As the plane touched down, I knew my life would never be the same. A rush of emotions washed over me: oh my God, I’m actually here. I left New York, my job, everything (except one bag) and made it to Bali. I could have cut the vulnerability in that moment with a knife. I had no definite plan, no set place to stay, no salaried job, and no one I was traveling with. Luckily, John Burroughs was right:
“Leap and the net will appear.”
one of the many ornate carving entrances found in Ubud
The people here are joyful, generous, and warm. Natives smile and say hello, the home stay hosts are warm and welcoming (Locals rent out rooms in their home like little motels — often with breakfast (and wifi!) included — for as low as $10-45/night, depending on the length of your stay. Hostels aren’t as common, as Ubud really isn’t a party town; go to Kuta to get drunk with the Australians for that!) So I begin by staying at Astiti House Salon and Spa, run by Putu Astiti who is like our Balinese mother, making us breakfast, inviting us to dance ceremonies, asking us what we will do today. And as the name suggests, it’s also a salon and spa. I come home from yoga yearning for a massage and milk bath (yes, milk bath). Putu arranges it immediately and in minutes I’m on the table, getting my 23-hour-flight-muscles worked out. Decadent. And 150,000 rupiah, less than $15 USD. Yeah, this will be a frequent thing.
street offerings (apparently the gods here enjoy Mentos)
Traveling is a whirlwind. Luckily, this place just calls for mindfulness, always forcing me back to the present moment — sometimes gently, with the intricate carvings that warrant admiration, and sometimes abruptly, like the gaping holes in the sidewalk that demand full concentration. Yes, walking is a meditation. Sweet little offerings, lovingly made, are placed out on the sidewalk each day and we take care not to trample them. So no texting while walking here, lest you fall into a hole, stub your toe, or anger the gods!
Yoga at Radiantly alive
I had heard that Bali was a vortex, full of energy, healing and miracles. I’ve experienced nothing less, even before arriving. At my layover in the Taiwan airport, I meet Kylie, a fellow American solo female traveler. We strike up a conversation and realize we were on the same flight from LAX to Taiwan, are both headed to Ubud, and are both traveling indefinitely without much of a plan. We share a taxi from the airport in Denpasar, Bali (the capital), which is 350,000 rupiah, less than $35 USD. It takes about an hour and a half to get to Ubud with all of the traffic (the streets are very narrow and cars tend to double park in them, making the herds of motorbikes and cars negotiate their way around). That in itself is magic. So the universe gives me a travel buddy! Kylie had heard of Astiti House from a friend so we go there and decide to share a room with a private bath and balcony view of the town.
That’s just the beginning of synchronicity and magic here. I go with Kylie to Radiantly Alive, a popular yoga studio in Ubud, where her friend Sarah is teaching a class. There, I recognize Jolie, who I’ve never actually met in person (but know her face from Facebook – thank you social media). We have a mutual friend/coach who put us in touch via email, knowing we’d both be in Bali. And, funny, I knew Jolie was leaving the day I was arriving so I hadn’t thought I’d see her. She tells me she decided to extend her stay by a day and just felt pulled to come to that yoga class in the morning. If that’s not divine intervention I don’t know what is. We meet up for dinner later at Soma, a delicious vegetarian and raw-friendly spot, and even learn that Jolie randomly knows my uncle from her work in the Peace Corps. Magic!
I’m realizing more and more how small this world is. Or maybe it’s still pretty large and we really are just all One, inherently connected. Traveling alone had felt like my first day of a new school or new job, not knowing anyone, not knowing what to expect, feeling every moment like I could throw up from the nerves. And, like anything new, I’ve found I do have a place at the proverbial lunch table. Bali — actually, the World — has caught me and I expect will continue to catch me as I leap from new to new to new.