The light is soft, it’s created a kind of glow over everything that you seem to notice only on holidays. The hours between afternoon and evening are the most gentle, the most peaceful, when there is a sense of calm after a full day combined with a steady excitement for the time that stretches before you, like the endless stroll along the beach.
The day was spent with sand between your toes and a sheen on your skin that was a mix of sweat, suncream and salt water. You’ve showered, but you can still feel the beach on your arms and the pink tinge has remained on your face. It doesn’t look like burn though, it looks like life, like you’ve been kissed by the day. There are some new freckles, spots of experience on your skin that appear and disappear with the seasons as though to mark the passing of time, the changes in yourself. Your hair is still damp, falling down your back and creating cooler air for you to breathe, your jewellery is glinting in the golden glow and you begin the routine of the evening, the simple pleasures that make time feel abundantly special and explicitly plain all at once.
On the balcony they’re waiting, head in a book, rosé open and a glass waiting for you. A bag of crisps from a European brand you haven’t heard of but grabbed at the little shop on the way home has been part consumed and a bowl of pistachios sits with the cracked shells mixed up amongst the soft green saltiness. Sit down, book closes, eyes up, smile, sip, happy. So happy. You think it’s funny, the amount of time you can spend with a person and still have things to say, how you can live through the same day and still have things to share about it, thoughts you kept to yourself that now slip out as you work your way through the bottle. Dry and crisp and clear, as your mind slowly becomes less so and the sound of laughter fills the air. Your eyes take on that familiar sparkle, it’s the flirting, the cheekiness of the unknown evening.
Outside there’s a soft breeze, a chill but the heat of the day still lingers in the air so you’re not cold, maybe that’s the wine though. You walk down the cobbled sandy street, hand in hand, arms swinging like they’re wings, like you’re trying to take off. You feel light enough to take off. You stop at the restaurant, one you ate at two nights ago, or was it three? The softness of the days mean they blurr together in the warmest of ways. Same table, same waiter, same menu, same wine. You pick up the glass by the stem, eye the menu, you don’t know what to have but it doesn’t matter, in this mood it seems impossible for anything not to taste like heaven. Olives stuffed with secrets arrive, bread that you can hear as much as you can taste when you bite it. The evening goes on and the sun sets, creating a brief dusk over the sea before it says goodbye.
It’s colder as you leave so you take their jacket off the back of their chair without asking but they don’t say anything, the don’t mind, they never do. The walk back is slower, arm in arm with steps that are more gentle, attempting to let the night linger for as long as possible, to try and pause the moment, to hold off on sleep. The sun and the wine amplify your exhaustion but it’s ok, you don’t mind the feeling of it in your bones when there is nothing else to do. It’s dark now, a quick look at the stars before you duck into your summer cave.
The day is done, but tomorrow will be exactly the same, how lovely.
Day 3 in Australia and this morning I went for coffee with a boy who didn’t have shoes on. He picked me up, drove to town, parked, walked to the cafe, bought our coffees, and it wasn’t until we sat down that I noticed he was barefoot and I thought yeah, I’m definitely in Australia now.
It’s been a long time coming so it feels strange to actually be here, to feel like I’ve been here for a while and to be settling into a routine.
It’s rained all day in Sydney. The heavy hot kind that you don’t mind feeling on your skin and letting it soak you to the bone. It feels cleansing, like it’s washing away the dust and flooding out the city so it’s ready for new things. It’s not like English rain, you don’t want to hide from it, you want to live in it, to experience it. And I feel ready to experience it.
Boarding the plane on Monday I wasn’t sure that I was. It was harder than expected to leave London behind, to leave the laughter and the happiness and the people for the unknown. I was surprised that for potentially the first time in my life, I didn’t want to rush on to the next thing, there was no burning desire to leave my world behind. I know that’s a good thing but it definitely made it harder to leave and made me doubt what I was doing. Why would you choose to leave guaranteed happiness for the unknown? But to think like that means there would never be new adventure or people or places and now that I’m here, I know that actually leaving was the hardest part.
The joy of the past few months means there’s no pressure on this trip anymore. It doesn’t need to be life changing or help me decide who I want to be or fulfil anything that was missing, that all happened before I left the country. I know that dancing around a kitchen in London can be just as good as lying on a beach in Sydney, maybe even better. Thinking about it now, you’ve got to find your happiness in the small stuff, in the day to day, the coffee and the dinners with friends and the dog walks. If it only came from trips to the other side of the world you’d so rarely experience it.
Ultimately, I feel so lucky to have people to miss, to have a life to miss and something to look forward to going back to, whenever that may be. In the meantime, I’ll be here, experiencing it all, throwing myself in, taking each day as it comes, eating a lot of brunch and working on my tan. Maybe I’ll even stop wearing shoes.
Ah Bali. The land of endless smoothie bowls, extreme traffic and a surprising number of Australians. I can’t believe its been over 2 weeks since I got back from Indonesia, my tan is already fading and I’ve just about gotten back into the routine of home life but I still wanted to write a bit about the trip. We spent 8 days in Java, 16 in Bali and 5 in Lombok. Each island was amazing and it may be because we were there for the longest but its Bali I have the most to say about.
I know Bali is having a bit of a ‘moment’ right now. It’s all over people’s social media (mine included), Brits are taking the long-haul flight for a relatively short stay and on multiple occasions when I told people I was going they said ‘me too’. That being said, it was different to what I was expecting. Perhaps the attention it’s getting and some of the incredible photos I’d seen didn’t provide an accurate portrayal of the island or, I’d forgotten the difference money makes to a holiday. Either way, I felt some parts of the island were (and I don’t want to say overrated because that makes it sound too negative) not what I thought they’d be. It was busy and far more western than I was prepared for, the abundance of brunch places is ridiculous and I hadn’t realised that, unlike other destinations in Asia where you only see other travellers, there would be so many families. That being said, I thought I’d share some of the things we got up to and a few recommendations. There is plenty of information out there online but I think it would’ve been helpful to hear more of a first hand realistic account before we went, hence this post. If you have no interest in what I got up to (which is completely fair enough) I finish with a few more general thoughts on travel so skip away to the end. Also be warned there are lots of photos.
We arrived in Bali a couple of days ahead of schedule and, on the recommendation of someone we’d met in Java, decided to start off in Munduk. Starting there meant we weren’t quite prepared for the busyness of the rest of the island, the quiet northern village still feels very local and had very few other tourists. We stayed in a family run hotel called Swar Bali Lodge which was really nice, the brothers working there were so helpful, happy to give us lifts on the back of their motorbikes and recommend places to visit.
That being said, there isn’t loads to do in Munduk but there is a beautiful waterfall hike. The 5k route starts at Red Coral (Munduk) waterfall and didn’t take long. The three waterfalls en route were incredible, even more so because there were so few other people there. We also visited the Munduk Moding coffee plantation where we were talked through the process and got to try some of the coffee grown on site (for free which was a bonus).
Arriving in Canggu was very different. We were immediately aware of the number of tourists in the area. We had 4 days there which we essentially spent sunbathing and eating, some stand out spots being Crate cafe, Bali bowls and Quince. However, food prices were definitely much higher than what you might expect travelling, closer to a good value meal in the UK. The town is definitely an ideal spot for surfers but unfortunately and unsurprisingly, I don’t surf, so worth bearing in mind the beach is very windy with huge waves that can knock you right out. We did venture outside of Canggu one day to visit the Tanah Lot sea temple which was nice but there were bus loads of tourists there too and because you can’t actually go in the temple, there isn’t lots to do once you’ve seen it. Canggu was lovely but slow paced, just something to be aware of.
We thought Canggu was touristy but Seminyak was another level. Traffic was terrible and the streets were overflowing with people and shops. However, the food here was very good, we went to a place called Shelter for lunch, had brunch at Coffee Cartel and went to Dough Darlings (twice) for the most amazing doughnuts. Seminyak beach is windy too but we did see some baby turtles being released so that was pretty cool. We only had 2 days in Seminyak but because it was so busy it almost felt too overwhelming to explore, we spent most of the time on our motorbike going from beach to restaurant and even though you see things, it all goes past pretty quickly. It’s definitely a part of the island I think I found a bit much but would’ve liked to experience when it was quieter.
Ubud was far more chilled, a good mix of tourists and local culture, it felt like we were experiencing Bali again rather than a western beach town. The Monkey Forest is obviously touristy but a must do, likewise with the nearby waterfalls. The two we went to were very busy and I think if we hadn’t been to Munduk I would’ve been disappointed. The Tirta Emple water temple we went to where we bathed in the fresh spring water and the Tegalalang rice terraces were definitely both worth it despite being busy. We also did a bike tour with a company called Bali Breeze and a cooking class with Paon. Both were great and a chance to learn a bit more by chatting to locals and do something a bit different, the bike tour was downhill (ideal) and the food we made in the class was amazing.
Wandering around Ubud was nice too, we had the most amazing chocolate coconut banana bread at Tukies and managed to get all our souvenir shopping done at the market. I also did some classes at the Yoga Barn while we were there which was really nice but safe to say I haven’t kept it up…yoga in my room in Bedford is not quite the same as in a windowed studio in the jungle with the most ‘zen’ instructor I’ve ever met.
We didn’t do the main Gili Islands but Nusa Lembongan, about an hours boat trip from Bali, was amazing. A beautiful island with a relaxed and beachy vibe, it was almost what I expected Canggu and Seminyak to be like and I wished we’d spent more than a night there. The beaches were beautiful and we went over to the Blue Lagoon on Nusa Cenida which was amazing. Definitely worth the slightly damp boat journey there and back. However, be warned that the ‘roads’ marked on google maps are more like rocky steep crumbling tracks that a motorbike probably can’t handle…we may have learnt that the hard way.
Our final (and potentially my favourite) destination in Bali was Uluwatu. The area is far from crowded with plenty of space between everything, beautiful scenery and a good mix of locals and visitors. There were some beautiful beaches including Bingin beach and Padang-Padang (which features in the Eat Pray Love film) but be warned that quite a few of the beaches in the area are only accessible at low tide. We stayed in a basic but lovely hostel called the Bingin Inn and ate at the Cashew Tree, Loft and Drifter, all of which I’d recommend. The Kecak fire dance at Uluwatu Temple made our final temple experience a bit different, something that is again worth doing, but be prepared for lots of other people.
A final thing I’d say about Bali is do your research, but realise you can’t do everything. There physically aren’t enough meals in the day to eat at every nice place on the island or enough nights to spend at every beautiful hotel you see (I guess you could stay longer but my finances definitely didn’t allow it). Perhaps because it is such a popular destination at the moment I found it so easy to compare my experience of the island to other people’s…yes, I went on the trip of a lifetime and I was still there wondering if I was doing it ‘well’ enough…comparison is very clearly something I need to work on. Travel is tricky, its something that should be for personal reasons (relaxation, quality time, recovery) and yet I find it something people want to share the most, whether that’s posting pictures online or recounting stories to friends for weeks to come (or writing a blog post about it). It’s definitely something I’m guilty of, but maybe guilty is the wrong word, is there actually anything wrong with wanting to share what you’re doing, to let people know you’re enjoying yourself? Indonesia was a long time coming after a very long year and if I’m being honest, I had a bloody great time.
On Tuesday, my summer travels come to an end. I have spent the most unforgettable time in Greece, I’ve wandered for hours through Spain and have celebrated my family with them in the Channel Islands. I have no more holidays and no more exciting plans, just plenty of time to earn back all the money I’ve spent and scroll through the endless photos. However, in the meantime, and so that I can drag out the reminiscing for as long as possible, I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learnt from the past 6 weeks.
Wear sun cream, everyday, right up to the edge of your swimming costume.
Don’t spend 12 euros on a mojito, it’s really not worth it.
You’re not going to exercise everyday, that’s ok. In fact it’s ok not to exercise at all.
Make sure you eat 3 meals a day, especially when travelling with a male, they get particularly hangry. Might be worth bringing snacks.
Send a couple of postcards, it makes other people happy and doesn’t cost you much.
Do as much as you can but don’t be annoyed if you couldn’t manage everything you wanted.
Don’t drink too much wine at lunch, you feel sleepy and lose the afternoon and then feel guilty about it later.
Be flexible, plans might change but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Clean your feet before you get into bed, there’s nothing worse than sandy sheets.
Try and see the sunset everyday.
When buying aloe vera moisturiser to help with sunburn, make sure it is in fact moisturiser and not hair conditioner (easy mistake to make).
Don’t compare your holiday to other people’s, you’re lucky to be where you are and should be busy living your life, not looking at theirs.
Remember that people form opinions about you quickly in a shared villa, try and make sure they’re good ones.
Sneaking into hotel pools is easier than you’d think and a great way to spend the afternoon. Added bonus if it’s a DoubleTree Hilton, they give out free cookies.
Don’t forget bug spray and make sure you don’t run out of toothpaste.
Don’t underestimate the difference an iced coffee can make to your mood but don’t get addicted, they’re full of sugar.
If you’re going on a bike ride, make sure you won’t be cycling up any surprise mountains (I learnt that the hard way)
Always carry a deck of cards or uno.
Swim in the sea, 9 times out of 10 it is true when people say “It’s lovely once you’re in”.
It’s ok to take a bit of time for yourself if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Chances are you won’t realise what a great time you’re having until it’s over, make sure you enjoy it while you’re there.
If you are yet to embark on your summer travels I am incredibly envious, I shall be here, trying to endure the heatwave and drinking copious amounts of Pimms which actually, now I think about it, doesn’t sound that bad at all.