I made myself a promise this year. Travel more. There’s so much I don’t know and so many things I haven’t experienced. I wanted to change that. Planning my first solo travel was exciting and scary. There were times when I got anxious but I knew stepping outside my comfort zone was the right thing to do.
I wanted to visit a place I have never been to, somewhere unfamiliar, where I am not used to the culture. I wanted to feel truly lost. Europe sprang to mind. Backpacking across Europe did sound exciting, but I did not have the time, money or the experience to take on the challenge. I kept that dream in my back pocket for later this year. Instead, I opted for something on the opposite end of the spectrum, Indonesia. wasn’t my first choice. It resembled too much of the Asia that I grew up in and didn’t seem to have that wow factor that most of the European countries seemed to have. It was, however, an easy choice though. It was cheap. It was close to Australia. And I have had a lot of friends who went solo travelling there so I knew what to expect. Indonesia seemed to tick all the boxes and after a bit of planning and saving up, I was on-route to Kuta.
I am the type of person who tends to relate memories with music. My bus journey to Sydney saw me listening to a lot of movie soundtracks – Star Wars, Gladiator, and Lord of The Rings whilst reading to the most cliche travel book, The Alchemist. Now every time I feel nostalgic I listen to those soundtracks and they speak to me on so many levels.
One of my biggest fears of travelling by myself was that I would be alone. Oh boy did I get proven wrong! From the moment I boarded the flight to Denpasar to the time I got off the bus in Canberra two weeks later, not once did I feel alone! I reached my hostel at 11:00 pm and was immediately introduced to a fellow backpacker named Alberto. Together we hired a car the following day and explored most of South Kuta – Tanah Lot Temple, Jimbaran, Pandawa and Padang Padang Beach, and finally Uluwatu Temple. Over the next few days, I met up with other backpackers including one of my friends from Canberra. Together we went to Ubud. Ubud was a nice change of pace from Kuta. Everything was more relaxed and calm. On one of the nights, we went out to a lounge to celebrate Maddie’s birthday. After a few rounds of drinks and rainbow shots, we decided to call it a night. Except for Yann, a French backpacker we met in Ubud. Yann was persistent on going to a pool; mind you, it was three in the morning and the streets of Ubud were deserted. Yann with his French charm convinced us to sneak into a random house and have a quick dive in their pool. We all obliged. Out on the street, Jonas was on the ground passed out from all the rainbow shots. It was a pretty memorable night.
Over the next few days, I had accomplished a lot. I faced my fear of being in close proximity with monkeys, hiked a volcano at night to see the sunrise, crashed a scooter and got hit on by the tour guide at white water rafting. Ubud was exceptional. I had a lot of new experiences and came through largely unscathed (except for my knee).
Ubud left me exhausted. I needed a day to relax. We returned to Kuta to have a night out and go to Sky Garden. During the day, I was in full holiday mood. I was in the pool with my trusty book on one hand and a glass of ice cold watermelon juice on the other. With 90s rock playing in the background, I was in my elements. At night we decided to go Sky Garden, one of the premier nightclubs of Kuta. With $10 entry, we got a buffet and unlimited drinks for the night. Good music, gorgeous people and some on point shisha summed up Sky Garden for me. This was quite different from Ubud. I finally got to experience the party side of Bali, and it did not disappoint!
Nusa Lembongan was next on the list. We only had two and a bit days in Lembongan to soak in the sun and try out some water activities. To our disappointment, we were welcomed by the rain gods. We made the best of a rainy day and rented some dodgy bicycles that broke at least 5 times while we attempted to explore the island. Despite conventional wisdom, we decided to ride up a hill in the hopes of grabbing a view from the cliffside and to enjoy the sunset on the other side. After riding for a couple of hours we reached the top, where we sat on a swing at the edge of the cliff taking in the gorgeous view. On the way down, we went through rural villages with lush green trees on either side and the refreshing breeze blowing. The road finally opened up to a secluded beach with clear waters and the Nusa Penida as a backdrop. We left the beach to watch the sunset. The colours changed from golden to an array of shades between red and purple disappearing completely. The trip back to our homestay was pretty exciting too. It was pitch dark. Visibility couldn’t have been more than a couple of meters and we went up the wrong hill. We were lost. No reception and no-one in sight. For about 90 minutes we were aimlessly riding our bikes and at one point even got chased by wild dogs. When we finally entered the streets of Lembongan, we were able to catch the last bit of the Nyepi (Balinese religious festival) before we headed back to our home in preparation for Silent Day.
We were stuck in our homestay for the whole day, the next day. No electricity. No internet. No phone network and the town in complete shutdown. It gave me time to reflect on my trip. Little did I know I would have the highlight of my trip not long after. At night, the clouds cleared up we were blessed with an amazing display of the dazzling stars in the night sky. I spent hours just taking it all in and trying to find constellations. It was magical. The rest of time in Lembongan was spent snorkelling and mucking about on the beach trying to find lobster. Soon afterward, we went back to Kuta, where we sorted out some work. And not long afterward, I was on a plane back to Canberra.
Overall, Bali was all that I hoped it would be. I got outside my comfort zone, experienced that things I wanted to, met with some of the most amazing people and got to know their stories and now I am left wanting more.