Oh Bali, Bali, my soul has found an earth home!
For the last month and a half, I wandered around Thailand, searching for a place that would speak to my soul. Seeking organic healthy food. Yoga. Community. Music. Nature. Inspirational architecture.
I kept coming close, but never quite finding a place that was a resounding YES. So I kept moving from city to town, island to island.
On my birthday a few days ago, I woke up and literally felt something lift off of me, like a shroud of energy that had been cloaking me for some time. I felt a lightness of being that hadn’t been with me since the initiations of my recent scooter crash and dog bite. I so clearly saw the silver linings they contained, and how it was all a metaphor for the things I am leaving behind as I move into the next loop of my life spiral.
The moment that i embraced those challenges and their lessons, and smiled with gratitude, I got a very intense jolt of inspiration, and I picked up my computer and booked a ticket to Bali.
I had planned to stay in Thailand for my whole trip, but with my birthday as the turning point, I decided it was time to shift the energy from “this experience is kind of, almost, what i want”, to “this is unequivocally, entirely what i actually want to experience.”
16 hours later I was on a plane, soaring through the most beautiful clouds i can ever remember seeing in my life. Billowing towers of cotton candy, castles of vapor. I just stared out the window for half of my trip, in awe of nature’s artistic majesty as it welcomed me into the next phase of life.
I landed in Bali at 7 PM to the warm, thick embrace of humidity, and a torrent of rain. I was greeted by a glowing, smiley-faced Balinese driver, carrying a sign with my name on it.
From the moment I arrived, I knew this was what i had been searching for. I could feel it in my bones, in the anticipatory squeezing inside of my heart, and the giddy grin that wouldn’t leave my face.
My amazing Balinese driver spent the hour and a half drive teaching me an endless list of Balinese vocabulary.
I arrived to my beautiful “homestay” – a traditional Balinese family compound, where a handful of guests inhabit private apartments spread around the land. My room opened onto a garden patio. Even though I was in the center of Ubud, it felt like I was somewhere secluded in nature. The air was full of crickets and the occasional dog barking.
I woke up Friday to a perfect, gorgeous, sunny day, and spent my morning wandering the streets near my house. The cobblestoned streets were at once rugged and lovely. The village of Ubud was full of motorscooters and wild traffic, but somehow managed to maintain a tranquility, and the sense that every building was just tucked inside of a mystical jungle that might burst at any moment with monkeys.
I had chosen a spot directly in the center of all the best organic vegan restaurants and health food stores. Friday morning I walked from place to place, checking out the array of food and grocery options, getting my bearings.
I texted my friend Eli, having heard that he was in Ubud, and within an hour we met at a brand new raw vegan gourmet restaurant called Sayuri. Let me rephrase – we met at the single best restaurant I have ever been to. Most of the menu is raw and vegan, and all of it is organic. Attention to detail is meticulous, and it carries a casual energy of laid back tropical wonder, while feeling luxurious at the same time.
It’s amazing, because people here say this restaurant is one of the “Expensive” ones because the most expensive dish on the menu is around $6. Say what? Reishi tonic elixirs and specialty items that would be $9 in the states are only $2 here, and are honestly far more delicious than anything i’ve had in the states.
Within moments of arrival, Eli introduced me to a dozen people in the restaurant. It was like coming home. Everyone here is a traveller, so everyone is wide open and friendly, eager to meet each other and connect.
The eager friendly joyous muppet that lives inside of me (who had slowly grown more and more contracted and introverted after years in the weird energy of the states), has burst back to life here as if she never fell asleep.
There is a deep sense of community here that has a life of its own. You just instantly feel welcome, and as if you belong here (and I literally never feel like i belong anywhere…)
It was almost bizarre. I felt my heart crack open and burst to overflowing with the warm welcome of this place. I felt electricity and enthusiasm buzzing through my body in ways it hadn’t moved since my early 20’s, before i experienced any constrictive heart closing life experiences.
Maybe it’s that i am in the beginning cycle of a new year of my life, or maybe it is Ubud, but something here is working its deep magic, and is bringing me back to life in the most invigorating heart melting way!
The depth of spirituality embodied by the Balinese people is just so pure and pervasive. They lay out tiny altars several times a day on the ground. Every time you walk past one, you can’t help but pause for a tiny moment of thanks giving.
Every Balinese person I meet is glowing with love and smiles, which draws forth my inner love bug, because i feel safe and seen and witnessed. There is no filter, judgement or projection from these people.
There always seem to be droplets of humidity that hover in the air…, floating teardrops of grace – as if the sky is threatening to dump rain but never quite doing it. The suspended rain droplets feel like mist on your face, and it feels as if you are being perpetually sprayed by refreshing rose water.
The nature here is just luxurious … rich hues of green and brown bursting from every crevice … bamboo and palm fronds peeking from behind every dwelling.
Volcanic stone walls weave with ornate wood and bamboo into architecture that feels at once ancient and modern – the type of thing that an expensive hotel might try to replicate.
Even the most dilapidated buildings have an elegant beauty to them somehow.
Eli invited me to a birthday party at an outdoor dance pavilion, and offered to give me a tour on our way there. He put me on the back of his motor scooter, and off we went on a sightseeing tour of all the most magical sights and best organic restaurants in the city.
I had promised my loved ones that i would not rent a scooter here (after my incident in Thailand last month), but Eli is an experienced scooter maestro, and he graciously loaned me his helmet for the trip. (I have now bought my own, just to be prepared).
I felt utterly safe, even as he took us down the backroads and paths of Ubud … one highlight was this wildly narrow 2 foot wide cement pathway that carved between rice paddies, and was full of deep potholes. I still don’t know how we made it out of there without plunging into the water. Eli navigated the insane pathways like a pro, and i was in full faith in his abilities.
We were the first people to arrive at the party, which we finally found after taking a dozen wrong turns down bedraggled back alleyways in the middle of nowhere, being chased by barking dogs. I admit to feeling anxious as they surrounded our motor scooter, and begging Eli to go faster. Ha!
My normally brave demeanor has been made temporarily more timid and cautious around the subject of wild dogs and scooters in the last month 🙂
We walked from the parking through a lush jungle and arrived at the most beautiful pavilion I’ve ever seen. High ceilings made of intricate ornate wooden carvings and bamboo … pillars, a swimming pool, and a large smooth dance floor, all burrowed into a nook, carved out of the jungle … it was like something out of a movie
It’s amazing how everything here feels so regal and elegant, even just a stone path leading through a jungle.
I meditated for a while until the party got going, and then we all shared a cacao circle, presided over by an old Balinese man, who did a prayer ritual for us.
Once the music started, I couldn’t handle the loud whomping beats and the intensity of all the humans, so I found a new friend who helped me escape on the back of his scooter. We instantly became buddies and went to meet Eli for an exquisite light late night snack and conversation.
I went to bed on my first night in Ubud with the sense that i had already been here for a month, and had already made more soul kin friends in one day than I can remember making in years.
Everywhere i go, I just stare at my surroundings, lost in the nuanced detail of the lush vegetation and architecture. My eyes are almost overwhelmed, taking in and making mental notes on every facet of what i see … absorbing the experiences like rich lush fodder to be stored away for creative expression at a later date.
There is just so much to witness here … just being here makes me feel fed as if I have eaten a feast through my eyes and my senses.
My heart is happy, my soul is at peace, and I can’t remember ever falling so in love with a place, ever in my life.
Thank you, Ubud. Thank you Bali. You are healing and awakening the very fiber of my soul.