After spending a week in Ubud, I feel inclined to stay on an island, which I haven’t done yet during my trip. There are three islands to choose from: Gili Taranwagan (the party island), Gili Air (the relaxed island), and Gili Meno (the deserted island). I take a speedboat to a small island northeast of Bali called Gili Air, looking for some quiet time. As I get off the boat, there are a group of chilled-out locals who ask me if I have a place to stay. I don’t, so I follow them. The first local takes me to a site where there all tents, for 60,000 rupiah a night ($6 USD). I press on, looking around. I ask for the 7Seas hostel, but the local doesn’t know what I’m talking about. Odd he wouldn’t know the only hostel on such a small island (sarcasm). I walk down the road for a few minutes, and I find the 7Seas hostel. It’s nice, but it seems like it’s too close to a loud bar, and I like quiet when I want to sleep. I walk around a bit more in the heat, with my big backpack on my back, my small backpack on front. I guess I can be grateful that my small backpack is now lighter since I no longer have my five-pound Macbook…
Eventually I find a simple bungalow, no A\C, for 100,000 rupiah a night ($10). Yes, that a hammock in the front. I lay in the hammock, taking a nap in the tropical heat. The area is quiet, and I’m alone here for the remainder of my stay here, except for the local woman who owns these bungalows.
I wake up, feeling too lazy to get up due to the heat. I struggle, not finding the energy to hop out of the hammock. I’m motivated by the idea of cooling off in the beach, so I slowly battle my way out…slowly. I’m rewarded with this view after a two-minute walk, rewarded with the refreshingly cool tropical water . I learn that there are yoga classes on the island. In the evening I go try a class. The space is beautiful. It’s the perfect temperature for yoga in the evenings, warm enough so that your muscles can relax and stretch out.I begin my 2nd day on the island by waking up early to meditate, and then go watch the sunrise.
As I walk to the beach, I’m reminded to be grateful that there are no motorbikes on the island; freedom from noise pollution. Aside from walking and bicycling, the only other way of getting around the island is horse-drawn carriage.
I then decide to walk around the entire island, having been told it only takes an 1 1/2 hours to complete the loop. During some parts I feel alone, like a castaway on a deserted island. At other times I pass small resorts, empty and quiet. Later in the day I enjoy sunset. To enjoy sunrise and sunset in a single day!
On my third day, I decide to give snorkeling a try. I’m apprehensive, since I’m not a great swimmer, and I can’t really tread water. I decide to suck it up by renting a life jacket along with my snorkel and fins, hoping I don’t look too dorky. Of my fellow snorkelers, no one else is wearing a life jacket, not even the kids. I’m glad I let go of my ego, it was worth it! Apparently the best snorkeling to be had in the region is right by the beach.
The Not So Relaxing Part
While there is a lot of relaxation to be had on the island during my three-day stay, a lot of the time I also was…stressed. This “stress” is what makes backpacking different than vacationing – unless you take it real slow, there’s always the process of planning where to go, how much time to spend there, finding the best deals, finding a decent place to stay, etc.
Having less than two weeks left in Indonesia, I feel overwhelmed by the number of places I want to see. Could I squeeze it all in? I wanted to climb Mt. Rinjani, go to Komodo Island to see the komodo dragons, go to Sumatra and see the orangutans. And so I researched my options over the slow WiFi on the island, trying to pack my itinerary. There just wasn’t enough time to do more. I finally decided to relax and take it easy. There would always be more to see, and I reflected that I should be feeling gratitude for all the sights I had seen over the past three months. And so I made peace with missing an extra sight or two. My next move would be to fly to Yogyakarta, where I would see two of the most magnificent ancient temples in Indonesia.
Being with Myself
Socially, Gili Air ended up being a period of solitude for me, a contrast from Ubud. During my three days there, I was entirely by myself, not having spontaneous conversations with other travelers, not feeling compelled to. I liked the fact that I could be comfortable alone, have meals alone, adventure alone. I recall the time I was planning this backpacking trip, apprehensive about going solo, finding comfort in coordinating with my friend Dev to be my travel buddy. And here I am now, traveling solo, enjoying moments alone, deserted on Gili Air.