I had a series of bad events happen to me this year, including a breakup, and was having a difficult time dealing with everything. I was alone, depressed and heartbroken, so I needed to venture out somewhere and go on a solo trip to get myself out of this funk.
I started doing some research and looked into Europe at first. Croatia and Scotland have always been on mind, but I didn’t feel like it would be a good solo trip for me. I needed something more spiritual. Initially, I wasn’t thinking of Asia, but the more I looked into Bali, the more I felt like this was what I needed. I found a perfect yoga retreat and booked a trip with Soul Searchers at Soulshine Bali.
The journey to Bali literally took over 24 hours. I left from Florida on Thursday at 8:30am and arrived in Bali on Saturday at 12:00am. It was a long journey for sure, but I’m used to traveling to Japan for 16 hours, so it was just adding another 7 hours or so. I usually keep myself busy working, reading, watching movies and catching up on TV shows (thanks to Netflix!).
Arriving in a new country in the middle of the night was something different. Customs and baggage claim took nearly an hour, but luckily, it was easy finding my driver, Wayan, from Soulshine. He was a friendly young man that spoke good English and asked me to wait with one of the other girls who was also part of the retreat. I introduced myself to the beautiful woman standing behind him. Waad was from Detroit and originally going to travel to Bali solo herself, but her best friend from Jacksonville decided to come with her. We waited for two more girls, Ashley and Negin, and we were on our way to the resort.
The drive took about an hour to Ubud, where the resort was located. The girls and I got to know a little more about each other and we immediately bonded. We learned that Ashley and Negin were from Raleigh, North Carolina, and most of the girls on this retreat were going to be from Raleigh as well. Our yoga teachers, Emily and Justin Anne, are from Raleigh and teach yoga classes there, so that is where most of the girls learned about this retreat.
When we finally arrived at the resort, it was already 3am, but one of the staff members was there to greet us with refreshing drinks made of citrus flavors. It was something we needed for sure after that long trip.
THE RESORT / RETREAT
In the morning, we were awakened by birds chirping and warm sunlight coming through the window curtains. I walked around the grounds of the resort and was blown away by the beauty of this place. Everything was so clean and colorful with words of peace and inspiration engraved on the grounds. You truly felt like you were in a world of zen.
This retreat included 7 nights at Soulshine Bali, 2 yoga classes per day, 1 onsite massage, daily breakfast buffet, 2 group dinners (onsite), 24-hour coffee and tea making facilities, and a cultural dinner off site. The first event was in the evening where we had a Balinese welcome dinner and met the rest of the girls that were at the retreat.
There were about 15 of us in the group and we all went around the table to introduce ourselves. Everyone shared why they chose to come on this retreat and it ranged from wanting to travel more, career changes to lifestyle changes. Emily gave a very inspiring speech about why she started Soul Searchers. She’s very much into communal activities and encouraged everyone to get to know each other and be kind to one another to get out of our comfort zone. There was a lot more she said that I can’t remember verbatim, but I know it gave everyone great inspiration.
The next morning was our first yoga class and it was a beautiful setting in an open-air yoga studio looking out to the rice fields. Justin Anne taught the morning class and at the end of the class, she spoke her words of wisdom and whatever she said made me tear up and she was tearing up herself. I'm not exactly sure why I started crying, but it was probably a mixture of emotions I was going through and her words at the moment really touched me. The sweet woman next to me, Caroline, gave me a nice big hug and told me everything will be okay. I usually don't cry in front of people, so it was really comforting to know that all these women were there to support one another with no judgement.
There are so many things to do in Bali that I was not able to fit everything I wanted to do in one week. The resort offered many activities and most of the time we’d arrange for our driver, Agung, to take us around for the day. Agung is the Transport Manager of Soulshine and we all became very close with him as he joined us in some of our activities. He also welcomed us into his home and taught us everything there is to know about the beautiful Balinese culture.
On top of the activities the resort offered, the retreat also offered two yoga classes each day, a massage (one of the best massages I’ve had) and two cultural dinners. I don’t regularly practice yoga like the others, but I definitely took advantage of some of the classes. I liked the morning classes the most as it was a nice start to the day.
Some of my favorite things to do in Bali were visiting the Monkey Sanctuary, climbing Mount Batur and watching the Balinese dance. Practicing yoga was the best because it tied in perfectly with the spiritualism of Bali. As I said, I wasn’t able to do all the things I wanted, but that just means I have to come back to explore the rest of the island!
I have never had Balinese food before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I loved every single dish I tried in Bali (and I’m a picky eater)! My favorite, by far, was the traditional Mie Goreng or Nasi Goreng. They are flavorful dishes made with fried noodles (mie goreng) or fried rice (nasi goreng) mixed with garlic, onions, chicken, Chinese cabbage, some other vegetables and topped with a fried egg.
You can eat like a queen in Bali as everything is so cheap. A generous meal with appetizers and drinks would only cost $15 in tourist areas. If you go to more local areas, a dish like the Nasi Goreng would only cost $3! I would gain so much weight if I lived in Bali.
THE PEOPLE & CULTURE
The Balinese culture is one that I’ve never experienced before. Bali’s predominant religion is Hinduism. After being surrounded by the practices and learning more about Balinese Hinduism, I wanted to take some of this newfound wisdom back home with me. Balinese Hinduism is more spiritual, which is something I connect with more as I come from a Buddhist background in Japan.
Bali is one of the safest countries to travel solo. Everything is very communal and trusting. The Balinese openly welcome anyone that is in need into their homes and help one another. They pray to the gods three times throughout the day and give their offerings. The offerings are called canang sari and they are made up of different flowers organized so that each direction symbolizes a Hindu God. You will see these offerings everywhere in Bali including temples, shops, restaurants and homes. The philosophy behind the offering is self-sacrifice in that they take time and effort to prepare.
You start to understand why the Balinese people are so welcoming after you learn more about their culture. I connected with almost every Balinese person I met. They were all so genuine, humble, funny (they love to make jokes), and patient.
The two that I connected the most with was our driver, Agung, and my tour guide on Mount Batur, Wayan. Meeting these two beautiful souls made my trip much more meaningful and they will forever have a place in my heart. I hope to return to Bali one day and hang out with Agung again now that we’re Facebook friends!
Bali has definitely helped lift my spirits and I think I’m addicted to retreats now! I’m not sure if all retreats are like this, but it is truly life changing. Doing a retreat in Bali and traveling halfway across the world is probably more extreme than others, but it’s exactly what I needed. I’ve embraced a new culture, conquered a mountain, discovered new things about myself and made wonderful new friends. I will cherish every single moment of this trip forever and ever.