I’m beginning to wonder what Bali was like before it became the feeding ground for hipsters and yogis trying to find something they’ll never have because they’re always out there looking for it.
Yeah, I said it. I blame Eat, Pray, Love for this one. Books/movies like that promote a false reality; something that is idealized, romanticized; once a place where people live is cast like a blonde bombshell in a movie based off of a book written by one lady that had a good time, you’re only left with nostalgia for visiting a place that never truly existed to begin with. You’re visiting the memory of one person, and literally nothing could ever be as idealized as a memory.
Every Balinese person I have met personally has been very friendly; nothing really seems like a scam, besides the 1,200 men you walk by in the center of Ubud saying “taxi, taxi, motorbike” and shoving their sign in your face as if that’s going to make you want to hop aboard. I mean it, these are friendly people who are simply just trying to live and keep up. This idealized, romanticized notion and my dissatisfaction with it has nothing to do with the Balinese people. It’s us. It’s Westerners; it’s tourists who don’t seek authenticity. We ruin what we touch; we don’t appreciate what we receive and are always asking for and looking for more.
Bali feels like a wet, cotton t-shirt oversaturated by tourism being rung out by western hands on the balcony of an AirBnb they rented and left a shitty review for because there was a bug inside their room; each drop of water rung out of that wet, cotton t-shirt falls back on the Balinese people until one day the Island floods as it continues to try to appease the people who visit, those visitors who contribute nothing more than money and pollution.
You’re probably wondering, well, aren’t you part of the problem? Absolutely. I’m THE problem. I’m here, aren’t I? I’m in the center of Ubud. I probably passed at least 20 shops that sold yoga clothing on a single street as I was walking to a trendy cafe that I wanted to try out but definitely didn’t belong inside of as westerners took pictures and bickered with staff members about their latte that cost them $1.80 and would have cost them $6 back home. I’m one-hundred and ten percent apart of the problem…but I’m not eating this shit up like everyone else is.
It’s funny the way the paradox of tourism works; Bali is working as hard as it can to be westernized, while westerners come here for a non-western experience, yet automatically migrate to the places that are so westernized they don’t even recognize how western it truly is. I could have gone to some yoga classes. I could have gone to a spiritual healer. I probably could have done a lot of things. But what would that honestly do for me? Change my life? Make me a better person? No. Going to one place isn’t going to do that for anyone. You have to experience and absorb culture and all that goes on around you to feel a change within yourself. Being a good person is something you have to actively do and be conscious of. You have to be really aware to be even remotely content.
Am I cynical? A hypocrite for typing this as I sit upon the balcony where I’m served breakfast by a kind Balinese family at this homestay in the center of the city near all of these trendy cafes and yoga shops? Am I just underwhelmed by my lack of connection to this place? I don’t know. Hold on. I need a beer.
Ok. If I come back to Indonesia, which I probably will at some point because I’ll be living in Southeast Asia, I’ll skip Bali. I’ll skip the Bintangs and cocktails and trendy bars and all of the shit I thought I wanted and ended up hating. This is not why I travel. If I wanted beautiful beaches and beers with the sunset over the ocean, I would have stayed at home in Florida. I don’t care why anyone else travels, but this is not me. This weird thing happens when I hang out with other westerners; I behave as they do, end up hating myself for being that person again, and end up crawling further back into the shell I was in before. It’s hard to remember why you’re doing what you’re doing when you’re surrounded by other people who are here for different reasons and want different things. This is not my vacation; this is my time to experience and connect. I don’t need to be a yogi or seek a spiritual healer for that. I feel like I keep saying the same thing over and over again, but maybe I have to in order for it to start to stick.
The truth is, I’ll never know what Bali was like before it became a tourist trap for Aussies, Kiwis, and Westerners. It won’t go back to being what it was. The most I can hope for is that it thrives and succeeds and that we, as tourists, start to actively participate in the betterment of the places we visit. We have to or else all of the places we love for a reason are going to continue to be snapped up into the tourist trap.
Sorry for ranting, but thank you for reading.
Until next time,
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Sandy hands on Bali beaches; a whole lot different than the white powder sand back where I lived in Florida, that’s for sure. It doesn’t make me miss home, though; it just makes me miss…authenticity. 🌹 If you read my last blog post, I talk about Anthony Bourdain; in his episode, he’s sitting there in a resort with bumping music playing in the background as he sips on a cocktail and mumbles about Bali: “So this, too, is Bali, I guess — or it is now." 🌹 I thought I would love Bali. Maybe I thought I would love it in a different sense. Maybe I would love everywhere else in Indonesia. Maybe I’m just not into the touristic places like everyone else is because that isn’t what I really like to travel for. I prefer to sit around a table with locals while drinking coffee or beer and laugh with them about nothing I understand. 🌹 I don’t have expectations for many places, but I don’t travel in order to hangout with more westerners in a different context. I don’t know what else is in store, but I will take each experience as it comes.