PNW Voyagers 05: Nabilla Gunawan

Nabilla Gunawan, 23

UW Seattle, International Studies

Hometown: Indonesia


Journaling & having conversations

What is your relation to the Pacific Northwest?

Where I spent the last 3.5 years of college

Why is travel important to you? (What do you travel for?)

The past four years, I've had the privilege of traveling to seek opportunities. This is why I moved from Indonesia to the States to pursue my college degree, and why I’m traveling to New York to follow my curiosity.

Different environments really bring out different aspects of yourself. Seattle has allowed me to explore my interest in the relationship between humans and the environment. New York has allowed me to explore my gregariousness and brought me into the proximity of international sector opportunities. The community that is embedded in the space you're in really affects how you grow and can shape your identity. Ultimately, traveling is a catalyst for discovering personal values and surroundings. I think when you physically remove yourself from a place you’re familiar with, you're inevitably forced to shift your frame of mind and step away from your comfort zone. Discovery happens when I’m put in a position of humility and curiosity.

When traveling, I have to halt my judgement to absorb new information. Traveling is about discovering new ideas, culture, and exciting connections. It’s also about discovering new things about myself. When you are exposed to an external environment that is completely different than your own, it will force you to confront your biases, and reveal your blind spots. This is invaluable. But sometimes I travel because I want to see the beauty of nature in person. Because the impact of that beauty on me cannot be substituted with photos.

What is your most memorable travel experience? How has it impacted your life and future travels?

Definitely when I participated in a two-week community service trip to Morocco!

This was the first trip that taught me the true value of traveling. That was the first time I stepped out of my comfort zone socially. I wasn’t traveling with any friends or family members. I also confronted my biases. In this trip, I was the only Indonesian student to join a program where the majority of the participants were American students. When you’re in a group where everyone else was raised in a different culture with different values, you feel uncomfortable.

It was baffling to me that I still felt distant even when everyone was kind to me. It taught me to accept that being uncomfortable is just part of the process and it is absolutely fine to feel that way. I also learnt to exercise my curiosity to connect with others, and learn how to find common ground with others. I didn't realize I had a bias, until I interacted with people who displayed different behaviors than I assumed they would. This is quite embarrassing to admit, but this is the kind of effect that traveling can have on us! Traveling, if done with the right approach, can really expand your perspective and challenge your thinking.

How would you describe your travel style? Are you a meticulous planner or a go-with-the-flow kind of traveler? What are some best practices you have learned to help you travel as best you can in your own way?

Both! In general I like knowing what to expect. The most important thing to me is starting a journey with the right mindset. If I know that the trip won’t be planned, I mentally prepare by telling myself to expect uncertainty. It really depends on the purpose of traveling, and who you travel with. Prepare as much as you can, but be open to new things and try to be adaptable! Inconvenience is a part of the experience, and how you deal with it is your choice! Try to be deliberate about stepping out of your comfort zone, it will pay off.

How does coming “home” (wherever or whatever that may be) feel after you travel?

The longer I am away from home, the more I appreciate it. It's that sense of deep familiarity that you often don't get from any other place. Being away from home, sometimes I forget what familiarity is like. This could be as subtle as knowing social cues and norms, or something very specific like the flavor of a specific type of food.

What are your future travel plans?

I'm actually excited of the prospect of settling for now! I'm returning to Indonesia in 2020, and I’m very excited to go home! I yearn to reconnect and regain that sense of home. Being at home will likely involve some domestic adventures. In the long run, I really hope I can spend a couple of months in a non-English speaking country, such as China. It’s still up in the air!

How has the PNW helped shape who you are?

The PNW is connected with the relationships and communities (including Voyage!) that I found and built in the last 3.5 years. They have all helped me shape my personal values and grow. Even if I don't consider the PNW my home, elements of it will always be a part of my identity regardless of where I travel or relocate to next. A uniquely PNW thing that I learned is the harmonious relationship between society and nature. Sustainability and stewardship efforts towards the environment are strong in the PNW. This relationship is part of the culture that defines the PNW, and I hope that this is the kind of human-nature relationship that I can see more around the world and at home. Lastly, the PNW really stretched my imagination on what is possible in the realm of nature's beauty. You have to see it for yourself!