The scary ride called 2016

I possibly could not have envisioned 2016 to unfold the way it did – meandering in its complexity, perplexing me with difficult shots to call, alarming me with fears that I had been nursing but, in the end, mirroring the courage with which I have aways hit back when going gets tough. It has been the culmination of all that I have aspired to through a toiling journey inwards. Oh, and it has been hell at times. Believe me.

This entry is more for me, because face it, you don’t know me. You don’t even know yourself, do you? And if you are smiling at this statement that I have made, perhaps you know what I am talking about. Do you ask yourself what are you afraid of? Have you introspected why you made certain decisions? We don’t normally because we are not required to. Unless the pain cracks you open. The inner unhappiness becomes too loud to ignore. And once you start heeding your inner voices, they show you the mess you are carrying inside. But, as the veil lifts from this mess, you eventually get to be aware. And that awareness is enough. That is where the light starts. This light will guide you to your own golden place. It is like a secret chamber made just for you. Your chamber might look very different from mine. That peace and silence are yours to find.

Now, I can write a fluff blog describing the hundreds of travels I did (and I can show off!) and some success stories. I can boast of what an amazing year it has been. But I don’t want to. I want to share the real joy I have found which has nothing to do directly with partying on the beautiful white sand beaches in Koh, Thailand (I did that), floating on a houseboat in Kashmir (I did), seeing the night fall over Udaipur palace (yep), chanting at 5 am dawn fire in Auroville (seriously beautiful), meeting a fascinating teacher and inspiring people in the hills of Himachal (I did), going crazy in Bali (did, did), roaming around Singapore (yep), or taking a family trip back to our ancestral home in Panna. Ok yes, little enviable details do help! But in a way, all these did put me in situations which kept my inner journey on. It is less about where you are than who you are and what you see.

  • Solo trips told me that I had settled in my comfort zones and it was awkward opening my heart to strangers and experiences. I pushed and these strangers turned into lifetime friends and mentors.
  • They taught me to be comfortable in my skin, in my beliefs, not succumb to live someone else’s life. I shared my voice more fearlessly and got some articles published on leading places such as Entrepreneur, DailyO, Tribune, DNA, EduTimes etc. Frankly, I could never have imagined this a year ago.
  • I realized I had been taking things and people for granted. Some books changed my perspective and perhaps transformed me for life (esp Marshall Rosenberg’s NVC books). The joy came through reconnecting to age old friends or cousins, or even your own parents. I noticed that I started listening more, feeling more what the other person is saying and going through. A strange feeling of ‘oneness’ took over. I realized that you cannot love one person unless you love everyone. There is no special love. I find empathy to be a much better word than love these days.
  • I smile more often because I appreciate what I have. Such a horribly cliched sentence but it is what it is.
  • And I got a tattoo which read ‘no fear’ in April. The moment I saw the design, I knew it was the one. Little did I know that I was about to witness it so closely in the months to come.

Sorry, it is all too much in the surface but the fact is my experience is mine and you cannot learn from it. Just like you cannot learn swimming by watching YouTube (yep, I tried!), you cannot grow from my journey. You have to find your own. And the first step is to look inwards, know yourself and help yourself in conquering the fears you have harbored, work towards the happiness you seek and eliminate the causes of pain. Ha! How simple. I wish it was.

Now, let me see – did I fulfill any resolution from year before? I think I was wise enough to not make resolutions but I did expect that I would create some voodoo magic in my business – I did not. It grew and I got loving students and that is happier than if had I scaled crazily compromising on the experience I was creating (sour grapes?). I did not attain some unbelievable success. I am still an unknown writer and entrepreneur. But I think it’s okay. I mean I am fine with it. I feel more complete than I have ever before.

So that is what 2016 was for me. It was a fire that transformed, a bitter pill that had to be taken to come out of the coma, a splash of cold water on your face early in the morning, a point of no return.

One advice – have faith.

One lesson learned – all that matters is your growth. Anything that will keep you away from your growth will make you miserable. Find it, change it – keep growing. There is no substitute for inner growth.

Stop going nuts over social media. Marilyn Monroe died of drugs and people quote her on self-help matters. Thank you very much, I am fine on my own. Find out for yourself, everything out there is a marketing message. Read real books. Talk to real people.

As Mark Manson says, stop giving a f*** about stupid things in life. Go, live. Do.

Fog is out there. Truth is out there. Discern.

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 🙂

Bali Diary 6: Accomplish and Celebrate

Ok, I admit I’m somewhat of a workaholic. Whenever I get stuff done (the slang is get shit done!), I feel awesome and then I get more stuff done. My projects are coming together naturally as I surround myself with other interesting people – we have marketing geniuses, content writers, film makers, app developers here at Hubud. Monday to Wednesdays have been super productive and then we have our social time on Thursday lunches and Friday excursions.

On my third Saturday, I attended the energetic Invasion pool party (there is no dearth of these in Ubud) in the picturesque Bali Resort. I spent the Sunday relaxing on Sanur beach with Colleen. And I got the Balinese massage which was fantastic. Bali is all about healing, massages and spa. I had not planned any tourist activities in Bali and have let things happen on their own. I think there are better beaches to explore in Bali, perhaps some other time.

Invasion Party, Ubud
Invasion Party, Ubud
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Sanur Beach

Fourth week of working hard resulted in my coming up with strategic decisions for next season of SS. I also managed to publish the divorce article that I have been holding for too long now on DailyO. It seemed fitting that I post it from here where I have felt most myself.  Our third Tribe lunch was at the permaculture center, Moksa Cafe where all the ingredients are grown fresh. We had most amazing organic coco drink and rice bowl. Oh and the bamboo straw was so cute! The rice fields surrounding the restaurant called for a lovely walk. For my last Friday here, I headed to the beautiful Tjampuhan Spa where Amber even tried to give me some swim lessons! This, by the way, is a very beautiful place. The hot water pool is enclosed in carved rock caves overlooking the jungle and the river. I love how Balinese preserve their greenery.

Rice fields behind Moksa Cafe
Rice fields behind Moksa Cafe
Organic food at Moksa Cafe, Ubud
Organic food at Moksa Cafe, Ubud
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Tjampuhan Spa, Ubud

I spent a very soulful last weekend with Ash when we headed to the Holy Water TemplePura Tirta Empul. I had been wanting to go there ever since I landed, thanks to Ash for pushing me to go there finally.Bali offers some very beautiful temples and this is more than a 1000 years old now. The fresh water comes from the spring in the temple and thousands of visitors bathe in it. I and Ash took turns to bathe under the designated spouts. Definitely, an experience I would remember. I do not see any prominent statues inside Balinese temples although there are lot of carved figures outside. We also visited the stone temple next to this one that featured gigantic rock with faint carvings but were at a loss to understand its significance. On Sunday, we walked around the famous Monkey Forest in the center of Ubud. Balinese monkeys look slightly different than Indian monkeys but compete well in terms of mischief and chaos. Many a times, they would jump on the roof and garden at Hubud, making for amusing scenes.

bathing at Holy Water Temple Bali
bathing at Holy Water Temple Bali
Holy Water Temple Bali
Holy Water Temple Bali
Monkey Forest, Ubud
Monkey Forest, Ubud

Last week went by quick with a merry happy hour at Watercress with Ash and Aline and a closing lunch at Laura’s place. Her daughter cooked for us and that to me was very sweet 🙂 Laura’s home was again very beautiful with a garden and sunbathed pool. She served us some traditional Russian equivalent of potato filled tortellini and salad. We ended with fruits, honey and spicy tea. In this last lunch together, I had a lot to acknowledge. After all, Bali has given me so much.

Happy Hours at Ubud
Happy Hours at Ubud

The reason we all are able to spend good time celebrating is the fact that we are getting so much done. When you are productive, you feel happy. It has nothing to do with how much time you have. It is all about how you spend whatever time you have. Ever since I started working, I had felt a need to maintain a very healthy work life balance that gives me time for myself. But although I now get a lot of time for myself, I often squandered it away in India. As a result, I was neither productive nor enjoying as much as I should. This month at Hubud has shown me the promise of ‘work hard, celebrate harder’.

My first innings at Bali came to an end. I had come distraught but am leaving with a smile. I am heading off to Singapore now. This is not the end.

And, here are the previous posts in Bali Diary:

Bali Diary 5: Connecting Meaningfully

Another week started with our Tribe meetings where I committed to continue working on first draft of my book and come up with online courses for Scholar Strategy (SS). Of late, I know that I can do more justice with SS but have always felt a resistance within towards doing videos, which is, of course, stupid. From the students feedbacks, I know that they are benefitting a lot with what we are offering and online course is a means to reach out to many more students than I personally can. As always, Tribe came to rescue. I did a brainstorming session with Ash, Fiona, Colleen and Laura and asked for help! From that came out some concrete ideas on what exactly should I focus and immediate next steps. It was magical. As a solo working entrepreneur, sometimes it becomes difficult to strategize and focus. Tribewanted has been an amazing help on that. Colleen gave me a challenge of creating a video this week which I accepted and executed successfully.

One thing I am noticing is ever since I have started putting myself out there, approaching people, I am already feeling people reaching out to me, opening up to me. There’s another game that Colleen made us play as a part of her Emotional Intelligence session – we all had to come up with 3 qualities that we value and want to be associated with us. And then, define a tagline for our ‘games’. I came up with – wise, empathetic and genuine. I am calling my game – ‘Creating my Magic’ which is tad bit inspired from Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic that I am currently reading. Now, you need to ask yourself whenever you take any action and make a decision – does it adhere to these qualities? Does it take you further along in your game or not? This will make you do things that you truly value and stay away from hopeless pursuits. Weirdly, all of us started noticing how we were actually being associated with these qualities. For e.g. Someone actually called me ‘genuine’ the other day casually in a conversation and this person has no knowledge about my exercise with Colleen. Ash witnessed it too when someone called her inspiring the other day. This stuff is powerful! Try it sometime.

Goya Resort Bali
Goya Resort Bali

I caught up my first Tribewanted group lunch this Thursday at the gorgeous Goya Resort. It is located with the pool and restaurant view of the jungle. While we grabbed some chilled drinks and delicious falafel wraps, we took a moment to acknowledge the good stuff we have been up to and appreciate everyone’s efforts in their own journeys.

Now, let me come to the real stuff. As I talked to more people, sharing my problems and statuses, Amber told me that she can help me with online courses. And then, she actually sat down with me and gave me ton of useful advice and help me structure things. For me, that is more valuable than any paid advice. It made me realize that we are probably surrounded by incredible people all the time, we just don’t take time to ask for help or talk to them. It, of course, works both ways. Take some, pass it on, give back – engage, connect with people for god’s sake. I have been so bad at this stuff that it is a whole new world to me. But the ride is starting beautifully. I encourage you to let go of your tiny voices that hold you back. Connect in meaningful ways – not with an intention of getting something back. Put your problems out there, let the universe come back to you with solutions. I got plenty of great advice from Amber and Derek this week. So thankful to them! You can do this too even if you are an introvert. Good intentions and energies are not a prerogative of extroverts you know. Just be receptive 🙂

Tribewanted Bali
Tribewanted Bali

PS. No wonder I love Amber so much. She has an awesome blog called Climb Out of the Cubicle where she tells her story of leaving a boring government job to travel the world.