I have not fallen in love with Bali. I am not head over heels. I am sorry. I feel like I need to apologize not only to Bali fans everywhere but to Bali itself.
Bali is very likable and very livable, but it ain't love. And nobody is more disappointed than me. I am not as excited as I think I should be, spending three months on this beautiful island, and it makes me sad. Maybe the only reason why I am not in love is that I expected it to be immediate. Because really, Bali looks so good on paper, how can one not fall in love at first sight? It is almost underwhelming because I had put it on such a pedestal in my mind before I came. Unlike Sri Lanka which I never thought about before and which I never saw coming. Sri Lanka had a chance to sneak up on me and booooom, it was love! Bali, well I had my eyes on Bali for a while so it didn't have a chance to just catch me and maybe that was why? Great expectations that were too great.
But I digress. I am actually not here to complain about Bali, this story is not about Bali per se.
Whenever people asked me what I was going to do in Bali for a few months, I'd answer that I came to write. I rolled my eyes along with this answer to let them know straight away that I knew how cliche I sounded. And to make sure they knew I wasn't one of those Eat Pray Lovers as my friend calls them as many single women in their mid-thirties here are.
Not that there is anything wrong with that, I just didn't want to be one of them. I didn't think I needed healing, I thought I was doing well without a Felipe and that I liked myself just fine - no need for urgent soul-searching.
I think I was wrong. I was also wrong about what Eat, Pray, Love is really all about.
Earlier I was at dinner. It is one of my favorite spots on Echo beach in Canggu where a little stretch offers one BBQ place to the next. Same same but different. I like the third one from the right. The waiters are the friendliest and they are cheaper than the others. Plus they seem to get the most cats, always a plus for me.
Also, as I discovered today, they make a really great lemongrass sambal to go with their tuna. So I was having a lovely meal, finished, and paid my bill. I was just about to say goodnight to the waitress when she asked me 'Why are you alone?'. Now in Bali being unmarried and thirty-something is somewhat out of the ordinary. But she was young enough to have broken with tradition and we live in a town with many westerners and expats and what kind of question is that??
Obviously one, I didn't want to ask myself tonight. Or ever really. I mumbled something or other, I wasn't sure how much English she understood and how much made sense to her even if she did understand me. I am not sure it made much sense to myself.
But her question stuck with me. In fact, I blamed her question that I felt lonely afterward. If it wasn't for her and her icky question who would feel lonely after such an excellent tuna steak for less than $5?! I tried to watch Tarzan but he didn't get naked enough for the first 40 minutes and so I gave up. Even he got his Jane, I know that much. And I? I stared at my phone screen willing someone to text and say hello.
I didn't come looking for the full Eat, Pray, Love monty, but maybe just a little bit?
No love for Bali and no love in Bali. I know it's the price I usually don't mind paying for my travels, for my freedom, for my utter lack of responsibilities to anybody. Does this mean I can't complain and feel miserable once in a while?
I was writing a chapter the other day about the pros and cons of solo travel. One chapter was about loneliness and the lack of sharing moments, responsibility, and the burden travel sometimes brings. There is no arguing that this can suck at times. There is no easy or quick fix for it, also it comes and goes in waves. It usually makes me more appreciative of the company when I do have it, at least for a while and is never enough reason not to solo travel. But love? Well, love is a lovely concept. One I may or may not believe in any day now. But until I meet HIM it seems useless to speculate. Will I travel less? Will I never feel lonely again? Will I feel whole?
The answer to all three questions is probably no, I am pretty sure of that. People are not meant to make us whole.
In Bali and especially after that dinner and the waitress I had three little epiphanies. First I read this post by The American Girl, a newfound travel blogger, whom I have come to love and admire. In the post, she admits freely that she hasn't had sex in three years and how that helped her not only to get her priorities straight but to realize the most important thing of them all is to love yourself. It is truly the best thing you can ever learn and do and will have the rest follow suit.
I must admit that I read it, loved it, was a bit scared of not having sex for three years, and forgot all about it. Until I went to the wellness retreat at a very fancy hotel. What I thought would be a posh hotel retreat with some massages was so much more including a very hippie-dippie rebirthing session. What I started highly sceptical left me in tears and then some. Not in a bad way, but in a way that may have just changed my life a little.
The details are too personal to tell, even for me. But it all came down, again, to self-love. How I should be able to look me in the eyes and not look at the lines, the wrinkles or my eyebrows that need plucking. To like what I see and then tell myself that I am amazing and beautiful, worthy of love and light, and all the things we may roll our eyes at and call them new-agey. You know, the stuff that deep down we all need so desperately.
I have been struggling. To get back on my yoga mat, to manage my time, this blog, my writing, my life. But after that retreat, I realized that the most important thing for me to learn right now is how to be kinder to myself. To stop the arguing, the bickering, the 'Am I good enough?' and the general questioning. To put myself first, stand up for me, and yes, love me.
I am making that a priority and I have the sneaking suspicion that once I do, everything else will fall into place. Where this place will be won't matter nor if I have Tarzan, Felipe or anybody by my side. And that was my third epiphany. Eat, Pray, Love was never about the guy nor was it about Bali. It was always about falling in love with yourself and in my personal version to eat all the raw vegan cheesecake I can get my hands on. Which for me is good enough reason to travel somewhere as any.
The post first appeared on Annika's blog The Midnight Blue Elephant.