A Tale of Traveling Solo in Bali
After spending 26 days at Yoga Teacher Training with my fellow yogis by my side, it was strange to arrive in Ubud alone. This was a completely foreign concept to me, as I have always traveled with my boyfriend, Ryan, girlfriends, or my family.
I arrived prior to check in, so I dropped my stuff, changed my clothes, and set out to explore. My first stop was at a cafe, called Kafe (ironic, right?!), not too far from my hostel. It felt too early to have lunch, but I was hungry, so I ordered a smoothie, enjoying the view from the adorable balcony set above the street. This, I quickly became aware of, is one of the many perks about traveling solo. You can eat what you want when you want to, and you have no one else’s stomach to answer to but your own.
Following my smoothie at Kafe, I made my way down to the famous Monkey Forest, taking in the sights and sounds of Ubud. Ubud is located inland on the island of Bali, and is home to gently rolling hills covered in rice paddies. Ten years ago, Ubud was hardly a tourist destination, but since Eat, Pray, Love, it’s been on thousands of foreigners’ lists of must see destinations in Bali, mine included. I felt a bit of sensory overload as I tried to take in numerous stores and cafes around me, all the while trying not to trip in a hole on the ground. Although I had upgraded to sidewalks from the sidewalk-less streets of Canggu, they were in questionable condition.
I wandered into the Monkey Forest, feeling delighted to be away from people yelling “taxi” in my direction, as well as to briefly escape the roar of moped engines and the constant honking that seems to be Asia. I was delighted by the lush walls of greenery in the Monkey Forest, and within moments of entering, I saw my first monkey. It didn’t take me long to realize that they were everywhere. They seemed friendly enough, but I didn’t feel overly trusting of them.
As I sat down to take it all in, I noticed that one of the monkeys was aggressively digging at a coconut, and I couldn’t help being reminded of myself eating coconuts. I put down my water bottle to make a video of the monkey only to discover that another monkey had snatched up my water bottle and was chugging what was left in the bottle. I was so shocked that I forgot to laugh in the moment, but thinking back on it, it was a pretty entertaining experience. The downside of solo travel is when something crazy and hilarious like this happens to you and you don’t have anyone to laugh with. The story just isn’t as funny when you tell it secondhand!
Following the Monkey Forest, I made my way back to my hostel to check in and get organized before heading out for a yoga class at Yoga Barn. Located off of the main drag back in the trees, this place is a yoga sanctuary. The main studio is located on the second level of what looks like a giant yoga tree house, and within mere seconds I felt right at home. After weeks of learning to teach, it felt weird to be back in a yoga flow class, but I found my rhythm pretty quickly. As I made my way back to my hostel, I debated what I was going to do for dinner. What did I feel like eating? The possibilities were endless, yet I ended up back at Kafe again. The food was just so damn good there!
When I woke up the following day, I had this weird sense of “what should I be doing today?” I’m so used to always having something to do, someone to see, work that needs to get done, etc. that I have completely lost touch with the concept of simply doing nothing, and even at the best of times, I struggle with simply doing nothing.
So on my second morning in Ubud, I attempted to practice doing nothing. I sipped tea, I read my book, I wrote in my journal, and I enjoyed the view from my private patio. Although it was difficult for me, it did feel nice to simply sit back and relax after constantly being go, go, go during YTT in Canggu.
There was only so long that I could sit still for though, so I eventually made my way to Yoga Barn for another kick ass flow class, and after dropping my yoga gear at the hostel, I made my way up to Bali’s main street and walked for about 30 minutes until I made it to Clear Cafe, which is famous for it’s huge menu full of amazing food. I went to town and had a massive feast before making my way back towards town and then veering off the main road to walk through the rice paddies.
I walked for about an hour, enjoying the sun shining on my skin and the wind making the sun feel slightly more bearable; I took in the green expanses of rice in all directions, feeling the pure joy of simply being alive. I also made sure not to leave the rice paddies without taking a selfie. After traveling solo, I now have some compassion for the selfie stick!
I’m not sure if I took a wrong turn in the rice paddies or missed something in the directions, but I ended up on a road about 3km outside of Ubud. Being that I’m both determined and stubborn, I refused to take a taxi back to town, and walked the entire way by foot. It was actually a rather enjoyable walk, and I quite enjoyed the time that I spent with myself on that walk. Nevertheless, I was happy to reach Ubud Palace and have some comprehension of where I was! I decided I would explore the market before heading back to my hostel, and as I entered the market I ran into a Canadian couple from my teacher training, Mike and Jaleena. We ended up shopping a bit together, grabbing a tea and then eventually going for dinner. As much as I was enjoying my alone time, I enjoyed their company for the rest of the day, and it was good to catch up outside of YTT!
One thing that I found cool about traveling solo is that you really have to make decisions on your own and you can’t rely on other people to decide things for you. By this point in my trip I was up in the air about doing the famous Mount Batur volcano hike. I had collected opinions from an assortment of people and just could not decide. This is one of those decisions that I may have left up to my travel buddy, but being that I didn’t have one, I needed to make it myself. I decided to do it.
So, I spent the following day wandering around Ubud, practicing yoga, shopping in the market, and prepping for my 2am hike. I had made a friend at the hostel, also from Canada, so we went out for dinner and enjoyed what may have been the strangest Balinese show ever before I headed to bed… at 8pm.
My alarm went off at 1:45am and I dragged my butt out of bed for my 2am pickup. By 4am, we were at the base of the volcano and we began making our way up. It was pitch black and all I could see was the other tourists with their flash lights bobbing their way up the mountain. Two hours later, we had made it to the top, only to witness the most beautiful sunrise I have ever seen. In that moment, not getting 8 hours of sleep, getting up in the middle of the night, and trekking up a volcano were all well worth it. I was in pure sunrise-hiking-Bali bliss.
We arrived back in Ubud at around 10am, and it felt weird to have conquered a volcano while most people were sipping their morning coffee. I treated myself to a second breakfast, attending a juicy yin class, took a nap, and waited for my friend Chelsey to arrive at the hostel. Despite enjoying my 4 days as a solo travel, it was great to see Chels and to spend my last night in Bali catching up with her!
So what are my biggest takeaways from traveling on my own?
- It doesn’t take a certain person to do it
- Being by yourself is actually a pretty cool way to get to know yourself
- You can eat what you want, when you want
- You can do whatever you want — the possibilities are endless!
- It teaches you to be assertive and not to rely on anyone else to get what you want, a lesson we should all learn at some point or another
Originally published at www.theworldwanderers.com on May 30, 2015.