While the modern day cynic would view a solo trip to Bali as nothing more than a product of the Eat Pray Love delusion, the romantic sees it as an opportunity ripe with potential.
I have always been a romantic and have spent twenty one years of my life being continuously disappointed in my findings that life is, in fact, NOT a movie. Nonetheless, two weeks ago, this hopelessly disappointed romantic departed on a solo trip to Bali. I arrived in Denpasar, Bali, without a plan, a friend, or knowledge of the local currency or language. Yes, it was slightly reckless, but I mustered up my last bit of optimism, and with determination walked out of the airport believing it would all work out for the best.
And in fact, it did. My time in Bali far exceeded my expectations, and could easily be mistaken for a work of fiction. So rather than telling you exactly what to do on a trip to Bali, I prefer to share some guidelines I followed in hopes that they help you to stumble upon your own journey.
As FDR said, the “only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” With an open mind and a good book, you will never be alone.
Spend a few days in Ubud. Wander the streets with abandon, and sit for hours in the cafes lining Hanoman street. Talk to your neighbors, be fearlessly independent. You may even be lucky enough to be seated next to long-time expat, self-proclaimed “Blue,” who will assure you that Bali is a place where lost souls go to find what they’ve been missing, and you can order everything on the menu, because, “you can’t go wrong.”
Take a yoga class and check out the accents and languages. You might meet a fellow traveler looking for a dinner companion.
Take advantage of the $25 spa treatments. You will never again have the opportunity to be pampered like a royal for such a low cost.
Say yes (within reason). You will be pleasantly surprised where it may take you. A fellow traveler offers to show you around the island you have just arrived on, say yes! You may end up on the pristine cliff-side café, Mahana Warung, where a 40-foot cliff jump into the ocean is less the a foot from your table.
Be patient, spontaneous, and flexible. Watch the local surfers perfecting their craft in hopes of receiving international sponsorship. Visit the only bar on the island – less of a bar, more of a hangout for locals and non-locals alike. And when the afternoon rain turns into a 5-hour storm, knocking the power out from the entire island, embrace the camper light and join in a sing-along with the bartender who had whipped out his guitar to perform.
Rent a motor bike, and drive. Consider all mango trees fair game and pick yourself a snack for the road. Just beware of the ants!
Scuba dive or snorkel off the coasts. If the bathtub-warm, aquamarine water isn’t enough to get you in, then maybe the ten-foot manta-rays and tropical coral jungles that line the sea floor are. And when you take a quick break to eat some paper bagged nasi goreng (fried rice with egg) on nothing more then the parchment it was wrapped in, savor the moment. You may be lucky enough to see a traditional celebration happening on the beach.
A trip to Bali really is as romantic as it’s made out to be. I am not sure if it’s the Indonesian culture, the rich expat community, or the travelers it attracts–it must be a combination of all three – but Bali is truly magical. With its pristine beaches (avoid Kuta Beach – it’s a tourist trap), lush rice fields, beyond delicious vegetarian, vegan, and raw cuisine, endless spas, yoga retreats, and very reasonable prices, it’s a dream within reach.
My time in Bali was composed of a seamless succession of events so marvelous words can’t fairly capture the experience. Riding my motor bike at sunset, wind in my hair; hiking a volcano and making it to the top just in time to watch the sun rise; reading my books for hours in a cafe, completely content, that was freedom, and that was my journey.