I have been in Bali now for over a week, although truthfully it feels like so much longer. I am amazed at the speed at which I have become immersed in this world, when just 10 days ago I was in the UK, still madly packing and tying up lose ends, focused on nothing but getting myself on the plane and with no real expectations beyond the journey.
Throughout my time planning this trip, the mantra I repeated to myself was this – ‘there’s always a beginning’. Bali feels full of beginnings. Already I’m letting go of the things that were worrying me and allowing myself the freedom to just be. I’ve been sitting on the beach, swimming in the ocean at every opportunity, saying yes to everything and investing time in the amazing people I’ve met.
I had forgotten how much of travelling is about people; through encounters with locals as well as sharing experiences with fellow travellers. The people in Bali are amongst the friendliest and most welcoming I’ve encountered in this part of the world, from the eager children who wave and shout hello from the side of the road to the vendors and local business owners who show unquestioning kindness and grace and will sit down with you for a chat whether you buy from them or not.
Walking into the common area of my first hostel in Bali, I felt nervous and self conscious in a way that I haven’t felt for a long time – but I’ve met people over the last week that have reminded me of the reasons why I feel the need to get out into the world. When you have untied yourself from the moorings of your everyday life and left behind the people who normally anchor you, you are allowed a freedom to be exactly who you are. With no societal context or preconceptions, every stranger has the potential to impact your life in unexpected ways, and the connections you make on the road can be immediate and intense. In the past week I have heard stories from people who have travelled to places I have never heard of, accomplishing amazing things that inspire me to do more; and I have had conversations lasting hours with strangers who feel like people I’ve known my whole life.
Everyone has a story, and one of the best things that travel does is offer the time and opportunity to unpick the threads of behavior and opinion and experience that make up a person and very quickly feel that you know them well. Conversations that would normally occur after weeks or months of friendship happen after a few hours and unique shared experiences bond you to new people in ways which don’t always occur at home.
I wanted to come away from the life that I have to see what else is out there, and a huge part of that is meeting people I would never normally encounter, learning from their experiences and allowing their point of view to become a consideration in my own. Everyone makes snap judgements when meeting new people, and here I’ve met people who have genuinely surprised me with their honesty and substance – unclear from first appearances. It’s been a long time since anyone really surprised me; I’m generally pretty good at sussing people out when I meet them – it’s meeting people like that that reminds me to always look below the surface.
I may be travelling solo, and that’s an incredible experience too – but people and places are inextricably linked, and I’m thankful that my experience of Bali so far is tied to such an amazing group of people.