A love letter to Bali

The whole experience from my time in Bali really hit me in the last few days of our stay. I’ve never quite had that happen to me before when leaving a city — I felt torn and somewhat sad. It wasn’t that I wanted to stay forever, but I also wasn’t so sure I wanted to leave just yet.

That was when I realised Bali had broken me down…not in a bad way but rather in the best possible  way imaginable. It gave me a few life reminders that shattered my preconceived notions of parenting, adulting and just doing life in general.

Here’s a little more about what I learned during this amazing journey.

People are people, no matter what

The Balinese people are so warm and beautiful.

And I am not just saying this, as lots of people will tell you upon their return home from a vacation that the locals were kind and helpful. However, at our resort of Sahaja Sawa located two hours from the main city, we made many new friends all from different countries and different walks of life. They all agreed that the Balinese people are just humble, good people. To talk about the people more than the place is not common but what can I say, Bali is pretty different.

A blanket statement about its people being warm and beautiful isn’t quite fair, is it? Like anywhere else, there will be a variety of humans. But of all the places my family and I have visited this year (and yes there have been a lot), I can say truthfully say that the people in Bali we were privileged to meet along the way won us over in every way. From the elderly local man (he looked nearly 90, bless his soul) who took us on a canoe ride down the river, our friendly taxi driver who imparted all his knowledge about Bali to us to all the staff of Sahaja Sawa – they were all just so genuinely friendly that it was hard to imagine a time when people just looked miserable all the time, case in point Russia or London perhaps. The locals in the street smile and greet you in Bali and that just gave me warm and fuzzy feelings inside. There’s just such an authenticity to Bali which no other city I’ve been to this year can beat.

The few places we did manage to visit on the island of Bali treated us like their own, giving us genuine smiles and greetings (something unheard of in many European cities as stated above) then conversing with us in English (which was so delightful) that was light-years beyond our basic Balinese. In Cape Town, South Africa, getting this cosy with complete strangers takes years, easily. In Bali, it took less than four weeks. The connections we have made I hope will last a lifetime. People are so keen to follow our Instagram feed, connect on FB and are genuinely interested in our travels and finding out just more about us. This made me think a lot about my connections back home. When last had I so easily made a new friend?? I cannot remember. In Cape Town people tend to be in certain clicks i.e. run in the same crowds and are not open to meeting with new people outside of that crowd/click. People are also generally closed off as they have so much going on with work, kids, and life in general. I could say easily that last year I, myself was indeed one of those closed off people. I thought I had enough friends, met enough people, why would I need to make new connections…. but boy was I wrong!

Making new friends

Never before have we made so many friends on a trip, and we were treated like family at our resort (Sahaja Sawa). They have been so good to us here offering us a real chance to get involved in the local ways. They even offered me free yoga sessions which I have loved. I’ve also learnt much about the local temples here, meditation, preparing canang offerings and so much more about their diverse history and traditions.

Having a lot doesn’t mean you have everything

When first driving in our taxi through Bali to our resort Sahaja Sawa, you can’t help but look around. Much of it shocked me —  as it had done in Thailand – the locals dressed modestly selling cooked goods on the pavement. Lots of tiny shops lined the streets with minimal if not any pavement space for people to walk. There were also few western grocery stores to pop into for a few things, but hardly what I was used to. When you see a grocery/ retail store it is also not like ones we are accustomed to back home.

The thing is, the absence of convenience isn’t everything. People sang and danced constantly, in the villages and even at night we could hear the distant singing in the nearby temples. Some did it for money (yes in hotels they do offer this), others did it out of habit as they went about their day. The singing in the temples is pure tradition and the Balinese take their traditions very seriously which I have the utmost respect for.

Balinese traditional Barong dance.
Balinese traditional Barong dance.

It made me feel a little uncomfortable with my own life back home in Cape Town, where I had more creature comforts than I knew what to do with. I mean… when was the last time I sang and danced just for the hell of it? Me, the one who always loved music but now uses it as background noise while working or hitting the gym.

You can’t help but think that the Balinese people are onto something.

After the first week of wondering what to do with all my free time as our resort was 2 hours away from the city centre, I started getting into the Bali spirit. There is something so peaceful and relaxing about Bali, it is hard to explain but I understand now why people never want to leave….

Life is beautifully raw…can you handle it?

We didn’t go to Bali with a plan. We wanted to see where the island took us — the target we set for ourselves this year was to really live and get involved in the places that we planned on visiting but sometimes with the amount of time we were visiting places, it has been difficult. A month in Bali gave us no room for excuses.

Without a plan of sorts or itinerary there were many surprises. You meet people you perhaps wouldn’t have met if you had had a plan as such.

Traditional boat ride along the river.
School children in Bali
Making new friends at a nearby school. We had the pleasure of meeting Ibu Linda who offers these children free after school tuition.

Sahaja Sawa Resort was the perfect place for us offering us a mix of activities which led us to meeting new people and forging new friendships. With these new friends, came new experiences such as visiting the spa for a day of relaxation (with the girls), or shopping at the local markets and even visiting a volcano for the day.

Enjoying the beautiful scene at mount Batur volcano.

What is it about Bali that makes it so emotionally gripping? I think for many of us, it offers the type of escapism we need from the hyperactive world we live in — crowded with digital distractions and endless to-do lists.

It dares us to question the colourless routine we are used to and risk being blinded by the vibrant unknown.

Bali reminds us that people are people, no matter what you have or who you are. It speaks truth, that having a lot doesn’t mean you have everything.

Bali offers life, uncensored, and it is so beautifully raw that you’ll rethink the way you’ve been living yours.

Until next time,

Stay Awesome!

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