One amazing thing about travelling alone is that you very often end up in conversations with locals. Simply put — you are more accessible when alone than with someone. This is definitely great for someone like me, who has an extremely curious mind and is always looking for a meaning or a legend behind a temple, a custom or a word. The stories you get to hear are part of my travel experience, the charm of another culture and understanding another reality, and how those shape us human beings.
I have often heard that Balinese people are very humble, open and always smiley and happy, and I think this statement definitely has some truth in it. Whether it is because of us tourists bringing them their income (like my Indonesian host explained) or just simply because it is their nature (like my American host explained), I very often heard how much they enjoy their life just where they are. I spoke with the two boys working at my hotel in GIli, who earn around 100 euros a month working 10–12-hour-days, but who said how good life is for them on the islands. Or the driver, who loves his job working around the clock, because he gets to meet so many people from different cultures and to speak English.
There is a sense of proudness in that happiness. Proud being Balinese (or from Lombok), being able to live on this beautiful island and knowing that your rituals have been existing and developing for centuries, and that they matter to the community. Like a lady in a yoga store told me, she would love to go travelling, but her husband is the oldest son in the family, and during their days off (which are very limited), her husband has to take care all sorts of different ceremonies for the family.
It seems a bit exaggerated to follow the conversations in Finland about a 6-hour work day or people’s problems to match their holidays and work schedules with their children’s daycare timetables, when those hotel boys are there in the lobby when I wake up and when I go to sleep. When was the last time I had to cancel my holiday because of my family member’s duties in family ceremonies? I guess this is the beauty of travelling — it gives perspective, reminds how our choices matter, reminds what is important and when you should complain and when to be grateful.
Oh! And not to forget what is truly meaningful — fame obviously — I need to tell you about a group of men on Lombok airport who, speaking Bahasa Indonesia, took out their phones, leaned towards me and indicated that they wanted to take a picture with me. Each one, separately. I guess all that becoming a celebrity in Lombok requires is blond hair, blue eyes and milky white skin. So exhausting, after the third picture, my smile had become quite fake. Racism reversed — imagine if it was me taking those pictures…