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Attitude + travel go hand in hand, right? The “right” attitude leads to positive experiences. But have you ever had your seemingly “open” attitude tested? By expectations. Stories heard. Photographs seen. Bali is paradise – right?
Have you ever travelled somewhere that just didn’t jibe with your mental image? Bali is that place for me.
I arrive in Ubud, on a humid afternoon under an azure blue sky. The bustle is palpable. We circle around and around the block as the driver can’t find my homestay. Tour bus after tour bus, young beggars carrying babies, motorbike traffic jams and broken sidewalks shoulder to shoulder with tourists stun me into silence.
This is Ubud? The cultural heartbeat of Bali? A place where I have come to rejuvenate and recalibrate my soul.
It buzzes in the sultry heat. My heart sinks.
I try to reconcile this hectic town with the idyllic village in my mind. Clearly, I have missed the memo on present-day Ubud.
I had a vision of wandering down a deserted side road to yoga with roosters crowing. I want this.
It is a predetermined, inflexible image in my mind. Where is this quaint, tranquil place that I invented?
The lovely ladies at my homestay show me to my room, passing the family temple into their garden oasis. Their delightful, genuine manner is my introduction to the Balinese ways.
Surely I can be open to their grace and charm.
Surely I can adjust my expectations.
Where is my open and accepting spirit? My positive “attitude + travel” mantra that has served me so well? It has been completely sidelined.
To the din of motorbike traffic,
I commit to
peeling back the layers.
Everything is unfamiliar.
Gaining an appreciation
of Bali’s ways
But maybe, after all,
that is the point.
My traveller’s mantra, ruled by enchantment, fires into action.
Attitude + Travel:
Look for Beauty in Unusual Places
Motorbike after motorbike whiz by me while earthy wisps of incense slow my stride. I step around fresh flower petal offerings to the gods. Exquisite offerings (canang sari) grace sidewalks, doorways and rice fields. They are everywhere. These rituals (repeated several times daily) are an integral part of Balinese Hinduism. Women create the handwoven coconut leaf baskets filling them with flowers (hello, frangipani), fruit and rice. Often incense is lit and a prayer said. These daily devotional gifts to various gods remind me I am living amongst people of deep faith.
My heart starts to soften.
Feel the Energy
Hindu faith is omnipresent. The Balinese live and breathe their devotion. Some days celebrations, religious rituals, including cremations, bring Ubud to a halt.
Whole villages, laden with offerings, fill the road on their way to the temple accompanied by the gong’s beat.
The community spirit is pervasive filling the heavens with solemnity, joy and purpose.
Slowly I am being enticed into the mysticism of this island.
My heart is seeing what my eyes were initially blind to.
Find the Extraordinary in the Ordinary
I move outside of Ubud and live by the same rice field for four weeks silently observing the flow. They seem so ordinary, these rice fields. Sometimes gleaming emerald green or glimmering golden before harvest. People are hard at work in the intense heat. Ducks eat algae and pests, fertilizing all the while. Ordinary? Not in the least.
There is a sophistication veiled by the apparent simplicity in these traditional farming methods.
Women plant the verdant seedlings.
Men flood the fields and plough.
And daily offerings
to Dewi Sri,
the goddess of rice,
are placed in
at the field’s edge.
There is action yet stillness. Something is grounding me here.
I am falling for this gentle pace. I have found tranquillity amidst the labour intensive rice fields.
I stay. And stay. I embrace a mellow lifestyle. I connect to locals. Nanang sells me water and teaches me Indonesian, Gusti drives me into town also teaching me Indonesian and how to drive a motorbike. Illu and Wayan giggle with me. What a gift to cross paths.
“Sampai jumpa lagi,” becomes my favourite phrase. I jauntily use it to the surprise of the locals. It just means “See you later,” but brings smiles and a flood of Indonesian conversation my way. To the constant call of “Taxi?” “Taxi?” on the streets of Ubud I merely reply, “Tidak, Terima kasih.” (No, thank you). It is appreciated.
Ubud’s pace is still frenetic. This village hums with tourists.
My awareness though has expanded. Ancient wisdom and traditions. Grace and faith. This is the heart of Ubud.
My heart is cracking wide open.
Be Curious: Step Outside the Comfort Zone
As I slip into the cold pool at the temple Tirta Empul, I wonder if I should be. There are a few tourists around, early on this weekday morning, but mainly it is locals who have come to be blessed by holy water flowing out of beautifully carved spouts.
The sun is warming my shoulders and koi are circling as I carefully observe the Balinese. What am I actually supposed to do?
I decide to go with the flow. I am, after all, embracing my attitude +travel mantra. A prayer of gratitude before dunking myself under the flowing spout and then end with namaste. Wade to the next spout. Repeat. I am sandwiched between locals who welcome me with smiles. I feel completely blessed.
It turns out to be the most mystical of experiences. I feel insanely alive. I have connected to the essence of Bali.
What was that preconceived notion of Bali? It was merely an image without a feeling. Without wonderment. Without possibility.
Bali reminded me that uncovering the heart and soul of a place is the magic of travelling.
“We are meant to live in joy and love, with wholeness and bliss
We are meant to play our roles naturally, easily and beautifully
We are meant to be free.”
Where have you had to really adjust your attitude +travel mantra? Was it easy? Let me know.
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