When I was younger, I would flip through volumes upon volumes of my father’s photographs from his travels in Asia. The albums were filled with candid pictures of local people, reflecting their daily lives and capturing their pure emotions. The crowded streets, roaming dogs, busy markets, and the genuine smile of a young child. Candid pictures of people living their lives in a world that was foreign to me. The photographs taken in Indonesia, China, Singapore, and Thailand, were a portal to far-away places that seemed light-years away from my comfortable life growing up in America. Looking at these pictures, I knew I would one day travel to Bali, Indonesia.
During my study abroad semester in Australia, I decided the university’s break between the end of classes and my first exam would be a perfect time to travel to Bali, the last week of May to the beginning of June. I bought the flight ticket and decided there was no turning back, no room to second guess my decision. I had a sense of internal wisdom and trust that Bali was a place I had to visit. I did not know how it would all work out, but I knew I was being guided to exactly where I needed to be. I had to stop freaking out and projecting my fears onto the future. Instead, I had to shift my perception and trust that I could travel on my own and allow myself to be guided. Many times, the endless chatter of the egoic mind tries to keep me safe, small, and stuck. What is normal is often deemed as safe. But this moment was different. I had some fear about going to Bali by myself. I had no idea what I was doing or how it would happen logistically. I felt the fear but my trust overshadowed it.
My intention for my journey to this magical Indonesian island was to see how Balinese people live, to spend time with locals, to see the beautiful lush landscapes I had only seen pictures of. I wanted to challenge myself, to go outside of my comfort zone in order to embrace a lifestyle far different from my own. To live simply and happily, to immerse myself in the dizzying array of Bali’s dynamic and spiritual culture. I planned to check out a music festival on the sacred volcano of Mount Batur in Kintamani and to visit Ubud, Bali’s center of art, spirit, and culture. I also planned to stay far away from tourist areas, and spend time in the countryside. Aside from these ideas, I had no specific plans or schedule. There was a reason I was going to Bali, and traveling by myself. This was a journey of the spirit and a practice in following my heart and manifesting my dreams.
Before my departure, I joined Couch Surfing, after it was recommended to me by a friend. It is a social networking website for travelers and I connected with some people from Bali in hopes of getting information from the locals. Many people sent me messages and offered to show me around or meet up for a chat. One person who messaged me was named Kadek and I told him about my plans for my trip. He offered to pick me up at the airport on his motorbike and show me around. I gladly accepted the offer, since he seemed nice and he was a Balinese student close to my age. After a 6 hour plane ride from cold, rainy Melbourne, I landed in Bali and was delighted to see Kadek standing at the airport with a sign with my name on it. I went up to him, pointed at the sign and smiled saying, “Hello. That’s me!” He seemed surprised at first then smiled a warm Balinese smile. Instantly I felt at ease and comforted. He took my bags and asked where I wanted to go. It was late in the evening when I arrived in Bali. I told him that I wanted to go somewhere quiet and he decided we would go to his village of Sidemen. Kadek is still learning English, although I could understand him most of the time. I had to talk a bit slower than I usual, and be patient when I had to explain something in an alternative way so Kadek would understand me. It was a lesson in patience and compassion, of which I am grateful.
Kadek took me to Sidemen on the back of his motorbike. All I could think was, “If my parents saw me right now they would freak out.” I just hung on to Kadek and enjoyed the ride, my first look at Bali. By the time we arrived, Kadek noted that it would be too late to check into a homestay and it wouldn’t be worth it for just a few hours. He took me to his home, and cleaned his bedroom for me so I could sleep in his bed while he slept in another room. He was so happy to help me out, and I knew I was so lucky to have met him. I was so grateful that he invited me into his family’s home even though he did not know me. In two short weeks, Kadek and I became great friends. With his guidance, I was fortunate to enjoy so much and see many beautiful parts of Bali from Denpasar to Ubud to Lovina to the two biggest mountains.
The next morning I awoke to chickens yelling to each other. Kadek told me his family uses them for cock-fighting sometimes to gamble and earn some money, all in the name of entertainment. The chickens were so loud but he was used to it. All around Bali, the sound of the chickens makes it impossible to ignore the dawning of the morning. The first morning in Bali, we wandered by foot to the nearby market, where I bought some traditional Balinese treats for breakfast. The lady was sweet. With a smile, she let me sample each one. They were yummy so I bought a bag of each. I am not sure what they were, some little things made by tapioca, I was told.
I could not have done all of this without Kadek. He was my angel and became a great friend during my holiday. Anything I wanted to do or see, he was enthusiastic about making it happen. And when I didn’t have any ideas, we would hop on his motorbike and explore his village, receiving glances and smiles from every person we passed. I got to see all around Sidemen and the north, south, east, and west of Sidemen. When we were at the second homestay in Ubud, Kadek picked up a map and showed me all the places we had explored. I had seen all over the eastern side of the island, the north and many places in between.
Things I will always remember about Bali: the beautiful warm smiles of the people, the terraced rice fields, seeing geckos, butterflies, and dragonflies everywhere, the full moon on the beach in Lovina, eating delicious nasi goreng (fried rice) for $1, learning Indonesian words, waking up to the serenity of the Balinese countryside in Sidemen, gazing in awe at thousands upon thousands of stars illuminating the sacred volcano of Mount Batur, spending time with Kadek and Erick laughing the night away in Singaraja, practicing yoga at the lovely Yoga Barn in Ubud, seeing twin waterfalls as a rainbow appeared, and enjoying every second because I was following my heart.
This is just the beginning of my journey. More Bali posts to come.
Have you ever traveled to Bali or taken a spiritual journey to a foreign land?