Back to Bali

Return. Reappear. Revisit.

There are very few places I use the aforementioned verbs for.

In New York, I was a return customer at Joe’s Pizza on Carmines for late-night drunken slices or the occasional mid-afternoon snack. Eve Salon on 8th Street was my spot for all necessary beautification needs. I loved the smoked chicken and hazelnut salad at Elephant and Castle on my block and as expensive as their wine was, would sit for hours eavesdropping on dates at Gottino Wine Bar. I was a member at Equinox for nearly 7 years and during the spring and summer, could often be found at Jefferson Market Garden reading NY Mag, or Lido West beach, to the right near the surfers getting my tan on.

Here in Paris, my go-to coffee and lunch spot is Soul Kitchen and my favorite place for wine, food and late-night giggles is Martin on Boulevard de Temple near Republique. For yoga, I tend to bounce around from Yoga Village near Madeileine to Paris Yoga Shala by George V and Omm in the Marais. There’s a small park-square hybrid just behind the Sacré Coeur that I frequent to read when it’s nice, and I always get my produce from the Panier on Rue Caulincourt, at the top of the steps from chez moi.

But other than that—even where I live and have some sort of a routine—I really am a seeker of the new; a curious soul with a fervent flavor for the just-opened or undiscovered.

The same goes for traveling. With the exception of Aruba, Australia, Mexico, Italy, Israel, Spain and, obviously, France, I don’t think there aren’t any other countries I’ve visited more than once—and y’all know I get around! And if I do return to a particular country, I traverse previously unchartered territory. In my opinion, there’s just too much out there to overlook in favor of the familiar—and not for the sake of list-checking. For the sake of life-altering, mind-blowing, holy-crap-this-world-is-huge experiences that change the way I exist in my everyday.

Which is why it may come as a surprise that for my next big trip—a week from today!—I am returning to a place I’ve been to before.

A Place that cemented my love for all things foreign and exotic.

A Place that turned me into the traveler I am.

A Place that made me unafraid to seek beyond the (fairly) safe borders of the U.S.

A Place that I was supposed to visit for a week, but ended up staying a month.

A Place called Bali.

Motorbikes and morning flower offerings: the icons of Bali.

Motorbikes and morning flower offerings: the icons of Bali.

I showed up on this well-traversed island in Indonesia exactly 15 years ago next month as a recent college graduate who opted for backpacking instead of immediately sending her resume out to Jane magazine as everyone expected. Following a month each in New Zealand and Australia, I spent my first few days in Kuta completely shellshocked. I was spattacked on the beach by women looking to give me a manicure, pedicure, massage and hair braid—all at the same time. I drank cheap Bintang beer at clubs not too far from the one that was bombed a few years later, and very quickly learned why they keep a bucket in the bathroom instead of toilet paper. When I relocated in-land to the island’s cultural hub called Ubud, now known as the town where Elizabeth Gilbert found love in her infamous memoir, I settled in more easily, and knew I had found the Place—my Place. (And soon EG’s and every other love-seeking, yogi-practicing, soul-searching wanderer out there. But I digress.)

So much and so very little happened during my time in Ubud. While I visited the Neka Art Museum and trekked out to Mount Batur volcano on a day trip, I also spent many a drunken night dancing at Putra reggae bar on Monkey Forest Road, which resulted in my spending very hungover afternoons at expat cafés refueling on iced lattés and reading weeks-old sections of the New York Times.

These were the days before cellphones and WiFi and Facebook, so I only called home once a week from a pay phone and recorded my daily discoveries in hand-written journals and an Olympus film camera. As a result, I had to wait months to discover I had captured this gem:



And hence that brings me to why I’m returning. Not to find more monkeys banging in a forest that I can then Instagram instantly, but to see how a Place—my Place—could change. And also, of course, to see how I’ve changed. Will Ubud have the same affect on me, despite all the inevitable growth that’s occurred there–and within me!—over the last decade and a half? Will the reggae bar still be there? And Oka, my fling with a mischievous grin who ran it?

While I hope to record some of my discoveries here, the plan is to publish them with some of the publications I’ve been writing for and perhaps use it as fodder for a potential book project I’ve been working on for, well, I guess about 15 years. That said, I hope you’ll be patient with how much I share and when, and will still come along for the ride by following me on Instagram where I’ll likely be posting photos daily.

Since I’ll be going all the way over to that side of the globe, I decided to add Cambodia and Vietnam to the very loose itinerary, too. After all, a return trip can only satisfy a curious travel journalist for so long and I’ve been curious about both countries for quite some time. With a whole month, I figure I can both reconnect with a familiar place and form bonds with new ones, too. On y va!

Me, visiting Mt. Batur in February, 2001

Me, visiting Mount Batur volcano in February, 2001

6 thoughts on “Back to Bali

  1. I am excited to share your journey with you when you do. Especially because you write about places in my kind of language. Always real and never ever pretentious. :). Have a wonderful trip.

  2. Have a wonderful trip! If you have time to go to the Gili Islands for a couple days, I’d recommend it. Look forward to following along on Instagram!

  3. Thank you Barbara! And oui, Edna! I’ve been! I took a god-awful four-hour passenger ferry there last time (#cheaptrip). If I went again, it’d only be for this story I’m doing—and if I flew! That was a helluva journey. (The hangover didn’t help.;) Agreed, though. It’s a slice of heaven.

  4. Hope Bali is better than your memories and that the cute little eatery is not replaced by a new high rise!🚲🏖🕶👣stay safe. Love .

  5. Amazing blog Sa! Your revisit return trip to bali is going to be incredible as will your new trips to Cambodia and Vietnam!!

    Sent from my iPhone


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