On April 7th, my cousin and I boarded our flight at Washington Dulles airport to head to Bali, Indonesia. We were excited, nervous, and expectant.
We had never been that far from home. And for me, this was my first EVER international trip! Going to the other side of the world wasn’t daunting AT ALL! 😉
Just as with most things in life, the trip far exceeded my expectations- in both good and bad ways. I don’t know that I honestly could ever sit on a flight for 22 hours (both ways!) again…that really tested my patience, endurance and tolerance! But I learned a few very important things about myself and about life that I am so glad I was able to glean from this incredible, once-in-a-lifetime, bucket list experience.
1) The Power of Positive Thinking.
Despite the cultural differences and the completely different system of life that the Balinese operate by, one of the biggest things that struck me was the contentedness and positivity that was exuded by almost
everyone I met. From the oldest to the youngest, we were offered smiles, warmth and happiness (“Good karma!”) everywhere we went. There is a sense of relaxation and flexibility that I have never encountered
here. I have always been taught that busyness equals productivity, which equals purpose and satisfaction. Even when we’re “on Holiday” (as our Aussie, New Zealand and London acquaintances called it), we don’t truly know how to just RELAX. We have to fill our days with something, or else we feel like we’ve wasted precious time.
Not so with the Balinese. They are hard workers, and they all support the familial and communal structure of their desas, but time slows down…it’s much more languid and fluid there. I felt so rejuvenated and refreshed when I returned (minus the heavy jet-lag and exhaustion from the return travel…), and I can say that I think it was from how freeing it felt to be around such a positive atmosphere 24/7.
2) What You Do Does Not Define You.
Now, on the other hand (and this is a very heavy other hand), the Balinese are defined by 3 things – 3 variables that never change: what community you belong to, your religion, and what you do with your life (which is determined by what community you belong to). As happy and free as people seem to be there, I
still felt this sense of an underlying tension between the God-given right we have to TRULY be free and discover who we are, versus being completely defined and stuck behind the barrier of rules, tradition and an ancient system.
I suppose there is a sense of security in knowing what you will do with your life is guaranteed (i.e. childhood, then schooling, then marriage, working whatever profession you were born into, having a family, and then being taken care of by your children and community when you’re old). But not having the option to choose an entirely different path for your life seems stifling and sad to me. I don’t want to ever be defined by what I do.
3) The United States of America is Awesome.
You can argue with me all you want, but let’s be honest – by the third day, I was so thirsty and dehydrated
from not being able to just get free water from the tap! $6 for a bottle of water?? Or a glass at any restaurant?? Not to mention it was rationed at the hotel also! Very frustrating for someone like myself who
guzzles water on an almost hourly basis! When we got back to the States, the first thing I did was order a burger and a huge glass of water, loaded with ice cubes. It really made me appreciate things that I take for granted here- clean air to breathe, clean streets, fresh (or filtered) free water!
4) Fear Can Be Conquered.
Normally, I am not that brave. I don’t like to get hurt, I hate the idea of not being able to control certain aspects of situations…but in Bali, I gave myself permission to give in and let go. Traveling across oceans and continents was big, trying to overcome language barriers
and cultural differences was huge, but personal accomplishments – like navigating through two international airports, fully trusting our taxi drivers on the craziest roads I’ve ever experienced, never losing my passport, haggling prices at the crowded and insane Ubud market, introducing myself and talking to complete strangers, trying new foods, fighting a monkey for my water bottle (and winning!!!), riding an elephant, and snorkeling in the emerald, crystal clear
waters of the Indian Ocean…along with so many other stories and memories!…It was incredible. It was life-changing.
And Jessica, I am so proud of us! We’ve both had our share of struggles, heartbreak, hard times and dark times. We’ve navigated relationships, the deaths of our Dads, family issues, friendships and our own ever- changing relationship to each other throughout the years. But now, we are standing tall and strong as women who have faced overwhelming odds and haven’t stopped fighting.
By God’s amazing goodness, grace, and unfailing love, He gives us the strength we need to meet each new day with the determination to live fully alive and fully embracing what He’s got in store…if we’ll just trust and rest in Him and His perfect plan.
As our guide, Gung Rai, said, “Just always keep your beautiful smiles, and every day will be a good day.”
I hope there are many more adventures to be had. And I hope that I never forget what I’ve learned.