island hopping in indonesia / by Shelby Robinson

It’s taken me awhile to write this and to finish editing all of my photographs from January and February. I think it could have something to do with the fact that I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so things take me ages. Or maybe that I changed the way that I edit photos (I finally, finally made the switch from Photoshop to Lightroom, holy efficiency!) so I was nervous to share those changes. Or it could also be that it was a little bit hard to look back at these photos.

Anyways, most of this was written a week after I came home. Edits made today at the B in Michigan (as per usual).


I’m sitting here on the ground, my travel journal in front of me, with all of its contents ~ dried flowers, banana leaves, airplane stubs, etc ~ sprawled out every which way.

I’ve got so much to say, that I don’t know what to say at all.

I’ve got so many emotions, stories, thoughts, experiences I want to share, write down, remember forever.

I’ve got this twinge of anxiety that if I don’t write everything down exactly as it happened, it will be lost.

But, I’ve got equal parts peace in knowing that my journey is already ingrained in my heart forever.

I’ll start with a small story.

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“Oh my gosh it’s so good to be on this plane,” you said with a hand full of Pringles and your laptop on the tray in front of you.

“I know. Can you believe it? A whole year. We did it.”

I was silent most of the flight.

It felt surreal. I was actually leaving, after finishing a full year of teaching in Munsan, South Korea.

This flight, the next chapter, was one of those monumental moments that was on my mind all year. One of those distant dates that I thought would never come. The event had so many emotions tagged to it: joy, peace, relief. Sometimes I thought I’d never make it.

And I guess I’m a little guilty of that. I always have been. Of looking towards the future and wishing, hoping, dreaming for something newer and more exciting. When I really should be cultivating that same joy and peace and bliss right here. Right now.

I was sitting next to the girl who quickly became my best friend during those 12 months we spent together. I was sitting next to this amazing, strong, hilarious girl who not only knew me better than most people, but who literally went through the exact same thing that I just through: chaos, highs, lows, low-lows, adventure, etc.

There’s always an overwhelming comfort in her presence.

“Sae, I don’t think I’ve cried in probably four months. Isn’t that weird?” I asked while staring out into the clouds.

“Even on your birthday? Or near Christmas?”

My mind wandered for the remainder of the flight: memories with this girl, memories of home, the trials of the year, the bliss that was to come.

Fast forward a few weeks later, and it was time for her to leave Indonesia for California. I had a permanent pit in my stomach at the thought of traveling alone for the next four weeks.

The day before she left, Sarah wrote the most eloquent, precious note in my journal, encouraging strength and the courage to live my truth over the next few weeks.

My heart was so heavy the day she left.

But her confidence in me instilled the same confidence in myself: I traveled and experienced and met people with ease. I swear my heart expanded with each sunrise, each new friend, each smiling face, each ride through the mountains.

Like that morning in Amed, when I woke up and saw the mountains to my left, the bursting tropical trees at my back, the sea and sand under my toes, the sunshine in my face. As I took in all of creation, I was absolutely overwhelmed by all of the goodness, I began to cry real, actual tears - tears I hadn't really felt in months. It hit me harder in this moment than any other moment in my life: that we are a part of this. Part of this glorious, perfect, beautiful place we call home.

And from that day forward there wasn’t a day that went by that I wasn’t overcome with gratitude. Gratitude for the change in my mood. Gratitude for the small joys in front of me each day. For the ability to come back to nature and all of creation which ultimately brought me back to myself. It was like something inside of me was released. I shed all the layers of sadness I held within me in Korea. All of the walls I built to numb and protect myself were destroyed. I was free. Free to laugh, to cry, to feel.

I was no longer numb to my emotions. And it was a beautiful thing. 

Things I want to remember forever n ever: the afternoon we were chased by monkeys at the Uluwatu temple, the waves that lulled us to sleep, our Dutch friends and our spontaneous beerz and games on the Gilis, late-night swims on Lombok, that cheap pizza n wine place in Ubud, the sunrise at the top of Mount Batur (and the kinder volcano monkeys), the Balinese family that took me in and made me dinner and treated me like their own, every single amazing traveler I met on the road.

Honestly, I'm just so freaking grateful for the little bout of traveling I got to do post-Korea. Grateful for its profound healing it brought me physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually... I could read and re-read and share and thumb through picture after picture just because I'm so in love with the memories and with what it means to be a part of all of this.

Endless n endless thanks to all the pals I met, even if for a few days, a day, a few hours. You left a small little imprint on my heart and I think of you often. Endless thanks to Indonesia for being such a lovely, blissful, freaking photogenic place.

I'll see you soon, for real.