When I first arrived in Switzerland at the end of July, I was still full of hope and confident that people would travel again to Indonesia as soon as the borders reopened. But the longer I stayed, the more my confidence left me. With the regular flow of negative news regarding the virus and the rising infection rates, I started feeling unsure if we were ever able to welcome guests again on Pulau Pef within the coming months… And I felt that many people around me did not believe they would be able to travel again next year, which literally shocked me.
Why was that? What was happening to Swiss people (who are probably representative for many other nationalities too)? Even though life for most people living in Switzerland was close to normal again – with the exception that you have to wear masks and keep your distance – there was still fear and a lot of insecurity in the air. And the joy of life had disappeared because public social life was very restricted. Events and activities that bring you joy were still cancelled, and I felt that many people were sad about this. I know, I mentioned this before, but it only really struck me when I came back to the island.
On Pulau Pef, the joy of life is still so present. Even though our future is as unsure as ever, our staff keeps on laughing, singing and enjoying life as if nothing had changed in the world. You may think this is naive and that reality must be looked in the eye even if you live on a remote island. But I can assure you, it helps to be here and get infected by another virus, the virus of joy and laughter.
Just as everything else is far away from Pulau Pef, the virus also seems very distant. You almost forget it’s still around. The Swiss government keeps repeating that, apart from protecting others, masks are also here to remind us that the virus is still present. On the one hand, this seems like a valuable argument. On the other hand, why don’t they remind us to be careful on the streets? So many people get killed every day by traffic. Or why don’t they remind us to eat healthier and not destroy our bodies with junk food? Wouldn’t that be just as important?
I am convinced that the joy of life contributes to keeping your immune system in good shape. You obviously also need to look after yourself by eating healthy and exercising on a regular basis, etc. But it seems evident to me that stress and fear contribute to weakening your immune system, thereby making it more prone to viruses. People in Raja Ampat may lead a less healthy lifestyle in general because they simply can’t afford to do any different. But their joy of life definitely helps them strengthen their immune system and prevent or overcome illnesses.
Even though I do miss our guests and the bustling resort life they bring, it feels good to be back on the island. It helps me believe in a better future and not lose hope that we will survive this crisis. Our staff gives me back my joy of life because their laughter and their jokes are very contagious.
I wish all of you out there could come and see for yourself, get infected by our type of virus and feel the joy of life of Pulau Pef!
I never even dreamt of working on a remote island in Indonesia, but life has a way of taking care of itself…