There are many people who come and go from my life. None are coincidental, but some leave a mark larger than others. Ricky was one of those memorable marks.
Before arriving in Indonesia, I connected with Ricky on Couchsurfing. We exchanged a few messages, but I had no intention of actually meeting in person. As many things change unexpectedly, this was no exception.
It was only day 2 on my trip and I was currently staying with Rudy who had welcomed me into his home. I received a message from Ricky inviting me on a boat excursion he leads for foreigners to explore Indonesian nature and culture while simultaneously cleaning up the beaches littered with rubbish. Someone had dropped out and one space was available. They were leaving at 12am that night – it was 11pm.
“No, I can’t possibly do that,” said the ‘little me’ voice within. But to my amazement, Ricky did not take my excuses so lightly. He sent a long message about how we only have One Life (his motto) and how we have to take risks to fully live. I could feel my heart beating with adrenaline. I knew he was right, but still I paused and he was ever more persistent by calling me. Hearing the passion in his voice I was flung free falling into the unknown with these words: “Just do it!”
“Okay,” I said. And as I surrendered, a rush of energy surged through me. It was the feeling of a strong “YES!” in the core of my being. A “yes” that comes from allowing the inner soul to be heard. I quickly packed a small backpack of essential things and waited for a stranger to pick me up and take me to Ricky’s cafe where the group was gathered. I could tell Rudy was disappointed I was leaving so suddenly, but I also knew it was time to go. I left my large backpack with practically everything I owned inside, not knowing if it would be there when I returned, but trusting that it would. And it was.
As a black SUV with tinted windows pulled up, again the ‘little me’ voice said, “What are you doing?” In response, I laughed to myself and said, “Just do it.”
This choice continued the momentum of my travels and was an inspiration for me to fully live and embrace my life and my call for adventure. I was led down a path of no return and I would have it no other way.
It also led me to Ricky. Born and bred in Jakarta, Indonesia, he managed to break free from cultural and societal norms and leave the comfort of his family to explore almost 30 different countries before the age of 40. From circumnavigating the globe from the Arctic to Antarctica on an boat expedition, to sailing the Caribbean and Pacific with a paraplegic buddy, to living in New Zealand for 8 years and acquiring residency, to hosting over 100 people from around the world on Couchsurfing, Ricky embodies a man who has fully lived.
When I met him he had recently returned to Jakarta to live with his family and be close to his father who was sick. He opened an artsy cafe outside of the city that supports local musicians. On the side he was working on a project to raise awareness about the inorganic waste in Indonesia’s oceans and to reconnect people with Mother Nature. His project, #ocLean, is a boat trip designed for locals and travelers interested in a more rugged and unique exploration of Indonesia’s hidden gems while cleaning up the rubbish that we humans have so selfishly disposed of without regard to the ramifications of our actions.
Through his actions he has shown me what it means to live – not for the number of digits in your bank account, but to embrace every moment with excitement. To live for something greater than oneself. To be selfless, to be the change. To be that first domino that sets the rest in motion.
I feel a lot of respect and love for Ricky. Not just for what he does, but for who he is – a soul trying to make the most of this ebb and flowing life for the good of all.
“I always encourage people not to put work as life priority. But to be happy. ONE LIFE,” he says.
One life to laugh like nothing else matters. One life to pursue what you say is impossible. One life to turn your words into actions. One life to give back to the land that holds you and gives you breath.
I recently talked to Ricky and life is challenging him once again. A few months ago he had a stroke that left him with many difficulties. Even more so, while he was hospitalized his father passed away, which was the hardest toll for Ricky in all of this. While trying to grasp everything going on, a few weeks ago a part of the caldera Anak Krakatoa collapsed and triggered a deadly tsunami, which affected the region where he has close friends and operates his #oclean project. It would appear that his dreams are being washed away, but he has forgotten the path that led him to where he is now and the souls he inspired along the way.
I remember a few conversations we had that made me rethink my own perceptions. During one conversation he asked me if I could win a million dollars, would I want to? After thinking for a moment, I replied, “No.” I thought it would only create a power struggle and the money would win. I didn’t want to be in the middle of it. His response jolted me into a different view. “Why?” he said, “You could do so much good with that money.” I truly realized in that moment that it is not money that controls us or damages us, but it is HOW we use it. I will never forget this.
In another conversation I told him how one day I would like to live in a tiny home. He said, “That’s selfish. I want a big home where all my family, friends, and couchsurfing travelers can live.” At this point I started to see how his mind works. His choices and desires are based on what is good for all, not just for his own selfish pleasures or fears. I was humbled by his response.
The story he told me that really left an imprint on my soul was this. He told me about an older woman he had met while living in New Zealand. She could hardly take care of herself and Ricky was shocked that her family was not around to help. He said the woman “didn’t want to be a burden on them” because they had their own lives. In his culture, family is priority, and seeing this woman’s loneliness was hard for him. He said every once in a while he would go visit her and they would talk. One day he went by and she didn’t answer the door. Some time later he came by again, and no response. He began to worry and contacted someone. It turned out that she had passed away in her home all alone a few weeks prior and nobody had known. I could feel how this had broken Ricky’s heart, and it left a dent in mine that is irreversible. I was raised in a society that values individualism to the extent that it seems the “self” is regarded as greater than the “whole.” We have forgotten where we came from and Ricky reminded me.
We are each a part and parcel in this larger world – like a drop of water in the ocean. There will be currents of highs and lows but we have to remember why we are here – to keep each other afloat. In the end, we are all one ocean.
(Jakarta, Indonesia, March 2017 & present)