There are roads that lead you home, and there are roads that lead you to new adventures.
In the quiet town of Kotagede, a stretch away from the city’s main streets lies Bhumi Hostel by Sari Hartono and Nino Indrawan. “We’re on a road called Jalen Raden Ronggo - it’s not even on Google Maps if you search for it,” says Nino. A road off the beaten path - a world away from the home - is where Bhumi’s visitors are discovering a different kind of Indonesian adventure.
Artist at Heart
The world works in mysterious ways, bringing together an accountant and an interior designer to a cultural center like Jogjakarta.
Sari was born and raised in Jakarta and headed to the US to pursue design and art before finding her niche in hospitality design. “Design has the power to change lives,” she says of her craft. Coming back to Indonesia had always been the intention, along with her realisation of how much there was to explore and discover about her country. “I always knew that the road would lead me back here.” Nino was likewise born and raised in Jakarta, and found himself in the UK pursuing a degree in accounting. After crossing over to Shanghai, he then spent the next seven years building a career in finance.
Though both are products of the corporate world, Sari and Nino reveal their inner artists when it comes to their connection to the arts. “I love art in general - everything is raw and it radiates a certain fragility that is very human and personal,” he says. Sari echoes the thought, “To see the unseen - that’s what art captures.” It’s this same emotional resonance to arts and culture that the pair decided to begin the work behind building Bhumi
“I was working as an interior designer in an architecture firm - and it seemed like I was fulfilling my childhood dream, but I realised it was not exactly what I was looking for,” says Sari. Something more than just hospitality design had to be done to bring about change in people’s lives, but she wasn’t quite sure how she could concretely live out this intention. Nino relates a similar instance while living in Shanghai: “I was living comfortably with my corporate job but I always had this need to be a change agent in the community.” Back then in 2011, a hostel remained a hazy dream for him until one fateful trip. “I then travelled to Nusa Lembongan in Bali by myself - I biked around this beautiful island blessed with the most amazing beaches, and I saw this huge pile of garbage at the back of the island. I realised how the hospitality and tourism industry could have such an effect on the environment - good and bad.”
Jakarta and Shanghai found themselves with two people with a similar quest. But two people who had yet to meet each other.
Starting the Bhumi Story
“The search for something deeper made me take the first big step which was getting out of the comfort zone by quitting my job,” says Sari. This led her down a path of reconnecting with herself, nature, places and people. And it was in one of these events that she would discover a kindred soul who shared her same values: Nino. “Back when we met, we believed we could be change agents. We knew we needed to create portals for people to be able reconnect; Bhumi is our pioneer portal.”
Nino on his side had already moved from Shanghai to Jakarta a few months before to pursue what was an earlier hotel project in Ubud (the project fell through after almost a year). “But I already found an awesome partner in Sari, and we decided to stick together and keep searching beyond Bali. And that led us to Yogyakarta,” he recounts of their first year.
Blessed with friends who patched them up with the right village contacts, they eventually found their way to Jalen Raden Ronggo. “We found our home,” he shares, “and we just kept trying to stay focused. There are good and bad days, and we learnt everything the hard way.” But with such a shared vision between the two (and ability to laugh through the hardest days of building Bhumi) there was no doubt that one day the hostel would be completed.
“This process of making our idea into reality, this amazing chance to see what you're capable of doing to change the world? It’s been a blessing all along,” replies Nino. Sari adds: “To be able to find people willing to start the adventure - this is the most rewarding part - and to know that we can show people new ways of connecting with nature and arts.”
Not many thirty-somethings can lay claim to living out dreams like this, and Nino and Sari both share their honest advice to fellow entrpreneurs: Remember that it is better to live your dream, the only regret is when you realise it’s already too late because you never tried. Starting a business will teach you more about yourself than you thought possible, and be grateful for all the good and bad experiences.
The Bhumi Experience
Protecting nature is a passion that both partners share, and it was inevitable that their hostel would be named after the ground on which they stand on. Bhumi is a Sanskrit and Javanese word for earth, an important element and force that shapes Javanese culture which has deep agrarian roots. “We want to reconnect with the elements in our location,” says Sari, “and pay homage to the earth that influences tradition in this area.” The influence is so strong that one only needs to see the colour tones of Java’s traditional fabric batik to know how deeply the people feel towards their connection to the earth.
Geographically, Jogjakarta is surrounded with rows of powerful volcanoes that make the land prone to catastrophes, and yet the other side of the island has blessed the soil with such fertility that almost anything can grow effortlessly on the land.
As the hostel opens, there are still many barriers to break in the hospitality industry in a small town. But the pair are ready to give back to the community, and pay it forward - no matter how small or big the changes they can make. “At the end of the day, we learn from each other's culture - we’re encouraging each other in pursuing a shared vision. It is possible to grow together - Bhumi and Jogjakarta,” Nino shares. “Bhumi is the space where people from different places and backgrounds can connect, express themselves and share,” says Sari. “It’s our hope that visitors will open their eyes to the diversity of Jogjakarta and the possibilities of sustainable growth in the community.”
“They are out there, and we’re ready to meet these hopeful romantics who are like me and Sari. People who share the same values that business is a shared adventure - a bond forged between customer and provider,” says Nino. In the same light, Sari echoes the idea of giving back to a community to whom they are committed to growing with together.
In a quiet road off Kotagede, two friends have taken the road leading to new adventures - the road less traveled.
And perhaps that is what will make all the difference.