Having been to Bali several years ago with my travel besties, I looked forward to seeing it anew through Jeremy’s eyes. Bali was his second highest country on his Julycation wish list, second only to our honeymoon destination, which we’ll be visiting in November (more on that to come, but you’ll have to stay tuned through the fall!).
We started our trip in Ubud, the area made famous ten years ago in the book Eat, Pray, Love. Ubud was the “love” part. It was also the part with a spiritual healer who, according to the locals, became so famous due to the book that suddenly the healing he gave to every individual was the same remedy, but every Starbucks-sipping, yoga-mat-slinging, enlightenment-seeking tourist far and wide bought it as though it was their personal roadmap for life.
When told this, I mentally scratched “visit a Balinese healer” off of my bucket list. Jeremy and I spoke about it at length, as I thought it’d be a cool thing to see and maybe glean a little bit of spiritual cleansing from myself. We’d gathered enough information to understand that the healers open to most tourists would be a tourist trap, and the real ones, where tourists didn’t visit, would be akin to “someone from Bali coming to the States and asking to go with you to the dentist,” as Jeremy so eloquently put it.
So, no healer for us. Just dodging scooters and watching Kecak Dance Performances (please don’t ask Jeremy to do his rendition of this local dance at our wedding, I fear he might) and eating delicious babi guling (suckling pig) and gado gado (a Balinese salad type dish) and letting monkeys crawl on top of us to steal bananas in the Monkey Forest.
We stayed in two fabulous partner properties in Ubud, the more traditional Viceroy Bali and the more modern Como Uma Ubud. Both hotels provided stellar service and excellent accommodations: individual villas with private plunge pools overlooking the expansive jungles of Ubud.
Ubud was the perfect pacing as a juncture between all that we saw and did in Thailand to eventually wind down at the end of our trip: Alila Villas Uluwatu. As soon as one steps foot on property at Alila, any tension, emotionally or physically, that might’ve been wound tightly is immediately released. It is the epitome of calm, perched cliffside in Uluwatu with sweeping views of the ocean far below.
It was a wow-factor way to end the trip, easily one of the best hotels I’ve ever stayed in. The architecture is truly unique: bird-cage like structures that make it hard to stop photographing with that picture perfect ocean backdrop.
Just ask the no less than twelve Instagram husbands (you know, the men who have to take photos of their wives who pretend not to look at the camera, so you always wonder….did they know this candid photo was being taken of them? And the answer is always “yes, because it was staged”) we saw photographing their wives in a well-planned outfit, subtly leaning against the birdcage and looking away from the camera. When these couples found each other, I wonder if the girl is happiest to know that she will always have someone to take her photos. Truly, for me, the real beauty of being half of a whole is that you always have someone to share your food with (read: someone from whom I can steal food).
Jeremy is not doomed to become an Instagram husband, for those of you who are wondering. We have agreed to always take photos in the same pose, looking at the camera with the same smiles, no one ever has to wonder if the photo was staged. It was. This might as well be written into our marriage vows.
One morning, I decided to enjoy a leisurely morning yoga session. As much as this might negate the Instagram diatribe above, I did take a few photos of it:
I try to get in at least one yoga session no matter where I visit, I’ve found it to be something that immediately roots me to the place and forces me to focus on the surrounding beauty and nature without any distractions. Some of my most tangible memories from trips in the past few years, whether it was in Maui or Mykonos or Nicaragua, come from these sessions. If I am present enough in those moments, I’ll pick up on the little things I never stopped to appreciate about that destination. Oftentimes, I’ll find myself setting a new intention or learning a new thought process that I carry with me long after the trip has ended.
This time, though, life had other plans in store. The instructor was not the typical, wispy yoga maiden with a calm voice and zen demeanor. Instead, it was a man who instructed – no, demanded – the dedication of a trained yogi. He also yelled. A lot.
The instructions came quick, CLOSE EYES. PLANT FEET. RAISE RIGHT FOOT. PLANT RIGHT FOOT. PLANT HANDS. BALANCE FEET –
What the?!, we were already in crow pose right off the gate, a fairly advanced pose that I still struggle with, despite practicing yoga on a weekly basis for a solid three years. The man beside me fell over with a thud.
The instructor continued, methodically, into what was truly a great workout, so don’t get me wrong – it was a good class. However, the first half hour of the class went by without me giving second thought to the surroundings. I wasn’t intending for a good workout, I was here to try to connect further with the setting: the way the wind sounded from a cliff this high, the way the early morning sun bounced off of the water far below. Wasn’t I here to focus on the beauty? Why was I letting external circumstances become such a distraction?
And then it hit me. Learning to look past the distraction was my lesson. That yoga session was not unlike the season of life I’ve been in – we’ve been in – as an engaged couple.
You spend so much time developing a relationship with your significant other while you’re dating, the two of you have this beautiful bond that you’re sharing with one another. It feels like a secret. The good kind, the kind that makes you giddy. It’s a foundation that you’re building, that, when you’ve found the right one, you know immediately will be the foundation for a lifetime. When you know, you know, just like all of those annoying people used to tell you, the ones you once laughed out for saying ridiculous things like that.
But, what they don’t tell you when you get engaged is that when you announce to the world your intention for committing this love on a larger scale, one that is recognized in the eyes of God and the government, you open up your beautiful little secret for everyone else to dissect. It becomes a moving target, an invitation to unsolicited opinions (which, by the way, are almost never positive), some stemming from good intentions, but all sounding oddly similar to the yoga instructor who has been shouting at me since the beginning of this lesson.
They sound like distractions, taking away from something meaningful.
I breathed in and out a few times, letting that realization sink in.
PUT LEFT FOOT ON THIGH.
I put my left foot on my thigh. I noticed the wind and opened my eyes to look out at the view before me. The yelling of instructions didn’t change – and when we return home, the onslaught of opinions might not either – but my focus did.
The day before we came to Asia, Jeremy and I pinky promised that there would be no wedding talk on this trip. It wasn’t a hard promise to live up to, as we were both pretty fatigued going into the trip over a subject that felt pointedly in the way of the love we were trying to celebrate and declare.
Two weeks later, perched on a cliff of Uluwatu at Single Fin surf bar, we cling a couple of Bintangs together, cheering to a successful trip. Considering the original intention of offloading some of the heaviness we’d been feeling, I’d say it was a successful trip, indeed.