I’ve found lately that my travels are becoming less and less about seeing whatever famous sites there are in a given destination. Instead, I find that traveling for me is more about connecting with others.
I leave a bit of myself with everyone I meet and I’m pleased to receive a bit of others when we part. If you’re intimidated by the idea of solo travel – especially if you’re a woman – don’t be. Come out of your shell just a tiny bit and you’ll surely meet some amazing people. Here’s a snapshot of some of the people I met while on my last vacation to Bali.
The Norwegian: She was another solo traveler who sat next to me at the bar of a restaurant. We were listening to a phenomenal vocalist and enjoying the vibe for a bit before we finally struck up a conversation. We became fast friends and hung out almost every night I was in town. She made me realize that it was absolutely OK to be the solo girl at the bar. She walked in that place fearless, unapologetic, and very sure of herself. She’s an anthropologist who can let loose, finds yoginis who take themselves too seriously to be absurd, drinks beer, takes no shit from men, loves live reggae, and speaks Bahasa Indonesian. Girl crush confirmed.
The Dutch Men: These guys made me realize that my options are bigger than I previously thought. Let me explain. For the last 7 or 8 years I have found that African (specifically, Nigerian, Ivoirien, Ghanaian, and Liberian) men are the only ones who approach me. I chopped it up to having a personality and body type that only these men could appreciate. And then I met 2 Dutch guys who shamelessly flirted, conversed, and danced with me at a lounge. This wouldn’t be noteworthy except for the fact that I know I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. So, color me surprised at this one. I realized that it was me who was limiting my options to a particular kind of guy by thinking I wasn’t (insert trait here) enough for others to be attracted to me. Silly rabbit!
The Congolese Dude: There’s a joke in my family that says if there is an African man within a 50 mile radius, he will find me. Unlike many others who have approached me, this guy gave me some of the best advice to date: Embrace the temporary. He also happens to be living my dream life. He works remotely as a freelance writer, lives wherever the hell he wants, and spends his time as he pleases. Through him, I’ve met more amazing folks. Find him on your next trip to Bali – he’s likely sitting at one of the lounges or bars in Ubud with his laptop and a glass of red wine.
The American in Bali by way of Korea: Thanks to the Congolese Dude, I met a kindred spirit – a sister, if you will. We’re both expats living in Korea who share a strikingly similar story of wanderlust, heartbreak, strength, and resiliency. We met in the rice fields and I promised to keep in touch. Little did we know that we’d be battling the most horrible airline situation ever together a few days later. She reminds me often to always choose happy, live simply, simply live, and find peace.
The Brazilian in Australia: This woman was a breath of fresh air! A kick ass anthropologist who endeared herself to me by immediately sharing how she fell off her moto while driving through the rice fields two minutes before arrival. She was a solo traveler who had been in Bali for a week and was on her way to snorkel and check out the Gili T area for another week. She’s planning to write her dissertation from the rice fields of Bali for 4 months. I’m only sorry we didn’t get to spend more time together. She tells the best stories and laughs deeply.
The French woman who lived in Australia who now resides in Bali: Her attitude is what I hope to adopt in many ways. She was passionate, carefree, exuberant, and a joy to be around. She smiled with her heart, danced to her own beat, and reminded me that life is too short to live it being miserable. After meeting her, I vowed that I too would do whatever it took to have the glow she emanated.
The CP Lounge Crew: I had a blast at CP Lounge on my last night in town. I partied hard, danced provocatively, and went home at 6am. From the Black Aussie expat and the traveler who was trying to woo her, to the Balinese woman dating the Dutch guy, they were a fun-loving group of folks who were eclectic and hilarious and free and unashamed to be who they were. There’s something refreshing about being around people who accept themselves. They also tend to be more accepting of others. I’m grateful that I met them.
My Balinese Family: I found a cozy guest house via AirBnB with the most precious family in Taman village. They welcomed me into their home, fed me, took me on long walks through the rice fields, and shared their culture with me. It was in their home that I came to terms with who I was and who I am becoming. On my first day, I was reading outside on one of the bale areas when their feistiest dog approached me, nuzzled his head in my lap, and curled up next to me contentedly before falling asleep. A strange sense of deja vu overcame me and I had a few more while staying there after that. Perhaps I’ve been there before in another life? Perhaps that was just confirmation that I had made the best decision for me. They hugged me and loved me and made me laugh at myself and will always have a special place in my heart.
The Canadian Lovebirds: These two were guests at the AirBnB property with me in Taman village. They’d left everyone they knew and hopped on a series of planes for 30 hours for their first big vacation to Bali. They showed me how to embrace new adventures again. Their enthusiasm and excitement was contagious. Their love for one another was subtle yet profound. In true Canadian style, they were polite and kind… But more importantly, I found that in the short time I came to spend with them, they were genuinely good people. I hope our paths cross again.
Overall, I was fortunate to have met some incredible people during my solo vacation. All of them helped me to figure out exactly who I was and taught me that life could be so much sweeter than the way I had been living it. These aren’t all of the people that I met, but they are the people who were the most memorable. They are the ones who inspired this post. I’m so grateful to have met them.