Do you have a dream destination? Do you have a list of places you would like to visit during this life time? In case you are anything like me, your list should include most of the countries in the world… and then some more. However, as we all know the resources tend to be limited. There will never be enough money, but most importantly, there will never be enough time. At least not in case you are living an ordinary family life. With kids, pets, schools, jobs and monthly mortgage payments. Exactly that is why I believe we have to consciously create our extraordinary moments. Ordinary and extraordinary moments are equally important to our life, they keep everything in balance and help us to value more each part.
And travelling seems to be one of these extraordinary moments of life. At least for me. Bali has been for me one of these dream destinations for long time. Even though my reasoning for the choice of this destination was never totally clear and conclusive (and continues not to be), somehow it ended up on my bucket -list. Rather than following a life long bucket-list, I quite prefer shorter lists with more specific deadlines (a bit like Danny Dover and his inspiring idea of “life-lists”). Bali was on my 4-years-plan since the beginning of 2014. Long story short, last autumn I managed to convince my husband to go for it. (It was never on his list ;))
In a certain way our trip to Bali was about finding out what was there (not) to love about Bali. Although I have already shared our Bali experience from the perspective of mom travelling with toddlers, I still have another perspective to share. I want to share what I saw, what I learnt and what I felt about Bali and its people. As with everything in life, if we tend to create stories and high expectations in our heads, we might get easily disappointed. The truth is that I flew to Bali with very high expectations, which did not get met, but instead.. got highly exceeded. I might have gone after the paradisiac images of empty blue-watered beaches (inexistent in reality) but I found much more. I found a little charming nation with very strong religious rituals and a warm smile. I found a good balance of greenery, ocean and sights. I found a way to see through the layer of tourism and tourists, and notice what lays beneath. And this taught me new ways, different ways.
The little island is home for about 4 million people, majority adhered to Balinese hinduism. One will be amazed by the quantity of open-air stone temples around. Not only has each village 3 temples, but also every household has its own holy place. The colourful umbrellas, black and white checkered cloth, colourful ceremonial outfits of local ladies, offerings on the streets all seem a bit “fairytalish”. Wandering around in such place can be a great time-off from our way too realistic life and daily challenges. However, one cannot forget that all this is very realistic to the local people, having its well explained meaning and purpose. And this, undoubtedly is the beauty about getting to know different cultures and different places. The enriching part of this experience is to see how we all on this earth try to create meaning, purpose and explanation to our lives. Despite the very different traits of different religions, there seem to exist many similarities and common objectives. I see it all as different interpretations of the same subject matter.
The Balinese people live in small communities that share common goals, beliefs and physical space. The family property goes to the older or younger son. In case there are only daughters, the father chooses one of the daughter to inherit the property. What I find fascinating is that together with the property one also inherits the responsibility for the parents and unmarried siblings. I know it works (or has worked) like this in many other cultures, but hearing this freshly about somebody´s reality, made me think how important or life-changing could be applying (again?) this principle in my own countries. Our society too often devalues the elderly instead of honouring their contribution and wisdom. I clearly found this topic intriguing and interrogated properly one of our balinese drivers. After he had thoroughly explained me the family arrangements, I stayed still with a question.
Me: “And what if the oldest property inheriting son will fall in love with a property-inheriting daughter? What happens then with the parents? Will they join the two households?”
The driver: “No. This cannot happen.”
Me: “What do you mean it cannot happen? And what if they fall in love? How can you say this cannot happen?”
The driver: “Well then the parents have to adopt another son to take care of them and their property.”
I am not sure if his answer was the truth or he just tried to shut down my interrogation. Well he succeeded and I did choose to believe that this scenario can also have a happy ending.
Another impressive aspect of Balinese people is their devotion to their religion. One can clearly see and breathe it everywhere. Not only are the villages full of temples, there are frequently happening different ceremonies and rituals. The Balinese hinduism is seeking for balance between the good and the evil. People believe in the magic and the power of spirits, they constantly seek ways to show gratitude and please their gods. Preparing daily offerings “canang sari” for the Gods is one of the daily rituals, carried out mostly by women. One can find these little handmade banana-lief-baskets everywhere (on the roadside, in front of buildings, on the grass, in a car.. etc). The baskets (offerings) are filled with symbolic food and flowers. I was quite surprised to see these offerings in front of businesses (stores, coffee-shops, on hotel grounds). Our local driver explained us that “offerings are to bless the activities people are undertaking”. Somehow this made me wonder how many people around me remember to say thanks or wish good luck for themselves in the beginning of their working day. What an interesting thought to develop further…
Another experience of Bali that I thoroughly enjoyed was the sense of safety when walking around the local neighbourhoods. When ignoring the thoughts about terrorism, the island really felt safe and pleasant. I could see many solo travelling Western women around. Many of them probably doing some sort of self-discovery-yoga-retreat and some of them (as my husband joked) probably “looking for their Brazilian” like Elizabeth Gilbert did. People are nice. The only time that I felt a bit harassed was when walking down the Ubud main streets and having to say in every two meteres “No, thank you!” to the men who offered taxi service. However, trust me this is no concern at all compared to all the good things happening around.
When it comes to food, I clearly did not explore it enough. I guess this time I was too focused on our daughters. My husband was better at this for sure. I happened to read after our trip an article speaking about the 6 dishes every Bali visitor needs to try and got to the conclusion that if I had travelled with a Bali-Trip-Check-List (e.g See Tana Loh; Visit Monkey Forest; Enjoy Infinity Pools; Try the 6 Dishes Every Bali Visitor Needs to Try) I would have totally failed the food part. Don´t get me wrong, I was not having pizza and hamburgers, not at all. I was going more for Asian dishes in general (curry and chicken dishes being my favourites). The ultimate winner was Chicken Satay with peanut sauce (I might have had it like 6-7 times) – chicken skewers accompanied with rice and peanut sauce. I also loved all the hotel breakfast options mentioning Bali or Natural in their name. (Not sure if they were the real deal or just a nice way to make the guests feel they have a bit of local experience. Either way it worked for me.)
The last but not the least bit of Bali to love was definitely its nature. The coast, the green rice fields. The abundance of trees, bushes and flowers. Even though the pre-holiday version of my vision for this holiday had much more to do with the beach (mainly because I did not really know what else to expect), our real holiday had very little to do with the beach. At least not in the sense of sunbathing and swimming. However, we did record some breathtaking sea views (to our camera as well as in our minds). It might not be easy to transmit my fascination about Bali, but I do recommend it highly. Somehow the richness of the nature and the local rituals made me think of Bali as a sort of a magic place. Of course like with everything in life, you have to be open to it and consume just the right dose of it, in order to feel the best portion of that magic. I clearly did get my right dose of it. Will I ever return? Who knows? Despite not knowing the answer, I am very glad I did go and will recommend it vividly (for the ones looking for a dose of something special.. for the ones with an open mind..).
What about you? Do you have your dream destination(s)? What are you going to do about this dream today? Why not to start with signing up for e-mail notifications about the flight prices or local weather?! (I kept receiving notifications about the flight prices for about two years before we actually decided to go to Bali. Even though we did not buy our tickets based on these notifications, somehow the fact of receiving frequent e-mail notifications saying Flights to Denpasar did help to “build the road”…)