April 3, 2017

What to do When Paradise Turns Sour.

It was my last night in Ubud, Bali. And I was so ready to be leaving.

I have lived there for a portion of the year for the last six years.

The constant traffic, the endless calling out from taxi drivers and tour operators, the never-ending construction and development, the cacophony of noise—finally—I was ready to say goodbye.

I felt as if the booming tourism—the feeling of constantly being treated like a walking, talking ATM and the general spiritual, hippy trendiness—the Eat, Pray, Love-ness—of Bali had pushed me to the limits.

If one more driver called out, “Taxi! Yes—transport!” to me (while I was riding my scooter), I was going to lose it.

As I crammed the last pieces of stuff into my backpack and scrambled to get all the loose ends together—confirm my ride to the airport for the next day, return my scooter, double check my flight time—I suddenly felt a bit guilty.

Here I was, living on a beautiful, tropical island, surrounded by palm trees and picturesque rice fields, tons of beautiful beaches and waterfalls close by, a plethora of restaurants, shops, and entertainment (if you are in to that sort of thing), inhabited with friendly locals, and here I was complaining about it.

I couldn’t deny that I was happy to be leaving, but I began to reflect on what had attracted me to Bali in the first place.

When I first came to the Indonesian island six years ago, it was for a brief visit, but I was immediately taken in by all the beautiful artwork and all the natural beauty of the island. I visited many different spots around the island—exploring the jungle, visiting holy springs, seashore temples, and surf towns. The warm climate and abundance of greenery, splattered with colourful tropical flowers everywhere, didn’t make it too bad either.

Bali also has a vibrant yoga scene and health-conscious vibe. The abundance of holistic therapy, natural healing practices, eating wholesome, healthy food, and alternative medicine made me feel at home.

I came back many times since my initial visit, often staying for up to six months at a time, which allowed me to really integrate into the culture and community of the place. Besides the many short-term holiday-makers, Bali has a vibrant expat community and is a major, global nomad hub.

I remember going to my first Acroyoga jam. Having never done it before, I was shy and a bit unsure as I watched all these pros spinning and somersaulting flips on their partner’s feet. But they were all so friendly and inviting, patiently showing me basic beginner moves, encouraging me as I made progress.

As the months went on, I began to develop friendships with the other acro-jammers, as we supported and grew from each other while learning new moves.

Acroyoga is an endless practice of trusting, supporting, and challenging one another. It requires playfulness, constant communication, and a pushing of boundaries in order to grow.

These are all things which do not come naturally for me, but which were forced into practice in the acro environment.

There were always fun things to do in Bali, whether it be an Ecstatic Dance, a cacao ceremony, or a random trek in to the jungle.

I took a lot of yoga classes on my earlier visits, particularly resonating with one teacher with whom I decided to take yoga teacher training with in Bali.

Unlike many of the participants entering the teacher training, I had no expectations going in to the course. I had no interest in becoming a yoga teacher, nor of learning any particular material. I was simply going with an open mind to whatever experience it brought.

It was not the “course” itself—the asanas, the practical theory, the anatomy—but rather the experience of spending such a large amount of time in a close-knit community which proved to be the most valuable (that is, it drove me nuts a lot at the time, but I appreciated it afterward) experience for me.

I ended up developing invaluable friendships with people in the training that have carried on far beyond the course.

On another trip to Bali, while going through some kind of post-Dengue fever/rabies scare, I was taken in an ambulance to the hospital after passing out in a restaurant. Lying on the hospital bed, struggling for breath, and going in and out of consciousness, it made the world of difference to find that some friends and instructors from the training had heard what had happened and were in the hospital room with me. Having spent a fair amount of time in foreign hospitals by myself over the years, I can say it makes paramount difference to just know that there is a friend there with you.

As I look up from my over-stuffed backpack, across the balcony out onto the rice fields of this last night in Bali, I remember what made me fall in love with Ubud in the first place—the community.

The people.

The sense of belonging to something greater than yourself—of belonging, of relating, of sharing, and connecting with others.

As one of those stubbornly independent individuals, the value of community is one I often underestimate.

I realized that I wanted to leave Bali with well-wishes, not resentment.

I was leaving with love and gratitude for the experiences and acceptance this magical island has shared with me.

Places are like people—each one speaks differently. Sometimes we connect with one at a certain time, and other times we know when it is time for us to be on our way.

It was indeed time for me to be on my way, but I leave Bali having considered it a privilege to have been a part of the community and to have called it one of my homes for many years.

And who knows—just like our parent’s basement, we never know when we might find ourselves back.



Author: Michelle Amanda Jung

Images: Author’s Own

Editor: Travis May

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