Monday, December 22, 2014

Gili islands paradise?

Well if you want to find island paradise you ought to try and get to the Gili islands.. says almost everyone. The Gili islands comprise of three small islands archipelago that falls under the Lombok region. With it also comes the Muslim faith, a sharp contrast to the Hindus of Bali.  I did actually meet some people that didn't like it before I left, and they said it was the culture they didn't like, I took note. I commenced the hour taxi ride, and and hour and half boat journey from Canggu with caution and an open mind.

I booked myself into a place called the Exile for a week, a 10 minute bike ride from the center of Gili Trawangan, or Gili T as I called it. It's the biggest and most populated island and also known as the party island. I figured staying at a place called The Exile I would be far enough away from any madness.
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It took me the boat ride to Gili T before the unwanted harassment of the boat guy started and he even went as far as to caress my arm. I asked him how his wife and children are and he shut up. It didn't stop the whole time I was in Gili T. Constant cat calling, some may have been more innocent but the best sum up of this behavior I heard from an expat living on Gili T is muslim boys gone wild. Alot of them look like they want to be Bob Marley, it was quite impressive actually how many of them pulled it off. They are everywhere running amok, not sure if they are actually working or not but they seem to think this way of objectifying women is alright. I am sure that the party scene of young inebriated tourists really doesn't help maybe build of their egos and feel like anyone is fair game. So culture. This is strong reason why I travel. I did not get the genuine friendliness that Bali had, or any really for that matter except from a handful of younger men. People refused to give me directions when I got lost on the back roads trying to find a yoga studio, I even got dirty looks from some local women, that being said my shoulders or hair were not covered in the 35c+ heat. I met a women that got spat at by a local women. So it seems like a weird contrast of mother's who don't like tourists yet let their sons behave like rasta machismo hustlers, but maybe it's ok to treat a women like this if she isn't covered up? Anyways if you know me, you know of I am not a fan of being treated any differently for what I choose to wear or what you choose to wear. It ruins a culture for me. I didn't experiment with covering up, mainly because I was already dripping in sweat and couldn't bear wearing more clothes.
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I also couldn't believe how dirty Gili T was. There was rubbish everywhere, the local homes looked third world, and people just didn't care. Of course this is a sharp contrast to Bali where the people spend their whole days sweeping and grooming their homes, and adorn them with beautiful items and gifts for the gods. There was also less care around sustainability or future planning. I went on a snorkel trip which was great, and saw a couple of turtles, but not once did our crew say not to touch the correl. I saw a lot of destroyed correl so I don't think these reefs will last that long at this rate.
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I did do a scuba dive refresher and a fun dive with some awesome folks from Australia and India.  It was great but the rainy season also meant the worst visibility they had ever seen during the dive.
The food was mediocre at best. Breakfasts were small compared to the feasts of Bali but that's ok. Everything is brought in by boat from Lombok. I had plans to explore this bigger island to the east but decided against it after my experience on Gili T. I have thick skin but I don't find it fun being treated this way while on holiday, so I cut my week long stay short and went back to Ubud. As you can tell I didn't love the Gilis but it actually wasn't that bad. The roving people only talking about "getting wasted" and asking for hallucinogenic mushrooms are fascinating but I have to remember what it's like to be young and carefree. There were lots of tourists watching sports on the television as well which is something I have not seen in awhile. Our 'culture' isn't really that much better or richer when I see who comes to a place like this just to party.

I cut my week long stay short and went back to Ubud. As you can tell I didn't love the Gilis but it actually wasn't that bad, just different.  I returned to my hotel in Ubud and they are so sweet that they left a petal bed of flowers welcoming me back. That's what I am talking about. A sense of caring.. this is what I value in my travels.
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Friday, December 12, 2014

First Impressions - Ubud Bali

1. Bali is one tripped out place! If it isn't the insane animalistic Hindu gods that you find at every corner it's crazy ass real bugs and lizards that make all sorts of new sounds. Plus the greenery smells so good, and the flowers are beautiful. Sometimes I think I see something out the corner of my eye but it's just a statute of some crazy half animal half human god or goddess.
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2. The people are kind. They are happy. They aren't poor or suffering. They love children and their families. The biggest question I get from the locals are "Are you travelling alone?" and when I answer "Yes", thats all I get. I dug a bit further on this a couple of times because its not common for a Balinese women to travel on her own, she would always go with someone, either her husband or friend. They are happy for the business so do not care if you are on your own. I have never felt unsafe, but have gotten cat calls from construction men. Maybe they just wanted to practice their English.
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3. The food. Amazing. Fresh, local, organic. I took a a local cooking class and I am so happy I did. It was vegetarian and we did a walk through of the market, went to the farm and picked fresh vegetables for the lunch, and made it.. with the help of 3 other women. I learned how to make coconut oil and milk, something I just take advantage from the cans and jars that get exported. Indonesian people eat a primarily vegetarian diet, and eat meat on special occasions and always thank the animals (different from say Indian Hindus who don't eat meat at all). The ingredients are all very simple and seem to be always complimented by coconut sugar. On the other side is the expat restaurateurs meeting the needs of the millions of tourists a year that come through Bali. A lot of them are Australian and if you know anything about the Aussies is that they are doing a pretty spectacular job at creating international dining options and design within this setting.  I don't have a favourite yet because they are all my favourites.
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4. Rituals / Religion.  The Balinese probably spend a third of their life shopping for and creating blessing for their Hindu/Buddhist ritualistic offerings, a big section of their local market is just for gifts to the gods. I think it must be working because if you can afford these offerings, life must be good! If you know anything about Hinduism you know that there are millions of gods. So everyday there is a blessing, today I made blessing for our lunch we picked from a fresh garden and made with some local women. There was blessing at the end of my driveway today, and I was told it was made in general to the staff and guests of the hotel. I'll take it! Even my bicycle had an offering with a burning incense, to protect me and everyone else. I find them to be good fly distractors but also a very beautiful part of their culture. A way of honoring, and taking great care in something that is really quite beautiful. I am able to understand a lot of the stories as well because of my Yogic studies over the decades.

I have now been in Ubud for a week which has included two massages, a pedicure, two banana rice flour pancakes, four yoga classesone astrology reading, one tibetan bowl meditation, one river rafting experience, a local cooking class, a bike ride through rice fields and villages, a visit to the second biggest and active volcano in Indonesia. Off to the coast now..

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

How do you do it Vanessa? - the question I get asked the most about travelling

When I started blogging I did it as an outlet for ideas and opinions, and to keep people up to date on my travels. I have kind of dropped off the radar as I go back and forth on whether there is any value in this exercise in expressing my feelings for the whole wide internet to read. But as the title of my blog entails.. I should listen to my intuition. Plus I read so many online articles and know especially in my travels that I may create value to those looking to do something similar in the future as I search out and research my next adventure to Bali.

The question I get the most is how do you get to travel so much? Well like a fine art, I have crafted the art of my own experiences and making available to me the things I really want to do in life. Life is to short to do the things you don't want to do for very long. Most peoples resistances stop right there, they just can't get more time off of work. But do you want to live to work, or work to live, or just live? But what happens when you tell work "I'm going". I've only had one job tell me that means I won't have a job when I came back, and really it was a blessing to be released from that job though it was one of my hardest decisions of my life it also made me who I am today and opened me to a whole other world of opportunity and experiences.. and 4 AMAZING months in South America.

So work.. in Canada we are restricted to two weeks a year which means you basically get to do an exhausting trip somewhere far, or some short local trips. To me that isn't even worth it if you can't get a month in a place. I recommend when taking a new job to negotiate your holiday time to include more. Everyone in Europe gets at least four weeks and what is it in our culture that says we don't deserve the same? If you are a hard worker, and you are worth it they will give it to you. If they don't give it to you I would think you may need to find a better fit, and believe me the better fit is out there.  What Canadian companies have not caught on to is that you actually being happy means you will work harder and actually deliver more on your projects. Of course this doesn't apply to all work, especially if you are just starting out in your career, or working in bureaucratic positions with no grey areas.
The best work is the flexible, contract work where you often work for short periods and often can take space between these contracts. The reality of many jobs now don't need you to even be in an office anymore and by slowly introducing a work from home option to your employer it will often lead to extended holidays where you can work from the beach rather than home. That means taking your computer with you on holiday but it means enjoying your stay in a different culture a bit longer, it's worth it in my eyes. Flexibility is key. Knowing when it's a good time to take a holiday for yourself and your company/organization is also a way of showing the people around you that you care enough to not take off during the busy time.
Timing is everything. I tend not to travel in high season in order to save on high season accommodation, though some of the best times to have extended holidays are over Christmas and New Years as a lot of peoples work slow down so just go when you can go.

Money. If you have never learned how to save or pay off your debts, I would probably start there. Don't take a holiday until you have learned that skill. That being said sometimes opportunities are dropped in your lap at the last moment and saying No isn't just isn't an option. The one article I read about what you think about on your death bed isn't about the money, but the amazing time you had on a holiday. Look at the big picture always.  If you need 5 star accommodations, then lucky you or unlucky you has you are at risk of having little exposure to the cultures outside your compound. Sometimes that is what people need and I respect that. If you can afford it or have awesome friends who hook you with friends discounts do that because what goes around comes around. Share the wealth if you got it, what's the point of having a benefit if you can't share it? Often one night in a 5 star can pay for a whole week in Thailand, Ecuador, Spain or Turkey. Thanks to the internet there are so many options available now. My favourites are often guest houses, casa's, or any place where you can interact with the locals or meet other people from around the world. Find a place maybe that has free bike tours, group dinners, or great reviews. The choice is yours where you want to stay and spend your money. But don't go into debt to go on a holiday, but I am ok with going into debt to extend a holiday. Last minute decisions to stay in a place are often some of the best decisions I have ever had to make because who knows if you will ever get to that place on the earth again. Getting to a place sometimes takes work, and money and backtracking or going another time will cost you more in the long run. More debt isn't what you need to relax, and to me that just creates more stress. It is not something that is taught in school and it is one of the biggest issues I see in friends who want to travel but can't. Living cheaply doesn't mean you are cheap, it just means you may so no to some stuff that isn't logical. One of the biggest expenses in a city like Vancouver is rent, and a vehicle. If you can get rid of your car you can save an upwards of $7000/ year (yes do the math because it's true).
I have always rented out my home when I went away travelling, even before the days of Airbnb. Craigslist has allowed me to not increase my expenses while away and allowed someone else the comfort of my home. My home is simple, comfortable, and is in Vancouver so there is always a demand. I don't charge people more than it's worth as I want to attract the right person that is worthy of staying in my place. I have been fortunate to have dozens of different people stay in my home and have never had any issues. Airbnb makes this easier as well now with insurance and checking of people's IDs. I have always taken copies of peoples IDs just so I know exactly who is in my space. I have always trust my intuition when it comes to someone staying in my home. If something doesn't feel right just say No. And that goes with all of lifes situations really.

I don't have a big income but I am very happy with life and lifestyle, but I am able to save even with a vehicle. If you have attachments over having a stranger have sex in your bed, you aren't going to want to share your home. But imagine how many people have had sex in the bed you are sleeping in on holiday. If you want to travel you have to let go of some things. It is all possible if you want it to be possible. It sounds like a lot of work but it work and for me it isn't that much of hassle when I am saving a couple thousand dollars on holiday expenses. I've been to Prince George, Montreal x2, Boston, NYC, Seattle, Cuba, Ottawa, London, Paris, Turkey, and Desolation Sound this year and am heading to Bali next week for a month. Get a travel credit card and charge everything to it (if you pay off your debt immediately!).  I travel somewhere once a year on points.  Life is what you make it, you create your own obstacles, and set your own goals. Sometimes things don't happen but that doesn't mean it won't happen. If you really want to get out and see the world you can do it. I'll even help you.