I’ve been in Bali for a month now and though the world I left behind is far away, the emotions that led me here are not.
For the last few years, I’ve been living in Beverly Hills and, mostly single-handedly, running my jewelry business, House of Shakti. The trials and tribulations of entrepreneurship are many and although they are not the focus of my piece today, they have been a big factor in my decision to take this trip.
This last year my business had fallen on hard times. I spent months trying to regain the financial momentum I once had, to no avail. Stress and panic started to set in, sinking me into a depression. The word “failure” loomed over me like a dark cloud and, in spite of my friends’ kind words to the contrary, I couldn’t shake it.
I knew I needed to pick myself up and pivot, but wasn’t sure where or how. But for over a year, Bali had been calling to me. During this time, I read somewhere that a scientifically proven way to make yourself feel happier was to plan a vacation.
That was all the convincing I needed.
So I pivoted…from Beverly Hills to Bali, completely unsure of what I would find and more than a little frightened at the prospect of taking such a big leap—alone—to a place where I knew not a soul. I chose my first destination and my home base in Bali as Ubud, also known as “Love” from Eat, Pray, Love fame.
Ubud (pronounced: oobood) means medicine and I had heard great things about this mecca known for creativity and the healing arts.
My first impression of Bali upon arriving was brought on by the huge, intricately-carved sculptures that adorned some of the streets, many of them designating famous Hindu stories from the Bhagavad Gita. I was in awe of these statues and the talent of the artists who made them. The Balinese are probably the most talented carvers in the world, closely followed by the Nepalese. You will find their exquisite work in a variety of materials on display pretty much everywhere you go. This is a land that inspires creativity in all who come to it. It is inevitable that you will feel this energy.
The Balinese are also very kind and friendly. You will find that a common question they’ll ask you is, “Where are you going?” Such a question would normally be a cause for alarm in another place, but not here. Though Indonesia has the largest Muslim population of any country in the world, Bali itself is Hindu.
I was told that the Balinese people were kind and that Ubud was a friendly place for female travelers. So far I haven’t been disappointed.
The main form of transport in Bali is the scooter, which, at first, was daunting since I had never driven one before. I got up the courage to drive one, and within two days, fell victim to a gravel road on a full moon night. I received what they call a “Bali Kiss.” Several men from the village ran to my aid, and, a stitch and some band-aids later, I was ready to celebrate my Bali birthday.
The Balinese are a people of many rituals. Wherever you walk you will find small “offerings” made of palm and/or banana leaves, flowers, incense, tin coins and more. The offerings create mutual obligations and favors between humans and spirits. This gives you an idea of the importance of reciprocity in Balinese culture, be it to the land, to their gods, and to each other.
I felt it fitting to spend my birthday at a couple of the over 1000 temples here and participate in the rituals myself. In a short time I grew to appreciate the rituals of the island and feel particularly honored to get to witness a cremation ceremony here in the village in a few days.
They say the Island of the Gods is magical and I can already say I truly agree. With each step is a new discovery, blessing and/or moment of magic.
One such moment came the day after my birthday. A bird fell from the sky into the stairway of my villa here. The bird repeatedly tried to fly off. Realizing it was injured, we watched in sadness until it finally stopped moving. As if for confirmation, the woman next to me said, “It’s dead.”
No sooner had the words left her mouth than the earth shook beneath us…violently…once. I watched the bird jump back to life and attempt to start flying again, as if it had received a jolt of electricity. Not until the second tremor came did it register that this was an earthquake. We ran to an open space and waited for the quake to pass. Thankfully, it didn’t last too long and, upon our return to the house, we found the bird had flown away without a trace. It was as if it only came to warn us that the earth was about to move.
It was then that I understood why I was called to Bali: to experience its magic and its synchronicities. Magic that would renew my hope, creativity, resilience, conviction and direction.
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Ed: Sara Crolick