Greetings from Bali! I have officially settled in on the other side of the world and have written and re-written this post in my head for the last few days—there is so much to share, but still so much that I don't yet have the words for. Consider this a scratch-the-surface start :)
I am a week and a half in to my trip, and things are finally starting to feel normal. I have resumed my coaching calls, I found a place to stay with (mostly) great Internet, and I am taking regular yoga classes at a two-story mecca over looking a rice field.
I feel incredibly grateful that I have a life and business that allows me to work from the other side of the planet; however, it is not without it's challenges!
Below are just a few of the highs and lows . . . hopefully shedding light on the nuances of what it really means to try to work abroad. Part of me hesitated to share some of these things as they are SURELY first-world problems, but ultimately I hope they help you appreciate your own creature comforts of home, and plan your international trips accordingly!
First, a quick 45-second video hello and mini tour:
The Good (slash GREAT):
The food is delicious!
While not as inexpensive as a place like Thailand, you can get away with a main course and fruit smoothie or green juice for under $10 as long as you're not eating in one of the big touristy restaurants. Balinese people really are joyful and friendly, and I really enjoy talking with various waiters and hosts in the restaurants.
I had a traditional Balinese dish for dinner, Nasi Goreng (fried rice with egg and two chicken satay skewers) and a watermelon juice for $6.50. A recent breakfast was a cappuccino, pineapple juice and veggie scramble for $9 (though almost everywhere you stay includes breakfast with the room). The most I've paid for a meal was $20, but that was at a touristy spot and included three courses and two drinks. Hey -- I was starving from two full days of travel!
$30 a night gets you a very nice room with free WiFi, a double bed, a private bathroom, breakfast and air conditioning. The views from most places are beautiful. $50 a night and you start getting into resort territory! Of course you can pay big bucks ($300+) but you certainly don't have to in order to be more than comfortable.
I even got a letter on my bed the other day that said, "We would like to apologize for the construction. As our policy for this inconvenience, we would like to offer you a complimentary one hour Relaxation Massage." Ummm...okay! Twist my arm, why dontcha! Talk about something that would never happen in New York.
Most places have free WiFi, and the second I walk into places like Kafe I feel right at home. Known for "great music, healthy foods, yummy desserts and true espresso" you can see why the place sings to me!
It's unbelievable how much I actually get done here! I'm 16 hours ahead of Pacific time and 13 hours ahead of Eastern Time. By the time I wake up, almost all of the emails have come in for the day. I can process them in about an hour or two—far more efficient that answering them intermittently throughout the day back home.
And then—the most fun part—everyone goes to sleep! And I feel like I have the whole day to read, write and play hooky as long as I get what I need to done by the time people wake up again. It's glorious! Though you'll have to remind me I said that when I feel homesick and can't call anyone because it's the middle of the night.
A sense of freedom, peacefulness and calm
I don't have too many conversations or obligations in a day and I like it that way . . . I can go about my business, read, go for walks, and generally feel free to do whatever strikes me in a given moment. Though making random conversation is fun too. My favorite was a girl after yoga class who sort of blurted to herself but I was nearby, "Ugh, I just got a mosquito bite on my third eye!" Hah! So we compared bite notes and hopefully I'll run into her again to grab lunch or something -- she just seems like the awesome witty banter type that I'd hit it off with.
The yoga is great. Different than New York, for sure -- less super-charged uber-detailed power flow (at least than the classes I take back at home), but the energy of Bali in itself is so serene that it provides a great environmental backdrop for yoga and meditation.
The Yoga Barn (lower studio pictured at right), where I'm practically living these days, is described as "an indigenous, rustic, spiritual space, set amidst terraced rice paddies, nestled in the quaint mountain village of Ubud." The yoga teachers are mostly expats from Canada, Australia and the U.S. and they all seem to glow with blissed out calm.
The Accommodations, Part 2
That $30 unfortunately does not buy a room with much privacy -- from pests or people. The windows don't fully close, leaving several open invitations for mosquitos to waltz on in and start their nightly blood extraction. I wake up around 5am to the sound of the staff sweeping right at my doorstep, and if I open my curtain it's a free show for the entire courtyard.
It's not lightening fast like most places in the states, but thankfully where I'm staying it's not terrible either. Most cafes and restaurants have free WiFi, but there aren't great quiet places to work for long periods at a time (at least that I've found yet) other than my room.
I will say that during my very first coaching call of the trip this morning, the power went out in all of Ubud for about 45 minutes and I had no way to let my client know. Doh! I was mortified. Thankfully as a globe-trotter herself, she was very gracious and understanding.
Back to the mosquitos . . .
I have developed cat-like reflexes for catching moths and flying bugs one-handed in mid-air.
However, a few nights ago I woke up at 2am with a totally swollen lower lip. Think Will Smith in Hitch. I ran through a litany of possible causes in my mind: did I eat shellfish? no, wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole. Did I eat a nut I'm allergic to? No, and this has never happened before. Is it a bite from one of those scary-looking jumbo black ants? Maybe…and…GROSS. I hate to say it, but I had been hit with an ugly stick!
So there I was, up at 1am and crouched on my bed like Bounty the Mosquito Hunter. I could see one of those little bastards flying around and I was determined not to close my eyes until I killed it (sorry to all of you set-them-free bug lovers!). Groggily, in my half-daze, I clapped my hands randomly around the room until I finally flattened him between my palms. I would have looked absolutely insane to anyone watching. I fell back asleep to the feeling that bugs were crawling all over me.
When I woke up that morning, two more were circling my bed. It is never ending! Given that the windows in the place I am staying in don't close and the door has a one-inch open space around it, I am learning to live with these persistent blood-sucking adversaries. AND I recently added two geckos to my pet collection as well—one is hanging out on the ceiling, the other is a little baby (looks like this) I almost stepped on in the bathroom. What do I do with these things, people?!
A flood of negative thoughts
Bali is known for it's healing quality—the energy here is incredibly positive and peaceful—but to heal also means confronting wounds, ideas and fears that are no longer serving us.
For some reason during my first few days here, a wave of self-critical thoughts came over me. Surrounded by gorgeous exotic women from all of the world, all my insecurities starting bubbling up to the surface. Ugly self-talk about feeling ugly or fat or pale-skinned…then berating myself for having those thoughts at all. Focus on joy! Radiance! Your own inner beauty! But the thoughts persisted.
When you get quiet enough on a trip like this, the old wounds that want to be healed will plant themselves front-and-center so they can be worked through and burned up.
Which turns into . . . the beautiful
As The Man reminded me when I told him about this aspect of my trip so far (which I was embarrassed to admit at all, except that even through the phone my leaky eyes and shaky voice were a dead giveaway) — once we accept something, it is no longer a problem. It may not go away, but it does not cause the same unconscious pain.
It is our work to accept those parts of ourselves that we have been rejecting, and that want to be heard. "I don't want to sound mean, but I'm glad you're going through this so you can work through it," he said. Me too.
Taking a page from The Man's book, I finally made a point to sit down, get quiet, and let it all in. I asked "why" the fears were showing up over and over again to dig toward the root of them. I asked what I was so afraid of, following my fears' trail of doomsday "then what's." Not surprisingly, none of those trails ended with "and then you die!" So, true to the cliche, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and cheesy as it sounds, I do believe our challenges happen for our highest learning and evolution.
The amazing thing is that as soon as I did let all the fears and insecurities in and give them a voice—the fog actually lifted. I've had my best days yet yesterday and today—feeling happy, radiant, and serene (well, mostly...except the bout of cursing that occurred when I dropped my laptop on the tile floor).
All in All . . .
I am thrilled to be here, to have time alone, and to generally slow the pace of my life down for a bit, and I'm absolutely loving the quiet focus on reading, writing, yoga and delicious food.
But suffice it to say that I am not in the comfort of my New York apartment any more! I almost forgot, while Bali was still a far-off idea, that an exotic work trip is exactly that—exotic. It means taking the good with the bad, the quiet with the storms, and having patience while adjusting to new ways of life. The result, though, is truly something magical.
Living here was my BHSG that at one time seemed utterly, ridiculously, absurdly out of reach. But with some number crunching, logistical planning and fear dismantling, I am actually here, writing to all of you.
Speaking of which...a quick note on MSH
I'm gearing up to re-launch the 10-week Make Sh*t Happen course on Tuesday of next week...stay tuned for more details. I believe in this program wholeheartedly, and know that it can help you do absolutely anything you set your mind to. Just ask Melissa, Shannyn or Emily who all wrote amazing reviews on their respective blogs this month :)
This post originally appeared on Life After College. I have imported selected posts from 2013 to catch new readers up to speed. Is that you? If so, a) awesome! And b) check out the new here guided tour. For long-time readers, nothing new in this one!