Stumbling upon contentment in 7 weeks on the Island of the Gods

As much as I wanted to hold onto it, to grasp it with every ounce of strength left in me and capture it in the empty jar of peanut butter I’d finally finished off during my travels in Indonesia, I knew I would have to eventually say goodbye. Goodbye to the man who greeted me with a toothless but contagious smile down the path to the rice fields I walked each morning. Farewell to the town with some of the best live music my ears have ever heard and phenomenal food my tastebuds have devoured, watch out Austin! Selamat jalan to the sunrises and sunsets that left me awestruck and captivated by their intense beauty as they light up the most surreal landscape my eyes have fixated on.

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I spent my morning walk through the rice fields to yoga thinking about how I wanted to spend my last day in Indonesia. There were so many places and activities I enjoyed, along with friends I had made that helped to make my stay in Indonesia even more impactful and memorable than I had imagined. Bali truly is an “Island of the Gods” and a place where one can find contentment through the simplicity of life itself whether it be from enjoying a cup of tea, the birth of a bond between two new friends, or losing track of time while engulfed in the beauty of nature. I wanted my last day to be perfect as I started thinking of all the things I wanted to do still including learn how to ride a moped, relax with a $6 massage, enjoy my favorite foods, sip a coconut by the water, catch the sunset over the rice fields, and end it with a watermelon mojito while listening to live latin music. Whoa, suddenly the thought of my last day overwhelmed me and my attitude adjusted as quickly as the sunny day in Ubud changed to a torrential downpour welcoming the beginning of wet season. How could I do all of that and still find relaxation and contentment? The best way I could think was to be content in the moment and reflect back on my time in Indonesia.

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After a beautiful morning of yoga on a private terrace in the middle of the rice fields, I walked down my favorite street, Hanoman, to the place that allowed me to get away from the tourists and noise and simply be. I ordered my watermelon and mint refresher with guacamole and veggie chips, took off my flip flops and nestled myself in the cushions behind a little tabletop, and pulled out my iPad as I began to write away what was supposed to be just a few of my many highlights from my time in Indonesia and ended up being more of a short novel. What else would you expect from a place that will leave you forever changed?

 

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Scenic Views

Gili Air – The sunsets and sunrises were enough to make me a happy girl. But add the variations in the shades of blue found in the clear water as well as the view of the full moon and its reflection on the ocean and I think I have an idea of what heaven must be like.

Tanah Lot – There are no words to describe just how empowered I felt watching the sunset behind Tanah Lot, yet how small I felt standing next to one of the most remarkable temples in the world.

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Rice Fields – Can a walk through the rice fields ever get old? I think not. It doesn’t matter if it’s a sunrise, a sunset, middle of the day, or during a storm, I would love to wake up each day viewing the lovely shades of green contrasting against the blue sky.

 

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Breakfasts on my terrace at Tanah Semujan Bungalow – Homestays are the way to go in Asia. For roughly the same price as a hostel (if you play your cards right), you can stay in a home where you feel safe, comfortable, get to experience the culture full on and typically have breakfast made for you each morning. I haven’t had that since I lived with my parents! Wayon made the most delicious banana pancakes which I was able to look forward to each morning after my run or yoga as I ate out on my terrace, blogged, and enjoyed a beautiful view of the rice fields and Ubud.

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Sari Organik – I spent my last meal in Ubud here and was so happy I did. The view is of the village behind the rice fields as the sunsets over it and all the food comes directly from the garden behind the restaurant. It was a little bit of a walk home in the dark, but the faint glow from the moon made it a beautiful last evening stroll through the rice fields.

Cafes

Elephant Cafe – Beautiful view of Ubud, delicious sage gnocchi, and the kindest staff. I found that to be true nearly everywhere in Bali though.

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Kismet – I came here twice because the food was so fresh and the staff was awesome. Plus it helped that it overlooked downtown Ubud and the corner seat was quite refreshing on a hot day when the wind would create a light mist to cool you off.

Soma – Possibly the best place I’ve ever found to just sit back, relax, and get in my writing zone. The food was good, but the atmosphere is what made it feel like home for me. Kick off your shoes, sink back in the cushions, order a coconut or private tea pot and feel yourself instantly melt into relaxation.image

Kafe – A chill little spot to grab some fresh organic food. Off of my favorite road, Hanoman, and full of fascinating people to watch. I ended up eating Meg’s Salad (delicious mix of every veggie you can think of) while sitting next to the infamous Feather Man. Also phenomenal desserts!

Cafe Havana – Had I made it to salsa night, this probably would have fallen under the live music portion. But the food here is so incredible I went here twice as well. Ordered an awesome goat cheese enchilada as well as a beet walnut salad. The best thing was a coconut with rum and coconut water. Oy vay!

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Yogi froyo- I couldn’t resist. I know you can get froyo back home, but it tastes even better on a hot humid day after walking all over town. I also discovered my love for green tea and mango mixed together. Wowza.

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Miros – This was one of my splurges and is a beautiful restaurant that sits on top of Ubud with candlit tables all tucked away in little gardens. Had a delicious avocado and chicken satay. But it was definitely the view that did it for me.

Umah Pizza – Either I was starvin Marvin, or this was one of the best pizzas I have had. Either way, where else can you order a chicken curry pizza? I ordered my favorite, a mozzarella and rosemary with extra, EXTRA basil but luckily Karsten was feeling adventurous and went the curry route. Good call Karsten!

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Random place on West Side of Gili Island – I can’t remember the name of you, but my how you made our last couple of evenings on the Gili’s wonderful. Next to Lucky’s, we found a little place with red seat cushions on little tables out on the beach. Karsten ordered his favorite drink, a ginger hot cocoa, of which both I and the waiter thought was quite bizarre. Yet, when we came back for our final sunset dinner the waiter came rushing over to us eager to let us know that they were adding Karsten’s drink to their new menu the following week. Karsten’s evening was made, and he left a little piece of him there on that island.

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Internet cafe – Technically this wasn’t a real cafe, but it was one of the few spots I was able to get wifi to even remotely work on my iPad to send out a weekly email to my friends and family letting them know I was alive. One night after numerous attempts to get Viber to work, I was even able to make a call to my family and hear their voices for the first time in weeks. The gentleman who ran the cafe (and was the brother to the priest of the temple) let me to stay late to talk to them and kindly offered me a ride home so I didn’t have to walk down the hill in the dark. I looked forward to my visits and loved being able to see his little girls who would jump up and hug me when I came to visit and would blow me kisses and make silly faces at me when I would leave. It’s acts of kindness like this that truly make this culture unique and one of the most loving I’ve seen.

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Music

“A Circle Is Round” – To share with the yoga group during one of our Sutra Circle, I taught one of my favorite Girl Scout songs “Make New Friends” to emphasize my appreciation and admiration of all the new friends I had made during our yoga retreat. Little did I know, this would become our anthem and our group would sporadically break out in song as everyone would chime in. This brought even more love for this beautiful tune.

 

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Our own private druming circle – Three things you should know about  this group of yogis. We love    singing around campfires, march to our own beat of the drum, and can dance up a storm!

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Laughing Buddha – Live music throughout the week, though I’m biased towards my Hudi and his latin band.

L.O.L – I ended up going here after the last night celebration for my yoga retreat with another one of the girls who wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Ubud either. I don’t know the name of the band, but they played music from my parents generation and she and I were the only ones up and dancing. They had the best energy and knew just how to reach out to our little dancing queen hearts.

Activities

Yoga Barn and Ubud Yoga House – Yogi lovers will find themselves in heaven in Ubud. With several yoga studios (and an abundance of yoga attire shops), these were just a couple that I tried out that I absolutely loved. Both have open studios while the Yoga Barn is more of a social experience with a cafe and several events taking place each week and the Ubud Yoga House is a little more personal as it is tucked back in the rice fields and I only had two other students in my class. Both were two of the highlights of my stay at Ubud.

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Climbing Mt. Batur (blog post to come for this requires far more than a brief description.) To climb the most active volcano in Indonesia was a rush and one of the most invigorating sights as I caught the sunrise at the top of Mt. Agung.image

Legong Trance & Paradise Dance – You can’t come to Bali and not watch one of the infamous Balinese dances. Though I was a little terrified of the bad spirits as they danced, it was quite entertaining watching the little kids dressed up as lions as they ran out and interacted with the audience.

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Teba Sari coffee, cocoa, and spices plantation tour – I thought this would just be a filler until we could make the sunset at Tanah Lot, but it actually ended up being one of my favorite things Karsten and I did. Our guide, Wayon, was hilarious and made me want to go through and learn all about “Cap-poop-ccinos” all over again. (For reference, these are the coffee beans from monkeys that eat the plant and poop the bean out. Karsten loved it while I enjoyed the teas and borderline inappropriate but hilarious remarks about teas and coffee from our guide. He even gave us permission to call him “Buduh” meaning “crazy” in Indonesia. We are currently working on his contortion skills so I can carry him with me as a travel partner/comedian when I need a good laugh.

imageBargaining at the market – I am a terrible, no, a horrendous bargainer. Sure I may start out strong in my deal, but at the end I always ask the person “Is that okay?” as if to feel bad that I’m asking them for a lower price. After asking around, I found it can actually be considered rude to not bargain, and that to them, they enjoy going back and forth as long as you are respectful in your offers and take into consideration that this is how they support their families.

Stand up paddleboarding to Lombok – If you remember my previous posts on my SUP experiences, you know this is one of my favorite water activities I’ve tried and I’m counting down the days until I can own a board. But being able to paddle from the Gili Islands to Lombok and then back again to catch a sunset and a full moon rise was definitely something that I’ll have a hard time topping during my future paddling endeavors!

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Snorkeling with sea turtles – I have a little bit of a fear o being submerged in water, but that was not going to stop me from engaging in some of the most beautiful snorkeling in the world. Had I allowed my fears to get in the way, I would have never been able to swim just inches about from some of the most peaceful, astonishing animals in the world.

Most memorable moments

Morning meditations at Prana Dewi and our silent breakfasts that allowed me to truly take in the beauty of the mountains and let my thoughts resonate within me.

Praying and being blessed by the priest at Pura Luhu Batukau on our last day of our yoga retreat training at Prana Dewi.

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Early morning runs with the Balinese Rocky – Being a morning person, I value my morning runs and walks to have time to myself before the day can get hectic. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a good running partner! Every morning I would see the same man running up and down the incredibly steep hill outside the village. Though we didn’t actually say hello until my last day there, it was comforting to have him running alongside me when it was pitch black outside. I called him “Balinese Rocky” because he wore a hoodie every morning as it could get quite chilly up in the mountains.

Olivia time – I have never met a more wise and life loving 6 – year – old than this effervescent lady. She always managed to be my saving grace with a ginormous smile, giggle, and energy to put me back right where I needed to be. Wish I could have taken a little piece of her back with me, and I can’t wait to see the amazing woman she grows up to be.

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Guardian angels – This was something we did as a group during my teacher retreat and I think it made the experience even better to know that someone was watching over you, and in return you were looking out for someone else. We each drew names and throughout the course would leave notes and thoughtful gestures to let our person know we were looking out for them. I was spoiled as Natalie left me the most thoughtful notes and gifts including a jade rock she had been given by a friend before she began her travels and an assortment of gifts for my new home including wooden straws, incense, and…Bali Buda peanut butter! Where would I have been without her.
All my Wayons – In Bali, there are a few names you will hear quite often. Wayon, Agong, and Brah. Every Wayon I met though always held a special place in my heart. From my first Wayon that I met at Prana Dewi who was so excited to take me on his moped to his rice fields, Wayon our coffee plantation tour guide, to my homestay father Wayon, I just might have to name my first son Wayon. Which is slightly appropriate since Wayon does mean first born in Indonesian!

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Self-guided yoga class – Our last day as a group in Ubud, we took part in one last practice together where instead of being led through a 3 hour class, we got to do our own self led class. This was one of my favorite practices because it allowed me to tune into what my body really needed and express myself through what felt right at the moment.

Teaching in Ubud – While in Ubud, I got the opportunity to teach yoga to children with learning disabilities at Sjaki-Tari-Us. One of my favorite groups to volunteer with has been the Special Olympics, and I felt rejuvenated being back in my element doing what I love and sharing it with others. This was truly one of the most special experiences as I was able to watch the kids get in touch with their bodies and find enjoyment through the exploration.

imageSinging with Hudi and his latin band at Laughing Buda – While yogi’s may enjoy their zen and mindful movements of the body, we also thoroughly enjoy getting our groove on! One night we went dancing at Laughing Buda and when I went to make a request for Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl”, Hudi said he would only play it if I would sing with him. After much persuasion, he asked me to sing something from his favorite, Michael Buble, and it couldn’t have been more appropriate at the time and a more meaningful moment.

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Dancing with the yogi loves of my life in Ubud at Cafe Havana, Laughing Buda, and L.O.L. – Like I said, yogis LOVE to shake their groove thing. And these were just a few of the places we enjoyed doing so!

First Bintang while riding on top of a two hour, reckless ferry that had no seats and hardly any protection from sliding off the top and into the rip roaring waves while experiencing the best dance party I’ve seen in Bali. I ended up being salty, sweaty, covered in beer from someone throwing it in the wind, and my hair looked like I had just stuck my finger in an electric outlet with my entire body sunburnt to go with it. It…was awesome.

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Experiencing the Balinese culture. This culture has such a love for life itself, it’s inspiring. They are kind to every soul they meet and along with their high pitched “Hello!”s that they call out to you when they imitate your greeting, they have the most delightful smiles I have ever seen. There is no hurry to get from one place to the next and I’ve never been rushed to finish my meal or even leave a restaurant. They have a tremendous respect for nature and animals. And one of the most beautiful aspects of this culture is the amount of respect and love they have for themselves and those around them.

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Though it pains me to say farewell to a country that taught me so much about love, patience, community, peace, and contentment. I know that along with contentment comes the ability to let go of the things that have brought us happiness and joy so that we can welcome new memories and moments that will allow us to smile, challenge us to grow, and bring depth into our souls. Sampai waktu berikutnya…suksma Bali.

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