness (which doesn’t mean it will always be comfortable), exoticism (also not necessarily beneficial) and cultural differences (sometimes incomprehensible) or to remain in your comfort zone?

It’s ok to choose the latter. Then you have two options:

  1. Stay at tome
  2. Buy an all-inclusive trip

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