Sanur Stories, Pt. 1
“Why did you choose Bali?” That night’s new arrival at the guest house asked me, as we shared travel plans.
Her Dutch accent was light and soft, and draped her words with silky European elegance. She was from a long line of Indonesian descent, and had blood that ran all the way back to one of the origin stories of many local Island beliefs. She spoke of Bali with experience deeper than her years of travel here – with a connection to the land inextricable from her bones. Here on this lush island of art and flowers, she was among the most beautiful creatures I’d seen yet.
Every time I’ve been asked “why Bali?”, I’ve given a different answer… and I was a bit surprised by the California cool that came out of my mouth this time.
“Well, I’m pretty into the hippie-dippie stuff: yoga, healing, art… and I hear Ubud really has a lot of that going on, so I imagined I’d feel pretty comfortable there”.
My response shot a spear of inauthenticity into my ribs. Though the conversation continued as normal with travellers getting to know each other, I was off. I continued to be bothered by the way I’d refused to admit my inner pull to this place, my deep interest in exploration, the way my soul longed to engage on this trip. As we talked, I began to sense that she wasn’t a skeptical stranger at all, and we’d connect better if I dropped my socially conditioned cloak.
Why had I presented this detached apathy? Who was that person who had answered her question? Why is this sharp end still in my ribs?
I slept restlessly that night as the conversation replayed itself in my head. The past has a strange way of rehearsing itself in a divided mind.
The next morning over breakfast, I had to make myself whole again. I opted for a side of vulnerability with my fruit and yogurt.
“I wanted to share with you – when you asked me last night why I’d come to Bali, I gave some answer, but the truth is, I don’t know. I just know I was pulled here, and I’m actually fascinated to listen to the land, and let her tell me why she called.”
She simply nodded with a smile. “Yeah, it’s like that.
For the next two days, we became travelling companions of the village around us, and the rich worlds within us. She was, first and foremost, a storyteller. Over beachside strolls and winding bike rides, her tales opened a window into the meaning of her world, her self, her people. As we explored, we formed a common feast for an entire mosquito family, and shared our love for our ailing fathers. She introduced me to the soul-storytelling tattoos called Ta’moko, and the Maori belief that our stories are already inked on us, many of us just wear them in our veins. I introduced her to the zombie-movie sets of the abandoned amusement park, and showed her the dark corners that seemed sure to hide their own primal histories.
We talked of skin and blood. We talked of life.
To travel is bond quickly with new people. And to bond is to share stories. And to share stories is to be deeply, reflectively alive. I still don’t know why Bali, but now I know, this is why I travel.
(This story continues)