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  • Writer's pictureJulie Stevens

Bali - A Foundation of Faith and Fortitude

Updated: Aug 24, 2022

Wherever I travel, there is a certain desire to leave everything familiar behind. It's not because I don't love my country, my home, or my surroundings, it's just that I am already cognizant of what all of those luxuries entail. Taking a departure from your daily customs not only requires growth and change, it invites a heightened awareness for even the most mundane activities, like brushing your teeth with clean water, driving on paved roads or having a machine to dry your clothes. It also keeps me humble. I realize what a small space I occupy on this planet.

Temple Tanah Lot Bali Indonesia Travel
Tanah Lot Temple by Julie Stevens

Bali, Indonesia in my adept traveling experience, is for the seasoned jet-setter. I say this with the utmost respect and positivity, just a suggestion if you're not used to spending nearly 17 hours on a plane or if you find it hard to appreciate four million people living on a 90-mile long island. On a recent list of islands by population, Bali ranked number 25 out of over 200 for the most populated. Taking a day trip from one end of Bali to the other, will take you approximately 12 hours. Patience is definitely a virtue here.

Like Buddha once said, "If anything is worth doing, do it with all your heart." Well, we embraced Bali with all of our hearts. Warm smiles and gracious head nods enveloped us the moment we set foot onto Balinese soil. Our Airbnb had arranged for a driver to pick us up from the airport in Denpasar, and something about an enthusiastic Balinese gent named Nyoman, holding a sign with my name on it, made me so very happy.

Savoring Our Solitude

"Eat, Pray, Love Our Bali Home" was the perfect oasis for a couple's getaway. Privacy was plentiful and the accommodations gave us the ideal Balinese experience. The property had four individual villas, and we occupied the only one-bedroom. Longtime friends and owners, Guy & Daniel, have considered every detail to ensure a stay that is authentic and celebrates the uniqueness of the island. We quickly became friends with the staff and took full advantage of the on-site chefs, drivers and massage therapists. We treated ourselves to a poolside couple's massage, and it was heavenly. The vacation rental also has bicycles that are available for their guests, and this is a great way to explore Bali's hidden gems. The private outdoor bathroom made us feel one with nature, and the refreshing rain shower was a favorite feature. Our morning routine consisted of a swim in our private pool, Bali Coffee and breakfast outside amongst the swaying palms and the daily choir of our new feathered friends. Naturally, my favorite bird was the starling, who wolf-whistled to me routinely. If only I could wake up at home each morning with that same kind of positive reinforcement.

bali villa swimming pool
Photo by James Billing for Airbnb - Our own private pool

bali villa outdoor rain shower
Photo by James Billing for Airbnb - The outdoor rain shower was one of our favorite features.

The Beaches - Black, White & Somewhere In-Between

From the villa, Seseh Beach was just a five-minute walk. However, it was necessary to make our way through "local security", which consisted of ten stray dogs, five roosters and one elusive cat. They're all harmless, but they do insist on reminding you that you are indeed a stranger on their island. The beaches near Canggu are quieter and well known for their epic waves, surfers and shimmering black sand. Indonesia has more active volcanoes than any other country, two of which call Bali home. Mount Agung made news recently when it spewed ash and lava once again, disrupting air travel for several thousand passengers until the airport could re-open.

black sand beach bali indonesia
Seseh Beach by Julie Stevens

bali indonesia surfers family
Father & Son by Julie Stevens

If scuba diving or snorkeling are a favorite pastime, head to the northeast coast of Amed. The Bali Sea is tranquil and perfect for water sports. Pebbles and shells adorn silky grey sand and the ocean floor is covered with coral and sizable blue star fish.

Back to the more populated southwestern coast, you will notice as you make your way from Canggu down the coastline, the beaches change from black to white sand. Seminyak, Kuta and Jimbaran Beach, though more touristy, all offer charming hideaways providing savory local fare and refreshments. Seminyak is famous for its brightly colored beanbag chairs and umbrellas, perfect for a little R&R.

seminyak beach food cocktails
Seminyak Beach by Julie Stevens

Oh, The Places You'll Eat

I highly recommend a little sunset and seafood on Jimbaran Bay. Over 15 cafes line this pearly sand beach and you won't be disappointed with the views or the portion sizes. The wait staff escorted us inside the restaurant to hand-pick our meal straight from the live wells. It doesn't get any finer than that.

Indonesia is home to some of the world's most nutritious superfoods. Rice is a local resource here, so expect ample amounts of white rice, fried rice, otherwise known as Nasi Goreng, and the antioxidant superhero, black rice. Coconuts are used in almost every dish, and beaches and shops are lined with empty shells just waiting to be resurrected into serving bowls and candle holders. And for a mere 30,000 rupiah, they will carve one up, stick a straw in it, and allow you to drink your medicine right from the source. By the way, that's only $2 USD.

Now, let's talk fruit. Smoothies are a large part of the culture here, and in all of my travels, I have never been introduced to a papaya more decadent or mouth-watering. The pineapple, watermelon and mango were all close second-place finishers.

Make a special trip to the Avocado Factory in Canggu if this little fruit is a favorite of yours. The Poke Bowl with fresh spiced tuna, coconut brown rice and delicately sliced avocado is to die for. Add a plate of avocado hummus, and an avocado smoothie, and it's a feast fit for a king and queen.

avocado factory canggu bali indonesia
The Avocado Factory by Julie Stevens

So Much To See, So Little Time

Before we arrived, we had a small list of must-see places, but this is the part of sightseeing that requires flexibility and resolve. With over four million residents traveling on

two-lane roads, timeliness is not a luxury. Therefore, some of our original intentions required a backup plan. There are over 20,000 temples on Bali alone, and I had my heart set on seeing a few of the famous ones that I had researched back home. Realistically, it could take several hours each way to reach your goal, so it may be something you decide to cross off your list. You will also notice that there are beautiful shrines on every corner, as almost every home has a personal Hindu temple, and each town has a larger, more ornate temple for special gatherings. You will never find a shortage of these to photograph or pay your respects. There is a reason Bali is commonly referred to as, "The Island of the Gods."

temple bali indonesia
Photo by Clyde Stevens of A Model Traveler

The Ubud Monkey Forest had originally caught our attention, but when our driver stopped at the Uluwatu Temple, which just so happens to be flooded with these little fellas, I was rewarded with my monkey encounter after all, without needing to purchase a ticket. Fair warning, they do snatch up sunglasses, cell phones and other loose objects, so hang tight to your belongings. I have an image in my mind of these monkeys late at night, eating fruit and comparing all of their stolen goods.

uluwatu temple feeding monkeys
Photo by Clyde Stevens

Tegalalang Rice Terrace in Ubud is full of vivid photo opportunities. The fields are beautifully maintained and have the look of a dewy layer-cake. If you're feeling brave and want the most scenic backdrop for your Instagram page, hop on the famous Bali Swing. You'll experience the freedom and thrill of swaying high above the trees.

tegalalang rice fields ubud bali indonesia
Tagalalang Rice Terraces by Julie Stevens

Almost everything in Bali is inexpensive, so don't hesitate to try new things and take full advantage of their stunning scenery, culinary sensations, souvenir shopping and heavenly spa treatments. One of our favorite days in Ubud took place on the Ayung River. White water rafting is quite popular and enjoyable for all ages. The river is mild, with just a handful of small rapids. This venture is more about the lush scenery and meeting new people than a white-knuckle adrenaline rush. For just $45 per person, they supplied all of the gear, showers, towels and a traditional Indonesian lunch.

ubud white water rafting bali indonesia
Our White Water Rafting Group

Faith And Fortitude

Routine is not something I normally take much pleasure in, however I may need to rethink my definition of it. There is something truly satisfying about waking up each morning looking forward to the same practices. It has everything to do with what your routine consists of, and less to do with the definition itself. Bali was a perfect blend of peaceful practices and daily mindfulness, mixed with just the right amount of energy and stimulation. Life is about your proficiency at being kind, your talents for serving others and remembering that no matter the distance between you, people have the ability to touch your soul forever.

woman rice fields bali indonesia
Photo by Clyde Stevens - View From Eat, Pray, Love Our Bali Home

The Balinese people are 85% Hindu and practice their spirituality daily. They believe that their faith and fortitude have protected them from the wrath of Mother Nature, and kept their spirits high during life's inevitable challenges. Every home and storefront are adorned with baskets full of flowers, incense and other tokens of appreciation for the Gods they pray to. They are indeed some of the warmest, most caring souls that we've encountered. Whether you believe in everything they believe in or not, it should give us pause to think about our own routine of thankfulness and gratitude, and how there can never really be too much of that.

In Balinese, Suksma simply means thank you, and in the official Indonesian language, Terima Kasih is also thank you, but the literal translation means "to accept love." It is abundantly clear that they have this mastered.

bali indonesia villa staff
Selfie by Julie Stevens - Our new friends in Bali.

surf board beach bali indonesia
Bali Sunset by Julie Stevens

A Model Traveler YouTube Channel

Eat, Pray, Love Our Bali Home

The Avocado Factory

Uluwatu Temple & Monkeys

Tegalalang Rice Terrace & Bali Swing

Ubud White Water Rafting

Sundari Day Spa

Eva Air

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