Every year, over 3.7 million people pay homage to the mesmerizing shores of Bali, Indonesia, in search of warmer climates, exotic foods, sun, surf, spiritual expansion, yoga, relaxation; and as a landing pad for entrepreneurial enthusiasm.
I have a unique relationship with travel: I only go to places when I feel called. Bali had been calling for about a year. I knew I was going — sooner or later — I just didn’t know when. Until I knew. And I knew, because it all fell into place so easily. The cheap flight. The friends who already resided there, and welcomed me with open arms. The sense that it was finally time. It was all in the signs.
So I applied for a 60 day visa, packed my Weekender, said good-bye to my love for 5 weeks, and flew to Denpasar International Airport, to begin my own personal intuition-lead pilgrimage. Behold today’s words:
Gypset Guide: Living, working and traveling in Bali.
People say that Australia doesn’t get cold, but my friends: it’s a lie. It get’s freezing. And nothing made me happier than landing in Bali at midnight, to find a designated driver holding a sign with my name on it, take me to a beautiful apartment in Canggu, where I met up with my friend and client, Vanessa from Soul Brand Studio and woke up to this: Aqua blue water and banana fronds swaying in the warm breeze. I may have been born in Europe, but my body does not do winter well.
As with so many digital friendships, this was the first time Vanessa and I had met IRL, despite having worked together for over 6 months, and The Apartments Canggu delightfully indulged us with an entire 24 hours of chatting, sharing and giggling in the sunshine, before we went onwards, on our separate ways.
Those first two days, I honestly saw very little of Canggu. We breakfasted at Avocado Cafe; I ate the “Protein Buzz” which was delicious and so filling, and shared an early dinner at Betelnut, complete with Banana Nutella Pie. Aside from those two meals, we remained in the sanctity of our apartment, while I recovered from the aches of winter, and an intense year engaged with the structures of western life.
The following day, after Vanessa’s departure, I booked an Über, as recommended by my friend (and sometimes client) Gingi Medina of high-end equestrian-wear label Equites, whose factories are based here. Using Über cut my driving fee in half, costing me 120,000 Rph instead of the 250,000 Rph, that most drivers ask for, and I happily settled into a beautiful car for the 1.5 hour drive from Canggu to Ubud, where I was planning to stay for the next 4 weeks.
On my first day in Ubud, I noticed one thing very, very clearly: my heart. It was tightly wound up, squeezed, and hurting. Like it hadn’t been able to breathe for far too long. Byron and then the hasty 12 day tour with Loka Travel, had left me with an ache, that went beyond physical. I sat on the back of Gingi’s scooter as she introduced me to the sights from a local’s perspective, and knew it was time to heal my heart. And breathe.
That afternoon I found my perfect abode. A gorgeous 1 bedroom villa, within the safety of a family compound, in the northern precinct of Ubud, known as Penestanen, with its own high-speed (for Bali) cable internet connection, for 3 million Rph for the month. And a bright red scooter for the same time for 600,000 Rph.
I arrived in Bali, in the midst of an inordinately busy period for my business, and the first couple of weeks were spent purely trying to get all my work done, so I could finally breathe and relax again. Luckily, my incredible friend Belinda, editor for an international conscious lifestyle and health blog, spent many of those days by my side, as we silently sipped ginger tea, and typed away at out respective devices. The stairs above, led to our favourite coffice (cafe + office) Clear Cafe, where we probably spent 80% of our days for my entire time in Bali.
Once that crazy, busy time was coming to completion, I suddenly felt a really strong urge to do a cleanse. And so for 10 days, I sipped on coconuts, yoga’d and hiked every day, wrote and worked, and kept life on a down-low, as I allowed my body to heal, let go of old emotions and release toxins. Looking back now, it was an incredibly special, and transformative time in my life, that I am so thankful for. Even now, in the weeks following, I am witnessing cellular changes in the way I experience and see my world, that are having profoundly positive affects on me. I recall with delight, having my first bowl of fruit, and then a few days later, a salad at Alchemy, and how delicious those flavours and nutrients were, indulge my senses and roll around in my mouth.
Towards the last week in Ubud, life started to suddenly speed up, and I ended up with an overflowing abundance of beautiful locally based clients, whom I met with and mentored in person, for the first time since I started this business. Women from all over the world, ready to create a different reality for themselves: one that could sustain and support their free spirits.
It gives me such immeasurable pleasure and satisfaction, to be able to support and help others create a life that they create on their own terms, following their hearts, and natural inspirations. I believe that we are capable of limitless success and abundance in every area of our lives. The fact that I get to encourage and inspire others to believe in it, and create it for themselves, still blows me away. My gratitude for life, and all I have created, brings me to my knees.
31 Days after arriving in Ubud, it was time to move on. My love was arriving to Bali after a month with his family in Canada, and I couldn’t wait to kiss his delicious face again.
Until I arrived at the airport.
At which point his flight was delayed, and the anticipation of seeing him again after 5 weeks apart, was getting the better of me. The last 40 minutes of waiting for Julien to arrive were pure hell: I was restless, sweating profusely, and couldn’t decide whether I was going to faint or vomit or both. Ah… love. It does such strange things to you. The moment he walked out from the arrival hall, my body settled again, as I flung myself into his arms, relieved and happy.
As soon as Julien arrived, we drove straight down to Bingin Beach, a popular surf spot in the very south of Bali. While he surfed, I wrote about how to start following your dreams now, no matter where you find yourself, and other such wisdom. I truly love Bingin Beach. There is something in the air… I don’t know what it is, but it’s special. My highlights were the nightly beach barbecues, where for under 100,000 Rph you could choose an entire fish, or a massive handful of squid, or prawns, freshly grilled in front of you on the barbecues, served with as-much-as-you-can-eat garlicky green vegetables and steamed rice.
We ate that fish barbecue every single night without fail. Our beach bungalow was made of authentic woven palm fronds, and at 200,000 Rph per night, life was very, very sweet. Not to mention the spectacular nightly sunsets, which were set to impress, without fail. I would say romance was at an all-time high, here in Bingin. My work, however suffered, as the internet connection left much to be desired, and the waves were a bit too high, so after 5 days, we decided it was time to move on.
I first went to the Gili islands 4 years ago, and at that time, fell totally and completely in love with the simple island life. There were no motorised vehicles on any of the 3 islands, and everywhere you went, you did so by foot or bike or, for the exceptionally lazy, by horse and cart. Back then I went to Gili Trawangan, but in the meantime, it had apparently become the “party island” so we went to Gili Air. The beautiful island lived up to all the memories and dreams.
I know things won’t remain this way for much longer, but the Gili Islands are what I always thought Bali should be like: turquoise waters, warm sea breezes, palm trees, friendly locals and sweet, salty island vibes. Maybe Bali was one like this, 30 years ago, before Australians decided to make it their Mexico. It was here, that I wrote my confessional ran about hating backpackers…
I spent my days walking around the island, snorkelling, swimming, eating the delicious local fare, and reading. We serendipitously ran into some friends from Byron Bay who were dive instructors on Gili Air, making our daily adventures that much more than. Since I still had work to do: a few coaching clients and preparing for the launch of Manifest More, the limited wifi on the island was not ideal. It was a good lesson to learn: don’t do launches on the wide open road when idyllic tropical islands are on the menu! After 4 days, we decided to go to Lombok, seeing as it was mainland Indonesia, and would (I had hoped) have more reliable internet, so I could keep up with my work. Plus, being a surf-fiend, Julien wanted to check out the waves there.
And so off we went, Julien and I, to spend a few days in Lombok, and ended up in a little town called Sengiggi. I had planned to lock down for a few days and focus on work, what with Manifest More starting in 4 days, and my clients requiring my attention and all. But as soon as we arrived, things just didn’t feel right. As you can see from the photo above, it has a bit of an old-town European feel to it. But there was something else.
This looming sense of doom and terror. Like something really terrible had happened. And it was a total ghost-town. Apart from locals desperately try to sell us pretty much anything, including the shirts of their backs, there was no-one. No-one going about their lives in a normal fashion. Just weird vibes. We found a really cute, equally strange, yet beautiful hotel, and that first night, when I went to sleep, I dreamt the strangest dreams, that kept waking me up.
I dreamt that I heard a little girl laughing outside our hotel-room, who opened the door to peek in. Which woke me with a start, to see that the door had somehow opened. Creepy… Then I dreamt that Julien had bought bottles, upon bottles of rum, and was giving them out to everyone. Except me. There they all were, getting ridiculously drunk, and I felt totally left out. Which is weird because a) he’s really not that kind of guy; and b) I rarely drink, so I have no idea why that bothered me. Again, I woke up feeling weirded out and anxious, and decide that this place was haunted, and I had to get out.
The next morning, while J was surfing, I made up my mind. When he came home, I told him I needed to get out of there, and was planning to go back to Canggu, where my Bali journey began 6 weeks ago, to chill out, work with much, much more reliable wifi, and spend time with friends. I still have no idea why Sengiggi gave off such weird vibes, or why I had to leave again so quickly, but I totally trust my intuition on that one. Something was not quite right about that place!
This part of the story doesn’t really have a logical moral to it. But perhaps you can take this away from it:
It’s ok to change your mind. Whenever you need to. Even if it doesn’t make any logical sense at the time. What we feel is always an important indicator. Always.
Coming back to Canggu was the best decision ever. I had some really powerful realisations about myself and my life, while I spent 4 days catching up on work in a sweet little B&B called A Bali House, run by the loveliest gay couple 10 minutes outside of town. I love Canggu. It’s clean, it’s friendly, it’s easy and there’s beautiful beaches, amazing food and a pretty fun music and creative scene. I could almost live here I think.
Riding around on my scooter, with the wind in my hair makes life feel to free! And my favourite find was a delicious Warung (local food place) called Varuna, just 2 minutes further along the beach from Betelnut towards Old Man’s where you can get plates of amazing, healthy food piled high from anywhere between $1 and $3 (10,000 – 30,000 Rph). This one below was only $1.20 and filled with all my favourite vegetables and tempe. Yum! We ate there almost every day for the last 10 days, and I will be craving those plates for weeks to come.
My 2 months in Bali flew past, and while they weren’t what I had imagined them to look like, they were exactly what I needed.
Life is like that. When we let go of expectations around how we think life should look like, it can deliver us what it is that we actually need. Which is always so much better.
My highlights were definitely Ubud for living and working, Bingin Beach for the soft sand and delicious fresh seafood barbecues, Gili Air for tropical island vibes, and Canggu for hipster surfer trendiness.
One thing that I note however, is that Bali doesn’t have my heart like many other places do. I noticed that first time I went 4 years ago. Some people adore Bali and it is their heart-space. For me; I like it, but I actually don’t feel the need to go back there. My connection with this part of the world isn’t what is with others. I believe that our souls call certain places home for a reason, and to trust that.
Now, I am happy to return to the clean open spaces and drinkable tap water of Australia for a month, as we travel down the East Coast from Byron Bay to Melbourne, before heading to New Zealand for the next 4 – 6 months. New lands and new adventures. I can’t wait.