10 profound reflections from 3 months of travel

Now that I am back from 88 days of travel, this is the ultimate post, rather a note to myself, of the 10 most profound moments and lessons I learned!

1. Mind can be tricked into feeling happy – I was at a palatial Balinese villa full of people moving in gravity defying ecstatic dance. It was my first weekend and the feeling of comfort had not yet arrived. I was missing my friends at that party. That is when I told myself I am going to enjoy this place and moment all by myself. I started smiling (began with no reason but soon the reasons followed), dancing because hell! no one I know is around to watch anyway, and began hanging out with people around me. From that day, I have consciously made myself happy (not waiting to let it come to me on its own) at many instances and it works! So – go and make yourself happy, you do not need any reason, person or place.

dance

2. What block? – My second novel was lying dead since nearly 2 years. I meet Jim at Hubud and he invites me to a writeathon. Write without thinking for 2 sprints of 45 min each. Since that day, writer’s block gone. Force yourself to act when it doesn’t come naturally and creativity shall follow. I am sure it can apply to many other things as well.

unblocked

3. Remind yourself how awesome you are – I was discussing my business in front of a group of entrepreneurs to pick their brains on how to grow it. And at the whiteboard when I was running numbers and telling them my results, I suddenly felt so proud of what I had built. And I could see it in the way people reacted to as well. That is when I thought, how can I doubt myself? Why do we seek approval from others? Just start counting the good things you have done and believe in yourself. Nobody else matters.

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4. Let go – At the water priestess ritual when I was drowning in middle of the courtyard, the priestess asked me to let go of residual feelings and emotions. I did not know if anything happened but I do know that I have not felt anger the way I did ever since. That is probably too tall a claim but perhaps the act subconsciously tricked my brain into believing that my baggage is gone. Either way, I am happy about it. Even if you may not have a water temple or priest around, close your eyes, stomp your feet, cry out if you have to and let go of your negative feelings from the past.

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5. Be spontaneous – I kept meeting awesome people in Bali or because that I had opened myself up to others, I was attracting good intentioned people. I was growing and feeling happier. With only few days left in Bali, I knew I had not gotten the most of my trip yet. It is just the beginning, something told me. I don’t know what exactly triggered it but a point came when I knew I had to be back here for my own sake. Fuck the flight ticket, I can figure out extra money etc. I felt a need to be back and I responded to it.

stay

6. Fear is a figment of your mind – For past few years, I had become more fearful of those roller coaster rides (age factor, huh?). As we were staring at the big Battlestar Galactica: Cyclon ride that looked awful even from the ground below, I was terrified. But from there till the queue, I was thinking of the scary decisions I have made in life and wondered what can a ride be compared to those. What is fear of the ride anyway? All the components in it are predictable. You know the deep fall is coming, so why be afraid? As I broke down the ride into logical parts in my brain, it felt less scary. And as I sat down and the car started moving up the slope, I told myself – there is the fall, we know how it feels, lets enjoy the adrenaline rush instead. And I did. Instead of closing my eyes as I normally do, I kept them open, watched the whole ride consciously and it did not feel scary at all. In fact, I ran back into the line again and did it another time. It was fun.

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7. Be patient – I had walked 3 km and been riding the bicycle for five km on the East Coast Park, Singapore and had forgotten to carry the water bottle. I kept waiting for the water fountain somewhere but nope, nothing. I did not want to go back to the starting point. The sun was rising and it was already pretty hot. Somehow, I was patient and kind to myself. And at that point, I had a strong feeling that a solution is going to present itself. Particularly, I felt that I am going to find a water fountain. I kept riding and within five minutes, there was a water fountain by my side. It was the only fountain in whole track. Sounds bizarre but it did happen. Listen to your inner voice and you will find the water 🙂

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8. Tell people you love them – It was my father’s birthday when I was back in Bali. I have always been close to him and yet, had forgotten how to express my love or gratitude. Now, as with most Indian families, my family is shy when it comes to expressing too. So, we just smile politely, say things diplomatically and then burst out once in a while. I was missing my Dad and instead of the usual HB that I would have said, I sent a message telling him that I feel lucky to be his daughter (no, not publicly on fb!). Might be the smallest thing that I have ignored for too long. It felt really good to convey it.

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9.  Don’t stop learning – Not being able to swim has not bothered me as such but I know I am missing out on something amazing and useful. After taking a dip in the pool in Singapore with my cousins, I decided to give it a serious try in Bali. I asked my roommate to help me and she did! Now, I may not have advanced barring the trivial floating on the edge but it is a start. I realize it is all psychological at this stage and I hope I can overcome those flight instincts that makes you panic and lose control of breath. Making a choice to go into the pool has given me faith that I can learn anything I want to. And that it is never too late to begin 🙂

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10. Celebrate – Wouldn’t it be amazing if someone gifted you flowers or a book? Of course, it would be. But why wait? Why not go and gift those to yourself? Yes, feel thankful for the lovely person that you are. I was proud of my journey in these last 88 days traveling Bali and Singapore on my own. I wanted to celebrate and I went and gifted myself a beautiful dress. I did not need it, I just wanted to buy myself a present because I deserved it. That’s one less thing I wish from the world now 🙂

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And a bonus one!

11. It’s all about people – My whole journey has been about people I met, people I was away from and people I am about to meet. Always the people 🙂

people

  

A trip to Gili T island on Bali

Gili Islands are a group of 3 islands northwest of Lombok and one of the most popular beach destinations around Bali. I had heard about it from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love and my friends in Ubud. I knew I wanted to see the white sand beaches before my trip came to an end. It is a destination slightly more expensive than Ubud and it was good that we were going in a group of five people. We rented a taxi to Padang Bai from where the boat to Gili T left at 9:30am. Gili T is more of a party island and Gili Air is romantic place mostly for honeymooners. We used the boat company SindEx (for 310K IDR for round tickets, it was a great deal! Usual rates go upto 500K). It was a calm sea and sunny day, we took our places on the sunny deck. With enthusiastic local staff who kept on serving Bintangs and playing Vengaboys party songs, nice breeze and heavenly view of the shiny blue waters all around, the trip had already started on a high. This is why I would again highly recommend SindEx boats.

Sindex boat to Gili T
Sindex boat to Gili T
Happy on the boat!
Happy on the boat!

We reached Gili T island around 12:30pm and walked to Cotton Tree hotel where we had taken a 5 bed family room for 2.5M IDR for 2 days. There are no automobiles allowed on these islands, therefore you need to use the bicycle, foot or horse carriages. Dumping our stuff, we went back to the main shore side for some lunch. Needless to mention, we were drenched in sweat and starving already. The island, although the biggest among Gilis, is still quite small and can be covered in foot or bicycle.

Selfie time at the beach
Selfie time at the beach

We explored few beach areas before walking up to the West coast which is full of idyllic clean beaches and resorts. You will also find interesting spots where they have swings in middle of the sea which makes for great photo ops. After clicking some pics, we headed to Serene Sunset on Ash’s recommendation. I could not agree with her more because this little bar on the beach is like a place from Alice in Wonderland. It has cute wooden furniture, swings, hammocks, bonfire and done in a taste that makes you want to do nothing but sit and stare at the blue glory in front. It was almost sunset time and we enjoyed the view sipping the best Ginger Mojitos on the island. We went to the neighboring restaurant for dinner. The falafel plate I ordered was fab. Since the horse carriages asked too much, we decided to walk back to our room which took another 45 min or so. I decided to call it a day after nice hot shower.

Swings in the ocean on Gili T
Swings in the ocean on Gili T
Sipping Mojitos on Gili T
Sipping Mojitos on Gili T

Next day, I just wanted to laze by the beach after renting a bike. We hanged around at Horizontal beach bar on the east side and I enjoyed my Kindle and with decent wifi all around in the island, I was able to take my work calls in between as well.  Marbree enjoyed her diving and showed us the pics of turtles and cuttlefish and the amazing sea life later on. By the way, Gili beaches are great for snorkeling too and you just need to take a mask and go on your own just near the shore. Just before the sunset, I knew where I wanted to go back – the Serene Sunset bar! 🙂 So we biked back, noticing how low the tide seemed, exposing the dark green coral on the sea. I needed another Ginger Mojito watching the sun go down. I admit the scene made me very reflective and emotional. I was thinking of a lot of memories and people. But as the day began to set, I noticed how I have come a long way since the beginning of my Bali trip (which some of you might remember from this post). I was happy to witness this magic of the nature and thankful to be with people who are amazing and kind to me (do I need to mention again how amazing Ash has been throughout my journey?). I was literally happy and peaceful. There are so many ‘could have beens’ in life but I was glad to just be. And I did not have any regrets, resentment or anger, only warmth and happiness (sometimes I do wonder if that water priestess thing did work some magic on me since I have really not been feeling any residual emotions after that). I did not want to jump into the future, I just wanted to witness that beautiful sunset and I did.

Most amazing sunset at the Serene Sunset Bar at Gili T
Most amazing sunset at the Serene Sunset Bar at Gili T

We settled there itself for a dinner and guess what, Ash found a wonderful note hidden away in our table drawer. It got us chatting and soon the bar owner (Iranian Mr. _I-dont-know-the-name__) joined us and took us for a walk on the moonlit beach. His passion for the place flowed in his words and we decided to head back to the east side for parties that night. Stopping over at karaoke bar, Irish bar and Sama Sama for a reggae band performance, I retired to my room around midnight. The parties and after parties continued long into the night but I was happy to be back into the bed.

Curious note
Curious note
Lovely dinner conversations
Lovely dinner conversations
Sama Sama Reggae Bar
Sama Sama Reggae Bar

We left at noon next day and the boat ride was choppy in the beginning, so we ended up riding in the lower section of the boat itself. We made it back to Ubud by 6 p.m. We were tired but thankful. We had seen something beautiful and magical. And who can regret that? Financially, I spent around 2M IDR on the full trip which was a great deal for the things we got to experience. If you go to Bali, you do not want to miss the Gilis. And if you are there with your special someone, go off to Gili Air, watch the sun and stars, sip some wine and enjoy the feeling of love.

I have only one week left in Bali now. It has been a phenomenal trip and I am going to always cherish it.

  

Bali Uluwatu Road Trip

There’s something in humans that makes them want to go to the edge, see that vast soaring ocean, see the sun go up and down and stare at the nothingness. It is in this everyday cycle of nature that he realizes his own insignificance – or rather the significance of his insignificance. I have often felt the need to run to the sea water and just watch it wave up and down, uninteresting in its regularity and musical in its rhythm. The tide will go up and then it will recede. Sometimes, it will reveal the ocean floor naked and other times, it will hide the corals. It is a predictable movie that I can watch again and again.

So, I had decided to come back to Bali after my Singapore trip. We joke here at Hubud that no one can leave Ubud in a month, you got to come back. In my last few weeks, I had felt restless to touch the saline water and walk aimlessly on the shore. And with this desire in my heart, I and my never tiring flatmate, Ash decided to head off on a bike trip to Uluwatu, which means lands end + rock. Unsurprisingly, it houses one of the most beautiful cliffs formed by territory limestone resulting from subduction Indo-Australian plate under the Eurasian plate. A surfers’ paradise, Uluwatu is insanely picturesque. Now, biking in Bali is a whole interesting experience. The highways are quite similar to India but less wide. Road signs are not ample enough and we needed to stop every 15 minutes to make sure we are on the right road. Driving on a scooter, helmet is a must. We drove via Canggu (more common beach destination for tourists) and reached Uluwatu in the late afternoon. We checked in on the Bingin beach at a small place called Sticky’s. It had basic and fancier rooms with beautiful lookout terraces on the cliff. The hotel housed so many Aussies who were spending weeks there to surf. Drenched in the sweat from afternoon sun, I took a cold shower and moved to the beach. Alert: lot of rock steps on your way between parking and the beach. Travel with light luggage 🙂

Sticky's at Bingin Beach
Sticky’s at Bingin Beach
Bingin Beach
Bingin Beach

Due to the holiday of Galungan, many cafes were closed but I found a sweet birds nest kind of spot in one and it made for gorgeous view of the beach. The water was dark blue and as far as the sight went, surfers dotted the sea. However, the beach is not entirely safe due to shallow corals very close from the shore. Ash hurt herself with a sharp cut within minutes. Smoothies, drinks and corn made for our light lunch before the sun started to set. It was my first proper sunset view in Bali and was as beautiful as I wished. I sat on the beach watching it go down at its leisurely pace. The cliff, cloud and beach turned colors gradually. In the darkness, lit up the numerous ships standing far on the horizon and the lamps on the seaside shacks.

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Sunset at Bingin
Sunset at Bingin

Fresh seafood was brought out and people hungry from their surfing an swimming retired to find a table with good view. All the views in this place are good by the way. So, we sat down, chatting about the inconsequential episodes of life that tend to rattle us wildly in the moment but mean nothing more than a speck on a sprayed wall. I noticed lights in middle of the sea, someone told us that people are looking for octopuses and squids with a headlight. The light stuns them and you can shoot them with a spear kind of thing and bring it to the cafes on the beach to cook those! Gross! An okay dinner was followed by a party at Single Fin Rock Bar which is located right at the tip of the island giving a 360 degree view of the ocean. The night parties are legendary and we knew we would be coming back there again. It is a must visit in the area. Next day, we checked out from the hotel (paying 200K for a night was a fab deal in that place right on the beach) and headed to Single Fin for the lunch. I had been craving for a good cappuccino but the coffee machine was broken. The food was not great but what people come here is for the view and experience. We did enjoy looking out at the crystal blue waves hitting at the rocks, read a book for an hour before heading back to Ubud on the road.

Single Fin bar at Uluwatu
Single Fin bar at Uluwatu

Again, driving back on the scooter was not all fun but we managed it fine, having a brief stopover at Sanur beach. Frankly, as soon as the paddy fields came into the view, it felt like home is here. There is something about Ubud that is warm and motherly. I was glad to drive across the slanting sun rays on the green fields. Already longing to take a hot shower and slip into the bedsheets. It was a good trip, a major beach checked off the list. Overall I spent a little over 500K IDR on the trip. After two intense work days, I knew I was heading to Gili Islands – one of the most talked about islands in the world. More on it in the next post 🙂

  

Experiencing Singapore – urban garden

Singapore is the 7th country I am setting foot in. Now, that’s nothing compared to what my follow Ubudians had been up to (remembering Amber counting her countries list somewhere in 30s) but hey, its a start! 🙂 After arriving from the lush green land of Bali, Singapore initially seemed like a concrete jungle. The skyscrapers, cemented roads, metros, buses, shopping malls all reminded me of the west. On my first day here, I decided to meet Julie (aha, another Hubudian who was on her visa run here) for the night safari at Singapore zoo. Having traveled a lot in NYC subways, the transport system was easy for me to figure out and I could travel on my own the very first day. The biggest disturbing thing was when I saw super brand conscious public breaking their necks over their smartphones everywhere in the metro and buses. Glittery handbags, watches, iPhones with kitty covers and colored hairs. I was already missing the warmth of Balinese people.

But that’s being a bit harsh. As I explored more (courtesy of my generous cousin hosts), I could see government’s efforts at maintaining greenery in abundance. Be it the gardens by the bay, botanical gardens, east coast parks or even the expressways, palm and yellow rain trees with manually planted bird’s nest ferns will offer a green feast to your eyes. Apart from an impressively maintained infrastructure, what I love about Singapore is how secure it is. One my first night, I was coming alone with no phone at 1 a.m. and I did not have to think twice about it after the reassurance given by my family and friends staying here. Coming from India, that is one thing enough on its own to convince me to spend more time in Singapore. I wish vegetarian food was more accessible though and of course, that things were a little less expensive (expenses are almost at par with US, I would say) 🙂   

Gardens by the Bay
Gardens by the Bay

With my travels, I had been feeling as if I was growing more conscious and mature (ha!). And I was not ready to go back to India as I intended originally on 14 Aug. So, I ended up canceling my ticket and planning to go back, once again, to Bali before crossing the seas over to India. This extension also gave me a chance to spend Rakshabandhan with Ashutosh and Megha and have fun with my awesome buddy Geetika. The best parts have been when I got to bicycling on East Coast Park for 10-16 km. My sedentary lifestyle was shaken another time when I got a taste of swimming pool. Something about these physical excursions has given me a new goal – ‘to learn swimming’. Let’s see if I can overcome my fear of water for real. It only helped that Joseph Schooling, the new Olympic champ and hero of Singapore, has triggered a wave of swimming enthusiasts in Singapore. The building pool had been busier than ever 😛

Cycling at East Coast Park
Cycling at East Coast Park

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Talking of Rio Olympics, watching Sindhu win and other fighting performances by Indian girls was only a reinforcement of what I have always believed in – the genius and heroism are never a matter of gender or skin color. I feel inspired every time an unlikely champion raises her head. History knows no favorites.

Other places I loved include the awesome street shopping experience of Bugis Street Mall and the Marina Bay area. I also got to spend a lot of time on my Kindle thanks to Dr. Marshall Rosenberg. As I bumped into reading about his work around Non Violent Communication, I have found a transformation in the way I have looked at communication and expressions, particularly anger. I am still in the process of adopting it at a more practical level but it has already been an eye opener to me. More on it later because I am still in discovery phase but it looks promising.

Light show at Marina Bay
Light show at Marina Bay

This is my last weekend in Singapore and thanks to my well wishers here, the time has been productive and fun, both. It had been on my travel wish list for sometime and I’m glad to check it off. I can see how people like working and living here. If you are doing a job at the end of the day, it is a nice place with uber urban culture, interesting food and security. Plus, the location is a big advantage for Indians and it does give good access to traveling the cute countries around on a budget – Malaysia (a bus ride away), Bali, Vietnam, Cambodia etc.

Sunset at Bedok Reservoir
Sunset at Bedok Reservoir
Another day goes down
Another day goes down
Keep Growing
Keep Growing
  

Placid Lake and the Tempest

tempest
Rainy day at East Coast Park

‘O placid lake, why do you lie so calm?’ asked the tempest.
‘Because I have lost the desire to dance.’
‘Oh, but you are missing out the beauty of the tumult. The life of passion. Wait, I shall show you!’
And saying that, the tempest threw a stone creating a million ripples in the lake.

The lake watched herself wave up and down and felt ecstasy passing through her very veins.
‘Hey, I had never felt like that before. The energy felt good and brought back some of my lost treasures back to the surface!’
‘Aha, now you can become the sea,’ said the tempest with a roar.
‘No, my dear, let me now give you some of my calm.’

‘But I am the hail, I am the storm. How can I be calm?’
With that, the ripples on the lake calmed down and she invited the tempest over her. With her moisture laden arms, she pacified the dry storm and grounded it.
‘Oh, that felt nice for me to rest a bit. I have always moved in whirlwinds,’ replied the tempest with a gleam in his eyes.

‘I am the lake with an ocean hidden in me and you are the storm with a calm at the center. Let’s embrace our cores and keep ourselves open to transcending our identities once in a while. Let’s love who we are.’
‘But we are one!’
‘Yes, we are!’