After four weeks in Bali I leave this very special Island of Indonesia. During these last 29 days I found a new home and family, I’ve attended as many Yoga classes as possible, have talked to Yoga teachers and students and found new friends. I ended my trip with a Yoga retreat close to Ubud. Bali holds now a place in my heart. This last post is a summary of observations I made and thoughts I had during my trip.
A yogic retrospection
When I first arrived in Bali, I entered into heaven on earth. A Yoga haven called Desa Seni. But it was also a secure Illusion hidden behind great plants and a long small pathway through the rice fields. The rest of Canggu felt busy and not at all quiet.
Canggu: hub of surfing hipsters and digital nomads
Seemed like no one wants to use their feet to come from one place to another. The only crazy creature walking 10 minutes to the beach was me, surrounded by noisy and stinky scooters. I honestly have to say I felt a bit lost. Like I didn’t belong here. Why would you take a scooter to go to the beach, when it’s so close?
Walking towards the beach, I spotted tanned surfer boys and girls. They looked like coming from a movie, with their aviator sunglasses passing by on their motorbikes. Next to them their best friend: a surfboard fixed to their motorbike. And the construction they made up to attach the board to their bike looks pretty fancy, like giant bullhorns coming out sideways of their motorbike.
This whole picture reminded more of a beach boulevard in California, than the magical Indonesian island Bali.
The international community in Bali is huge. At the beginning I wondered what they are all doing here. But it’s not hard to get the taste of la dolce vita on Bali and why it is such a good place for westerners to live and even work. Many expats are starting their own business on the island. Others enjoy the independent lifestyle of a digital nomad, renting a beautiful villa for half the price what you’d pay for a tiny apartment in a european capital. In Canggu there’s whatever you need to enjoy a good lifestyle.
Many coffeeshops and restaurants invite to eat healthy, clean, vegan. Places like Betelnut Cafe offer alternative options like Acai Bowls for breakfast or other vegan meals. For digital nomads there’s this one place to be: the co-working space “Dojo“. And there are plenty of Yoga schools where you can do mindful work-out (just mentioning that Yoga should be a work-in). To finish your day just enjoy the ocean breeze in one of the nice bars or clubs next to the beach. Sounds like a perfect balanced life? Who would not love to live this paradisiacal life? Anything you desire is just a short bike-ride away and little money away.
But I asked myself is this the famous spiritual Bali you hear of?
Because all in all I didn’t feel a big difference to Europe. I found materialism and disconnection wherever I looked. Even though there’s Indonesian staff everywhere, you can ask yourself why. Is it because of the good will of the owner, supporting integration of locals? Or due to the Indonesian state making it hard to get foreigners a work visa (not mentioning the higher salaries westerners obviously expect)?
The Yoga places run by westerners were all big temples. Impressive buildings, free hot ginger tea after class, fully equipped Yoga Shalas (including hammocks for sky Yoga) and usually you can book some spa treatments at the same place. All for the very accesible price of 100,000 -150,000 IDR (7-10€). For us westerners that’s a great deal: Make Yoga in a stunning place including all your body, mind and soul needs. It’s heaven on earth, right?
Too much offer makes it difficult to be moderate
Canggu wasn’t the only place like that. All over in Bali, Yoga is becoming a great way to make money. Not only for western foreigners but also the eastern high society is not waiting. Business and making money is still one of the first engines that moves the man…. Love could be the other one.
Ubud was different to many other places in Bali. It’s more quiet and calm. I felt a sense of peace when I entered the city in the darkness of the night. As sunset is around at 18.30, at 22.00 everyone is at home, resting, even already sleeping. That was something I really loved about Ubud. It was much more my way of living. A yogic way of living. Being in contact with the natural cycle. Getting up early with the sun and resting when she does.
Everywhere you look: ways to spend your money…
Still Ubud is a touristy place. But you can easily avoid the busy streets around monkey forest and Ubud market. I haven’t seen them until my last day in Ubud bringing a friend home who was living nearby. But I really haven’t missed anything. Thousands of small shops, overpriced cafés and restaurants and many tourists looking for a place to spend their well earned money from Europe or America. And there are many ways to spend your money in Ubud: classically in clothes or fabrics, jewelry or indoor accessoires or spa treatments like massages, body peeling or simply yoga classes.
Oh I forgot about the food. It’s delicious and (of course) vegan. There is this big fashion of vegan and raw cuisine in Bali and especially in Ubud. Seems like you rather be a vegan or a yogi or you make the great deal and be both. Then you are a true expat in Ubud. You can find plenty of vegan restaurants in the streets of Ubud. So you can spend a lot of money also in food or cooking (You don’t know yet how to make a raw falafel? No problem Ubud offers of course a cooking workshop for this).
When you have so many possibilities it’s hard to practice moderation. You rather keep with the capitalist lifestyle of eating too much, having too much and spending too much money. At the end of the day ran from one place to another getting clothes, massages and raw chocolate but haven’t taken a moment for turning inwards and mindfulness.
Massive consume on vacation / workation
What I’ve observed once again during my travels here in Bali is following:
There seems to be this high personal need of having fun and celebrating happiness in an excessive way. When I see westerners on vacation, they spend a high amount of money, drink a lot of alcohol and often want to party hard. There’s a big portion of excess in anything people do on vacation (or in their free time on everyday life). If I drink, I should get drunk. If I go out it should be a big party with hangover the next day. If I am hungry I eat until my belly hurts. If I can get 3 of these earrings for the price of 2, I will buy 6 even though I don’t need them. But for sure someone back home would be happy to get a souvenir. (If you are shaking your head now, without agreeing to anything of that, big congrats to you. But the big majority probably knows those moments.)
So why are people looking for excessive happiness?
Somehow I understand that phenomena. I mean usually throughout the year people work hard and a way too much. And they grew up with that mindset of that is how it has to be. The purpose of life is having a good job and a nice husband/wife, probably a family and maybe a house or a car. But work is still on top on how success in life is measured. So people work and they focus on getting better every day in their job. Convinced that a good job (perfect partner,nice house,new shoes) is making you happy. But very few are focusing on getting better as a person. Very few are turning inwards. And looking outside for happiness is happiness killer number one.
Happiness can’t be measured by your job, but by the level of balance
A successful life should be measured on the level of happiness. But happiness has to be measured by the level of balance and connection in life (including up’s and down’s). Happiness is not about being happy all the time. And it’s also not about how often I can get crazy on a party or drink alcohol, or go on vacation, and then share all that on Instagram!
More than happiness I like to use the word contentment. It just feels more humble to me. And that’s where the whole secret is. In being more humble and simple. Two things I did not only take with me from India but also from the balinese people. Due to their culture and spirituality, social commitment and organization is very important to them.
Start with yourself
This post is not about criticising the businessmen and women, having made up an great idea, spent time and effort into realizing their business. But I want to encourage everyone(including myself) to think about their own behavior, especially on vacation. What is it what you are looking for on vacation?