Travels of a WanderLost Writer: Bali - Part One: Welcome
I didn't see that one coming.
Until March of this year, never once did I say hey, I think I want to go to Bali. Sure, I'd heard of Bali. I knew it was called the island of the Gods and I knew that it looked a lot like paradise. But I also knew it was halfway around the world and I assumed a trip that big would be completely unattainable anyway so I stuck to my all inclusive resort style vacations any time I had the good fortune to afford a holiday.
So how then did I end up sending a random email to my travel agent in march saying I need to go to Bali? That seems like a good place to start.
I'm not going to get into the details more for my own mental health than any other reason but I worked for almost 15 years in an extremely volatile industry that is sinking quickly and survived round after round of mass lay offs in our industry until one shitty day in February, I didn't.
Let me tell you this. When you spend 14 years of all your workdays in a row with the same company and the same people and you wake up one day and it's gone, it is absolutely devastating. It felt like someone had died. Truly. I'd wake up in the middle of the night and just start sobbing over the loss for what felt like an eternity.
Then I had a lightblub moment. Wondering why I was so sad to find out I was expendable when really everyone knows that. Your job shouldn't be your identity as a person and too often that's what happens. That's what happened to me.
As big corporations do after many years of service I had a comfortable holy shit fund which I knew wouldn't last forever, but I also knew I wasn't going to have this chance again. And thus I decided I was going to travel as long and as far as possible from this life to remember who I was. Given that I was going alone and it was in fact halfway around the world, I enlisted the help of a travel agent for flights, hotels and transfers, deciding to split my time between Sanur, Ubud, and Seminyak. Soon I was set.
I'd take a flight from Calgary to Vancouver, Vancouver to Hong Kong, and Hong Kong to Bali. A 36 hour solo travel marathon. I was terrified but ready. I made a promise to myself that I was open to a new adventure. That I would try not to stress or let anxiety best me.
That I could and would do this. Because if I could do this, I could literally do anything in life. I could chase any dream, crazy as it may be. I needed to learn to accept this as nothing but the absolute truth. And in order for me to find the absolute truth, I needed to be open and adaptable and ready to just go with what happened, otherwise I would have been a total mess.
So I booked the trip and for a while, it didn't feel real, until the day before I was out shopping for last minute travel items. I got a phone call from my travel agent. "Thank God I got in touch with you," she explained, "Hong Kong airlines changed your flight. You're leaving tonight. In like 8 hours."
For the briefest of moments I was rattled until I reminded myself that I was going with the flow and everything was going to be fine. Everything had to be fine.
Tonight, was actually some ungodly time like 3 or 4 in the morning. The first leg of the journey was nothing. An hour long flight to Vancouver. Easy. I was tired but excited. I spent about a few hours in Vancouver enjoying loads of coffee and a book before I boarded the dreaded 16 hour long haul to Hong Kong. As the plane boarded, I was horrified to have been assigned a middle seat. The gentleman next to me wasn't a slight man (well over six feet and built like a wall) and he already looked horribly uncomfortable, and I worried about both of our flying experience until no one else came to our row. Then, I appointed myself the aisle and my new friend and I were able to lift the armrests and each have a seat and a half. It made sitting and slouching as comfortable as possible for the flight.
It was still 16 hours on a tin can with wings though, so it wasn't great. By this point I've time travelled and don't even know what day it is because of the time change, but it's nighttime now, even though it's either the morning after or the morning before the now current day (makes total sense), but by the time I arrive in Hong Kong, I'm completely exhausted, don't actually know what day it is in this time zone but I am almost there and must keep going.
I can do this.
Imagine my total and intense delight when, on boarding the final flight, my ticket yelled at the ticket counter employee who smiled and me and said "Congratulations you just got an upgrade. Go to business class boarding please."
Well what do you know and who would have thought? Now I'm BEYOND STOKED because I've travelled business class before and I know, without question, I am about to get a bed, after basically sitting for the last 30 hours straight. Solo travel bonus. You're more likely to get the upgrade on an oversold flight. I remember nothing about the flight except the wine and chocolate this super soft blanket and almost real pillow and the subsequent coma that followed.
When I opened my eyes... I was in Bali... finally! But it was the middle of the night here. After a bit of confusion I found Buffalo Tours, the group doing my hotel transfer and headed to my first vacation destination, Sanur.
Sanur is a small but bustling beach town in the southeast side of Bali. I stayed at a hotel called Sudamala Suites and when I arrived, I was greeted with a smile, a delicious welcome drink, a free facial and massage voucher, and a few beverages and drink deals. The chef had made me sandwich because as such a late arrival and the kitchen closed, I may be hungry. Welcome to Balinese hospitality.
I checked into my incredible room and just took a second to be mindful. I was in Indonesia. In Bali. I FLEW AROUND THE GOD DAMNED WORLD BY MYSELF. Can I get a hell yeah?
It was the middle of the night and pitch black in a strange country but I was safe. Everyone seemed welcoming and I was here. By myself. I came here alone. And despite being so painfully tired, I went to bed feeling more powerful than I had in a very long time.
The next morning, I wasn't sure what to expect. Would my view of Sanur be reminiscent of those cushy all inclusive resorts or would it be be something else entirely? A: SOMETHING ELSE SO BEAUTIFULLY ENTIRELY different.
I woke early, the sun was just rising and the room was even more stunning in the daylight, as were the grounds. I just stood there in a stupid sort of wonder but somehow made my way to the hotel restaurant, situated on a bustling Bali street corner. There was nothing about this that wasn't perfect. The food was incredible. The coffee was delicious. The smiles were friendly. It was snowing at home and I was here.
I finished my breakfast and began to walk around town, in search of an adapter in order to charge my quickly dying cell phone. This is an important thing to note, because it's my second waking hour on this island and I need a charger and I'm about to receive even more Balinese hospitality.
I'd explain I needed a charger and at least 75% of the people I asked invited me to sit and charge my phone if I needed it. Welcome to Bali.
I created a bit of a stir walking down the street with my fire engine red hair and tattoos. Locals were absolutely not shy in asking if they could please take my picture to show "my daughter, my son, my wife." That sounds a bit creepy in a way but I never felt like it was anything other than a true fascination with my hair and tattoos, because if they were asking to take a picture, they were smiling wildly and telling me simply how much they liked my hair or my tattoos.
My first day in Sanur, I walked around town. Checked out the beach and spent some time getting grounded, and some time by the pool.
Later that night, I found a local bar with live music, and in what would prove to be a trend, the musicians would continually ask the crowd to call out songs and when they failed to reply, the musician would zero in on me. "You look like you like music." So I start throwing songs out there which ended up in a table filled with three of the most delightful Scottish ladies invited me to join them. We spent the evening giggling, laughing and drinking good wine, eating good food.
I'd already made a few friends. It was a good day.
By the end of day one, I was completely taken away by the stunning beauty and spirituality of this place. Amidst the hustle and bustle of life, people give offerings to gods and care about family in a way that is all but forgotten where I'm from.
They invite strangers for a coffee and offer you their chargers. They leave you sandwiches in the middle of the night and ask you how you're doing as you walk by. I knew that first day that I'd made the right choice. Bali was going to give me exactly what I was looking for and I was ready to find it.
Until next time. :)