And so it is that I leave Bali, this stunning land that has somehow wrapped its fingers round my heart! I don’t remember feeling this sad about leaving anywhere since I left New York. I wasn’t expecting to love Bali so much, especially Ubud. But isn’t it funny how a place can win you over?
I’ve been trying to put my finger on why exactly I feel so connected to this place. Was I Balinese in my last life? Did I carry mangoes on my head, practice healing, cook with galangal and jackfruit and offer taxi rides to the relatively few tourists who poked their heads, wide-eyed and blinking into this magical kingdom? I know I’m not the first to feel this way about Bali. In fact, I’m possibly a bit of a cliché, falling in love with the hues of greens and knowing smiles and the peace that emanates from every tiny village and temple – the sort of stuff we only dream about as we squeeze and stress through day-to-day existence in a city.
I’m living in a screensaver here, a desktop wallpaper scene of amber butterflies and bicycles leaning up against bamboo scaffolding. I’m walking through holiday brochures, trekking from page to page across rice fields, waving at women in pointed straw hats, getting my hair wrapped in banana leaves, stopping to chat with men carrying machetes at the end of their shift in the sunshine. Maybe it is just magic – the hold that Bali has on me. A magic spell that invokes a sort of innocence that would be dangerous and frowned upon in a city.
I feel like nature reaches out to you here. We are at its mercy and never is that more obvious than when you’re standing small in the middle of a giant grassy staircase, trickling with water down a mountainside. Is that the magic, perhaps? The possibilities offered by all those fascinating things I can’t see, hidden in the cracks? The world holds promise. My days are sprinkled with purpose and peppered with mystery… not like in a city. The little things get lost; at times the life we should be breathing in gets sucked straight out, don’t you think? We lose the blue of the sky through a tinted window, to an office partition. We lose the sound of rain on a roof made from leaves and straw, suffocate it with bricks and insulation. We lose human connections. Glued to our phones we type instead of talk, we forget the utter joy that comes with sitting on a street corner, talking to a stranger and hearing a story. Two souls connected for the briefest moment in time. A new friend with no notion of Facebook.
It’s hard to know what’s convenient and what is inconvenient anymore.
A thousand eyes are watching you from everywhere in Bali. A thousand voices are whispering, drawing you closer to the person you forgot, waking you up… there are voices in the treetops, the cracks in the temple stones, the frangipani offerings on doorsteps and walls and piles of sand. Skyscraper bars and fancy cars are the nightmare, instead of the dream. You’re never alone, and yet you are, because the world has finally stopped to let you think. The world has finally given you some time to step inside your own mind.
The more I think about going back to Sydney, the more a little voice in my head starts panicking and shouting, resisting. I was pretty happy there, wasn’t I? But maybe I wasn’t. Maybe I was just telling myself I was. Hmmm. It’s hard to tell. I’m worried I’m sounding like a hippy again. You know, one of those silly people who goes on holiday somewhere and comes back thinking she’s changed? But the more I think about it, the more I think, what if I did come back here, to Ubud more specifically, and stay longer? What would happen? Would the world end? Would anyone care except me? Probably not. Life is short, after all.
I want to live in a villa and spend three dollars a day on food and not drink wine for three months. I feel better, not having drunk it for three and a half weeks! My head feels clearer. In Ubud, I met people who are clear about what they want and where they’re going. And by that I mean they’re clear about the day-to-day stuff, and they’re happy just to see where they end up. You can’t be like that in a city, really, can you? Everyone expects you to have a plan, and people don’t understand you when you tell them you don’t really have one. You end up feeling like you don’t fit in, and then you feel like shit because everyone wants to belong. But maybe you just don’t belong there, where you are. It’s the reason you can’t concentrate at a desk, working under someone’s thumb. It’s the reason you cloud your brain with expensive alcohol and food-fuelled opportunities… to stop the thinking. What if you discover something you’re not ready for?
The optimist, and possibly the child in me is romanced by freedom. I am charmed and re-charged by the notion of flying through life on the wind, like a bird against a rainbow. And now I know I’m not alone.
In the writing group I’ve been a part of for the last few weeks, we practiced writing from the heart, just letting the words flow without stopping, which is kind of what I’m doing now. I think maybe I’ve always done this, but I’ve always edited myself too. Maybe it’s time to stop editing so much. Our whole lives are edited versions of what we really want, anyway. Whatever happens, first I must go to Thailand, and Cambodia and Vietnam, and Malaysia and Borneo. And then I must decide whether chasing a job in a city, just to belong there according to the system, is really for me. I thought it was, but maybe that’s because I didn’t know any differently.
Maybe I really am just a hippy, floating through Bali on a cloud of self-discovery, little realising she’ll be lost to the land of mobile-phone connections and city wine bars as soon as she leaves.
Or maybe, just maybe, something really did just change.