Bali is a magical place filled with ritual, beauty and challenge. The rice fields are green lush works of art, the temples are intricately designed and beautifully decorated and the beaches are largely undeveloped and uninhabited. In contrast, as a third world country, the water is not drinkable, the sanitation standards are relaxed and most homes cook in simple outdoor kitchens. Despite these challenges, the Balinese are a genuinely kind and optimistic people. Here are 7 lessons I want to remember for my life and maybe you will too.
The majority of Balinese practice Balinese Hindu, where they worship one God, with three manifestations, Brahma, Vishnu, and Sheva. They make offerings to the water, rice fields, and the good and evil spirits twice a day with flowers, cakes and sweets. They also have many celebrations and ceremonies that involve the whole village preparing and attending ceremonies for weddings, funerals, and Balinese holidays.
The Balinese are a very kind and gracious people. They greet you with a smile and whenever you make a request or say thank you, their response is Thank You, you’re welcome. How lovely to always thank someone first.
We stayed at 4 different retreat centers and when we would return from our excursions, the staff greeted us with, Welcome Home! The guides referred to our lodging as our home. The Balinese are very accommodating, helping us feel welcome and even invited us to attend a village ceremony, where we wore sarongs and sashes to respect the temple.
Some areas of the island are very congested with traffic, including thousands of scooters with minimal traffic lights or stop signs. It was amazing to watch the rhythm of the drivers, which looked like complete chaos initially. But everyone drove with great patience, yielding to others as needed and it seemed to work. They don’t have the same level of urgency we have and I did not witness the slightest frustration, let alone any road rage.
We spent most of our time surrounded by small villages where family compounds are built around a temple to support the extended family. As children marry, they move into or build additional structures in the compound. As parents age, they stay in the compound and are taken care of by their children. Bali has a caste system and you are born into your life work so families work together in businesses or the rice fields.
The Balinese believe a balance of good and evil spirits are necessary and both are celebrated. There are black and white checked dressings and décor everywhere to symbolize this. We participated in a purification ceremony to honor and wash away the evil spirits (negativity and discord) for balance. They also have dance programs that honor the good and evil and make offerings to both as well.
Without agreeing to this adventure immersing ourselves in yoga and the Balinese culture of ceremonies, food, markets, beaches, and waterfalls, we could not have had these rich experiences. Travel is such a gift because it gives us a break from our routines and the opportunity to learn as much about ourselves as we learn about another culture. You may not be able to spend a month in a third world country, but there are new perspectives and lessons available even in a weekend away.