I’m currently spending a month in Bali curating travel content. This makes the 2nd time in less than 9 months that I’m here, with the previous visit lasting 60 days. It’s hectic, it’s fun, it’s a wonderful break from my own ‘real life’, and it reminds me often about what is really important as I see life through the eyes of the gracious people of Indonesia.
Well, about 10 days ago my Mommy flew over to accompany me during the last two weeks of my hotel and restaurant reviews. This in and of itself has been quite a funny challenge because I’m generally a solo traveller and haven’t gone on reviews with anyone since 2013 because it’s just easier to do them alone (on my schedule with nothing to worry about except my daily itinerary agreed upon with the PR and marketing teams). Where I’m ‘balls to wall’ working 24/7 writing, taking photos and creating videos, etc … she is in super-dee-duper, happy holiday mode.
Poverty or A Simpler Way of Life?
What has inspired this post is something she observed that has sparked days of thought about the contrast of life in the different countries in which I’ve lived. Not so much the USA or Spain but more so India, Mexico, and China (well, and Hong Kong I suppose but only because it was so expensive that the quality of life was terrible for many, many people). Mommy pondered a question as we drove through some of the villages between south and central Bali about the poverty level there.
My instantaneous reaction to her was that what she was seeing wasn’t poverty at all but a simpler way of life. Full Stop. In fact, it had never even occurred to me to view Bali in that light, something I did almost daily in India where I lived for three years or in other countries I’ve visited.
What I see in Bali of real local life is obviously quite limited because I’m not truly an expat living here. However, to some extend – in my mind, at least – I have spent enough time here and had enough wonderful moments in local homes with Balinese families I’ve met along the way to say I know a BIT of what it’s like. I’ve explored off-the-beaten track villages where I was the only foreigner. Most importantly, I’ve spent time asking questions about real life, about religion, about traditions, and about the happiness levels and quality of life of many, many locals here out of pure natural curiosity.
When I shared that thought with Mom, she immediately said that she hadn’t thought about it that way but that she thought I was right. She continued on to share that she has never been to a country before where every single person – EVERY ONE – seemed genuinely kind, kind-hearted, and happy. The interactions between the locals are warm, just as they are with us, even when you are simply walking down an alleyway and happen to pass someone on the street. Everyone smiles, no one ignores one another (as we tourists often do to one another and the locals around us), and the feeling that is imparted on guests of Bali is that we are somewhere truly special and peaceful.
In many countries, our lives are overly complicated by expectation, ambition, and technology. Sure, most homes in villages here don’t have 50” televisions, cordless vacuums, or induction cooktops (just a few things off the top of my head that don’t enrich our lives but seem really, very popular in some places). People don’t work until they’re medicating from stress to pay for all the ‘stuff’ they think they need like in many other countries around the world. The homes are filled with people who appear genuinely happy to be with the ones they love, have time to be with them, and to pray to their Gods each day in their own temple.
The Importance of ForBali
Today, homes are also filled with impassioned protestors. People trying to preserve their lands, their beautiful & simpler way of life, and their culture. The government wants to start development on land reclamation projects, add new theme parks and fake waterways, and drastically expand luxury tourism in a way that will surely bring the end to much of Bali as we know it, at least in the south where overcrowding is already a serious problem. Religious tradition and the environmental impact are also major concerns, given the disastrous effects it will have on everything from coral reefs and kelp fields to at least 70 sacred Hindu landmarks, and much much more.
Please visit the Bali Forum Against Reclamation (ForBali) website for more information (use Google Translate to read it in English). ForBali leads this fight, uniting the Balinese youth (reminding me very much of the Pro-democracy Occupy Central protesters in Hong Kong), politicians, rock stars, academics, religious institutions, environmentalists, and all 14 areas earmarked for reclamation.
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