Whilst traveling around Florence, Italy after representing Indonesia in GIES Roundtable Series 2015, my husband and I came across an impeccably-dressed young man riding his professional bike. I was not quite sure why but the way he dressed and acted made me assumed he was an extravagantly rich, posh and very serious young man and although we were interested to take pictures of him, we were a bit reluctant to start a conversation. Unexpectedly, however, he cordially greeted us with an ‘Assalammualaikum’ and approached us to clarify whether we were Muslims as he took notice of the fact that I was wearing the headscarf. In a nutshell, after conversing for quite some time, we figured out that he was an exceedingly nice and considerate person, and I could not be more surprised when I learnt that he was a Muslim convert who was also a designer.
This brief moment of a meeting by chance then turned into a contemplation on how traveling has contributed a lot to change the way I see people and myself, and hence, the way I see the world. Sometimes we are programmed to base our opinion from the way people look and failed to the bigger picture. In the today’s world, we are surrounded by images we see and imagine, hence sometimes it is far easier to judge rather than reflect. In my traveling experiences, I am constantly reminded that what you see is not what you are getting and the more I am exposed to this idea, the more I am willing to learn further about people and their very own culture. For that reason, I always try to find better things to do than go visit monuments or landmarks and take picture in front of them. Visiting the less-touristic areas gives me more chance to appreciate and admire the true beauty of a country or city, not the social construction of it, and often picking up specific activities to be further studied during my stay in a foreign country allows me to have better understanding of certain lifestyle and culture.
In Tuscany, I took a brief Italian cooking class where I was taught by Italian culinary professionals how to make authentic Italian pizza and pasta dishes. Not only have I made new friends with interesting people from across the globe, but also I have got a chance to get to know that in Italian culture, cuisine is also a result from a careful reflections and study and even the smallest ingredient is measured very precisely to add balance in the taste. From here I also figured which dishes that contain pork and wine, and found few alternative ingredients so as not to use those in my dish for my own consumption. At some point, for a Muslim like me this certain moment of ensuring the halal-ness of a dish is a valuable experience to strengthen our faith and not to take everything for granted. It is important to have a constant awareness of what we can or cannot eat in a foreign country where Muslims are minority. Nevertheless, it is not wrong at all to have curiosity of other cuisine culture since it is as crucial to be open-minded in this globalized world. In this regards, I think everybody in the world is getting better at multicultural understanding. It warmed my heart when my non-Muslim friends showed their concerns and respect for my Islamic lifestyle by ensuring I did not mistakenly consume pork, wine or champagne during the cooking class.
In addition, I was also accompanied with my good friend Mega Iskanti while taking a road-trip in the southern Europe from Turin to Provence, Cannes and Monte Carlo, visiting sunflower and lavender fields and sparkling Mediterranian beaches. In a rather long journey, besides seeking inspirations for my new designs, I also got to cherish precious moments I spent with my closest people and truly realize that most of the time, traveling is not about the destination, but the journey.