Back in Croatia, I booked a trip to Bali. A solo trip. I had only done solo travel for a couple of days to a yoga retreat in the Bahamas in the past, and was excited to spend time decompressing, relaxing, and yes, working.
I decided to spend a few days in Ubud, the prime digital nomad locale in the mountains of Bali, and a few days in Canggu, a beach/surfer town.
The first thing I noticed about Ubud is how developed it is while maintaining small-town charm. It’s full of westerners, has tons of cute cafes and shops, and has ubiquitous taxi drivers soliciting riders everywhere.
The second thing is the energy. There’s something calm and serene about Ubud – there are temples everywhere – but also lively and full of passionate people. I overheard many a conversation in coffee shops about starting businesses, side projects, yoga experiences, spirituality… I could see pretty quickly how one might be tempted to move here to start a business and spend time in self-reflection.
I enjoyed spending a few days working out of different cafes, eating super-healthy food, and pretty much detoxing since I’m not one to drink alone.
Ubud is also a yoga hub. There are classes of all different styles everywhere, and I took a class almost every day I was there. One of the best experiences of my week was an aerial yoga class I took at Radiantly Alive Yoga. It was my first time trying aerial yoga, and I went in imagining that I wouldn’t be able to do much of it. Within ten minutes of class, we were upside down, and I quickly learned that the worst that could happen is I could fall (which I did). There’s something cathartic about hanging upside down by a belt, and trusting your body not to let you down.
Our instructor talked a lot about fear – how we fear more as adults than we did as children because of our experiences, how this fear is based on what we’ve learned. While this fear can often be a good thing because it keeps us safe, there are other fears we hold on to based on our past: “Fear is a reflection of carrying pain, and not letting it go.” I ended up thinking a lot about the narrative I tell myself about what I can and can’t do (mostly physical things, even though I’ve done multi-day hikes in Patagonia and Machu Picchu) and the ways I hold myself back. I thought about areas in life where I say no due to fear, where that fear comes from, and where I can push that boundary. This will be a work-in-progress forever, I imagine, but was such a memorable part of my trip to Bali that I probably wouldn’t have had had I been traveling with other people.
Another great experience was the Campuhan Ridge hike, a three-ish hour walk that I did early in the morning to avoid the extreme heat. It was still hot, but the views of Balinese rice paddies, hills, and jungles were well-worth it. I had booked a 30-minute foot reflexology massage at Karsa Spa, which was exactly the turning point of my walk. I had a lovely massage sitting outside among small lily ponds, views of rice paddies and sounds of frogs and birds.
My last day in Ubud, I checked out the Sacred Monkey Forest. I was warned in advance about the “cheeky monkeys,” used to tourists bringing them bananas and other snacks. It was awesome to be around these monkey families and watch them interact. I mostly watched from the side, but did end up getting sorta-attacked by one who tried to snatch my water bottle by climbing up my leg. Lesson learned: hide all the things.
I hired a driver to take me the couple of hours from Ubud to Canggu, and made a little trip out of it. We stopped at a couple of temples along the way, including Goa Gajah (the Elephant Cave), and Tanah Lot, a beautiful temple on a rock formation off the coast of the ocean, where I got blessed by Hindu priests and enjoyed spectacular views of the sunset.
My Airbnb in Canggu was a little bungalow owned by a local family (half Balinese, half Dutch), and was the first time I got to spend some time getting to know my hosts. I was even invited to a private yoga class at the house, which was a fun experience.
Canggu is mostly a surfer town. It’s a lot more laid back and more spread out than Ubud – if I had stayed longer, I probably would have rented a scooter to make it easier to get around. It’s also a bit dirty and not nearly as charming as Ubud. Since it was rainy season, the ocean was lacking that beautiful blue-green color you see in pictures of Bali, and the waves were pretty wild. I spent time working from Old Man’s right on the beach, but didn’t actually go in the water once.
I spent my last day exploring southern Bali with my driver from earlier in the week, including the beaches of Nusa Dua and the amazing Blue Point Beach, which we had to hike through caves to get to. Finally, I got to swim and see the beautiful beaches I’d been expecting. We also went to Uluwatu, the famous water temple high on cliffs overlooking the ocean. We saw more “cheeky monkeys,” walked along the cliffside and watched another beautiful sunset. My driver took me around all day on the back of his scooter, often going super fast – scary at first, but I decided to trust the fact that he’s been scooting his entire life. He called me brave, which was such a contrast to how I actually felt/feel, but more and more, I’m internalizing that it was brave to come on Remote Year, brave to go to Bali solo, brave to do aerial yoga, brave to hop on the back of a stranger’s scooter…
Overall, my week in Bali was exactly what I wanted and expected, and more. I’d love to make it back to Ubud one day and stay longer. I loved spending time with myself, by myself. I loved being able to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted to, and that freedom gave me opportunities to reflect and explore more than I had on Remote Year thus far. It couldn’t have been better timing, going into the last few months of this crazy adventure.