When we take our women-only tour groups to Indonesia, we look forward to exploring Java with our wonderful tour guide, Atik Handayani. (She recently explained that Handayani is not her family name, simply a second name. Apparently, most Javanese don’t have a family name.) We thought it would be fun to chat with her and find out a little bit about her…like how she became a tour guide and what she’s learned over the years of showing people around her home country.
Q. How long have you been a tour guide? And how did you get started?
A. I’m now 31-years-old and I’ve been a guide for about nine years. When I graduated from school, I began working at a bank, but soon realized that wasn’t my passion. So I resigned, and because I had taken a tourism course in school, I decided to try and become a local tour guide in East Java (my hometown).
Q. What do you enjoy most about your job?
A. I enjoy this job very much because I can meet new people, interact with them and make new friends, all while sharing my experience of Indonesia. To be a guide is something that makes me proud. Working with foreigners makes people not only respect me more, but gives me special access to places that I wouldn’t otherwise have.
Q. Last year you were the guide for our WanderTours women-only group. What did you enjoy about leading a group of women?
A. When I was working for WanderTours on the women-only tour, I was really happy and felt more comfortable…maybe because I’m a woman and I think I know how to treat them.
Q. Have you traveled outside of Indonesia? If so, where?
A. I’ve never traveled outside Indonesia before, but I hope one day that I can.
Q. What do you enjoy most about traveling?
A. I really enjoy traveling because I can meet new people, mingle and interact with the locals.
Q. What have you learned by your constant contact with foreigners?
A. When I meet foreigners directly then that is my best opportunity to learn about their culture, and practice my English as well as use them as my best teacher.
Q. Do you have any tips you’d like to share with anyone thinking about traveling to Indonesia?
A. My biggest tip to those coming to Indonesia is to dress for the hot and humid weather. Avoid jeans and wear t-shirts. If you’re visiting Mt. Bromo, bring warm clothing, as it can get very cold.
Q. Do you have any recommendations on a must-try dish for those traveling in Java?
A. Indonesia has a lot of nice food, but one of my favorite is beef rendang, originally from Sumatra island. You’ll also find it in Java (mmm—so delicious). Another dish that is originally from Yogyakarta, but difficult to find elsewhere, is gudeg. This is a dish made from young jack fruit cooked with coconut milk and brown sugar.
Q. Where is your favorite location in Java? Why is it your favorite?
A. I have some favorite places in Java—my first one is Borobudur, the biggest Buddhist temple in the world. I like all the ancient buildings there. My second favorite spot is Mt. Bromo, because I also love the volcano and being out in nature.
Q. What have you learned about yourself because of travel?
A. I learned a lot from traveling—that the world is so big and people have many different personalities. That I can appreciate my life and try to always give thanks for anything I get. It’s made me more appreciative.
Atik at the beach – Atik
Beef Rendang – Kyle Lam via Flickr
All other photos – Beth Whitman