My last two weeks here in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia were very exciting. Bali upped the ante as it continued to show me things about its culture, resulting in the addition of a new layer to my global perspective. Bali showed me its heart, its core, and opened itself up to me through its kind people and especially through the classroom of its city streets.
At the beginning of my stay here in Bali, I wondered why Bali was so famous. I attempted to discover why so many people travel to Bali and what it is that can supposedly be found here. So, after three weeks of intensive culture lessons, excursions to numerous temples, many traditional dance performances, and a couple 6:30 a.m. photography class field trips to high schools and fishermen villages, I found some answers.
Here in Bali, I experienced Macaque monkeys perching atop my back as if I were a limb of a tree; I experienced a relaxing facial and foot massage; and I ended up telling and exhibiting a photographic story about the cultural walls that divide foreigners and native people.
After these fresh experiences and many more just like them, I discovered why Bali is so famous. Because of such precious moments, I realized Bali holds the prowess to push people out of their comfort zones, to try something new and downright cool. The culture here in Bali is so unbelievably welcoming that it creates an atmosphere of boldness. It exists as a paradise, but is more of an environment to experience and try the things one couldn’t or wouldn’t do regularly, things one can’t find anywhere but here.
Although I had a short stay in Bali, I attempted to absorb as much as I could about Balinese culture and way of life. As I was not learning the language intensively this time while abroad, I had to pay more attention to the inherent cultural walls that exist between foreigners and native people, walls that are fortified by language differences.
Despite the language barrier that existed, the universally used ear-to-ear grin did not fail to work as a functional way of communication. The language of joy and expressive appreciation is one that the Balinese people truly understand. This language that the Balinese people speak effortlessly reiterates the strength, peace, and contentment that can be found in rooting oneself in faith, family and community.
Traveling to and from Bali also reminded me of the excitement of travel. The snapshot of an elderly Chinese man taking a selfie on the plane before takeoff in Hong Kong will frequently reverberate in my mind because it sums up what traveling is about; each time, a new documentable adventure awaits, a new culture anxiously wishes to greet foreigners and educate them about the throes of its past and the beauties of its heritage and language.
As I continue to travel and expand my horizons toward the goal of working internationally, I never want to forget the novelty that comes with a first introduction, with touching down on foreign soil for the first time. Yes, the cultural walls that exist and that must relentlessly be torn down with each new cultural experience can be exhausting and discouraging; but the joy that comes in discovering the answers to your burning questions is one the greatest treasure I feel one can gain.
Traveling to Bali reminded me of the vastness of the world and my part in the big picture. I look forward to getting to see many more parts of the world while getting to know and communicate with each culture I encounter on a greater level of cultural understanding and partnership.