Bali, An Island of Self Discovery


We just wrapped up our second stay in Bali.  This time we didn’t stay in Ubud, (but if you are coming I definitely recommend that you check it out!) instead we choose to stay in Kuta because of it’s vicinity to the airport.

When I talked to most people about what I should do in Bali, one of their first responses is “AVOID KUTA!”–so naturally I needed to see what it was all about for myself.


kuta beach

Check out that trash!

Where in Ubud you saw the beautiful lush greens of the monkey forest, throughout Kuta you could see neon signs  and flashing lights.

Magic Mushrooms are legal and offered readily all over the city, and as one fellow travel explained it to me; “This is Australia’s Mexico, it’s a coming of age thing for Aussies to come here and get S***ty.”

The beach has average tan sand, with piles of trash and while we were there the wind was blowing like crazy.

20140120_223044Our walk on the beach turned into a stroll in the Westernized mall where you can buy Havaianas from a vending machine and we decided to get Cold Stone Ice Creams.   (We took a vacation from drinking in Kuta.  Sometimes the best ways to experience a party town are sober!)

Probably not the Balinese Paradise you were picturing.

So if you are coming to Bali for peace and relaxation maybe Kuta isn’t your place, but  I felt Kuta’s vibrant city and caring culture completely exemplify Bali’s healing nature.  

For those who don’t understand what I mean by healing nature, I’ll do a quick Bali info sess:

  • Indonesians have seen Bali as a Holy healing ground for 1000s of years.
  • Ubud is one of the best cities to find that healing power, but a Balian, or traditional healer can be found all over the island.
  • If you are still confused, Think Eat, Pray, Love–Bali is one of Elizabeth Gilbert’s stops.
  • If you want to read more here is an interesting post: A Glimpse Into Balinese Healing Traditions.

I personally didn’t seek out a healer, although given more time I would have loved to have tried it out.  I entered Bali with my own Catholic beliefs and growing yoga practice to be open as to what a powerful region could teach me.

Here are some of the lessons I found amongst the filth in Kuta.

1.  Kuta is someone’s home.

Part of the problem in Kuta is we the tourist brought in plastic.  Traditional baliense culture would be to refill glass  cups and bottles, wrap food in banana leaves, and carry things in fabric bags.  Their culture doesn’t have a good way of dealing with trash.  The culture we bring is quickly destroying theirs so the least you can do while you are there is use a trash can unlike many of the other tourists.

2.  The Balinese are very hard working.

When you stay at a homestay, you realize the people working there work very hard and often are away from their families.  As I slept in the small staff would be waking up, cleaning the grounds, making me my breakfast.  As I went out and saw sites the same staff would continue to clean, make me lunch, and check up on internet passwords and connections as it failed.  As I headed out to watch the sunset, they would be cooking dinner, checking in guests, and delivering laundry service.  As I fell asleep, often times they were still working.

While I feel no guilt taking full advantage of their wonderful hospitality at our wonderful homestay, Warung Coco it also made me realize how very lucky I am.  I am very blessed to live my life.

Travelers Tip:  Accomodations are cheap in Kuta!  Tom and I got an air-conditioned hot and cold shower bedrooms with an awesome breakfast and beautiful pool for $20 a night.  

3.  They take pride in their work.

In Kuta where the main economic drive is tourism, that means they take pride in making sure you are having a good time.  They take pride that your nails are painted beautifully, that you enjoyed your meal, that your laundry is clean, and that you have enough water or beer or whatever you are drinking.

In America I very rarely ever thought about who was in the kitchen cooking my meal at a restaurant, but the amount of pride the workers in Bali take for their job and their work ethic has made me so much more aware of the hard work that goes into the service I’m given.

They also take pride in taking care of you if you had too good a time.

Walking home one night, Tom and I saw a group of drunk kids.  One of the girls fell over and within seconds, there were 5 police men around her getting her water and making sure everything was ok.

The bartenders will be the first to ask you if you’re thirsty, but they are also looking out for anyone who’s taken it too far.

4.  Many Locals have Amazing Stories!

20140122_121403You can’t walk anywhere without the workers asking you, “Where you from?”  Take the time to return the questions (when you can.)

If you take the time to ask the workers about their lives, you’ll find they are very happy people and have some amazing stories.  They take pride in their work and enjoy learning about you.  Take the time to ask them their names and where they are from.

You may learn more than you’d think!

5.  Australians take getting trashed to the next level!

Australians party.

Australians party hard.

Australians party harder than any other culture I’ve met…except for maybe the British–but as the English couple told us “Americans are loud.”  And any of my high school girlfriends can attest I completely live up to that stereotype.

….And I’m sure if you went to Mexico you’d think it was full of trashed Americans.

So long story short, yes maybe Kuta isn’t the best place to find the spirit of Bali, but it’s there.  

I left Kuta with an intense sense of gratitude.  Indonesian people are some of the friendliest you’ll ever meet.

The 2 months I have spent here have changed my outlook on life in a lot of ways.  Everyone’s journey in life is different and we all find meaning in different experiences, but if my time in Bali taught me anything it’s take the time to look around and be grateful for those who help make your life happen.

You just have to look.


Comments 11

  1. Lina

    Courtney – thanks for sharing this post! I felt the same way about Kuta–if you look beneath the obvious surface, the spirituality and kindness of the Balinese people is there to find. Unfortunately, I don’t know how much longer it will last!

  2. Elizabeth Jewell

    Love your story of Bali, the history, and that you are coming away filled with gratitude. You are so open to all your experiences and the people, your life will be changed. You go girl! So happy and proud for you.

  3. Teresa

    What great insight into another culture! They have a very good work ethic–which is rare (for the most part) in the US. Happy to hear how much you are learning, growing and appreciating other life styles. Have you been learning more of their language?
    Aunt T

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    Glad you enjoyed it! I know what you mean. We just spent 5 amazing days on gili air. So far it’s the place we’d come back to….after we check off so many other places, but we don’t know if it will have the same charm.

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    We’ve learned enough to get by and they speak pretty good English. Tom and I are best at the food words…..weird

  6. Post

    Thanks Elizabeth! My Nashville memories still hold such a special place in my heart too! You, the coolsprings yogis and studio are such a large part of my journey 🙂

  7. Marianne

    Your posts are fantastic! Through your eyes and experiences, I am learning so much about our world. Thank you!!!!!!
    I also have to say that your handstands and poses are showing remarkable strength and agility!! Very, very impressive, indeed!!
    Love you!! Travel safe!!!

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    Thanks Aunt Marianne! I’m glad you are enjoying them–the posts and handstands 🙂

    We miss you all and are grateful we are able to share our journey with all of you back home! 🙂

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  10. Kate

    <3 This is beautiful. And I'm glad you shared it- I too will be checking out Kuta because I have to go and see for myself! Thank you for the reminder there is beauty to be had in all things.

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