Back home, October makes the leaves turn into all kinds of colors, and the wind gives the summer memories a last stir, before it’s time for scarfs and hot chocolate again.
Meanwhile, the approaching rain season here in Bali is more than tangible. But once we were completely soaked anyway, and turned on some good old 70s, we were nothing more than a bunch of cheerful kids jumping through the puddles…
But the change of seasons goes beyond the weather.
While the few steps that I could see ahead on my path are never quite certain anyway, big news have tip-toed their way out of the fog and surprised me with new plans for the rest of the year: India and Sri Lanka! Never been on my immediate radar, but you know, nobody can foresee the travel god’s directions. SO thrilled!!
Here’s what happened in the meantime though.
Everyday Life in Bali
Have you ever made a big step to change your life in a major way, and it looked completely undoable?
And then a month later it feels like the most normal thing ever and you just live your life and pay the bills and go to work and it’s no big deal. That’s how I feel about living in Bali. If someone would have told me a year ago I’d be doing this, I would have answered with a half-hearted laugh and turned back to my Netflix show.
Since 2,5 months, I call this island my home. I have a circle of friends I go on coffee or sunset dates with. I found my favorite restaurants to order food from. I have my own scooter and mastered Bali traffic and know how to navigate without Maps. I visit markets and know how to never pay more than 45% of what they’re initially asking for. I go surfing and do yoga every morning. I meet like-minded freelancers and we work together on new projects. I learn a few words of Bahasa and have small-talk on the streets.
Once upon a time, “Bali” sounded so exotic, so far away, like a paradise I will maybe never see. Today, it is a temporary home. In fact, I just moved in with two good friends of mine, one of whom lives here with her 7yo son, and two puppies. It just feels… normal. Like a little family away from home 🙂
Sometimes it’s necessary to exchange the sounds of roaring motorbikes for roaring waterfalls. Totally doable.
As soon as you leave the Southern tip of Bali, you’ll find yourself riding along empty streets, regularly interrupted by little busy villages, with wide views over rice fields and mountains. Nature here is stunning! After living in the Middle East for half a year, my eyes could barely handle all this green.
So it happened that I got in touch with some local couchsurfers, and we went on a spontaneous camping trip in the north. Lake Buyan has a nice little campground, and at night, the stars up there are unreal.
Just another 30 min drive are Banyumala Waterfalls (see header image), reachable via a quite adventurous road and little hike, but absolutely worth it! Sekumpul waterfall was just equally stunning. This one needs some serious commitment, as it’s half an hour drive from the main road, and then a 45min downhill hike / 60min uphill on the way back. Depending on whether you pay someone to drive you beyond the parking area or start walking from there. But again, no way we could have regretted this!
And, naturally, rice terraces – the number one marketing image of Bali. Besides the popular ones of Tegallalang near Ubud, the biggest ones are UNESCO heritage in Jatiluwih.
The “floating temple” Pura Ulun Danu Bratan offers splendid views over the lake and surrounding area. But in my opinion it’s overrated since it became too touristic – not much of a cultural feel here.
Off the track in Timor-Leste
My arrival in Bali was clouded by getting the wrong visa (30 instead of 60 days). But I’m a firm believer of things always turn out as they are supposed to be, and so I went on a fantastic visa run with my friend Esther. We decided to go off the beaten track of Kuala Lumpur or Singapore, and made our way to Timor-Leste (East Timor).
A country we absolutely loved!
We didn’t have much of a plan, and as always, that was the way to go. The first day, we met some guys to explore the capital of Dili. The second day, a local couple we met while hitchhiking took us around the north coast of the island. We discovered beaches and nature and some quite adventurous roads…
In the evening, they took us to a party of the national election committee. The speeches were in Tetum, the local language. As we learned later, since we were the only white people but no one asked us what we were doing there, we were introduced as representatives of the European Union. I mean, us, with our messy hair, short dresses, piercings and tattoos. #nailedit
The wifi in East Timor is pretty much non-existent, but we actually appreciated this. Being forced to not work is not the worst thing after all. We enjoyed the time offline before heading back to Bali.
Motorcycle Diaries across Flores
Shame on me: I watched this movie for the first time just a few weeks ago. But it did leave quite an impression, and a lot to think about. In many aspects.
But one of those was my thirst for adventure. Sure, I need my vitamin sea and I love sunset coconuts and I enjoy hunting waterfalls for a day. But every now and then, it’s time to push the boundaries.
Two years ago, I embarked on my first two-wheeled adventure, mountainbiking through Israel for 3 days – without a plan. One year ago, I cycled a week through central Germany – without a plan. Both trips a result of some random online research. And this happened again.
So I had 12 days off. This time, I read an article about the Trans Flores Highway, and decided to do it by motorbike. Something I, again, have never done before. Flores itself is an island in the East of Indonesia, famous for being the base to visit the Komodo dragons.
As soon as I left the busy city Labuan Bajo, Flores revealed itself to be just the perfect mix of basic infrastructure that allowed this solo trip, and absolute remoteness without phone service, so it was not touristic at all.
This trip deserves its own post very soon, but once again it became apparent: Everything is as it is supposed to be. Decisions led by intuition enabled me of enjoying the best of times. And after 1169km, Flores now is one of my favorite places on this planet.
Coincidentally, I finished this trip on exactly the same day as my first mountainbiking trip two years earlier – as facebook kindly reminded me 🙂
Business as usual and a few downsides
Back in Bali.
Despite all the trips I have been taking and the nice picture social media can draw, my usual days are shaped by work. Freelancing as a writer and marketer is going better, but it also requires commitment every single day. So here I am continuing a 7-day work week – and I’m happy with it. I get a clearer image of my goals every single day, and I am determined to do what it takes to reach them.
To be honest though, I’m happy to be leaving Bali soon. I have succeeded in exploring and making myself comfortable here, but I have noticed that this is not a place where I want to settle long-term.
I feel, the hype around Bali is overrated. Or maybe it is just this hype that makes it… too much.
There’s too many tourists inflicting their habits and culture on this place, and too many locals trying to take advantage of this. There’s so many foreigners exploiting the system to make money while skipping taxes. There’s local taxi mafia making transport ridiculously expensive and threatening anyone trying to use Uber or Grab. There’s animals being treated terribly and every now and then, there’s a new article about dog meat going around.
Some figure out how to handle all this, for me it is a reason to move on. I have made local and international friends and spent time with them, and I appreciate them a lot. I would not want to miss this time. But for me, Bali is not my place and I look forward to head to next adventures.
Now, after re-reading this post, I noticed a little theme. Something that I learned here in Bali, that I embraced into my being.
Gut feelings, intuition, instinct, whatever you want to call it.
Sometimes, everyone will tell you to not do this crazy thing you’re planning. To not put yourself or your money or your career at risk. To play safe. To decide differently.
And sometimes, you just know what to do despite everyone else’s judgment. Even if you are not able to explain it.
Follow your voice.
Things will turn out fine. Good things will come your way.