Leave Everything And Move to an Island

Imagine nothing, just a night sky filled with a billion stars and warm grains of sand cushioning your body. Waves gently kiss the shore, laughter and reggae music from a distance. This is how we spend our nights on an island in Indonesia once only visited by surfers. 18,307 islands in the biggest archipelago but the world only seems to know Bali. We’re not complaining.

The sky is crystal clear. Barely any light pollution, you can see the Milky Way. Life is simple. We gather around a bonfire at night, sharing stories of what we did that day, where we surfed, what we saw in the ocean. We welcome the few travelers who stumble upon our secret island, curious where they come from. We pass around a small glass of locally made rice wine at the bonfire. It tastes rancid, but no one really cares. It’s the only alcohol we can get for now.

The sun rises behind a vast mountain range, a blanket of mist forms just above a jungle of coconut trees. Calls of prayer from the mosques echo throughout the landscape. Local fishermen push their wooden boats out into the deep blue sea to get their first catch for the day. Surfers breeze past winding roads, eager to get their morning stoke.

And here I am on my humble yoga deck that overlooks the south coast of the island, breathing the fresh misty air while waiting to start my yoga class. I have never seen a place so alive, dragonflies and butterflies chase each other around the trees. Curious baby monkeys come closer to take a peek, their protective mothers sitting just right behind them. There are no mirrors, no walls and no props in this yoga shala.

The silence is golden. It dawned on me, that every single mistake in my life has taken me to this very point. Every single drama has led me to this paradise. And that I regret absolutely nothing. What was I so afraid of? Somewhere along the way, I followed a whisper and made a conscious decision to follow my heart, my intuition. And now here I am, perfectly content maybe even enlightened.

I discovered yoga shortly after quitting my stressful job in Manila. My life was filled with deadlines, meetings and getting stuck in traffic jams. As a Marketing Director, I worked 10 hours a day, six days a week and only got $545 for a month’s salary. My cost of living was just about the same.

I snap myself back to my new reality as the space fills up, sensing everyone’s energy as they enter. I ask how everyone’s day is going and how they’re feeling. I guide them through some sun salutations before the warrior series. I lead them into a long calming Savasana before we set our intentions for the promising day ahead.

We all hop on our $3 a day scooters and drive to a nearby beach, a perfectly crescent shaped bay and blinding white powdery sand. I sip on my coconut as I watch these sunburnt tourists regress into childhood, diving head first into the crashing waves before rolling weightlessly onto the shore. Linda, the local sarong lady sits beside me as she opens and reads my book intently, one word at a time eager to learn English.

After our $2 Nasi Goreng lunch, we drive to another beach on the other side of town. I lead them into an unmarked path towards a place where turtles have been seen laying eggs. We find a spot for siesta and cool our bodies off in the crystal clear waters before I take them up the hill for sunset. The expressions on their faces are priceless as soon as they reach the top.

Imagine a jagged sandy coastline that stretches out for hundreds of miles, only lush green rolling hills separate one beach from the other. The few expats and Sasak locals have seemed to discover each one’s purpose. A different beach for bonfires, surfing, kiteboarding, kayaking, snorkeling, swimming, siestas and skinny dipping. All within a short motorbike ride. All distinctly beautiful from the other.

Their jaws drop at the sight of a 360 degree panoramic view. Some are left speechless, some get teary eyed. My childhood bestfriend Denise hugged me tight, and whispered “Now I understand why you left everything and moved here”.

I’ve been wearing the same tattered clothes for the past few months but no one cares. More importantly, I don’t care. Everyone walks around barefoot, salty hair and clothes damp from being in the ocean. But we’re happy. There are no shopping malls or banks in this town, just a few warungs that make simple meals for visitors.

The locals will genuinely invite you into their homes for coffee. There are no social hierarchies. No one gives a f*** what you own, what you’re wearing or what your last name is. People from different countries and religions all hangout together. Some travelers get bored after a week, some never want to leave. The cost of living is just a few hundred dollars each month but the quality of life is incomparable to anywhere I’ve been.

The world is too big to stay in one place, they say. For now, while I can, I have to keep moving, discovering other pieces of paradise on the other side of the world.

In my dreams and daydreams, I always find myself here.