Seventeen months ago, on a cold January day in London , I packed my suitcase and said goodbye to my husband and friends. I was about to move to Bali for two months. Two months isn’t a long time really, it passes too quickly and before you even know it, you are back. But at the time, it felt like I was going away forever. Perhaps I knew deep down that this experience would change me forever. One thing is for sure: going to Bali was one of the best decisions of my life.
I moved to Ubud simply because… I had the time and resources and I wanted to experience something completely out of my comfort zone. Moving to Bali was a gift to myself and I got more than I could have wished for! I was determined to make the most of it, and I did.
I woke up every morning with the intention of making it a great day.
I can’t explain it in any other way than by saying this: I felt grateful every single second just because I was there. Because I had dreamed to be there and made it happen. Because nobody had helped get there: I was the only person to thank for. This made me feel incredibly empowered.
There were also MANY moments when I felt incredibly lonely – on video calls with my husband and my brother; or when I asked myself “what the hell am I doing here?”, usually while I was riding a scooter in torrential rain only to get back to an empty house at night.
I had a goal: to learn new things, have meaningful conversations with people and learn to be happy with my own self.
From the moment I arrived in Ubud, I felt completely at home. I know many people who dislike Ubud for how touristy it is. I can see that, but I loved it nonetheless.
I loved being so close to the beautiful natural landscape of Bali with its rice terraces, waterfalls and lush green plants and flowers everywhere. I loved watching Balinese people fill up the streets and the temples to celebrate a religious holiday. I am grateful to Balinese people for being so open, friendly and welcoming. For the first two weeks, I didn’t meet any expat and only the kindness of Balinese people (in my home, in shops, in restaurants) kept me from feeling lonely.
I felt great in my own skin, maybe for the first time ever
I felt like I was exactly where I was supposed to be – not forever, but in that precise moment of my life. Don’t worry, I haven’t gone all hippie and spiritual… All I can say is that Bali is a special place to me. It might not be for everyone, but it worked its magic on me.
Over one year has passed since I left the island and I still treasure the gift Bali gave to me. Whenever I feel anxious, overwhelmed or depressed now, I think back at how I was in Bali and I know that I am a pretty amazing human being. And what a precious gift that is!
Design your life
I mostly need to thank my Life Design Lab family for the amazing time I had in Bali. They are eight incredible humans I met at a two-week life design workshop hosted at Outpost and led by Coach Leannah Lumauig. I stayed closely in touch with five of them: we have monthly Skype calls and a Facebook chat to check on each other and provide mutual support. They have helped me so much in so many ways over the past seventeen months! They are a constant source of love and support and I am so thankful to have them in my life.
Bali is not a paradise
This is the point of the story when I tell you that Bali is far from being a paradise, where everything is perfect. It can certainly feel that way when seen through the luxury and comforts of a five star resort, but Bali is a big island with both good and bad sides (try booking a Grab taxi at Denpasar airport and you’ll see what I mean…). For example, I had a shock when I arrived in Ubud dreaming of a small village and realised it is a big and crowded city constantly clogged up with scooters, cars and tourist buses. I found a house to rent outside of the city centre to be in the nature and far away from the city.
Don’t book a holiday to Bali because you have seen hundreds of Instagrammers having a seemingly fabulous time, posing in long flowing dresses with frangipani flowers in their hair, sitting by the infinity pool with a floating breakfast (yep, that’s a thing in Bali!) or dreamily looking out to the rice fields at sunrise (I don’t know how some Instagrammers do it…it was so humid in Bali that my hair was a hot mess the whole time)!
Go to Bali to discover its wonderful traditions and people. Look beyond the picture-perfect spots to see what is truly special about this island.
Ten Things I Miss About Living in Bali
1. Living close to nature
I loved being surrounded by trees and flowers, watching the sunrise and sunset, waking up with the sun and the sound of crickets. I loved it even though sometimes I wasn’t able to sleep at night because of the geckos, dogs and mosquitos…!
I stayed in Ubud (located approximately in the centre of Bali) most of the time, but I also ventured further north, south, west and east for short trips. I loved the day spent with my mum walking through Jatiluwih Rice Terraces, a world heritage site protected by Unesco.
2. Morning pages
A few days after arriving in Ubud, I began to write a journal and I continued every day. I would get up early, make a cup of coffee and sit down with my journal, trying to give sense to my thoughts and emotions from the previous day. It gave me so much clarity and joy.
3. Riding my scooter
I learnt how to drive a scooter immediately after arriving in Ubud as I knew it was essential to life in Bali. You can get around by taxi, but it can be frustrating and on the long term you need to find a better solution. I loved riding my scooter every day from my home near the Goa Gajah temple to Outpost coworking in Ubud.
4. Outpost coworking
I have been looking all over London and now Wroclaw for a co-working space I love as much as Outpost, without any luck. I love the physical space (spread over two floors and overlooking a river flanked by palm trees); the staff and members; the range of free events and workshops they offered on a daily bases. It’s at Outpost that I attended Life Design Lab with coach Leannah Lumauig.
5. Balinese temples and traditions
Temples play a big part of Balinese culture and traditions. There are a temples (or shrines) in every home. You never know when the next big celebration is going to take place: there are just so many religious festivals, they vary between villages.
Balinese women start their days by making canang sari with palm leaves and flower petals. Their purpose is to thanks the gods and appease demon spirits hanging around.
Yoga plays a big part in Ubud’s popularity. Ubud attracts yogis from all around the world who want to practice (or teach) at the top class yoga studios in town. I loved Yoga Barn and Radiantly Alive studios, though I had to try different classes (there’s one or more every hour) before finding the right styles and best teachers for me.
7. Balinese food
I loved learning about Indonesian cuisine and eating at traditional, family-owned, street eateries called “warungs”. My favourite dishes are Nasi Goreng and Gago-gado salad!
One of my favourite memories is from having lunch in a family home in the tiny Balinese village of Penarungan. The lunch was cooked by the local women of course. Such a beautiful spread of tasty food!
8. Balinese massage
How could I not miss the weekly Balinese massage I treated myself to whilst living in Bali? A traditional one-hour massage costs around IDR 180 (£10) and is pure bliss! My favourite was a Jaens Spa in Ubud.
9. Indonesian coffee
All I knew about Indonesian coffee is that the country is one of the world’s biggest producers (the saying “a cup of java” refers to the island of Java); I had also heard about kopi luwak. I did not expect to find such a large number of amazing specialty coffee shops in Bali!
I learnt that some of the best single origin coffees come from Aceh Gayo and from Flores. I even had the opportunity to visit a coffee farm in the north of Bali with Java Mountain Coffee.
There are many things I miss about living in Ubud, but the biggest one is a feeling of joy and gratitude I felt every day when I was there.