10 Life Changing Adventures I Experienced in Bali

Traveling is the antidote to ignorance—Trevor Noah.

While I was in Australia, I had been contemplating doing something special for the Christmas holiday, since I wasn’t going home.

So, as I had discovered a new passion in yoga, I decided to go on a yoga retreat in Bali. I had no idea I would learn so much within a few weeks.

1. I created a beautiful friendship with an inspiring woman I barely knew

When I told Mariona, my roommate’s friend, about my plans, her eyes lit up.

She had wanted to start yoga for a while, and she was also looking to organize something special for Christmas, since she was far from her family.

I hadn’t met her more than 3 or 4 times at that point. So I gave it some thoughts. I already knew traveling with people, even the closest friends, is not easy since everyone has their own standards, ways and expectations.

Brunch date. Is there a better way to get to know someone?

So, when she asked me if she could join me, I was a little uneasy. But, we decided together we would get to know each other, and discuss what we were expecting from the trip. This allowed us to make sure we would fit well together. We agreed that we did.

I am so happy she came along. We went through all kinds of experiences and feelings together, from excitement to disappointment. We had each other’s back, and we quickly built a relationship of trust that was a massive plus for our adventures.

Japanese restaurant for New Years — So. Good.

She surprised me in many ways as I got to know her. I had no idea of how strong, highly intelligent and unapologetically confident she was, and I learned a lot from observing her.

2. Traveling to a developing country got me out of my comfort zone

I grew up in Morocco. Morocco is messy. There’s a certain level of funkiness in dealing with people, administrations and everyday life. I thought I had seen it all.

Spending time in Bali set my thoughts straight.

Yes, I had lived in Morocco, but in the lucky, privileged part. I’d had it pretty easy for my whole life and had been cocooned by my parents.

In Bali, it was different. As we were traveling on a medium-low budget, everything was not comfortable. Some remote areas were hard to get to. Some people tried to take advantage of us. The boat trip to Gili Meno was ridiculously annoying and lacking. Uber is available, but one had to use tricks to order one, since drivers get beaten up by taxi drivers in urban areas.

The level of funkiness was much higher, and somewhat overwhelming.

But it was challenging and humbling. It was a refreshing reminder that many things we take for granted are a privilege, not a given.

3. I had the time of my life

The yoga retreat itself was incredible. It was in the middle of rice fields. We were extremely lucky with the ashram we ended up in.

It was a little jungle of paradise. We had two classes a day, and the rest to explore the surroundings or simply relax by the spring-water pool.

Absolutely gorgeous.

Shanti Toya — Mengwi, Bali

We met all kinds of interesting people, whom we got to share some good fun with!

From midnight swimming and dancing to three of us hopping on a scooter on Christmas Eve, it all created precious memories.

4. I discovered Balinese are wonderful people

The women who took care of us in the retreat were a delight. I was amazed by their genuine generosity and willingness to share their very strong culture. They taught us how to make Balinese offering baskets, taught us Balinese dance and took us through their daily temple ceremony.

We did have less pleasant encounters, but overall people were welcoming and eager to show us their beautiful island. Most of the locals have simple lifestyles and little belongings, yet lead happy fulfilling lives.

5. Negotiating is a must

In the little time we spent in Kuta, we got ripped off. It was a funny and intense experience, but we learned from it.

We were walking on the beach, and got approached by a lady who sold little bracelets. As soon as we stopped, we got surrounded by half a dozen other women who were trying to sell us beach covers, jewelry and massages.

We fell for it— me, more than my friend, as we weren’t acquainted with the currency.

Kuta Beach and its many vendors — right before they spotted us.

The rest of the trip was constant bargaining. Sarungs, pants, taxi, boat trips — every price was up for discussion. It would at least drop by half by the first 5 minutes. I could thank my Moroccan roots for this skill!

6. You just have to ask…

My negotiation actually started before I went to Bali.

Since I was working, I had to talk my boss into allowing me to leave work a week earlier than planned, since the flight prices were outrageously high during the Christmas week.

I had been reluctant to ask, but he was happy to allow me to experience new adventures. I ended up having 3 full weeks of holiday!

7. Some places were too touristy

I’m not one of those people who complain about tourists when I travel. I mean, I am a tourist, so that doesn’t quite make sense to me. In every place, it’s nice to discover little hidden gems, but it’s also great to discover what the place is known for in the first place. Had we not been willing to go to touristy places, we would have missed out on one my favorite spots, the Tegalalang rice fields.

Tegalalang rice fields.

However, it was the first time I experienced feeling annoyed by a touristy venue. We had done quite a trip to go see the holiest temple of the island, Pura Besakih. We were really excited.

But our journey turned out to be quite disappointing. I kept telling my friend I felt like a living ATM. Clearly not the best experience we had. We were forced to pay a guide who gave us an express visit, and strong-armed us to donate to the temple.

Not every place is worth visiting, but I guess you only find that out where you’re there.

8. There is such a thing as too much traveling

We did a big mistake with planning our trip. After the 8 days at the yoga retreat, we had decided to stay until New Years and explore the island.

Out of naive excitement sprinkled with the good-old fear of missing out, our planning session soon turned into a “fit-it-all” schedule.

We ended up moving hotels every night or so. I had no idea how exhausting that would be. We also went exploring remote areas that were beautiful, but not worth it for a first trip.

By the end of the trip, we were cooked and ready to go home.

With hindsight, we could more easily have planned day trips from Ubud. Instead of trying to see everything, we could have spent more time in fewer places to really enjoy them.

9. I had to accept that the trip wasn’t perfect

We had a massive disappointment when going to the Gili Islands. That was supposed to be the highlight of our trip, and we had been expecting it for weeks, since we had booked a gorgeous hotel. Or so we thought.

Turns out, after a daunting boat trip to the small island, we had made a mistake and booked a little hut with no walls and no bathroom behind the luxurious venue. Ahem.

But we managed to have a good time! We swallowed the bitter pill and strived to make the most of it. It got us 10x closer and we took turns at comforting each other! The island was still beautiful and we even made a new friend:

This taught me that everything is not going to go the way you planned it, or want it to be. But our reaction to setbacks is completely up to us.

10. I acknowledged I made a mistake

My mom loves to remind me she knows everything. And often, well, she’s right. She had told me that 3 weeks would be too much, and indeed. After the second week and the Gili Island experience, I was exhausted and decided to come home early.

But one thing I’ve always told her since I was a kid is:

Let me experience the mistakes for myself.

This is so important to me because it has allowed me to experience adventures I would never have, had I listened to everything they told me not to do.

So, I learn every day how to balance between leveraging their wisdom, and going off their track to build my own.

Conclusion: it wasn’t easy but 100% worth it

I had always thought traveling was easy because I had in mind the trips I had taken with my parents as a teenager.

But when you grow up, you realize it’s hard.

It’s tiring.

You have to handle everything. That also means accepting that you’re not going to get every experience, hotel, trip right.

That also means that you get a massive chance to grow and self-discovery.
I realized it wasn’t about having a perfect experience, but rather enjoying every aspect of the journey.
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