It was an incredible moment in my life, sitting at that warung in the middle of the filthy bustling hub of KUTA, Bali. It was a moment where I could almost physically feel myself standing on the line between the life I used to live, and the life I live now. Two lives that couldn’t be more different, yet somehow here they were, running head first into eachother. There I was, sitting in the same warung I had eaten in so many times with my best mate and my (then) boyfriend after big nights on local booze and beach parties. The familiar sensation of tropical sweat on my skin (and rolling down my spine), the same food I’ve always loved and eaten with absolute delight, the same music we always listened to – Indonesian pop tunes that were the soundtrack to that old life of ours – a life more carefree and irresponsible than the one I live now.
It was so familiar, yet so different.
Here we were again except my then boyfriend is now my ex-husband, and whilst he was sitting across the table from me again, our conversations are different now. He is still so much of the man I fell so in love with but he is also a difficult reminder of one of the most wonderful and most painful times of my life. My best friend, who would have always been there with us, passed away three years ago and her absence was loud in the moments of silence between us. In her place in this unlikely trio is Bo. A beautiful reminder of all the good that we created during those years living in Java and escaping to Bali for wild and wonderful weekends of absolute indulgence. This little human somehow both encouraging me to stand with one foot in either world, and shovelling icecream into her little face with the other.
There were so many beautiful encounters with old friends from old lives while we travelled the island of Bali. I often found myself in conversations about our past lives as if an entire lifetime hadn’t passed in the years in-between. There was never any use pretending that any of us were the same people as we were before. Lives have gone on, for all of us. We have all been irrevocably changed by what happened that last year Bo and I lived in Indonesia – yet somehow we are still the same regardless. Finding ourselves in the same places, laughing about the same things we were laughing about the last time we were together, telling stories of old friends and their lives now and how wonderful so many of those changes have been. Life keeps on rolling on for all of us, lapping now against different shores.
My desire to return home to Indonesia was palpable. I have been terribly homesick for the place for many years now, homesick for the family I left behind, homesick for the food and the culture and the depth that it brought to my life. The fact that Bo needs to be connected to this land has never been lost on me and to return, whilst not to where we lived (as I’m not there yet), but to the country – was important, for both of us, moving forwards. Bo had the opportunity to spend time with her grandmother, her father and to begin to reconnect with a culture that will always be running through her veins.
We were lucky enough to travel for part of the trip with my sister and her family and for the rest of the trip with my beautiful friend Emma and her gorgeous kids. Emma wrote a beautiful post complete with spectacular pictures about our trip keeping track of all the great places we ate and stayed and the things that we saw.
I took a thousand photographs and ate amazing food and more than anything in all that space and nostalgia I reconnected to a part of myself that I thought had been lost. The start of the book I’ve always known I will write was finally penned to paper. It’s amazing the power of a place that has such intense meaning to you – the sharp pang of inspiration it brings, suddenly words appear where before there was nothing but space.
From reunions with old friends and family to days spent on permaculture properties like the beautiful Kul Kul Farm – from Kuta to Ubud and the little village of Lotunduh which we called home for most of our trip – we rode motorbikes and drove around the countryside, Bo balanced between my knees, the heat of the sun on our noses and the wind in our hair. I was reminded the power of familiar smells, tastes and sounds and the intensity of the memories they bring.
The photographs from Indonesia will come in several parts. This is just the first. The stories of the people we love and the people we miss. The others, will come later.
This trip, like any trip, brought the parallels between emotional growth and development and travel and exploration closer and closer for me.
Living for me is about changing, growing, healing. Being challenged emotionally, physically, intellectually, spiritually and nothing does that for me more than travel. But having travelled for so many years and wandering so far has always meant that I feel as if I belong nowhere and yet everywhere all at the same time.
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” ― Terry Pratchett