Getting Away from it all in Bali

When I tell people I live in Indonesia, they picture me living in a cute beachside bungalow in Bali, spending my carefree days working on my tan and sipping fruity cocktails.  Guys, I hate to break it to you, but that’s most definitely not my life.  Jakarta is a gray, sprawling, traffic-snarled metropolis.  And though a portion of the city does hug the coast, I haven’t actually glimpsed the ocean since I moved here.

I love Bali

Living in Jakarta is a far cry from a day at the beach.  While I find this city to be fascinating in its cultural foreignness, unabashed corruption, and unorganized chaos, it’s not always the easiest place to be in.  After living here for nearly three months, I am more than charmed by Jakarta’s people, but I don’t find it to be the most attractive or intriguing city to live in.  I’m not saying I don’t appreciate the experience of living in Jakarta, because I do.  And I’m not saying that I regret my decision to move here.  I have no doubt that this move will be one of the most life-changing, memorable experiences I’ve ever had – in many ways it already is.  Moving to Jakarta was, for a lot of reasons, the right choice for Aaron and I.  That being said, I always knew that moving to Indonesia’s capital was going to be full of ups and downs.

With over 10 million residents Jakarta is a city of contrasts, with a stark division between the ultra rich and very poor.

My feelings oscillate between being immensely appreciative of the opportunity to live in a foreign country and being utterly overwhelmed by the uncertainty of my current situation.  Adjusting to life in a huge Southeast Asian city actually hasn’t been all that hard for me.  I think I’ve taken to it incredibly well.  I probably owe that to the fact that I have traveled extensively in Southeast Asia, so much so that the region, despite being completely different than my hometown in California, feels a little bit like home.  Actually, the biggest source of my angst is that after living in Jakarta for three months, I have yet to find a job.  I’ll save the complex details for another post, but the job hunt has been incredibly frustrating and disheartening.  Over the last few weeks I’ve been overwhelmed with anxiety about how I’m going to spend the next 10 months I have left in Jakarta.  If I can’t find a job what will I do for 10 whole months, and financially how will I make ends meet?

Being unemployed and not having any structure to my days is only part of the issue.  Anyone who knows me knows that I relish sleeping in.  I also love that I’ve been able to spend my free time writing, maintaining this blog, and working on my photography skills.  Three things I wouldn’t necessarily devote as much time to if I were working 40 hours a week.  I don’t envy Aaron when he has to wake up early or work late into the night.  But, that’s not to say that I don’t want and need a job, because not having one is causing me all kinds of stress.  Not learning new skills, not putting myself out there and meeting people, and not furthering my career are just a few of the things that are weighing heavily on me at the moment.

I suppose all of this is what inspired my spur-of-the-moment trip to Bali.  I really just needed to take some time to get away from it all.  I needed some space from Jakarta, my apartment, my job hunt.  If there’s one perk of not having a job it’s that I have the gift of time.  So, I decided to stop sulking, pull myself together, and do what I love the most – travel.

As I wrote previously, solo travel isn’t really my thing.  In fact, after 10 years of being an avid traveler I just took my first ever solo trip a little over a month ago.  Though it was an obligatory visa run, it was a growing experience for me and it really helped me to realize that I am not only capable of traveling on my own, but I actually really enjoy it.  Now that I’ve learned that solo travel is an actual option for me it’s opened up a whole new realm of possibilities.  And it finally dawned on me that I should be taking advantage of the freedom that comes with being unemployed.  I mean, aside from the financial constraints, I have no good reason not to do a little traveling, right?  And thanks to the plethora of budget airlines (that mean you, AirAsia!) that serve Indonesia, it’s easy to get a last-minute ticket from Jakarta to Bali for $40-$80.

So, that’s exactly what I did.

I love Bali

I realize that going to Bali to get some clarity sounds like a big cliché but, hey, that’s okay with me.  Actually, Bali wouldn’t have been my first choice of places to go.  This trip – kind of like a lot of my life decisions lately – was super random and super last-minute.  I just so happened to find a cheap ticket.

During my visit to Indonesia earlier this year, I did travel around Bali for about a month.  But most of my time was spent on the islands just off the mainland.  I relished every moment I spent motorbiking around Nusa Lembongan and chilling out on Gili Trawangan.  I did spend an obligatory few days back on the mainland’s southern coast – specifically in wild-and-crazy Kuta and the sleepy village of Sanur – but both cities left me less than inspired to actually explore mainland Bali.

But after reading some fellow bloggers’ posts about Bali, I realized that perhaps I didn’t give it a fair chance.  Katie, over at From Shores to Skylines, wrote a post on the rice terraces of Bali that made me really want to see the island’s world-famous rice terraces for myself.  And Alex at Alex in Wanderland wrote this post that made me desperately crave a day of motorbiking around Ubud.  So, I figured now would be as good a time as any to give Bali another shot.

Tegalalang Rice Terraces - Ubud, Bali
The picturesque Tegalalang rice terraces in Ubud, Bali.

I literally booked my flight to Denpasar airport at 8pm the night before my flight.  I didn’t have any firm plans.  And I wasn’t sure how long I would stay.  All I knew is that I wanted to get out of the concrete jungle that is Jakarta.  I wanted to spend a few days by the ocean and maybe, if I was feeling adventurous enough, I would venture into the lush interior of Ubud, rent a motorbike, and seek out some rice terraces.

I know I’ve gone on and on about the stressful side of my life as an expat in Jakarta.  But taking some time away from the city has given me some much needed perspective.  It’s pretty amazing that $40 and a two-hour flight can literally transport me from traffic-and-smog-filled Jakarta to the breezy and stunning coastline of Bali.

Kuta Beach - Kuta, Bali, Indonesia
After three months of not seeing the ocean, this was a glorious sight!

The second I laid eyes on the glistening ocean and heard the sound of crashing waves I was instantly put at ease.  Being a California girl, I’ve never, ever gone three months without seeing the ocean.  My weeklong trip to Bali made me realize that, despite my tendency to get a little too worked up and stressed out about all the little things, my life in Jakarta isn’t so bad after all.  I just needed a little beach time, a little sun, and a little bit of nature to get some perspective.  And now that I’m back in Jakarta, it feels pretty good to be back.

Have you ever needed a mini vacation just to get away from it all?  Where would you choose to go right now if you could go anywhere?

About Justine

Justine Lopez is a California native who always seems to take the unconventional route in life. She also suffers from a serious case of wanderlust. In 2013, she set out on a yearlong round-the-world journey and never looked back. Since then she's lived the expat life in both Jakarta and Phnom Penh. She's now living and working as a freelance writer in Beijing. As she meanders her way through Asia she's always seeking out great vegetarian food, budget travel deals and amazing new travel destinations.

16 thoughts on “Getting Away from it all in Bali

    1. The work thing has been crazy and a very eyeopening glimpse into the bureaucracy of Indonesia. But, yes, it’s so cool that so many incredible places are just a short plane ride away. It’s definitely a HUGE perk to living here. And sometimes a short getaway really helps! Yeah, I can understand why you skipped over Kuta. I find it to be fascinating in its seediness and craziness. It’s a great place to people watch, but it’s also kind of disturbing (I’ll be covering my time there in another post!). I’ve heard Seminyak is better, although I haven’t made it there yet. No, I didn’t get a massage. I don’t know why, but I’m not really a massage person!

  1. I have such similar thoughts about living in Nanchong. Its not necessarily the beautiful place and there can be a lot of stress associated with living there. I occasionally escape to Chengdu where things are far more western so I can regroup – though I imagine Bali might be a pretty sweet place to relax as well 🙂 I can’t imagine how stressful it must be to not have a job, hopefully something pans out for you soon!
    Rebekah recently posted…Hiking in China: All the places I want to sweat

    1. I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels ambivalent toward the place they live. I don’t know a lot about Nanchong except it was on of the cities Aaron was thinking of taking a job in! I did a bit of research on it because I really thought we were going to move there! It’s good that you have a nearby place where you can go on little getaways. And yes, Bali is a pretty sweet place to escape to! Ugh, the not having a job thing is just so weird. Hopefully something does pan out. I’ll be getting into the nitty gritty of my experience soon!

  2. It pains me to hear that your life in Jakarta has been so stressful! I want to hear more about your job hunt, I’m sure it hasn’t been easy! I visited Bali a few years ago and spent most of my time in Sanur learning to dive with a friend who was an instructor there. Outside of that, I only took a quick trip to Ubud and partied one night in Kuta. I know I missed out on a lot, so I would definitely like to give it another go one day. Glad your trip helped you gain a little perspective, good luck on figuring things out in Jakarta!
    Leah recently posted…Killing Time in Managua: A Day Trip to Playa Pochomil

    1. Aw, thanks Leah. As of late, everything has just really gotten to me. Sometimes I have a tendency to get super stressed out and overwhelmed. But taking some time to get away did a world of good. I actually did get a job offer, but even still it takes 3-4 months to get a work visa in Indonesia (even then there’s no guarantee it will go through!). Yeah, I’ll be writing a whole post about that very soon! It’s been a very interesting process. There’s a lot to see on Bali. I’ve only done Kuta, Sanur, and Ubud, none of which are my favorite places on the planet. I am still interested in exploring more of the interior and the northern beaches. There’s so much I haven’t seen! Kuta is wild! It was bizarre being there alone and being surrounded by groups of drunk Australians!

  3. I’m so glad you took a break when you needed it, so many people choose not to do that! So, how did you like Bali? I loved that little island, as long as you get away from the crowds of Kuta, haha. Also, I know it’s easier said than done, but try to not worry too much about your career, because you are working on it and advancing yourself in a new, non-traditional career – being a travel blogger. 🙂
    Katie recently posted…Nasi Goreng Recipe (Indonesian Fried Rice)

    1. Seriously just taking off by myself like that is something I wouldn’t have even considered before I moved here. I’m so happy I feel comfortable enough to travel in Indonesia by myself because I totally needed a mini-vacay!

      Bali is such a weird place. I love the islands that surround it but I’m still lukewarm about the mainland. Kuta is crazy, but I find it to be endlessly fascinating. You’re probably going to kill me but I don’t love Ubud! The town itself is okay. I loved the temples and I had a lot of fun wandering around the art market taking photos. I had a great time motorbiking to the rice terraces but I just didn’t fall in love with it!

      Ha, thanks. I wish I could have a career as a travel blogger! It has been pretty awesome to spend time learning about blogging. And I love that I’m able to write and improve my photography. Who knows maybe someday I’ll learn to turn travel blogging into a career! Will you please tell me how? 😉

    1. I think I just got a little overwhelmed by things, so a break was a really good idea. After getting away for a week, I feel a lot better about everything! Yes, Bali is a very popular destination. And most people who travel to Indonesia head straight there. I hope you do get to travel to Indonesia someday soon. It’s such a great country. I’ve only seen bits and pieces of Bali and Java and I have so much more I’d like to do here. Indonesia should definitely be on everyone’s list of places to visit 🙂

  4. I’m so glad you were able to take a mini-break right when you needed one! One of the many things I miss about Asia is the myriad cheap flights to so many interesting places.

    I have mixed feelings about Bali, but I could definitely see how it would be a welcome change of pace from life in Jakarta. I hope that you have some luck in your job hunt soon—I totally understand the stress you must be feeling, since I too am someone who hates being idle and is the absolute worst at dealing with uncertainty. When our dog was super ill last week and the vet kept saying we needed to employ the “wait and see” approach, I was just about died, because I was such a ball of worry and nerves. I think travel has taught me to be more optimistic and more patient, but I’m still not exactly a patient person by anyone’s definition.

    Any way, don’t lose hope on the job hunt front! I know it’s frustrating, but I’m a big believer that opportunities find us when we need them, and I’m sure this will turn out to be true for you too!
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted…A Skeptic’s Guide to Paris Art Museums

    1. The cheap flights are so awesome here! Without them my life would be so much more difficult 😉 I have mixed feelings about Bali too. I just wanted to go somewhere. I hadn’t given Ubud a fair shot last time I was there, so I figured why not give it another try? While the trip was so good for me, I’m more ambivalent than ever about Bali.

      I’ve had some luck with the job hunt, but the logistics are just so complicated. It literally takes a minimum of three months to get a work visa here. So the soonest I can start is in January and that’s best case scenario. That’s funny you mention that opportunities find us when we need them. I got a phone call last night, which could potentially lead to some freelance writing work. It’s nothing crazy, but it’s what I’d like to be doing and it was nice to feel a sense of hope again!

      Oh no, it makes me so sad to hear about your puppy. Did everything turn out to be okay? I hope so…

    1. Maybe I’m just being a little hard on Jakarta. I think the personal stresses in my life caused me to judge Jakarta a bit harshly the past few weeks. Even still, lackluster is a good word to describe Jakarta. It’s a crazy and fascinating place to live. But when I compare it to other big cities, Jakarta seems to be lacking in things like architecture, public parks and green areas, museums, etc. People spend a lot of times in malls here, which just isn’t something that I particularly like! So, yes, getting away to Bali was good 🙂

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