Travel is a potent aphrodisiac for those constantly seeking ideas and new learning. Personally I enjoy the tumult, the uncertainty , the excitement, and the interactions I have with people and the parallels I draw with the strange worlds I experience to the world I belong. All the unrest, the commotion usually spills onto anything (sketchbooks or devices I carry) that help me make a doodle, or write some text or click some photos.
I love travel solely because travel is often fraught with inconsistency. A break from the usual routine. Disorder and chaos becomes the norm. Your perception and ability to perceive stretches with the people you meet, the lives they live and the cultures you experience. Missing stuff, trains, planes; unexpected expenses, rude officials, red tape, strange rules, sometimes injuries and new learning. All and everything thrown at you to process, learn from and apply when you go back to your life, your world, your ways. Travel either renews your faith in humanity or shatters it making you question whether or not it makes any sense to do good in this big, bad, cruel world.
Bali didn’t appeal to me much when I heard there were plans of us going there. The only thing I remembered about the place was the tragic 2002 bombing that left 202 dead and about 209 injured in its wake. It felt like a rehash of our Andamans trip. Beaches, beaches and more beaches. To be frank, I was not a lot kicked about it. The first rule of travel is not to over analyze. You see a little, read a little, plan a little and then take the plunge. Do not constrain your vision or block the free flow with too much analysis as to why it makes sense or why it doesn’t.
Not an expert
Am not an expert on culture. Neither am I going to try. This is just a first hand experience of a rather inexperienced traveler who (now) hates to plan and is only in the element once the trip actually begins which by my definition is reaching the airport without drama and boarding the plane on time.
The Bali trip was a blessing in some sense. I was going through a tough time. The lows were more than the highs I felt in the usual hum drum of life. The desk job was getting to me and things weren’t going anywhere in the creative sense. There was a missing element in the fulfillment part. I create on a daily basis, but somehow there was a lingering question if all this was making sense. If I should continue doing what I am doing – splicing and spicing my daily life with a dose of putting out something, making art while I can and learning something new.
Bali came at a good time. The entire place has a certain calm about it. Good people, clean place and no complication. I drew a lot, shot a little bit and unwound only as much as I could. Somehow it was the people and the culture that eventually found a place in my heart. Kamong our driver, his ever patient and calm way of speaking and arriving on time without a reminder from my end; Ngakan, our host in Ubud, his characteristic style of hosting without actually making us feel like he was doing us a favor or the general quality of the Balinese to keep their surroundings spic and span and the noise levels low. (Note: Bali has narrow streets, tight roads and thick traffic. Despite of the obvious rush of tourists and travelers with their tiny mopeds crowding the streets, the Balinese do not lose their cool nor do they honk out loud. One of the drivers also apologized after honking at me for coming in his path.)
It was reassuring to see Balinese adults and children striving to keep a place clean. A place that receives a floating (tourist) population that is equal to or more than the local population during peak times. There is a lesson to be learned in the way the Balinese treat complete strangers despite the deluge they handle each tourist season. It is commendable to see the Balinese smile away and treat you with respect even if you do not buy anything from their establishment. The only thing they say to you is – Suksuma – which means Thank you. There is no overbearing expectation for you to buy nor a ‘Do not bargain’ attached to any of their dealing.
“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow. ~ Anita Desai”
You can negotiate and you will be surprised how much happy you will leave the shop having negotiated a price without the usual drama that ensues.
Will go back
Travel makes me happy. Somehow the “touristy” itinerary style of traveling is lost to me now. I say this taking into consideration the first overseas trip that happened to Europe in 2012 was done exactly by the itinerary laid down and planned by me several months ahead of the trip. I didn’t particularly enjoy that trip. When I look back, I see a haze. France, Switzerland, Italy in a span of 17 days. Rushing everywhere but not immersing in a single place. Guess one grows out of that phenomenon once some solid experience seeps in. Since Ladakh last year where excessive planning was not done, the modus operandi has been to ‘take-it-as-it-comes”. Plan your entry and exit dates, accommodations (sometimes working something out when you are there might also work out in your favor) and leave the rest to chance. I wish you safe travels wherever you go and Bali should definitely be on that list.
Will share photos soon.
Thank you for stopping by. Have a nice day ahead. May the force be with you.
Salil Lawande is a writer, photographer and illustrator living/working/traveling in India.