To start, if you would prefer to hear all about my month-long adventure in Bali rather than read about it, check podcast episodes 173, 176, and 179. I’m a much better speaker than I am a writer … hence why I started a podcast in the first place.
Let’s get the basics out of the way first. I was incredibly fortunate to spend basically the entire month of October 2017 in Canggu, Bali, Indonesia.
If you’re a long-time listener of my podcast, or any travel podcast really, you’ve probably heard a ton of people mention Ubud, Bali and how magical their time was there … my experience wasn’t quite the same, but we’ll get to that.
So, when the opportunity presented itself for me to spend some time on Bali (yes, on, not in … it’s an island), I knew I had to take advantage of it.
In August, Lindsey posted a video of a co-working space in Bali and she was really excited b/c she would be working from there when she spent the month of October there with a digital nomad travel group called the WiFi Tribe.
I watched the video and was instantly jealous of her; as is the usual chain of events for me in these types of situations.
(Check out the video here.)
Then, a couple of days later, I watched the video again. Later that night, I went to the WiFi Tribe’s website, you know, “just out curiosity.”
Turns out, WiFi Tribe is a co-living, co-working organization that changes locations approximately every one to two months. They emphasized on their site that they were all about adventure, exploring other cultures, and actually doing some work in the process.
It sounded perfect to me, but I didn’t think it would sound so perfect to my husband.
He’s not so crazy about the whole “living as a nomad thing” and he still works a full-time corporate job, so I had already resigned myself to the fact that I would probably have to take a few shorter international trips without him.
I never dreamed he would be comfortable with me being gone for over a month and living in a house with other guys during that time.
I tentatively brought up the idea, fully expecting him to be a little uncomfortable with it, but he immediately saw what an incredible opportunity it was and there was no need for convincing. He would miss me, but he was on board.
Now, at this point, the trip was in about a month, I hadn’t even contacted the WiFi Tribe yet and they have a pretty extensive application process, my passport had expired a few years ago, and I hadn’t had any vaccinations since I was little kid.
Did I let any of that stop me? Absolutely not!
In a matter of just a few weeks, I was invited to join the “The Tribe”, I had a new passport in-hand, and I received most of my vaccinations.
It took about 50 hours to make the journey from Colorado Springs to Canggu, Bali and, considering it’s impossible for me to sleep sitting up or in public places, it was very long one.
However, one bright spot on the journey (besides being able to watch the original Beauty and the Beast on the plane … thank you JetBlue!) was my time the Middle East.
I had an 11-hour layover in Doha, Qatar so I decided to take advantage of the free city tour they offered. It was two hours long and incredible! The architecture there is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and we were able to spend almost an hour in an outdoor market that is everything you’d expect.
It was beautiful and hot as balls! It is the Middle East, after all.
I ended up spending most of my time in the market drinking the most delicious lemonade I’ve ever had in the shade while watching the locals go about their daily lives. It was surreal and incredibly fascinating.
Once I arrived in Bali, I was instantly in awe.
Prior to this, the only time I had been out of the United States was our honeymoon in Paris, France.
The traffic was chaotic and insane, the graffiti was incredible, the temples were beautiful … I was invigorated!
Part of the appeal of the WiFi Tribe is that they arrange all the accommodations, so I made my way to the three side-by-side private villas we would be staying in. That’s right … private villas on a tropical island. Need I really say more?
I had originally planned to have a shared room (pictured above) but after about a week or so of waiting for my roommate to arrive, I realized once she got there that we just weren’t great roommates. She was an incredibly sweet and lovely Italian woman who didn’t really speak any English and couldn’t sleep with the AC on at night.
Listen, I’m not a small woman by any stretch of the imagination and I was literally spending every single second sweating my ass off. It’s SE Asia, after all, and I moved to the mountains in Colorado for a reason. I need my AC; especially at night.
So, I upgraded to a private room and ended up getting an entire floor of the most beautiful villa all to myself. #totallyworthit
There ended up being 18 of us and the group was incredibly diverse!
There were 7 people from the U.S., two from Germany, two from Romania, two from Italy, one from Latvia, one from Costa Rica, one from Ecuador, one from Canada, and one from Poland.
Our careers ranged from podcast launch consultant/editor (me), to working for Microsoft, to app developer, to copy editor, to tour guide, to romance author, to web developer, to music producer, to professional poker player, to a few that I didn’t even come close to understanding what the business was.
This was one of my favorite things about the experience. It’s one thing to connect with people like this online, but it’s an entirely different thing to live with them for a month.
Not only were the conversations fantastic but it was incredibly refreshing to be around a group of people who just instantly understood me.
There was no confusion when I explained that I worked online. No snide remarks when I talked about how there’s more to life than just doing what’s expected and trying to fit into society’s mold. There was no need to explain anything about why I’m choosing to live the way I am.
It. Was. Amazing.
Remember that video of the co-working space that started it all?
Well, Dojo Bali was everything I expected it to be and more!
It had the most amazing vibe and energy. It was always full of (mostly) millennials accomplishing incredible things and really helped kept me inspired and motivated. It had a beautiful pool to cool off in. They had a doggy mascot. It was just a couple minutes’ walk to Echo Beach, and they served food.
I mean, what’s not to like about working in a place like that? It’s sure beats a cubicle, hands down.
On the weekends we took some trips out of town and the first place we went was Ubud.
According to every guest of my podcast who’s spent time in Ubud, it was supposed to be a magical and beautiful place that you never want to leave.
I was ready to go back home to Canggu within 24 hours.
Now, to be fair, it’s probably not entirely Ubud’s fault.
I wasn’t feeling that great the morning we made the drive (yay for being hungover for the first time in literally a decade) and it was pouring down rain when we arrived, so we couldn’t really get out to do much or explore the city.
Eventually it stopped raining, and I started to feel better, so we were able to go to Goa Gajah aka the Elephant Cave. It actually is a pretty cool temple (that used to be an old city) and there is some incredibly beautiful scenery. Unfortunately, I left my phone behind so I wasn’t able to capture any it but it was still a great time.
A few insider tips, though …. There are zero elephants and the cave is tiny! Don’t go for the cave because you will be disappointed. Go for the scenery, sculptures, and culture. Also, don’t let the tourist market that you have to walk through in the front to get to the temple sully your opinion of it. It’s worth it.
After that, we made our way over to Monkey Forest Ubud.
Remember how I said I was able to get most of my vaccinations before the trip? Well, rabies wasn’t one of them. So, I wasn’t too keen on this part of the trip, but I decided to go anyway because it’s apparently something you absolutely must do when you’re in Ubud.
They say the monkeys in the monkey forest don’t have rabies but I’m not sure how they can possible say that because there’s not exactly boundaries and the monkeys can come and go as they please in and out of the forest.
The place was beautiful, but I was a nervous wreck the whole time and didn’t relax for most of the hour we were inside; especially since one of the guys in our group was bitten within the first 10 minutes.
If you have your rabies shot, and you’re not scared of monkeys thanks to the fact that you watched Congo as a child, this place probably would be pretty freaking awesome and some of the people in our group were able to get some absolutely incredible shots with the monkeys.
After that, a few of us girls decided to attend a night-time Tibetan Bowl Meditation class at the world-famous The Yoga Barn (featured in the book and movie, Eat, Pray, Love).
I totally understand why The Yoga Barn is known around the world. It’s beautiful, peaceful, and luxurious. I can definitely see how people could stay there for a while and leave totally transformed and at peace.
Unfortunately, our experience wasn’t quite like that.
The thing about SE Asia is that there are an insane number of mosquitoes and, of course, one of the vaccinations I couldn’t get was for a mosquito-borne disease.
How does this relate to a Tibetan Bowl Meditation class, you ask?
The class was outside.
Or, rather, it was an open-air classroom. Meaning, it was in a building but most of the walls were completely open to the elements.
So, as soon as I would finally start to feel my body and mind relax, a mosquito would land on me. I would smack it off, pray it wasn’t filled a potentially lethal disease, and then try to get myself to relax again only for another one to land on me. And this continued for the entire session.
If the class had been completely indoors, it would’ve been a really cool experience.
After the session, we walked to the restaurant were the rest of our group were just finishing up their dinner and then we all headed back to the hostel for the night.
This is where things start to get really interesting.
This was actually my first hostel experience and it appeared to be fantastic. It was in the style of a temple with separate, and gorgeous, buildings.
The beds were dorm-style, but our group was large enough that we were able to fill up two dorm rooms with just our group.
As everyone was settling in for the night, I was sitting on my bed putting everything away after having just taken a shower when, all of the sudden, a rat ran from the platform my bed was on across the room to the bed of the couple from Romania.
Luckily, I wasn’t the only one to see it and a few us promptly freaked out.
Yeah, I definitely didn’t get vaccinated against the Bubonic Plague, thank you very much.
The staff finally got the rat out of our room but, in the process, we realized we could hear more of them in the wooden lockers just outside the room and we discovered there was rat poop all along the sides of our bed platforms.
At around midnight, a few of us decided there was no way we were sleeping with rats, so we packed up all of our stuff and walked to a different hostel.
Once there, myself and two other girls shared a room and the Romanian couple shared the room next to ours. As we were all getting ready for bed for the second time that night, I heard a commotion from Alex and Tina’s room. Turns out, when they went to go to bed, they discovered a stray cat under their bed.
At this point, we all just couldn’t stop laughing at how ridiculous the evening had been and we finally laid down for the night.
Within a matter of minutes, there was a giant ant crawling on my pillow right next to my face. After killing all the ants in the bed, we finally just gave in and went to sleep.
The next morning, I was so exhausted I didn’t go with the rest of the group on a couple of hikes they had planned. Instead, one of the guys who also stayed behind came over and we had a fascinating conversation on the beautiful balcony of the hostel and then made arrangements to go ahead and make our way back home with a few others.
At that point, I was so over Ubud and so ready to be back “home.”
So, no, I did not find Ubud to be a magical, life-changing experience. An experience, for sure, but not quite magical.
Another weekend trip we took was to Uluwatu and, luckily, this one was much more pleasant.
We spent the full weekend there and took the lesson learned from the Ubud fiasco and rented a couple of private villas this time (that included a personal chef to make us breakfast I might add).
I didn’t see the other two, but I was told the one I stayed in was the nicest and it was where most people hung out in the evenings.
Where Uluwatu meets the ocean, it’s mostly sheer cliffs; which are beautiful to look at, but not so fun to climb up and down. I did it once in order to have dinner on the beach at sunset, and it was totally worth (I mean, do you see the picture below?) but once was definitely enough.
Luckily, our driver took us to one of the lesser-visited beaches (Karma Beach) that you can actually drive a car right to the beach. We had only planned to stay a couple of hours and then move on to another beach but it was so empty and beautiful that we spent the whole day there and, for the first time in my entire life, I actually swam in the ocean (I’m terrified of sharks).
We ended up walking a little ways down the beach to a gorgeous resort restaurant and enjoyed some cocktails and delicious food in the shade.
After the beach, we made our way to the Uluwatu temple. It was built in the 16th century at the edge of the cliffs and is breathtaking.
Besides the views and culture, we were also there to experience the Kecak Fire Dance. That’s right, a fire dance.
It’s an hour-long performance in the temple’s outdoor amphitheater (with the ocean and sunset as it’s backdrop as you can see in the video below) that covers a very important legend to their culture. It was by-far one of the highlights of my entire trip to SE Asia!
The next day, most of the group went back to the beach. However, and I’m prepared to receive hate mail for this, I’m not actually a huge beach person and I didn’t really feel the need to go back another day, so I hung out at a cool café in town (with gorgeous and delicious smoothies like the one below, can you blame me?) and got some work done until the others were ready to head back home.
During the third weekend of the trip about half of the group went to the nearby island of Nusa Lembongan but the other half of us just needed a break and to catch up on some work so we enjoyed a nice relaxing and productive weekend back at our villas in Canggu (and were really happy we’d done so after the rest of the group came back exhausted).
The following week, I had to say goodbye to the group of people who had come to be more like family over the previous month and it was bittersweet.
I was heading to Thailand next for the completely solo portion of my trip, and I was very excited about that, but there was a part of me that wanted to stay behind in Bali with the group since most of them were going to be there for another month.
I had a great time with the group in general but there were two other women, Nia and Cristina (both pictured in this post), that I really connected and bonded with during my time there and it was harder to say goodbye to them than I imagined.
The bonds formed in a situation like that are powerful and I haven’t connected that like with anyone in several years, so I will always value those friendships and I know it won’t be the last time we have adventures together.
I feel like there are so many other experiences I could write about from my time in Bali (like the impromptu salsa lesson by Gerardo and Cristina or the time we randomly sang the Backstreet Boys, my favorite musical group of all time, at a restaurant), but I could never do them justice.
While I may not be as smitten with Bali as most people who visit (more to come on that in another blog post), it was still one of the most incredible months of my life and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
That’s the thing about travel; even the bad is so much better than the mundane.