Traveler or traveller? It might just be me but the double L sounds much more sophisticated. As most British-English words do.
One week in Bali, my first solo trip and my first Christmas spent away from my family and my hometown. Solo travel feels like a kaleidoscope. It takes you on an emotional rollercoaster from the second you buy the plane ticket to the moment you’re back in your apartment at home. To preface my experience in Bali, I will be publishing (holding myself accountable by putting it into writing) three posts on my trip. The first, which you are currently reading, will be the honest and heartfelt love letter to my trip. The next post will be a Bali Travel Guide and the final post will be a reflection in about a month on how my perspective has changed since being home.
I believe that everyone (women, especially) should take a solo trip. Whether it be a weekend away or across the globe. Not only do you feel like the strongest and most resilient version of yourself, but you also begin to see what truly makes you the happiest. It can be really hard! Or it can be a complete walk in the park. Or both.
Arriving in Bali was electric. From the second you get off the plane you are thrown into a world so full of energy that it blows you away, literally. The second I walked off the plane, crossing the threshold, my straw hat blew right off my head and went straight in the direction of the plane engine. My new hat, it was one of those hats that feels as if it was created just for your head. Measured and tailored specifically for that awkward shaped head of yours, that you’ll probably never find again. Well, that perfect hat was flying straight for the jaws of the plane engine. The hat survived and no plane engines were hurt in the writing of this post. But it was surely an entrance. Welcome to Bali!
The country itself is a dream. A spiritual haven full of beautiful food, people and history. The first half of my trip was everything I had wanted it to be, a gorgeous Airbnb, delicious food and spa appointments every day. Bali is very affordable, safe and relaxing, if you allow it to be. I was hyper aware and followed nearly every rule given to me about avoiding the treacherous bali belly, food poisoning, that was given this cheeky name since more than half of the tourists get it. It’s basically unavoidable so I knew it would happen at some point. Being sick in a foreign country was something I had not prepared for. Not because I was worried I would never get better or there were no hospitals, but because it really shakes you awake to the idea that you are so far out of your comfort zone and the sickness drains all the energy you have towards making sure it’s the trip of a lifetime. It was really hard and I felt really alone. Bali let me feel this way but the sun would rise every morning asking, very politely, if it could show me more of what the country had to offer. It didn’t swallow me whole, it silently waited for me every day to feel a little bit stronger and more comfortable with myself and welcomed me back to paradise. My first solo trip was much harder than I ever imagined, but I couldn’t think of a more incredible place to feel lonely.
Day 4. I bought a journal that was made of recycled paper with “Bali with Gratitude” on the cover. I bought the journal halfway through the trip because I figured if I was having all of these emotions I should try writing them down. I decided to give journaling a chance! I was feeling more healthy and I was finally in Ubud. Ubud was a spiritual oasis among the mountains and jungle. It was Christmas day when I bought the journal, I was aching to be home for the holidays with my family. But I had chosen to travel the world! I was lucky enough to do so, I had to enjoy it as much as possible. It could have been the pressure I was putting on myself to enjoy it that ultimately made it the most difficult. Ultimately, I was in Bali and I was full of gratitude to be there in the first place. That’s why I bought this journal specifically. I was feeling happier and excited that I got the chance to be revived emotionally in this beautiful part of the world. Ready to start my first journal! But I didn’t have a pen.
Two days later, still no pen. I was finally ready to open up to the beautiful pages of this book but didn’t have the tool to even put the words on the page! Nobody had an extra pen, not the Airbnb host, not the pharmacy, there was no stationary store to buy a pen. Where did the Balinese people go to buy their PENS!? Finally, when I was lured into the only French Bistro in Ubud, feeling back in my comfort zone amongst French jazz, walls lined with wine bottles and French Onion soup, they had an extra pen! YES! A good pen too. There was something grounding about being in my comfort zone again. Funny, that my comfort zone involves Côtes du Rhône red wine and a menu that includes Croque Madame.
So what did I write in my new journal that I had been waiting so anxiously to write in? I wrote an apology to Bali. I was apologizing for trying to take my first solo trip during the holidays, pushing my limits and emotional capacity. I was in my dream destination and I was sad, it felt so wrong! It wasn’t personal, it wasn’t Bali. Trying to force a solo trip during the time of year that you want to be surrounded by your loved ones was harder than I ever imagined. I realized that being home for these moments was priceless, it was worth more than your dream destination. I learned my lesson. But I was still sorry, sorry I had to realize these things on a trip I had been waiting for since I first watched Eat Pray Love. I had idolized Julia Roberts strength and resilience to be able to see the world solo. It’s also a film adaptation, it doesn’t show the moments of solo travel that are the hardest.
The most incredible part about solo travel is being able to feel sad and having the ability to pull yourself together, slap on sunscreen and your perfect sun hat and continue exploring. Anxiety and fears aside, you are alone for a week and you still get up every morning and enjoy the island crafted coffee, get on the scooter and tour the country that ends up being more beautiful than you every imagined. I asked Bali for forgiveness.
It isn’t personal. I’m just not the travel alone during the holidays and summer Christmas kind of girl. I think I need a solo trip during a time where I won’t feel so lost without my family and traditions. I don’t want to be the only person who says Merry Christmas. I want to wear a sweater and feel a wind chill when I walk outside finding warmth in a glass of red wine. Comfortable and accompanied by the people that I love the most. Please forgive me?
From Dria, with love.
The day after I wrote this. I woke up to a morning that was singing with forgiveness. I asked and what I received was more than I ever imagined. The island opened it’s heart to me. The ‘Island of the Gods’ knew exactly how to respond. The best was yet to come, the low points were about to feel like a distant history. My last day in Bali was a cultural tour, it was raining and the island came to life. It was a tropical storm of beauty. From temple to temple, I became more aware of how much life this island had to give. I was full of happiness to be able to not only witness the preservation of such beautiful history and culture, but to feel a part of the legacy and purity of the Balinese culture. I asked for forgiveness and I got a letter in return. A letter without words and with just a feeling of comfort and acceptance.
Instead of an apology, now I’m writing a love letter to Bali. Thank you for your beauty and forgiveness. I can’t wait to come back.
What’s your dream solo destination?