As I stepped off the plane completing the 17-hour journey from Hawaii to Bali I was smacked in the face with a humidity I have never experienced. I was grinning from ear to ear, a familiar lightness of being inviting me to lean in. The thickness of the heat and the heaviness of my feet carried me through the airport, customs and into a crowd of people waving their signs for the newly arriving travelers. I saw my name on a sign held by a smiling face and made my way around a gate to the man waiting for me. I had booked myself 8 nights in a women’s dorm at a place I had discovered on the magical Google called “The Yoga Barn” for $25 per night. For an additional fee they offered a shuttle service from the airport to the city of Ubud where the oasis was located.
I knew about Bali peripherally from acquaintances and Instagram but hadn’t done much research on my own. Sometimes I choose to travel this way intentionally, and allow the presencing of experience to enrich me authentically. I show up, open and with no expectations, watch, listen and learn. Without doing a whole lot of research on the front-end I am able to engage without too many formulaic ideas about the place and bear witness to deeper-rooted operating systems in my own disenchanting mind’s eye. My nationalistic self-entitlement melts away leaving my ego wide-eyed and naked, an elephant on a tightrope traipsing on a thin line between what was normalized 30 seconds ago to what now makes me feel like a fish out of water. When I allow myself to be an observer I relax into the discomfort and allow myself to be swept away by this new and disillusioning flow of life.
I chose to go to Bali due to a series of events; 2018 was an incredibly challenging year of chronic stress and isolation. I was amidst finishing a degree program, working partish time and in the Spring my partner almost lost her life to kidney failure. After our separation due to health insurance and her relocating I chugged through Summer school and the Fall Semester of my studies with barely the chance to blink. Midway through my Fall and final semester I had been apartment searching on Oahu for the new year when one day it simply hit me that I wanted to go to Los Angeles. Shortly thereafter I found out via my ex-partner that my father was planning a trip to Vietnam. I immediately texted him “Word on the street is that you are going to Vietnam! I want to come!!” After a few conversations we decided we were going to make it happen and he told me that if I could find my way there (buy my own plane ticket) he would cover the costs of the trip for my graduation present. That is when I began my search.
As I began to research plane tickets I quickly discovered that it only cost $200 to fly direct to major cities in Australia and New Zealand from Honolulu. Upon further research I found a ticket from Honolulu to Bali for $300 one-way and only $100 from Bali to Hanoi, Vietnam. Considering Australia is one of the most expensive places to visit I decided the extra $100 on the front end for a ticket to Bali would balance out with the exchange rate and what I would spend in-country. From there I began to research places in Bali and determined I would stay at the Yoga Barn in Ubud for one week prior to my trip with my dad to Vietnam. I knew that trip would be jam packed with activities and wanted a way to relax and self-pamper as well as transition (I had decided that from Asia I would travel directly to Los Angeles and essentially uproot from Honolulu).
It was 9pm as we drove from the Denpasar airport to Ubud through the hustle-bustle of the city and heavy traffic. I had only experienced this kind of organized chaos on the streets of Morocco and as they also drive on the left side in Indonesia I knew I wouldn’t dare rent a moped this visit. An hour later we pulled into the parking lot of the Yoga Barn as it began to pore and found our way to the lobby. Simple and cozy there was a front desk, some tables and a watermelon shaped jug with spring water for guests. The driver, who also managed the front desk, showed me to my room. Inside a few ladies greeted me; the room had two double bunks, an armour and a bedside table. A large window panned one of the yoga studio spaces amidst the jungle shrubs and the bathroom was spacious with a toilet, shower and sink as well as a rack to hang our towels and clothes. There was AC and it felt nice and cool in contrast to the thick heat I had been in moments earlier. I was a bit concerned about the weather prior to arriving as when I was checking the weather forecast it seemed to be always raining! Thankfully I was informed once I got there that while it was Summer and their rainy season the rain would usually only come at night while the days were sunny and humid.
The next day I took to exploring the grounds; soon I discovered two spas, a cafe, restaurant and at least five yoga studios. The energy was light and cheery and everyone seemed very friendly from the local staff to the mostly caucasian, mixed-gendered western travelers dressed in their yoga attire. I chose to eat breakfast on site at the Garden Kafe and enjoyed a cold brew coffee shot and quinoa porridge (their menu completely vegetarian, with raw vegan, ayurvedic and macrobiotic options!) It cost around $4. The cafe was nestled on the 3rd floor of a building structure, open air amongst the tree canopies and with a view of the grounds. While some folks were deep in conversation others took to their laptops. I could already see the appeal of such a place for the digital nomad. After my breakfast I went to one of the community desks to purchase a 10 class pass card for 1,000,000 IDR (or $70 USD) and was given a keychain-sized scannable mini card. I was told classes were first come first serve and registration opened 30 minutes prior. The class schedule was packed from dawn to dusk with everything from Vinyasa to Qi Gong, Active Consciousness Meditation and Ecstatic Dance. They offered additional workshops and events throughout the month and I decided to register for a Sacred Cacao Ceremony.
After purchasing my yoga pass I took to the town and found my way down a narrow alley that took me right into the hustle bustle of one of Ubud’s main streets. Sweet smells of incense sifted through the air and I strolled along the sidewalk, taking in this new energy. Bali is the only Hindu-majority part of Indonesia, (the rest of the country being mostly Muslim) and elements of this from the burning of incense to the canang sari (small woven baskets filled with colorful offerings) were visible everywhere I went. On this day I wandered into a massage spa and asked to book a one hour deep tissue which cost less than $10. After my lunch, which I had back at the Kafe, I dropped another $10 for a facial at a spa near the Yoga Barn. Both were mediocre but well worth the $10. In the evening I took a very relaxing Yin yoga class and wandered into a vegan buffet for dinner. Ubud is full of vegan and plant-based eateries; I was able to try a new establishment one to two times a day and still did not come close to experiencing half of what Ubud had to offer. Wifi is easy to access everywhere which again, amongst the backdrop of lush tropics, a favorable exchange rate and tourist-friendly locals explains the appeal of the island for the digital nomad community.
For the rest of my stay I enjoyed daily yoga, a few more facials and massages (my favorites were Kush at the Yoga Barn and Taksu Spa which was a fantastic experience both in treatment and location) and eating my way through the city. Clear Cafe and Akasha Cafe offered delicious vegan food and unique dining environments. Soma Cafe, The Seeds of Life Cafe, Earth Cafe and Atman Cafe were other spots I would happily revisit. One of the days I opted to book a private tour to a beach a few hours away, which I was able to do through the front desk at the Yoga Barn. The driver picked me up in the afternoon and took me to the Blue Lagoon. It was lovely, and there was the option of renting snorkel gear. But, coming from Hawaii I could have gone without this excursion as I have been incredibly spoiled by what in my opinion are some of the most beautiful beaches on earth. Two other excursions I did with fellow travelers that I met during my stay were to the Campuhan Ridge Walk (we walked there mid-day and by the time we reached the top we were both drained- the humidity here takes a while to adjust to and I found myself frequently dehydrated; drinking water throughout the day is essential!) and the Tegalalang Rice Paddies which is touristic but well worth the stunning scenery-we wandered through the paddies for a few hours and got our “Bali Swing” Insta pics.
The trip was really wonderful, a great place for a solo-traveler, couples, friends or a group. There are many offerings that I didn’t tap into this time that could create a totally different experience, from surfing to waterfalls, hiking and bicycle tours. Bali has become very touristic which some may find less appealing, but for my first trip to Southeast Asia I felt really comfortable as a solo-female traveler and the Yoga Barn was the perfect home base. I would absolutely go back (and am already envisioning next winter…) and would love to bring my peeps along for the journey! I parted from the island feeling relaxed, content and ready to delve into the next part of my adventure!