w i l d .
I think that this is the best single word to describe Bali. This place is wild in every sense. Scooters swerve in between cars from both directions on the roads, monkey-covered temples frame the sunset atop cliffs that cascade into the ocean, fresh coconuts are chopped right in front of you on the beach to sip.
Everyone comes to this wild, wild place for a reason. A lot of them want to channel their inner Elizabeth Gilbert for some Eat, Pray, Love-esque adventures. Tons come to surf. There’s the honeymooners, the backpackers, the expat entrepreneurs who want to start their business from paradise, and the families toting beautiful and tanned toddlers. I came here to work at a K-12 international school that’s housed in a sanctuary-like bamboo campus called Green School. I also came here to work with Cordia, an insanely talented friend and inspiration who is behind Wallysservicestation. I came here to get over a boy. I came here to do yoga and make drinking coconuts on the beach a ritual. I came here to get out of my comfort zone and dive into a new culture.
The longer I’m here, the longer I settle into each of these reasons - giving a piece of myself to each while trying to create the perfect jamu (an Indonesian concept of body, mind, and spirit that are in harmony and balance). And from within this jamu comes a lifestyle that captures everything wild about this place into exactly what I need it to be.
I live in the middle of the jungle (no seriously, the MIDDLE of the jungle) along the Ayung River in a small village called Sibangkaja. My house is made out of bamboo, has three walls, and a menagerie of geckos that have also moved in. The mud-brick shower lets you gaze through the bamboo leaves up at the sky, making showering in the pitch dark a small tradeoff for the stargazing. I walk down a lava stone trail and across the river to get to work every morning, where I savor a cup of coffee and spend the day working with the high schoolers on their new anti-deforestation initiative (called Black Forest Green) and the school’s community development project with the locals.
Back to the coffee for a second - coffee is my comfort. Coming from a nomadic lifestyle, I’ve found comfort in walking into coffeeshops and finding familiarity in a good latte. That, obviously, doesn’t exist in the jungle and when I arrived here it took a much larger toll on me that it it should have. Queue a box showing up from the Canada post filled with ground beans from *someone* who knew I was missing this piece of home (definitely, definitely not the boy). Things started to click after this. I started to feel as settled as one can in the jungle, I started to call it home.
It’s much easier to travel when you know that you have solid ground to come back to. After learning how to ride a scooter, which I’ve endearingly named Butter, I’ve started to discover this island beyond the bamboo oasis. Canggu, an ocean-side surf village full of expats and coconuts, is where I go regularly for sunsets, sandy beach workouts, and some ‘western’ comforts like french toast and air conditioning. Ubud, the yoga and spiritual hub, has quiet secret roads to go for runs and rice paddies for days that, if we’re being honest, do make you feel a little bit like you’ve just stepped out of the Eat, Pray, Love movie. You can’t help it. And then there’s the ‘beyond’ - a three hour roadtrip on a scooter (my butt’s never been more sore) to the tiny fishing village of Amed, a local market full of second hand clothes that appear as though they were handpicked out of the 1980s. There is street food for days and temples on every corner and so many traffic jams.
Wild, right? They say that the spirit of Bali is this super powerful goddess and if she likes you, she’ll make your time with her surreal and she’ll show you the places that will make you fall more in love with her every day. Just like a relationship, love isn’t always easy. You have to work for it. But what I can tell you is that I’m writing these words from the island of Java, my first night away from my island home. And just like spending time away from a new boyfriend for the first time, I kind of want to snuggle up in bed and call the jungle to tell it that I miss it. I guess that’s love.