Archives for posts with tag: solo traveller

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I arrived back a few days ago, and even though this time I arrived at the new international terminal, it was still the same as I left the air conditioning – straight into the sights, smells, heat, and noise that can only be Bali!

Into a taxi and another way that you know you’re back in Bali – the questions! ‘Where are you from?’, ‘Where are you going?’, ‘Are you married/do you have a boyfriend?’, and if you happen to say yes to that one, then the inevitable ‘Do you have children? How many?’seminyak sunset-1

And one thing to know about Balinese culture, and more generally Indonesian culture, is that for these questions (and many others) even if you want to say ‘No!’, the polite answer is ‘Not yet – belum.’ As there’s always a chance!!

seminyak -4These questions are not prying and are not considered too personal – it’s just a way of placing you, of working out how you fit in a culture that is very family and community oriented. Although the one about children is a big one! Having several children, and particularly boys, is such an important part of Balinese culture, a way for things to continue.

Elizabeth Gilbert, and whatever you think of her, or ‘the’ book, describes the ‘questioning’ well:galungan penjor-1

“When you are walking down the road in Bali and you pass a stranger, the very first question he or she will ask you is, “Where are you going?” The second question is, “Where are you coming from?” To a Westerner, this can seem like a rather invasive inquiry from a perfect stranger, but they’re just trying to get an orientation on you, trying to insert you into the grid for the purposes of security and comfort. If you tell them that you don’t know where you’re going, or that you’re just wandering about randomly, you might instigate a bit of distress in the heart of your new Balinese friend. It’s far better to pick some kind of specific direction – anywhere – just so everybody feels better.galungan-6

The third question a Balinese will almost certainly ask you is, “Are you married?” Again, it’s a positioning and orienting inquiry. It’s necessary for them to know this, to make sure that you are completely in order in your life. They really want you to say yes. it’s such a relief to them when you say yes. If you’re single, it’s better not to say so directly. And I really recommend that you not mention your divorce at all, if you happen to have had one. It just makes the Balinese so worried. The only thing your solitude proves to them is your perilous dislocation from the grid. If you are a single woman traveling through Bali and somebody asks you, “Are you married?” the best possible answer is: “Not yet.” This is a polite way of saying, “No,” while indicating your optimistic intentions to get that taken care of just as soon as you can.

Even if you are eighty years old, or a lesbian, or a strident feminist, or a nun, or an eighty-year-old strident feminist lesbian nun who has never been married and never intends to get married, the politest possible answer is still: “Not yet.”

― Elizabeth GilbertEat, Pray, Love

http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/748041-when-you-are-walking-down-the-road-in-bali-and

seminyak beach-4As many of you know, I’ve been to Bali many times. Almost too many times to count now! For many years I avoided it – thinking it was full of Australians that projected an image that I didn’t want to be associated with! And don’t worry – there is that element! But Bali is so much more!

This time, I’m just here for a few days staying in the bustling ‘Australian enclave’ of Seminyak. For a bit of shopping, some great food, and the opportunity to hang out in a place I know well, where I feel very comfortable, where I can get around on the back of a motorbike, where I have enough Indonesian still to be taken seriously and not considered a naive tourist! But I’ve done Bali in many other ways too – Lavina and the north coast for a totally different perspective; Ubud and the hills for markets, and temples, and cooler temperatures; …

1st galungan-5Staying in Seminyak, you could easily be in any touristy Asian city. But scratch the surface and the real Bali is still there…

The old lady preparing the offerings that are used daily for the little temples dotted in front of businesses and residences; the old galungan-7man working the rice padi one block behind the bustling street; the car full of boys and men all dressed in traditional sarongs heading to a ceremony; the penjor that line the streets – not just for the sake of the tourists but to commemorate the recent Galungan festival; the kakilimas selling street food in front of the 5 star restaurant; and of course, the questions that get asked as soon as you start chatting to a local!

Thanks again Bali for being what I needed when I needed it!

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Because of the various places I have been able to live and work, I have travelled quite a bit over the last 10-15 years. A lot of the time by myself. Travelling alone can sometimes be hard work – you have to do it all – there is no one to help out when you’re feeling tired or ill. Although, conversely, travelling alone sometimes brings amazing opportunities that may not come along otherwise!

And sometimes to travel alone, and to a new destination, you need to be in a good place, mentally and emotionally. For lots of reason, it has been easier the last couple of years to revisit places in Europe and South East Asia – and they’ve all been good trips.

But I was determined to do something new for this trip, to get out there and challenge myself again, become the person I enjoy being when I’m travelling – the person I feel sometimes gets lost and caught up in the everyday grind.

And so to Sri Lanka. As I have mentioned, I was slightly unprepared for this trip. I was also slightly apprehensive about travelling alone – the guide books indicate that travel in Sri Lanka as a single woman can sometimes be difficult.  But as I quickly, and fortunately, found out, the guide books are quite out of date in many ways, and there is so much to see and discover! And I’m so glad I’ve been here! Despite my worries and apprehension, travel was easier than I thought, everyone I met was very helpful, and I certainly did get back into the swing of travelling and exploring!

I challenged myself at times.

I had many funny moments – watching the young guy seemingly leap over people and seats to save me a spot on the crowded train, being intensely stared at at a very local tea shop on the road from Kandy to Puttalam.

There were happy moments – watching the elephants bathe in the river at the Millennium Elephant Foundation, having fun with the traders at Galle’s fruit and vegetable market, eating delicious curries, making new friends with shy children, finding a huge pod of dolphins that frolicked and pirouetted around us for an hour.

And relaxing moments – an ayurvedic massage, cocktails by the pool (after not drinking alcohol for most of the trip!) with new friends, watching beautiful sunsets in Galle in the south, and at Udekki on the west coast.

And no major dramas or problems.

Of course, I didn’t see everything there is to see in Sri Lanka! My plans changed often, and depended on busy travel during the Buddhist New Year period, as well as remembering I was on holiday and did need some time to relax – I didn’t want to be moving to a new place every day or so! My travel plans ended up being right for me at the time. There’s a lot more I could have been, or some may say ‘should’ have done – but with this sort of travel, each has to find their own way of making it work, and being happy along the way. But it also means there are plenty of reasons to return!

I’m so glad I spent this time in Sri Lanka. And glad that I ended up not having a car and driver for the entire trip as I had originally thought would be the best way. Whilst I may have been able to visit more places, I would have missed out on many of the wonderful experiences travelling by train, tuk-tuk, and bus!