And just like that, I’m home and everything has changed so quickly. So quickly that even this paragraph I wrote 10 days ago is almost irrelevant but I thought I’d share in anyway.
‘It’s a strange time, there are moments where I forget that it’s real life. Grounded flights, countries on lockdown and barren supermarkets feels more like something out of a dystopian disaster film than a week in 2020. But that is what’s happening. It’s all anyone is talking about and it’s taken over a lot of people’s thoughts. I think partially because it’s a situation so out of anyone’s control, people like to be able to plan and control situations as much as possible but in this instance it’s impossible. I’ve been trying to plan my travels over the past week which has proved slightly difficult, the unknown creates a hesitancy to plan anything more than a few days in advance. My brother has just had to cancel his trip of a lifetime to India and another friend had to decide to postpone 5 months in South America the day before she was meant to fly. Obviously the virus is having a far worse effect on the health and livelihoods of others, it’s just the scale of the impact I can’t get over. Suddenly I’m wondering whether and when I’ll be able to get home and if I should be putting any kind of plan in place.’
Five days and much deliberating after that, I booked a flight home. A hard decision but the developments in the past week have reassured me it was the right one. If I’d stayed in Australia I wouldn’t have been able to travel, would’ve lost my job and just been stuck there, paying rent, on lockdown and on the other side of the world to the people I cared about. I was lucky, over the last couple of days it’s become pretty much impossible to leave Aus and all non-essential businesses have closed.
Being back feels strange, it’s like I never left, the past 10 weeks past are a hazy dream with golden edges. It’s been very different to the homecoming I’d imagined, there hasn’t been any excitement or big reunions with friends, no one is interested in hearing about my trip when there are so many more important things on people’s minds. I’m frustrated at myself, part of me feels I wasted the time. I went all that way and didn’t make it outside of Sydney, I didn’t see the best parts of the country or experience the any of the incredible scenery. But I’m just trying to remind myself that that’s ok and actually focus on what I did do rather than what I didn’t. I ate, drank and sunbathed my way around the city and felt what it’s like to live there, a luxury I shouldn’t take for granted. I met some wonderful people and I’ve been thinking that even if those friendships are the only thing to have come out of the past 10 weeks, then they were still definitely absolutely worth it.
There will probably be a final Australia post once the initial shock of this has all passed, there are photos and stories I still want to share but I’m not sure now is the right time. I hope you’re ok, that staying in isn’t driving you completely mad and the disruption to life isn’t too much, remember it’ll pass. Stay safe, stay inside and stay in touch x
Today, by complete accident, I found myself at the beach where my family celebrated New Years Eve back in 2006. It’s funny how these things happen. How you can stumble back to a place or a person from a different time and it seems like a whole life ago. I guess in this case it kind of was, a lot has changed since 2006, expectedly so. It would not be good if I still looked like I did in 2006.
I had the day completely to myself and it was brilliant. It made me think back to two years ago when I was in Cambodia on my own. I found it hard, I’m a sociable person and as much as I could chat to people, I found the fleeting connections frustrating and struggled to be in my own head so much. Today I didn’t have that problem. I read, swam, listened to podcasts, sunbathed, had lunch and did it all as and when I wanted. It sounds silly but when I realised I was so happy and content in my own company, I felt so aware of how far I’ve come and such a sense of self-assurance. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t come to Australia and decided I don’t need to see anyone else, I’ve met some great people and started some friendships but sometimes it’s nice to have a day of complete self indulgence.
Back home, two of my friends have just got new jobs, another is moving into her new flat, one has just finished their dissertation and another has just booked a ticket to South America and it got me thinking about the differences in lives at this age. I’ve found there’s no competition, no comparison, just support, happiness and encouragement. Everyone is just working out their own life in their own time and I’m so pleased we’re at this point. There’s so many options and none of them are right or wrong, it’s a time to do whatever you want without justification or explanation. It’s exciting and something that I found overwhelming a few years ago, like too much time on my own.
Ok, enough with all the cheesy sentimental stuff. Enjoy a few photos from the past week instead.
One final thing I will say about being on your own though is that there’s no one to watch out for sunburn so I’m now the colour of a well cooked lobster. A gentle reminder that we all need other people or a harsh reminder of my own stupidity? You decide.
Day 3 in Australia and this morning I went for coffee with a boy who didn’t have shoes on. He picked me up, drove to town, parked, walked to the cafe, bought our coffees, and it wasn’t until we sat down that I noticed he was barefoot and I thought yeah, I’m definitely in Australia now.
It’s been a long time coming so it feels strange to actually be here, to feel like I’ve been here for a while and to be settling into a routine.
It’s rained all day in Sydney. The heavy hot kind that you don’t mind feeling on your skin and letting it soak you to the bone. It feels cleansing, like it’s washing away the dust and flooding out the city so it’s ready for new things. It’s not like English rain, you don’t want to hide from it, you want to live in it, to experience it. And I feel ready to experience it.
Boarding the plane on Monday I wasn’t sure that I was. It was harder than expected to leave London behind, to leave the laughter and the happiness and the people for the unknown. I was surprised that for potentially the first time in my life, I didn’t want to rush on to the next thing, there was no burning desire to leave my world behind. I know that’s a good thing but it definitely made it harder to leave and made me doubt what I was doing. Why would you choose to leave guaranteed happiness for the unknown? But to think like that means there would never be new adventure or people or places and now that I’m here, I know that actually leaving was the hardest part.
The joy of the past few months means there’s no pressure on this trip anymore. It doesn’t need to be life changing or help me decide who I want to be or fulfil anything that was missing, that all happened before I left the country. I know that dancing around a kitchen in London can be just as good as lying on a beach in Sydney, maybe even better. Thinking about it now, you’ve got to find your happiness in the small stuff, in the day to day, the coffee and the dinners with friends and the dog walks. If it only came from trips to the other side of the world you’d so rarely experience it.
Ultimately, I feel so lucky to have people to miss, to have a life to miss and something to look forward to going back to, whenever that may be. In the meantime, I’ll be here, experiencing it all, throwing myself in, taking each day as it comes, eating a lot of brunch and working on my tan. Maybe I’ll even stop wearing shoes.
Ah Bali. The land of endless smoothie bowls, extreme traffic and a surprising number of Australians. I can’t believe its been over 2 weeks since I got back from Indonesia, my tan is already fading and I’ve just about gotten back into the routine of home life but I still wanted to write a bit about the trip. We spent 8 days in Java, 16 in Bali and 5 in Lombok. Each island was amazing and it may be because we were there for the longest but its Bali I have the most to say about.
I know Bali is having a bit of a ‘moment’ right now. It’s all over people’s social media (mine included), Brits are taking the long-haul flight for a relatively short stay and on multiple occasions when I told people I was going they said ‘me too’. That being said, it was different to what I was expecting. Perhaps the attention it’s getting and some of the incredible photos I’d seen didn’t provide an accurate portrayal of the island or, I’d forgotten the difference money makes to a holiday. Either way, I felt some parts of the island were (and I don’t want to say overrated because that makes it sound too negative) not what I thought they’d be. It was busy and far more western than I was prepared for, the abundance of brunch places is ridiculous and I hadn’t realised that, unlike other destinations in Asia where you only see other travellers, there would be so many families. That being said, I thought I’d share some of the things we got up to and a few recommendations. There is plenty of information out there online but I think it would’ve been helpful to hear more of a first hand realistic account before we went, hence this post. If you have no interest in what I got up to (which is completely fair enough) I finish with a few more general thoughts on travel so skip away to the end. Also be warned there are lots of photos.
We arrived in Bali a couple of days ahead of schedule and, on the recommendation of someone we’d met in Java, decided to start off in Munduk. Starting there meant we weren’t quite prepared for the busyness of the rest of the island, the quiet northern village still feels very local and had very few other tourists. We stayed in a family run hotel called Swar Bali Lodge which was really nice, the brothers working there were so helpful, happy to give us lifts on the back of their motorbikes and recommend places to visit.
That being said, there isn’t loads to do in Munduk but there is a beautiful waterfall hike. The 5k route starts at Red Coral (Munduk) waterfall and didn’t take long. The three waterfalls en route were incredible, even more so because there were so few other people there. We also visited the Munduk Moding coffee plantation where we were talked through the process and got to try some of the coffee grown on site (for free which was a bonus).
Arriving in Canggu was very different. We were immediately aware of the number of tourists in the area. We had 4 days there which we essentially spent sunbathing and eating, some stand out spots being Crate cafe, Bali bowls and Quince. However, food prices were definitely much higher than what you might expect travelling, closer to a good value meal in the UK. The town is definitely an ideal spot for surfers but unfortunately and unsurprisingly, I don’t surf, so worth bearing in mind the beach is very windy with huge waves that can knock you right out. We did venture outside of Canggu one day to visit the Tanah Lot sea temple which was nice but there were bus loads of tourists there too and because you can’t actually go in the temple, there isn’t lots to do once you’ve seen it. Canggu was lovely but slow paced, just something to be aware of.
We thought Canggu was touristy but Seminyak was another level. Traffic was terrible and the streets were overflowing with people and shops. However, the food here was very good, we went to a place called Shelter for lunch, had brunch at Coffee Cartel and went to Dough Darlings (twice) for the most amazing doughnuts. Seminyak beach is windy too but we did see some baby turtles being released so that was pretty cool. We only had 2 days in Seminyak but because it was so busy it almost felt too overwhelming to explore, we spent most of the time on our motorbike going from beach to restaurant and even though you see things, it all goes past pretty quickly. It’s definitely a part of the island I think I found a bit much but would’ve liked to experience when it was quieter.
Ubud was far more chilled, a good mix of tourists and local culture, it felt like we were experiencing Bali again rather than a western beach town. The Monkey Forest is obviously touristy but a must do, likewise with the nearby waterfalls. The two we went to were very busy and I think if we hadn’t been to Munduk I would’ve been disappointed. The Tirta Emple water temple we went to where we bathed in the fresh spring water and the Tegalalang rice terraces were definitely both worth it despite being busy. We also did a bike tour with a company called Bali Breeze and a cooking class with Paon. Both were great and a chance to learn a bit more by chatting to locals and do something a bit different, the bike tour was downhill (ideal) and the food we made in the class was amazing.
Wandering around Ubud was nice too, we had the most amazing chocolate coconut banana bread at Tukies and managed to get all our souvenir shopping done at the market. I also did some classes at the Yoga Barn while we were there which was really nice but safe to say I haven’t kept it up…yoga in my room in Bedford is not quite the same as in a windowed studio in the jungle with the most ‘zen’ instructor I’ve ever met.
We didn’t do the main Gili Islands but Nusa Lembongan, about an hours boat trip from Bali, was amazing. A beautiful island with a relaxed and beachy vibe, it was almost what I expected Canggu and Seminyak to be like and I wished we’d spent more than a night there. The beaches were beautiful and we went over to the Blue Lagoon on Nusa Cenida which was amazing. Definitely worth the slightly damp boat journey there and back. However, be warned that the ‘roads’ marked on google maps are more like rocky steep crumbling tracks that a motorbike probably can’t handle…we may have learnt that the hard way.
Our final (and potentially my favourite) destination in Bali was Uluwatu. The area is far from crowded with plenty of space between everything, beautiful scenery and a good mix of locals and visitors. There were some beautiful beaches including Bingin beach and Padang-Padang (which features in the Eat Pray Love film) but be warned that quite a few of the beaches in the area are only accessible at low tide. We stayed in a basic but lovely hostel called the Bingin Inn and ate at the Cashew Tree, Loft and Drifter, all of which I’d recommend. The Kecak fire dance at Uluwatu Temple made our final temple experience a bit different, something that is again worth doing, but be prepared for lots of other people.
A final thing I’d say about Bali is do your research, but realise you can’t do everything. There physically aren’t enough meals in the day to eat at every nice place on the island or enough nights to spend at every beautiful hotel you see (I guess you could stay longer but my finances definitely didn’t allow it). Perhaps because it is such a popular destination at the moment I found it so easy to compare my experience of the island to other people’s…yes, I went on the trip of a lifetime and I was still there wondering if I was doing it ‘well’ enough…comparison is very clearly something I need to work on. Travel is tricky, its something that should be for personal reasons (relaxation, quality time, recovery) and yet I find it something people want to share the most, whether that’s posting pictures online or recounting stories to friends for weeks to come (or writing a blog post about it). It’s definitely something I’m guilty of, but maybe guilty is the wrong word, is there actually anything wrong with wanting to share what you’re doing, to let people know you’re enjoying yourself? Indonesia was a long time coming after a very long year and if I’m being honest, I had a bloody great time.