When I told people I was going to go to Bali for six weeks, I was often asked, “Are you going there for vacation? Or some other reason?”
I didn’t know how to answer that. I really don’t like the word “vacation.” I use it, just because I know that’s what people understand, but I still really do not like the word. It suggests the need to vacate, and I whole-heartedly believe in creating a life that I don’t need a vacation from. For the most part, I’ve been succeeding at doing that too.
So, my reason for coming to Bali for six weeks was simply: to live. To experience the world in new ways, to experience life in new ways, to experience myself in new ways. I didn’t know what I would do when I got here, where I might go, what I might see. I just knew that I wanted to get to know something completely new.
And that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve been living. In Bali.
When I arrived, as a first time traveler, everything seemed so different and unfamiliar. The longer I am here the less different it appears and the more familiar it feels. I’ll admit, the town I am staying in is very westernized, so that lends itself to familiarity, but I also think I’m just settling into the flow of things here. And I really love it.
In California I felt frustrated a lot of the time because it seemed like everyone I talked to and everywhere I turned I would hear the words “too busy,” or some variation of that. Honestly, those words kind of make me cringe even thinking about it. I got so tired of hearing “I’m so busy!” Granted, a lot of people are busy with positive things, like building a fulfilling career for themselves or raising a beloved family, but too often I felt like too many people were too busy just being busy, and not actually Living. And too often “busy” can be a form of escapism.
Of course everyone has times where they have a lot going on and can be pretty busy, but when “busy” becomes a way of life, it seems like one is just begging for burnout, if not something much worse, like a terrible illness or a total meltdown .
And if it’s not being busy, the other thing that I got really tired of was alcohol consumption being such a major part of the lifestyle. I guess living in wine country (and now it’s beer country as well), one could only expect that routine alcohol consumption would be a part of the living there, but I got really fucking tired of it. I love a nice drink once in a while. Hell, I love having a few drinks once in a while, but when alcohol is accompanied by anything else you do, and is a part of everyday living. Every. Day. It really wore on me. Especially after spending so many years surrounded by so many raging alcoholics. I longed for a community that didn’t revolve around alcohol.
So, I am happy to say that sobriety and healthy living is more of the norm here than partying, or having a drink with every meal. Maybe that’s partially because alcohol is really expensive here. A weak, light beer might only be less than $1.50usd, but a cocktail costs more than a meal. Forget about hoppy microbrews, you won’t find any. And the wine is shite.
I mentioned in my first Bali blog post that as soon as I got here I wanted a cigarette and a drink. That faded pretty fast. The idea of smoking seems so gross in this humidity. Although I will admit, I wouldn’t mind having a couple of cold cocktails with some friends, but the irony of that is that a lot of the friends I’ve been making are focused on sobriety. And that is a welcomed change for me. I’ll usually choose the clarity of sobriety over inebriation any day. So even though a nice cold cocktail sounds good, I am perfectly happy staying sober if it means having more authentic connections with special people.
Along with sobriety and healthy living being a part of the norm here, a lot of people I meet are also working in or working towards similar ways of making a living as I’m working towards. Lots of entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, wellness practitioners, and people wanting to help others live happier, healthier lives.
I’m primarily talking about the western culture and expats, but even a lot of the Balinese folks I’ve talked to have the dream/goal of starting their own business.
So, it feels really good to be here. I’ve been meeting some beautiful people and having some wonderful experiences, but I’ve also just been in the flow of daily living, and that in itself has been special.
I’ve been developing a really great friendship with the Brit and the mini Brit, as well as with the Other Brit who lives in a different house. They are all special souls, and that’s really the only way I can think of describing them. Special souls, and I do not belive it to be a coincidence that we were all placed in each other’s lives like this. I am truly grateful to be getting to know each of them. We spend quite a bit of time together, whether it’s been swimming in the pool, meeting up for dinner and frozen yogurt, or going on some beautiful outing like the Full Moon ceremony I told you about, or visiting one of the water temples.
The Brit and the mini Brit are only here til the end of November, and the Other Brit lives here. But it’s hard for me to think of parting with any them. Thank God Truth for Facebook.
As much as I love the westerners that I’ve been meeting, I try to get to know Balinese people whenever I can. Last night I saw my friend Made at the tour company and hung out with him and his friend Wayan for about an hour or so, just talking and hearing about life and customs in Bali.
Bali is a very special place in many ways. The weather here is paradise, the tropical trees and flowers are heavenly, the food is delicious, the air smells like incense or flowers at most times, the scenery is breathtaking, very often a dove or a giant butterfly will just flutter across your frame of vision like magic. But, by far, my absolutely favorite thing about Bali is the people.
The Balinese people are extraordinary. You know that distinct feeling you get when you fall head over heels in love with a new lover? When a Balinese person smiles at you, it’s like getting a quick shot of that feeling, straight to the chest. Especially the older people. I swear they have Disney sparkles in their eyes! They are so magnificent!
It’s even more special because, in California, eye contact and smiling at a stranger is often perceived as either an invitation, or a threat. I’ve really missed simply being able to smile at a stranger without feeling like I would then either get hit on, or receive the stink eye.
But just like everything and everywhere, there is a shadow side. There is a very interesting juxtaposition here in Bali. The air may smell like incense and flowers at almost all times… until you get a huge whiff of sewage or traffic fumes.
The people are gorgeous, but there is some corruption and you have to be careful that you don’t get taken advantage of. Most people won’t, but just like in the States, it could happen. Like, remember the guy who sold me that incredible painting that came from his heart? Well, I started looking inside a lot of the many shops and market stalls selling art, and a lot of the art looks just like the stuff he sold me. So, either he didn’t at all paint them, or he did and it’s just replicating a style. It’s ok though, I still love it and think it’s beautiful, it just has less meaning, because it doesn’t feel like it authentically came from his imagination.
The traffic may be unruly, but there seems to be a system to it, and it doesn’t seem like there are a lot of accidents, relatively speaking. By the way, I’ve been learning how to navigate crossing the crazy traffic here pretty well. It’s like playing real-life Frogger. Though sometimes, if it’s especially bad, I may end up walking a block past where I’m trying to get to, until I feel it’s safe to cross. Then I’ll either turn around and go back to where I need to go, take a long walk around the block and make a lovely detour of it, or just decide to go someplace different than I had planned. More often than not I manage to get across just fine.
And when you get out of the bustling town centre, the scenery is like you’ve stepped inside of a dream, but if you look in the ditches, they are filled with trash. I’d thought about wanting do some clean up, or somehow be able to contribute more to the community here, because it’s all so beautiful- the land and the people- and even though tourism brings a lot of money into this area, I’m guessing, relatively speaking, of the total sum of money that comes in, a very low percentage actually makes it to the Balinese people.
So, I’d been brainstorming and journaling about wanting to do something to help out. Remember how I said you get to witness my synchronicities in real-time? Well, I never said a word about my yearning to help to anyone, but one of my other house-mates happened to send me a Facebook invite to a trash clean-up day! Every Wednesday evening at 5:00pm.
When Wednesday came along, there was that small part of me that wanted to talk myself out of doing the trash clean-up. Or at least put it off til next week (where I could easily put it off until the week after that, then not end up doing it at all). I was feeling a little ungrounded that day anyway. I noticed that I was starting to get a little complacent in my routine of going to get coffee and breakfast at my favorite café, then just hanging out there for a couple of hours until I felt called to either wander around, or go back to the house for a swim. I wasn’t branching out much and I wanted to see a little more of Bali, besides Ubud center.
I kept reminding myself that I needed to continue practicing leaving my comfort zone and facing my fears, no matter how small and easy to sweep aside they may seem. Like when I finally got my money changed! Which I’ve done a few times now (and it was seriously no big deal, and totally legit).
Part of my apprehension came from needing to get a motorbike taxi to get out to where the trash clean-up was happening. I could’ve gotten a car, but it’d cost twice as much. I was nervous about another motorbike ride. I’d only been on one once, that night of the full moon. And that was with a woman whom I trusted because she was a friend of a friend (and little did I know she’d become a beloved friend of mine as well). Getting a taxi would mean having to hold onto some stranger and hope that they would drive safely.
But I did it, and I’m really glad that I did. I found a guy, negotiated a price, and he drove very safely. I must say, pretty much every Balinese person I’ve ridden with has been an excellent and safe driver, so I can see how the disorganized traffic works.
He was very nice and he knew where to take me. We drove down one of the city streets, leading out of the centre, and soon we were amidst those magnificent rice fields that I had only seen in the full moonlight. When I got to the trash clean-up meeting spot I paid him and parted ways, heading into this huge, beautiful café that was still a work in progress. I was early, because I figured better early than late. So I ordered a virgin pina colada and sat at a little table with the most incredible view of the rice fields.
When I arrived in Ubud, I expected a quaint, serene village. I did not expect a constant buzz of traffic and tourists. This place, about 10 minutes outside of town, was everything I’d ever imagined Bali to be. And I couldn’t believe it took me so long to see it!
I hung out in a state of awe until the rest of the crew arrived. There was a middle-aged Aussie woman, a handsome Indian man, a young Canadian woman, a Spaniard woman, a couple of young I think they were Japanese ladies, a couple of Balinese folks, a few Balinese children, and the most beautiful old Balinese farmer. He definitely had Disney sparkles in his eyes.
It was such a gorgeous experience! Wandering through these lush landscapes, picking up so much trash (yet not even close to enough), knowing that I am doing my small part to help preserve the beauty of this magnificent place, hearing the children laugh and chatter, seeing women in their finest ceremonial clothing wandering around the country roads with their heads stacked with trays of fruits or baskets of goodies of some sort, getting little love shot after love shot from each of them as they blessed me with their incredible smiles.
Since the trash clean-up is every week, it’s only about an hour long each time, which is just enough to get some loads of trash, but not tired yourself out too much in the heat and humidity.
I had asked the Aussie and the handsome Indian earlier if either of them would be going back to Ubud and if I could get a ride. It worked out that the handsome Indian was going back through on his way to a friend’s house, so when it was time to go I hopped on the back of his motorbike and rode back through the rice fields right as the sun was starting to set.
Once again it was like a dream. With the warm wind blowing through my hair, the sky turning a soft shade of pink, palm trees lining the horizon of rice fields. There was nothing to feel but immense gratitude.
As we got closer to town the handsome Indian said that he was going to a gathering of expats for a game night and invited me to join. All I wanted was a shower. I felt so gross and sticky. I proudly wore one of the “Trash Hero” tee-shirts, but it was over my tank top, which means that I was wearing double layers on an especially hot and humid day. But I debated in my head- it’d be good to do something new and meet more people. But… SHOWER. Plus, the introvert in me wasn’t sure if I was up for any more social stimulation.
I eventually decided that I could take a shower any time, but I might not get to meet these people or have this experience and it’d be good for me to do something new. So I told him I was up for the game night. And again, I’m glad I did.
Yet another thing I’d craved (and lacked) at home- game nights! Game nights used to be a regular part of my life back when I was surrounded by raging alcoholics, but in the past few years, game nights have been few and far between, and I love a good game night.
We got to his friend’s house and hung out in his beautiful open air living room and had a lot of fun.
The next day (which was yesterday), I was feeling so good about the day before, and realized I wanted to see more of those beautiful country villages, and get out of Ubud a little more. But I wasn’t sure how I would go about it. Ask my housemates? Ask my new Indian friend? Grab a taxi? Or a shuttle to somewhere a little further away? Book a tour with my friend Made? I knew at some point I wanted to see one of the water temples, so that was on the list, but there are so many choices. I didn’t know, but I planned to spend the day at home hanging by the pool, relaxing, writing, and thinking of where I might want to go the next day.
Then, yet another synchronicity… I was hanging out in the pool with the Brit and the mini Brit, when the Brit asked what I was up to for the day, leading to the question of if I wanted to join them on their outing to the water temple. Well, there you go!
The Brit is here in Bali doing a personalized health program with a guy named Scott, who actually used to live in pretty much the same town in California where I live. So, the Brit and the mini Brit rode on their motorbike, and I rode on Scott’s motorbike, and we made our way to the temple through all kinds of beautiful little villages and rice fields. Scott even was able to give me some information and history about some of the villages, and because I already kind of knew him from the house, I felt more comfortable actually holding on to him. He also graciously offered me his helmet which I really appreciated.
It was yet another unplanned for, magical day of really experiencing Bali.
There are so many of those moments here. Like, a few days before the full moon, I turned down a normally busy street, but it had been blocked off for some ceremony, which involved some traditional dancing which I found incredibly beautiful. I was just on my way to coffee.
It really is a truly special place here. You think it, speak it, ask for it, and if you are in Truth with it, it appears. Even the Other Brit, just had a really wonderful job opportunity show up for her today which couldn’t have been better for her and couldn’t have shown up at a better time. It’s just as splendid getting to witness these moments when other people experience them as it is when I experience them.
And I absolutely love that the people who come here all seem to seek a certain way of life, and seem to truly being “doing the work” that I really relate to and seems so much harder to find in an authentic way in the States.
So, I’m putting my own questions out into the Universe, letting my Truth carry them to the Balinese winds, and asking for my own prayers to be answered. Like, y’know, getting paid to write, for one. Ahem!
In the meantime, I just try to bring myself back to the moment, check in with my Truth, and embrace the immense gratitude I feel every day here.
Here are some more sights and scenes from my life here. I am unable to upload video to this page, but you can see videos and other pictures on my instagram page.