Last Wednesday morning I loaded a fast boat for the three hour trip up the Bali coast and over to Lombok and then to the Gilis. My thought was that I would hit Gili Trawangan (Gili T for short) hang out for a few hours and then catch the $2 ferry over to Gili Meno, an even smaller island, for some solitude. I had no reservations or firm plans, just a general expectation that things would work themselves out as usual.
When I landed on Gili T. I immediately succumb to F.O.M.S. (Fear Of Missing Something). FOMS is a nasty virus, I caught a particularly bad case of the last time I took a year off and it is something I promised myself I wouldn’t contract again this time around - yet I was no more than 20’ up the beach when I got it bad. I spent the next three hours hiking up and down Gili T’s main area, laden with my heavy pack, trying to find the absolute best place to stay on the island.
Never mind that my original plan was to go to a different island, for some reason I got it in my head that I could find the best deal, location, accommodation here if I just kept pacing the beach front. I did this for more than three hours and never once did I stop to eat, or drink or simply sit and enjoy the beauty of my surroundings.
At about 3pm I realized what I was doing, that I had a bad case of FOMS. Having diagnosed my affliction I reverted back to my original plan, bought a ferry ticket and boarded my first junk boat for the short hop over to Gili Meno. This ended up being the most terrifying boat trip I have ever taken.
We weren’t 200 feet off the shore when the wind kicked up, whitecaps formed and our narrow, long and overloaded boat started rolling from wave to wave. About five minutes into the journey and I made peace with the fact that I was going to drown at sea. I’ve had a really good life – I’ve seen lots of the world, I’ve loved deeply, been loved deeply, made and sustained tremendous friendships… I’m not ready, but if I must meet my fate by drowning in the Indian Ocean between two impossibly beautiful little islands… then so be it. Beats cancer.
Apparently this was not meant to be my fate, because somehow, despite the laws of physics, gravity and buoyancy the boat did not sink and actually delivered me shaken, sopping wet and weak-kneed to the shores of Gili Meno.
I decided not to walk anymore with my heavy pack and hired a horse cart for the trip to the northern end of the island. The Gilis are charming for a host of reasons one of which is the lack of motorized transportation. To get from one side of the island to another you have three choices, walk, bicycle or take a horse cart. My cart was a rickety blue box driven by a boy named Alan who likely was not old enough to legally drive a car.
As we took off another boy hopped into the cart, I think his name was Abi, but I can’t be certain. Abi’s presence made me nervous. I truly believe that focusing on being scared or giving credence to thoughts that something bad could happen, can actually bring bad fortune your way, so generally I try to not give any energy to bad thoughts. But Abi made me nervous and some bad thoughts started creeping into my consciousness.
As an aside - should you ever learn that someone you have encountered is a solo traveler, especially a female solo traveler, the proper response is -wow, that is great, what freedom and opportunity. The absolutely wrong response is - aren’t you nervous/afraid/concerned traveling alone.
We took a turn away from the beach, which seemed to me an illogical route to a beach-front resort, and headed into the brush. About five minutes into this ride and the creep of negative thoughts gains momentum until it is a flood of apprehension. As I struggle to calm my nerves Alan looks up from the reigns and says
– aren’t you afraid traveling all alone?
And I think...
– Well actually only when someone asks me if I am.
Trying to muster up my toughest tough-girl tone of voice I say
– No, why? Do you think I should be?
Apparently he did and so a few minutes later when we made another turn and I could see the ocean again I breathed a big sigh of relief. However, the resort there was totally booked so I had no choice but to again load into the cart with the boys and head back to where we had started from.
An hour later after I had exhausted every other accommodation on the island I settled into a $25/night beach front shanty a few doors down from the main part of town.
The next morning I woke up ready to embrace my first real day of silence. I found a gorgeous spot for my morning practice and afterwards took myself and my cheery, if silent, disposition down to the restaurant for breakfast. It took me about five minutes before I realized being silent was not an option. I learned very quickly that I was A.) the only non-resident of the island not enjoying my honeymoon and B.) the only single female among throngs of persistent men who could have cared less if I was there to be silent, introspective or alone or for that matter if I was a leper, bald or 95. I felt like a wounded lamb in a field of hungry wolves.
I abandoned any hope of being able to stay silent and decided instead to go sightseeing and diving. So that is what I did, I was treated to huge sea turtles and colorful birds for my efforts.
I lasted two nights and then truth be told, I couldn’t get off the island fast enough. I returned to Gili T. and took a room at the villa my hired boat dropped me in front of. I was not going to wander aimlessly up and down the beach again. Thankfully the boat dropped me at a truly lovely villa complete with a real western toilet, a plunge pool and neighbors who I befriended quickly and spent a very enjoyable evening with.
My neighbors, Doug, Cheyenne and Sam are all Aussies and Gili T. is known as a party island- in their presence I adopted the if you can beat ‘em join ‘em attitude which is how I ended up stumbling home drunkenly laughing at every little thing at some ungodly hour not long after the calendar had claimed another day. The ensuing hangover made the very rough three-hour return boat trip to Bali miserable, but the proceeding 24 hours left me with a great memories and a desire to return to Gili T again..
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