Being in Bali changed my life. In fact, my time spent in Bali in 2014 was the catalyst for my husband and I deciding to “size it down.” It started with our arrival by ship, and our subsequent introduction to our Balinese guide, Bawa. He was to become much more than a guide to us. Over the course of the next five days, Bawa became our spiritual leader through the Hindu religion, our food ambassador, our cinematographer, and most importantly, our friend.
In Bali, the locals must choose between 5 religions ( Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Catholic, and Buddhist), with ninety percent of the population choosing Hindu. Each Hindi household has a family shrine and within each community there is a central place of worship. What the houses do not have are front doors! Anyone can walk right in off the street. In fact, that is exactly what Scott and I did. Bawa asked us to randomly pick a house ( we did) and then we simply entered, and he introduced us to the family that lived there ( grandparents, parents, children). They showed us around and explained their way of life. We learned about the betel nut that the Grandpa chewed, and the rice stew with fish that was their food for all four meals each day. (They squatted to eat the stew and finished each meal in about five minutes). Scott was particularly curious as to how comfy the mattress was that the grandparents slept on out in the open courtyard. Grandma invited him into bed to give it a try!
One day we got to try the most expensive coffee in the world! It’s made from poop!!! That’s right! The coffee beans are fed to a luwak (looks like a cross between a squirrel and a possum). Then the poop of the luwak is collected and the coffee beans are carefully removed from the poop. The beans are then hand roasted in a pan. I took the plunge and drank a cup. All I can say is that is was one strong cup of coffee, some might say is was as strong as shit!
On an adventurous day, Bawa led us to a cave by the ocean. Inside the cave we found an elderly man sitting beside an enormous mound of sand. In the middle of the sand was a little hole, in which nestled a bright blue snake. Bawa said I could pet the snake. So I did. Scott did not, and he thought I was crazy to do it. When I started to pet the snake, the old man started chanting. As we walked away, I asked Bawa what the man had chanted. Bawa said that he was chanting and praying that the snake wouldn’t bite me since it was a poisonous snake. That would have been good to know about ten minutes earlier!
We also experienced magical moments at sunset at a bar called Rock Bar. The bar is reached via a trolly which descends down the cliff over the water’s edge. The waves of the Indian Ocean crash onto the rocks inches away from your cocktail table, as the DJ spins the latest nu disco tunes from his booth carved into the cliff. I was in Heaven! Check out my enthusiasm on the video below.
We spent a day visiting some local artisans and learning about weaving, silver jewelry making, and batik fabrication. (This was the official start of Scott wearing batik sarongs every morning.) We got to experience the John Hardy jewelry headquarters which is a building made entirely of bamboo. I was impressed with the quality and pride which the craftsmen put into their goods.
No trip to Bali would be complete without a visit to the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud. Bawa warned us to keep our hands to ourselves, not to buy the bananas, and to watch out for aggressive monkeys. These points proved to be invaluable as we made our way through what proved to be a similar experience to Dorothy’s scary monkey adventure in Oz.
I learned a different way of life in Bali. There are no lines at the local coffee joint. Instead, people look around and whoever most urgently needs their coffee, they get to go first. When Balinese people wake up in the morning, they ask themselves, “What can I do to help other people today?” Can you imagine living in a country where nearly everyone has that as a goal? The feeling is indescribable! Possessions don’t mean much, and community means everything. The Balinese strive for three types of harmony: harmony among people, harmony with the environment, and harmony with God. Scott and I started to imagine what our life would be like if we “sized down” our possessions, focused on helping others daily, increased our sustainability and environmental awareness, and made our spirituality and meditation a priority. Within four months of our return from Bali, we had moved out of house into a small apartment, and begun our “size it down” journey.