Here, There, Everywhere: Hanny Kusumawati on Travel, Writing, and Indonesia

Scenes from Indonesia. Left: Sanur Beach, Bali. Middle: coffee and camera at BSP Organic Farm, Bogor. Right: View of Mount Gede-Pangrango and Mount Salak.

Hanny Kusumawati, a writer in Indonesia, blogs about travel, but also love, writing, and life. Many posts on her blog, Beradadisini, look and feel like scrapbook or journal pages, while her snapshots are intimate and nostalgic, as if you’re browsing the photographs of a close friend’s most recent adventures. Here, Hanny talks about writing, blogging in English and Indonesian, and taking pictures.


Can you tell us the story behind your blog name, Beradadisini?

Beradadisini is a self-hosted WordPress site, powered by Jetpack.

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12647313_10153430423331134_1971571017994506133_nThe name originates from Berada di sini. In Indonesian, di sini means “here” and berada in this context means “being available.” Together, they mean “being here.” I came up with this name in my twenties, when I set up a Gmail address that linked to my blog. I thought beradadisini would be nice, as if I was saying, “I’m here on Gmail, I’m here on the blog…”

And when other social media platforms sprouted, it only felt natural to keep saying, “I’m here on Twitter, or Steller, or Skype, or Instagram . . .”

Hence, Beradadisini.

Now in my thirties, I look back and realize this name couldn’t be more spot on. I travel a lot, splitting my time between my hometown of Bogor, West Java, and my adopted hometown of Ubud, Bali, as well as giving trainings and workshops in different cities for work. The first thing my friends ask when they call or message me might be: “Where are you now?”

While it may be hard for friends to keep up with my whereabouts, I am actually always present through my blog and other social platforms.

I’m here.

I’m there.

Left: If you could fit your life into a backpack, what would you put inside? Right: A coffee shop in the old town of Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia.
Left: If you could fit your life into a backpack, what would you put inside? Right: A coffee shop in the old town of Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia.

What inspires you to write?

Read one of Hanny’s posts, “Why I Write.”

Writing has always been my form of expression — even when I was two years old, I was “writing” already: filling my grandmother’s accounting books with squiggly lines for hours, with amazing determination for a girl of that age.

When I grew up and experienced teenage angst, writing was a way to channel my heartbreak, my sadness, my anger. Other people ran away from home or acted out. I wrote because that was the only thing I could do then. I didn’t have the freedom or guts to do what my friends did, so I ran to my journal pages and wrote my heart out.

Left: Writing morning pages has become a spiritual practice. Right: At the savanna of Mount Bromo Tengger and Semeru National Park, East Java, Indonesia.

I’m inspired by senses, feelings, and memories. When I see, hear, or smell something that stirs up old memories or emotions, I latch onto it before writing it down in my notebook. Some of these things find a way to my blog, some are hidden to be later reborn in a different form, and some are simply personal treasures.

Most of my writing is quite personal, even when I’m not talking about a particularly personal subject, like a visit to Mount Bromo or a bowl of instant noodles. Some, like “6 Things You Might Lose On Your Traveling Journeys & What They Taught You About,” digs deeper into my personal experience.

I write from what I know and what I struggle with — probably because I’ve always written for myself, first and foremost. So I feel a tug at my heartstrings when readers from other countries send me messages after they read my posts. It makes me feel like we are all connected.

So I feel a tug at my heartstrings when readers from other countries send me messages after they read my posts. It makes me feel like we are all connected.

Mount Bromo, Tengger and Semeru National Park, East Java, Indonesia.
Mount Bromo Tengger and Semeru National Park, East Java, Indonesia.

What has your experience been like to blog in both English and Indonesian?

Sample Hanny’s posts in Indonesian in a series from Paris Fashion Week 2014:

Go Ahead, Paris #1
Go Ahead, Paris #2
Go Ahead, Paris #3

I started out blogging mostly in Indonesian and occasionally blogging in English. However, in 2012, under the US State Department’s TechCamp program, I started to travel around Asia and Europe to talk about how young activists and nonprofits can use social media to champion their cause. These trips exposed me to new friends and acquaintances who did not speak Indonesian, so I wrote about the experience in English, so they could read it.

Where do your readers come from? Go to My Site → Stats and click on Days, Weeks, Months, or Years to see your site views by country.

When WordPress.com featured a post about my journey to Santorini, Greece, I saw a surge of non-Indonesian visitors. So, it seemed fitting from then on to write more in English, as most of my Indonesian readers are also familiar with English. Forty percent of my readers are people from other countries, including the US, UK, and Australia.

These days, I’d like to think of myself as an “Indonesian ambassador” in the blogosphere. I am happy for my blog to act as a tiny peephole into Indonesia, through my stories as an Indonesian woman living her daily life in and out of the country, and who loves to write, teach, and travel.

I am happy for my blog to act as a tiny peephole into Indonesia . . .

Left: Balinese kebaya, a traditional dress of Balinese women. Right: Waiting for a cooking class at Rumah Desa in Tabanan, Bali.

Browsing your posts on Indonesia, Asia, and Europe is like looking through someone’s travel journals and old photographs. When writing and taking pictures, what do you capture about a place?

I try to capture feelings and connections. How does it feel to be there? What memories are stirred? What does it remind you of? How do the sounds affect you?

When taking pictures, I love to toy around with the ordinary, the small things.

When taking pictures, I love to toy around with the ordinary, the small things. What does a cup of coffee in Paris, France, look like? What do the windows in Almaty, Kazakhstan, look like? What would you see if you’re standing where I’m standing right now?

My posts are my time capsules.

Left: Strolling the alleys in Ipoh’s old town, Perak, Malaysia. Right: An alley from a busy street leads up to a beach in Sapolohe district, South Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Read more from Hanny Kusumawati at Beradadisini and follow her on Twitter (@beradadisini) and Instagram (@beradadisini).

June 14, 2016Exploration, Inspiration, Interviews, Jetpack, Photo Essay, Photography, Place, Travel, Writing,