It all started in Robbi's garage.
In the middle of the jungle on North Shore Maui, our friend Robbi filled his space with stone statues and beautiful carved furniture imported from Indonesia. He'd been venturing to these islands for years, collecting and selling goods back in the States. The musty smell of teak and the ornate surroundings of this dingy, mosquito-filled storage space got my bohemian heart-racing since the first time I walked in as a little girl.
I knew Bali would be in my plans.
As I entered the world of wellness as both a practitioner and a participant, Bali kept catching my attention. Bali retreats, Bali teacher trainings, Bali, Bali Bali. I'd either found my perfect niche, or this was an amazing simulation of signs to get me to this island I'd been beckoned by since I was a child. Probably both.
Nonetheless, after having my yoga teacher tell me that once I got to Bali, "my heart chakra would explode," I decided to pull the trigger for my 23rd birthday and explode it.
Our itinerary covered the magical jungle cliffs of Uluwatu (highly recommend), the city of Seminyak (go for the food and shops), the rice fields of Canggu (hit or miss), the winding roads of Nusa Penida (go once), the islands of the Gilis (don't go here), the temples of Ubud (must go) and the beaches of Nusa Dua (wouldn't recommend). From "socks-blown-off" to "big whoops," I did Bali.
Here's what I learned:
Ornate temples are entwined in every single town, city or village, big or small, touristy or off-the-grid. Shop, temple, shop, demolished shop, temple. The places of prayer are embedded peacefully throughout the country's streets, adding a sense of deep spirituality, tradition and beauty.
The customary dress of Balinese women is lacy and intricate, as is the architecture and décor. There's a sense of fierce femininity to everything. Gentle, yet full of depth. Black stone and detailed wood carvings serve as a perfect metaphor for the creation of softness and malleability.
From gentle lulur body scrubs made of turmeric, rice powder and ginger to decadent flower baths believed to bring positive, healing energy to spicy boreh body wraps to bring circulation, heat and detox to the body, one can't leave without being pampered. Pop into a yoga class followed by a luxury spa treatment without spending more than $60 USD. Really. It's all about that self-care.
Nature is vibrant in Bali. Monkeys, jungles, oceans, waterfalls and cliffs-galore, but I wouldn't be serving my purpose as an advocate for Mother Earth if I told you Bali was all waterfalls and scenic nature. The island has little to no environmental regulations. It's a third world country, and we as tourists and industries of first-world nations are taking heavy advantage of that. From factories to local dumping to tourism, we are slowly stomping out the beauty of these islands. Dyes are polluting the waters, as is dumping from local hotels and personal households. Bali is littered with trash from locals who were never taught the repercussions of destroying our only planet and companies who've extorted Indonesia's cheap labor to make garments and other goods with hardly any ethical practice laws.
The saddest part to me was that beautiful smell of the jungle and ocean air is completely muted by the smell of burning trash, as there is no real system to dispose of waste on Bali. Beaches are sprinkled with plastic and food bags. In fact, on our last day, I watched a few hotel workers in Nusa Dua bury trash in the beach that had washed onto the shore. I couldn't believe my eyes. I observed for two full days before taking action. Flash forward to me storming into the nice hotel lobby with a pile of dirty, wet trash (wrappers, bags, bottles, diapers, band-aids, you name it) in my hands, all the way up to my elbows and demanded a manager. (Yep).
Alarmed, the hotel manager scuttled over and upon my request to unbury the trash from the sand and find a way to properly dispose of it, he agreed and profusely apologized, explaining how important it is that guests are content with their level eco-responsibility. I handed the trash off to him and thanked him genuinely for his time.
Change needs to be made - these countries are getting hit hard with human destruction. See my list of eco-travel goods to help keep your vacation-trail clean here.
Despite this major downfall of the beautiful island of Bali, I was extremely pleased with the people. I feel like I say this almost everywhere I go, but I truly mean this one for the top: the Balinese are the nicest people I have ever met. They are so gracious it almost hurts. Everything is, "Sorry!" or "Thank you very much!" The bow they use to greet you alone is just so kind and warm. This sweet-energy is probably what makes Bali so suitable for solo female travelers (I never felt unsafe once) and an excellent, nurturing host for healing spiritual or wellness retreats.
All-in-all, I visited the most beautiful beach I've ever been to in my life in Uluwatu right where Sundays Beach Club is, took one of the best yoga classes I've ever taken at Morning Light Yoga Bali in Uluwatu, took the most peaceful walk ever on the Campuhan Ridge Trail in Ubud and had some of the most delicious vegan food at Kynd Community in Seminyak. This sweet island definitely gave my heart-chakra a run for its money and lived up to every moment I felt so at home in Robbi's garage.