One of my biggest fears when I chose to study abroad in Australia was that I would not get as rich of a cultural experience as my counterparts would in places like Europe, South America, and Africa. To my satisfaction, Australia still presented me with quite the cultural shock. But, to this date the most amazing cultural experience I have encountered was in Bali.
For the reading week period we had off before exams, a group of about 15 of my friends and I booked a beautiful villa in Bali. So, after the last day of class I packed my bags for the anticipated warm weather and jetted off to the airport to catch my almost 7 hour flight to Indonesia. The plane ride was particularly brutal because I sat in the kiddie section of the plane. Anybody who knows me knows I adore children but 7 hours with 6 different children, all under the age of 7, held in a confined space challenged my patience to a new level. Despite the commotion, we finally landed in Denpasar around 4pm Bali time, collected our bags, and met our driver to take us to the villa.
The Villa Bulan in Seminyak, Bali was breathtaking. We wound through a long driveway to find a metal sliding door that led to our home for the next 5 days. When I walked into the courtyard my jaw dropped. I’m sure everyone has a stereotypical image of what a Balinese villa would look like, and ours matched that but to a grander scale. The living room, kitchen, and dining room were huge, open rooms facing a grass lawn, and the bathroom of this main part of the villa was as big as the entire kitchen and dining room combined. This main part of the villa had 2 bedrooms upstairs, and another private sector with another bedroom and bathroom. Then, if you ventured around the back the pool became visible and another 2 bedrooms in a smaller villa sat beside it.
The best part of this experience was the manager we met and all of her staff. I was a little nervous about feeling safe and secure, but two kitchen and house service staff were present from 7am-8pm, and then a security guard came from 8pm-7am to watch the front gate. Never once did I need to fear for my personal safety or for the security of my belongings. Our manager wasn’t just friendly staff though, she was basically our personal travel agent. No matter what our plans were she ensured we had transportation, tickets, directions, tips, etc. She was by far the sweetest Balinese woman I met. After 4 nights in the villa we traveled via ferry to the incredible island Gili Trawangan. This place felt like it was out of a movie. There are no cars (only bicycles and horses), the entire island takes about 20 minutes to circle via bike, and the single street was lined on either side with bars, beachfront restaurants, resorts, shops, spas, and more. It amazed me that people actually lived there.
Between my time spent in Seminyak and Gili T I rode an elephant, got jumped by a monkey, bargained my way to amazing deals in markets, walked through a Hindu temple, relaxed with amazing massages, and sipped on margaritas at gorgeous beach clubs. It was the perfect combination between relaxing and adventurous. I’m thankful I had the opportunity to travel to this part of the world because it really complemented my desire to experience different cultures. Driving and walking around the country opened my eyes to how grateful I am for the infrastructure and stability the United States has (and not to mention air conditioning!). Although relatively underdeveloped, the Balinese people were among the happiest I have encountered in my world travels.
As the final two weeks of my time here in Australia are approaching, I’m beginning to feel bitter sweet that these adventures will be ending so soon. Nevertheless I’m so grateful for my journey thus far. Now, I just have to get through finals.