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For many, 'mudik' ain't what it used to be

Jakarta Post - May 21, 2022

Fadhil Haidar Sulaeman, Jakarta – While tens of millions of Indonesians jumped at the opportunity to visit their family homes for Idul Fitri earlier this month after a two-year hiatus, the younger generation is open to parting with the tradition for the holiday break.

Geo, a sixth-semester management student from one of the top universities in Greater Jakarta, is happy that the traditional mudik (exodus), which sees millions of people visit their hometowns around the time of the biggest Islamic holiday, is finally allowed again.

While he did not avail himself of the opportunity to travel again for reasons to do with his education, his parents came to visit him in Depok, West Java, from their hometown of Malang in East Java to spend Idul Fitri together with their son. Usually, he would either travel to Malang or Lampung.

Data from the Transportation Ministry show that around 11 million of 85 million mudik travelers used public transportation this year.

"This is a large number, especially since there is a tendency for travelers to depart at certain times," Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi said during the closing ceremony of the Idul Fitri Transportation Center on May 10.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo announced on March 23 that the government finally allowed the mudik ritual due to the lower COVID-19 case toll, after such travel for leisure purposes had been banned in 2020 and 2021.

Geo hopes he will get the chance to travel to Malang again for next year's Idul Fitri break as he cherishes the mudik ritual, which has long been a cultural tradition for all Indonesians, including many non-Muslims.

"It also brings economic [benefits] to these regions. I usually spend my money at local gift shops and go to tourist spots in Batu [a hilly recreational area in Malang]," Geo said.

However, not all urbanites share Geo's sentiment about visiting their places of origin; many now say their hometown is right where they are. Romy, a 24-year-old consultant, has lived in Jakarta all his life, and come Idul Fiti, he utilized the break to visit family members in the capital.

While his parents hail from regions outside of Java Island, most of their extended families have migrated to Jakarta as well, so Romy has all but lost the connection with his ancestral home.

"There is no necessity or need to go there. All of their siblings are here, and there is no moral obligation to go back to their places of origin. Everyone is in Jakarta, and we are practically living our lives in Jakarta," Romy said.

Gadjah Mada University (UGM) demographic expert Sukamdi notes that the essence of mudik travel is not people's attachment to their origins but familial ties that bind them in a social obligation.

If those familial ties wane, so does the core motivation behind the annual exodus.

He says there has been a significant shift in the mudik trend, with city-to-village travel increasingly replaced by intercity travel as more people migrate to the cities. This is a phenomenon he calls intergenerational migration.

"When I was younger, I would go from the city back to the village, but now that I have lived in the city [for a long time], my sons will visit me in the city," Sukamdi said.

Moreover, Sukamdi added that people nowadays were becoming more pragmatic and less bound by social ideals, which meant they would want to see more benefits from visiting their places of origin other than merely a duty call.

Romy, for one, plans to go to tourist spots like Bali or Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara instead of his family's place of origin.

"I would suggest to my parents to do that [visit popular tourist spots], because it's no fun celebrating our holidays [in Jakarta]. We should go on a family trip together, right? That sounds like a plan," Romy added.

While he personally still feels drawn to Malang, Geo also recognizes a cost-and-benefits calculation in the minds of the younger generation.

"Indeed, the cost of mudik travel is not low, especially when we get older, we have to give money to our nieces and nephews," Geo said.

The economic implication of a weakening city-to-village holiday travel tradition is that less money will be transferred from urban centers to rural regions as more people prefer to spend their money on conventional tourism.

"There will be an increase in inequality, because remittances are reduced," Sukamdi added.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/business/2022/05/20/for-many-mudik-aint-what-it-used-to-be.htm