Bali broke me - but I feel blessed to go back
I spent a month travelling around the ‘Island of the Gods’ and felt so damn distant from the divine. I bought a flight three days before getting on the plane out of desperation for warmth – I had just road tripped the west coast of Australia and arrived in Perth during a cold spell. Indonesia seemed a fitting choice for some cheap heat and eats, and to explore my spiritual interests widely known to attract the gypsy kinds in the heart of Bali; Ubud.
Unexpectedly, my soul was in for a shaking. I envisioned an easygoing wandering, living on the minimal, picturesque sunsets and balmy blissful nights. It took just minutes for my positivity to be challenged. My eyes saw Bali as a wasteland. I knew Asia, I had tasted that foreign air before, but the first few minutes of buzz and humidity and sticky fingers gouging at me felt overwhelming after a month on the vast expanse of the Australian landscape.
I had been tricked by the hoard of hash tags that Bali was some sort of paradise.
This new world prodded at the highest of my values at every turn: doing right by the environment, respecting animals and genuine connection. In every frame of my perception I saw pollution flowing straight in to the ocean and embedded in the sand, skinny strays and rabid fangs connected to the eyes of suffering creatures and all-round inauthenticity from the locals as they overcharged and underprovided with cheeky grins. Outside the perfect square show off shot of something beautiful was hunger and tiredness and desperation. I really tried to bring myself back to peace. I pulled out every affirmation up my sleeve, took an oath of kindness and attempted to look upon my surroundings with the eyes of an angel. But again and again, I was brought to my knees in anger and agony and angst.
I continued to rise. My spirit is relentless in the pursuit to happiness. Days were spent writhing with abdominal pain, guilt and shame, a deep longing for anywhere but here, that white-girl superiority inwards battle, a quest for ‘real’ interactions and a desire to touch home soil. Aside from the madness of spontaneous travel mishaps I had the good times – I was thrown in to a meditation cave by a master called Smiling Buddha where he directed me to stare at a wall until further notice. I knocked back Arak (a traditionally brewed liquor made from rice and coconut palm flowers that burns like a kiss from a dragon) with the same guru and saw rainbows through my dilated pupils whilst discussing the seven states of consciousness. I practiced yoga above clouds and broke the rules of an ashram and explored an underwater temple. I stayed silent for days and chanted kirtan mantras and smoked watermelon shisha alongside a tank of giant fish in a dark divey bar.
The gold nuggets of joy within the musty whirlwind were still few, however, but that meant I had to widen my eyes and seek ruthlessly for beauty and blessings. My heart was forced ajar with pain and I decided that meant more room for the light to stream in. I found that in moments of utter exhaustion, I threw my hands up and had no other option to accept my current reality. When I did that - Bali accepted me.
I found words that became the hope and hum of my psyche, the ones that got me through a month of rollercoaster emotions: everything ends. This declaration softened the blows of the unknown. The words became my best friend, my magic trick, my strength to keep moving through the hustle, keep healing through the hurt, keep loving through the loneliness.
This is the marvel of travel; the moments we most hated living are the ones we review with hysterics, the stories we tell our beloveds are the ones where we felt the most helpless and alone. My darkest hours are the triumphs. My illness became new found vitality. The eyes that hurt from tears of hopelessness sparkled still, even more now. And for that, it is all worth it.
In the midst of the chaos, I let a young Balinese etch my skin with a lotus, a trusting tattoo that cost me fifteen bucks. An infinite reminder that beauty blooms in the mud, that purity is found through the dirt, that liberation is not lost and rebirth is a choice.
I left Bali with a bellyache in my soul, vowed never to return and gave the country the finger before boarding the plane. As life goes – I will step off in to that foreign land quite soon, this time with open arms and a kinder heart. May I embrace the treasures that lie within the dust and choose to expand and grow along the way.
Be free in your ordeals and adventures,