Words (mostly) escape me.
I have been thinking a lot about how to capture our experience of Bali, but I continue to feel like I’m coming up short.
The “what” and “when”
Over the month of December 2016 and into January 2017, we spent one month (Jess) and one month and a half (Vince) on the island of Bali, just one of the thousands of islands that make up the nation of Indonesia. Bali is probably the most well-known island in Indonesia among ‘western’ folks and it has a solid (and growing) tourist infrastructure to manage its reputation. Australians in particular frequent the island for holidays and you can clearly see the western influence on how city centres have been designed, what shops and restaurants are built there, and the overall ‘feel’ of the busier, hot spots on the island.
Most of our time was spent in Canggu, an up-and-coming tourist spot in Bali. We would describe Canggu as a comfortable transitional spot in Bali for first-time travelers to Indonesia/southeast Asia. It is quite heavily influenced by American, Australian and European cultures, so for ‘westerners’ it is easy to land here and feel not too far away from home. We liked it here because it didn’t have the numbers of people and traffic that the larger centres do (i.e. Kuta and Seminyak). In its current period of growth, there are lots of eating, drinking and shopping options so it isn’t so quiet that you found yourself with nothing to do. One of its drawing features, greatly influencing its surf-culture vibe, is the fact that it’s right on the ocean (albeit, a dirty, polluted ocean). Still, some of the best days and nights were spent either swimming or surfing in the ocean, followed by a beer by the water. There isn’t much lot else that can beat that.
We also did some of exploring around the island: up the west coast as far north as Lovina; south from Lovina through the mountainous interior back to Canggu; east as far as Amed, where the water was clearer and a vibrant fishing/snorkeling/diving community exists; a boat trip from Amed to the Gili Islands over New Years Eve; and back along the east coast to Uluwatu (see map here).
We decided to travel to Bali while the cafe where I work closed for the month of December. It was the perfect time to take off for a bit of a “holiday from the holiday”.
We hoped for restoration and a new surge of energy. We were approaching the six-month mark of being in Australia and had been stationary in Perth for three months (longer than we expected to be in any one place). As people who are used to moving around a lot, we were starting to feel restless and a needed to check out something new.
The relaxed, friendly vibe of Bali helped us to really chill out, slow down and tune in—more of a true holiday than the on-the-road travel we did at first in Australia. There was surfing, swimming, eating, yoga, scooting—all threaded together by a kind of timelessness, ease, and intention. We had no ‘typical’ responsibilities, so we focused on our responsibility to ourselves. We spent time doing things for no other reason than that they made us happy.
Coming back to “normal” life in Perth was a bit of a challenging transition for both of us at first as we now had to take care of those everyday life things again. Just like for most things in life, though, the lesson or growth is in understanding the entire spectrum of experience—not everyday can be a “holiday”, but taking holiday time-outs are vital to achieving balance.
For me, it wasn’t until I returned to Perth that I really noticed the benefits this Bali vacation had brought to my life. Without trying to attain that “Eat Pray Love” cliché experience, I think that’s what ended up happening anyway. What I mean is that once I was back on a scheduled routine, going to work, buying groceries, doing laundry… I noticed that I was more positive, more confident, more relaxed and more motivated. I felt better physically (after going nearly a whole month meat, dairy and wheat-free*) and had more energy. On a spiritual level (hell yes, I’m going there!), I simply felt more peaceful and content. I had somehow, without noticing, accepted parts of myself that I had been contending with for months (maybe even years).
There is still a lot of reflection happening since returning to Perth after a month and a half in Bali. Because these personal changes seemed to settle in so naturally and without a hugely conscious effort, I haven’t worked out exactly what it was about being in Bali that helped that acceptance and peacefulness finally come up to the surface. Maybe it doesn’t need to be obsessively teased out and understood (as is my natural tendency)! But rather left as a beautiful memory of our time in a place that will stay close to both of us forever.
*I mention the physical changes I noticed after being in Bali to express my complete experience, but please understand that these are personal notes and would not necessarily apply to all people, nor am I trying to promote any particular food lifestyles or ‘diets’. I do choose not to eat meat and have for a couple of years now, but I also just happened to like/choose more dairy and wheat-free food while in Bali and noticed that my body took well to that in terms of energy level and an overall feeling of well-being. Thanks!