Travel leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller... This is my incredible trip to Bali Indonesia!
For 6 months I’d been saying “I’m going to Bali in November to write my book!” I think I got desensitized to the phrase and it didn’t really start to set in until I was on my way. Right now; a mere 4 days since I left the magical island of Ubud, Bali; it feels somewhat dreamlike. Every day that I wake up in my own home; (thankfully!), I still wonder: “Was it all just a dream?” Yes; it was THAT good. When I was one out of approximately three hundred applicants to be selected to go on Mastin Kipp’s Writer Mastermind in November 2015; I was beyond thrilled. I was finally going to get to write my book (memoir); alongside one of my inspirations. Never, could I have imagined the profound experiences, healing, love, belief, clarity and the soul connections I’d make along the way. This was a personal growth, healing, lifelong sisterhood being born disguised as a “writer’s retreat”. Although, we all did create what we were on a mission to create or created something completely different than what we’d expected; that was just the cherry on top!
So, while it’s still fresh in my mind; mosquito bites still itching; still smelling the burning incense from Bali and still hearing roosters and lizards in my head – I simply have to share my life changing experience that is living in Ubud, Bali for a month; a month I’ll never forget. I got on the plane to LA; no big deal; I’ve done this before, but I did check a big ass suitcase; so this must be real. Onward! Next, I have to find the International Terminal which was quite the “5 minute walk” through some crazy construction. Finally; I was there. Gosh; even the freakin’ terminal is like a different world. Okay, Cathay Pacific; there you are! Get all checked in and I have my boarding passes from LA to Hong Kong and Hong Kong to Denpasar, Bali. It’s getting real now! I was hearing different languages over the announcements. Cool! I start to board my first international flight and as I start to see the pods in the “first class” section; I’m like “Holy schnikees! Are these how the seats are on these planes?! That’s freaking amazing!” Continue walking; “No, dummy; of course not!” I chuckle at myself because yes, I do think silly things sometimes! I continued on to my “economy” seat 59A – alright; there’s my window seat! Oh and the flight attendants are all Asian and are stunningly beautiful. Of course they speak Chinese too which was the very beginning of my trip around the world. Well, it was about 10PM so I was thinking it was perfect timing to wind down and try to sleep; as much as possible on this 16 hour flight. Phew, that’s a long time! I used my travel pillow and the blanket they provided and off to sleep I drifted. I wake up to hear “Chicken and Rice or something I couldn’t understand” Chicken and Rice please. I reply. You get these cute little trays with full on meals and you got chopsticks! J It was a pretty good food and I drifted back off to sleep shortly after that. I slept the majority of the flight but anytime someone was coming around offering drinks or food; I’d wake up to their voices.
We arrived in Hong Kong around 7AM. My sleep schedule felt like it was right on schedule. I saw a Starbucks but the line was ridiculously long so I just sat at my gate. My flight was going to take off for Denpasar, Bali in two hours. I went on search for a Sprite with no luck and no one who could speak English. Hmm. I’ll just survive without. Through our writer’s retreat private Facebook group; myself and another writer figured out that we were on the same flight from Hong Kong. We connected at the gate and started chatting about our stories and how we had gotten “here”. I was convinced we were going to be delayed or stuck in Hong Kong since about 5 other people including Mastin and the three writing coaches had been stuck for a couple of days by then, but nope, smooth sailing for all my flights! Ketrena and I boarded our flight and we were off! This was only a four or five hour flight so it went by pretty fast. We landed and I immediately took a picture! Even the airport structures looked different. We waited for our luggage and we joked that I could’ve fit someone in my bag and I probably could have, but I didn’t know what all was needed! We had to put our luggage on yet another scanning device before going through customs and Ketrena joked that maybe she should claim her apple. We had no idea! There were signs in other languages but some definitely had pictures of fruits. LOL! I got through with no problem but she did get pulled aside; I can’t even remember for what but it WASN’T the apple! HA! Next, we had to look for the guy with “The Daily Love” sign; no problem! We turn the corner and there were literally like 100 people holding different signs; large, small, in hands and some on large sticks. Oh my! We started scanning for “The Daily Love” and finally located one. We made our way around the wall into the sea of sign holders and found another guy holding “The Daily Love” sign; we were so confused! We were then ushered to Agung; who would become our local tour guide and go to guy! We were waiting for others for a bit and I was taking in the hustle and bustle of the airport. It was so busy oh and did I mention the INSTANT I got off the plane I was like “WHOA HUMIDITY!” It was so warm and sticky even in the airport; whoa; this will take some getting used to. We; Ketrena, myself, Jen and Linda all get into the vehicle with our bags and start our journey to Ubud. I couldn’t possibly sleep! I was taking it all in. We were on the other side of the road; the driver was on the other side of the car; there were statues and magical looking buildings left and right. Oh and motor scooters galore going left, right and all around the vehicle, but thank goodness we had air conditioning! Hallelujah! Ketrena and I were oohing and aweing at everything. We chuckled about the McDonald’s, KFC and Dunkin Donuts we saw on the way. Even in Bali? No way! Yes way.
We arrived at our destination or so we thought and we went down this very narrow path with the vehicle. I honestly don’t know how we fit, but I’d come to find out that’s the Bali way; everything ebbs and flows seamlessly. The other three ladies were told to follow a gentleman to one hotel and I was to be at the other. Hmm, okay? I’m standing there with my big bag in the alleyway in Bali, Indonesia with three men that can’t speak English. I just stood there hoping someone would come retrieve me. Finally, a nice gentleman did just that. He picked up my bag (poor kid!) and took me to my hotel; Yoga Barn. I checked in by filling out a perforated post it sized form and he took me to my room right around the corner. He proceeded to unlock the actual lock on the door and told me “You’re room 7; you must remember where your room is because there are no room numbers” Good thing I’m right next to the reception desk; LOL! Got it! He gives me the tour of the room and I start to get settled. I take in the room. Two twin beds; I’d have a roommate. She had moved in already as her stuff was in the room. I found a note that welcomed us and told me where to meet for the Welcome Dinner. It said it was right next door so there I went; to find my way. Anyone who knows me knows how terrifying directions are to me. I had no choice. I went to the restaurant and the very nice Balinese workers started asking me if I was meeting my friends. I said yes, but I’ve never met them and don’t know what they look like. They must’ve looked at me like I’m nuts. It was the truth though! I’d only seen Facebook photos of these people I’d be spending my next month with. Boy oh boy! I go upstairs and downstairs and I get handed a menu. I’m overwhelmed. Where is everyone?! Back to home base I go! I leave the restaurant and head over to my hotel room again. I connect to the Wi-Fi and find out the welcome dinner was re-scheduled to the next night but that the ladies were at Alaya (Pentani) right next door also. Little did I know I spend many a meals here. Great! I head out again on a venture to find my Bali family. On the way; I run into a lost Katie with Lisa (my writing coach) and Laurie (writing coach); so I meet my writing coach Lisa unexpectedly and she points me towards Alaya. Hooray! I find a table of ladies and say “Daily Love?!?” They say “yes!” YAY! I’m so relieved. Finally; people! I started giving everyone hugs and was so excited. I look at the menu; oh crap. What is this stuff?! So begins my adventures of trying to find things I’ll be able to eat between my bland palette and my stomach condition. Meh! I go with bottled water (ALWAYS!) and sorbet. I know what that is! Ha! I meet my roommate and a whole bunch of other ladies. There is a traditional Balinese band playing that night. It was awesome and I was stoked! I was here! In Bali!
That night I learned about putting the mosquito net aka “cocoon” around you while you sleep. It keeps you “safe” from mosquito bites and lizards falling on your head. No joke. Breakfast is at Garden Kafe at the Yoga Barn. You turn in your voucher for the particular date with your selections and hand it in to one of the sweet girls that works at the café. They would immediately learn our names and make us feel so at home. I also was diligent about putting mosquito repellant and lavender oil on. Mosquitos like to eat me alive in Arizona so I figured it would be the same in Bali where mosquitos are aplenty! I managed to get about 10 bites the whole time I was there thanks to these tactics! I was so thankful. Anyway – Day one, a few of us went out exploring on the streets of Bali near our hotel. It was a different world indeed. You had to be very careful on the sidewalks. It’s sometimes a balancing act on the tiles and stepping over large holes. You just have to be very mindful as you walk because there are tons of “shiny” things that will catch your attention; from all the colorful dresses, jewelry, statues, motor scooters and beautiful Balinese children on the path.
The next day was our first surprise excursion. We meet in the Yoga Barn parking lot and hop into the drivers cars and off we go! It was a water temple that has been there since the 11th century. It’s an amazing water purification process where you get into the water with the local Balinese families in traditional Balinese sarongs and dip yourself under the pure waters from the multiple fountains throughout the temple. You can make it religious, spiritual, non-religious; it’s completely up to you. All I know is that it was magical. Think Carrie Underwood’s song “Something in the Water”. You could FEEL the healing powers of the water and to be experiencing this with the local people was even more enriching. That night we went to dinner as a group and we started breaking the ice with each other and getting to know each other better. This was simply just the beginning.
During the first few days; I’d try a new writing spot trying to take in the sights but I’d easily be distracted by another retreat member or just taking in the scenery or people watching. At the Garden Kafe; I’d see people from all over. I’d hear different languages, different accents, different attires; everything. Everyone was open and friendly though. It was a nice change of pace. If there’s room at your table; anyone can join. Sometimes they strike up a conversation; sometimes they don’t. You can feel the energy of Ubud. It is very loving, welcoming, healing, and serene. Everything is slowed down; even with their crazy traffic; it just flows. You smell flowers and incense everywhere. There are butterflies circling you on every path you walk and huge bumble bees in the flowers.
The Balinese people are the best part though. They are simply divine. They welcome you with open arms and treat you like you’re royalty. You feel seen, wanted and appreciated at every single meal. They pause to look you in the eye and SEE you. They love to have conversations with you and are always smiling! It was so wonderful to be around such a loving and amazingly gracious culture. Seriously some of the best smiles I’d ever received in my life. They appreciated my smiles too; you could just feel the love. I always felt like the most beautiful, welcomed, princess! They truly give you the 5 star treatment. Did I mention all the relaxing you can do in Bali?! Massages, manicures, pedicures, reflexology…the skies the limit. The Balinese will always live in my heart.
As the days went on; I started finding that as long as I could escape into my music in my headphones and find a spot where I could write alone; I was golden. I was laser focused on finishing my book. The more I wrote; the more I wanted to write. I loved it and seeing what was coming out on the pages was thrilling. I can’t wait to read it myself for the editing process! We had a very easy schedule. The earliest we ever had to be anywhere was at 2PM on any given day; THAT I could handle. It was so easy and breezy. I could ease into my day; have a late breakfast; write; get ready; have dinner (at Alaya or Yoga Barn a lot); write. It was simply lovely. I was also given some of the warmest and loving hugs EVERY DAY in Bali. We were truly a bunch of love bugs and I couldn’t get enough!
We had seminars with Mastin Kipp twice a week where we dove deep into ourselves and getting clarity on many things. They were powerful and were part of the reason our “Bali Scribe Tribe” connected on such deep levels. We had already connected via Facebook before the actual retreat but the more we spent time together; the more connected we got. There were no masks. There were no cliques. There were no rules either. We simply authentically connected and would run into each other during a meal or on the many stairs of Ubud and would have just the right conversations we needed. It was divinely led no doubt. You can sense the connection to God and the Earth in Bali more than anything I’d ever experienced. It’s like God is there in the flowers; in the breeze; in the clouds and sunlight and of course that’s true anywhere, but in Bali it’s on another level. Which reminds me when thunderstorms roll through Bali; holy cow; no joke either! Michon and I would say we were traumatized from the storm that rolled in on like day two.
Our second excursion was a hike through some amazing rice paddies. We had a mini seminar with fresh coconuts cut off the tree once we reached our destination. Agung told us the story of the Balinese always striving to be “humble rice” in relation to the rice fields. The symbolism and gratefulness the Balinese have for EVERYTHING is beyond amazing. I feel lucky to have met them. It makes me so much MORE grateful for everything I have and to live in such abundance. Our third excursion was to a BEAUTIFUL locally known Bali beach. It was stunning and not very many people were there. It was so relaxing and a day I’ll never forget. I found a couple of treasures on the beach that day that I’ll display in my home as a reminder; that the experience was REAL! Our fourth and final excursion was getting up at 4:00 AM to reach our mountaintop destination to watch the sunrise. It was worth it and was absolutely stunning. It was the perfect way to symbolize our entire trip; we had truly been reborn. Old beliefs shed, new actions in place, lots of love in our hearts for ourselves and others…and so much more. We created a safe, loving, bubble of sorts and the way everyone showed up for each and every person was nothing short of amazing and beautiful to witness.
We spent Thanksgiving in Bali where we were invited to Agung’s home. It was absolutely stunning and we heard about the history of the home that had been in the family for generations. It was even complete with its own temple. Agung has four children; and the two youngest are twin girls. They were dressed in traditional Balinese dresses and make-up and before, during and after dinner they performed traditional Balinese dances for us. It was amazing and surreal. I was celebrating Thanksgiving; a holiday that is typically filled with some sadness; filled with so much joy. We all went around and shared what we were thankful for and that was one of those most touching parts of the entire month.
Heading to Bali; I thought for sure I’d finish writing my book and that I’d make a few connections, but never did I realize that I would make so many lifelong connections. I learned to see myself (with makeup and without!) through the eyes of the Balinese and the amazing women and one man I had the privilege of spending a life changing month in Bali with. Through them I was finally able to see what all my friends have always seen in me back home. Someone who is RIGHT where they should be; someone who SHOULD be sharing this powerful story and someone who IS going places! I’m forever grateful and forever changed. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for Ubud, Bali and I simply can’t wait to return again someday soon. I’m going to hold on to the “Bali bliss high” as long as possible; although, I can feel it fading; I will hold that peaceful feeling in my heart forever. Thank you all for helping me find myself and for helping me see what one “yes!” could do for my life. I’m so grateful and excited for what is to come. This is just the beginning!