Every outing, we tell our team, that we may have fun shopping or cafe hopping during personal holiday trips, but when on company expenses, we must step out of our comfort zones and go somewhere that will expand our minds. Tibet. Morocco. Cuba. Those are the dream trips. But while we are on our way to figuring out the dream budgeting solution, we knocked on our neighbour’s door: West Flores.
An astonishing 1,733 km2 archipelago, home to more than 4,000 of the legendary Komodo dragons. Scattered above the water are rusty-red hilly savannah, and the underwater is made up of healthy coral reefs and seagrass beds. A thousand years ago, Portuguese explorers and Chinese traders forged their path through raging torrents only to be enchanted by this alluring territory. Three years ago, Gwyneth Paltrow spent a week on a wooden boat here and claimed everything magical.
Apparently, not too many in our team were excited when we announced that we’d explore the Flores' island chain. Partly because they believed all beautiful beaches are similar, but mostly because they were intimidated by the idea of inappropriate boat toilet. You see, living in a paradise island doesn’t mean we would all become hippies and surfers. Many of us don’t let go of our metropolitan traits and are very proud of it.
So we flew East loaded with 110 SPF sunscreen, multiple hats, and a portable fan. We have good laughs everyday at our office but the holiday vibe enhanced the fun. As soon as we arrived at our hotel, we jumped into the water, grabbed canoes and paddled around an island nearby.
Now put your hand on your heart and answer this question honestly. Would you be eager to hike through a brutal 40 degree heat to see ocean waters from a different angle?
Not much of a tricky question, is it? Even John Goddard would choose a descent position of the sun to start a hike. Well, the thing is, we were a bunch of amateur explorers that miscalculated the timing. When our boat docked at the foothill, the midday sun had been waiting right on top of our head, fiercely. All we begged for was cold beers and shades, which ironically, are two of all the many things that were never available at that deserted island.
But no one begged for not going up. No one even asked. None of us whined. Everyone was supporting each other and didn’t stop being funny all along the sweaty and dangerous hike. Except for the 4-year-old kid we brought along. Oh well.
Cenny doubted herself if she could even make it halfway, but she made it to the top. Vina, who spends her whole life hiding from the monstrous sun made it to the top. All of the urban ladies and well-groomed gentlemen made it to the top. The grumpy toddler made it to the top. Together, we redefined each other’s limitations.
Then we jumped into the cold water again. Rolled with the waves like we never did before. Swam through school of little fishes and chased away by the big ones. One by one, the hesitant ladies, the injured, and the sceptical, get their hair wet and salty. The chaps who had never hiked and snorkelled before screamed on top of their lung, “This is the best day of my life!” Everyone was so absorbed in the togetherness and couldn’t care less about the sunburn and ruined make-ups.
I’ve mentioned earlier about the ultimate city girl who refused to make friends with the sun, right? Well, she wrote this in her diary,
“There are some moments in life you hope you could freeze and this week is one of those. From sunrise to sunsets, from hills to hills, from island to island, we hiked, explored, snorkelled to our heart's delight, without a care in the world.”
“Shared our hearts out on the deck of the boat under the starry skyline with our favourite songs playing in the background, laughed heartily at silly jokes and at each other, being vulnerable, experienced new things and got to know one another better all over again.”
So yes, we went to Flores to escape routines, but we were not only awarded with motivating stories and fun photos, but also enriched with deeper understanding of ourselves, of each other’s, as a family, as a team. As a solid team.
And there were little promises we wrote in our heart. Little dreams we sent to the stars. Little hopes we whispered to the calm sea.
And like those Portuguese explorers and Chinese traders, each of us left a piece of our heart in Flores, with the cheerful fishes, the stinging jellyfishes, the majestic mantas, the shy dolphins, the determined bats, and the venomous Komodos.