Travel Sparks is the brain-child of Nila Tanzil
A story about myself
Hello… my name is Nila Tanzil.
I’m a traveler, writer, diver and blogger with a passion to promote children’s literacy, focusing on remote, underdeveloped regions of Eastern Indonesia.
I carved out a career in the financial market and communications industry, grinding it out for over 14 years, until I decided to follow my passion: traveling and volunteering. That’s why I set up Travel Sparks. So we could all travel with a cause!
Over the years my passport has seen plenty of ink. I’ve slept on the floors of Buddhist monasteries in Myanmar. I’ve traded bonds in Singapore. I earned my master’s in Amsterdam and I even spent some time working for Nike in their cool campus in the United States, inside of that time I managed to visit 26 countries, exploring all they had to offer.
I’ve dived with hammerheads in Lombok, swam with whale sharks in Papua and sunbathed on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, from Thailand to Micronesia.
Travel opened my eyes to the beauty of the world and its wide array of cultures and people. Travel taught me patience and tolerance. It instilled the gumption to see the good in everything happening around me, helping me notice similarities in cultures and people rather than differences. Travel Sparks is the culmination of years of traveling, staring off into sunsets or watching the horizon slip away in the distance and wondering how to give back to the people who have given me so much over the years.
In 2009, I founded Taman Bacaan Pelangi (Rainbow Reading Gardens), an initiative focused on building children libraries in remote areas of Eastern Indonesia. Currently, we have established 26 libraries across 11 islands of Eastern Indonesia and distributed over 40,000 books.
Through my work in advancing children’s literacy across Eastern Indonesia, I have been blessed with the opportunity to accept several awards, including:
- Kartini Next Generation: Inspiring Woman in ICT for Community Development from the Ministry of Communication & Information Technology of Republic of Indonesia and the Ministry of Women Empowerment & Child Protection of Republic of Indonesia (2013)
- Nugra Jasadarma Pustaloka from the National Library of Republic of Indonesia (2013)
- Indonesia’s Inspiring Youth & Women Award from Indosat (2012)
- She Can! Award from Tupperware (2011).
I hold a BA in International Relations from the University of Parahyangan, Indonesia; and a Masters degree in European Communication Studies from the University of Amsterdam.
What inspired me to do this?
I love traveling and exploring new places. For me, what makes the travel experience memorable is the people that we meet during the travel – the interaction with the local people, the conversation, and the activities that we do together with them.
A few years ago, I visited a temple in Luang Prabang, Laos, and discovered a small school behind the sanctuary. The school had a few tiny classrooms. I found myself compelled to look inside and explore, I walked to the school and suddenly someone greeted me. He was an English teacher. We chatted for a while in the school terrace and he invited me to come back the next day and help him teach his class.
Out of the blue, I taught a class in Laos!
I never expected that I would spend my holiday volunteering, teaching an English class in a small school in Luang Prabang. To this day it remains one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. I made friends with the kids. Later that night the teachers invited me to dinner. We ate together in a small alley, just off to the side of a bustling traditional market. I then spent the rest of my holiday in Luang Prabang hanging out with the locals and the kids, in between my sightseeing to beautiful temples and other tourist destinations. In just several days, I learned more about the local lifestyle and culture than I would have in two weeks had I not explored that school yard.
The experience has made a big difference in my journey. That day was more than just a visit to a beautiful place, seeing knotted ancient trees and old temples, but more of understanding the local culture and contributing to a community. After that day in Laos, I was hooked. I became addicted to volunteering and getting closer to the community I was traveling through. The experience was so worthwhile, and it left me warm feelings in my heart… and I want everyone to feel the same whenever they go traveling.