Constructing a Journey Interview – Part II

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So we’re back with Zuri for Part II of our interview with Zuri. To recap, in Part I we got an inside look at what led up to you deciding to pick up and go away to Bali. Today we are going to discuss what life in Bali has been like thus far, and our third and final installment will explore in greater detail what Zuri is really looking to accomplish on her journey.

Thanks for taking time out of your ‘busy’ schedule to be with us again, Zuri.
Ha ha. Funny. But I’m glad to be back as well!

How have you been doing?
I’m doing great! I’ve been here almost a month exactly and feel like I’m really starting to get the hang of things. As I sit here with you now, I’m enjoying lounging at my resort’s restaurant that sits over the ocean, with three out of the four walls being ocean-view windows that open up to let in the fresh ocean breeze.

Rub it in, why don’t you?
Lol, I’m not trying to do that, just describing my surroundings.

Ok. Much appreciated. So what do you mean when you say you’re just starting to ‘get the hang of things?
Adjusting to living in a very different place, adjusting to traveling by myself, not spending a ton of money on food and housing, and adjusting to moving from one place to the next and its differences. When I first arrived, I was mentally and physically exhausted. I was quite content being relatively introverted and quiet, hardly venturing out on my own. I was staying with the princess in the capital city at that time, which isnt really tourist-heavy or tourist-friendly. I actually preferred being practically the only foreign person. It really allowed me to immerse more fully into local life culture.

Ah yes, the princess. How did you come to stay with her, anyways?
She’s business partners with the brother of the woman who suggested that I come to Bali. My friend from Sedona, AZ gave me her brother’s info since he just relocated to Bali, and when I spoke to him, he recommended I start my trip staying with Ratih. I booked a stay for 5 nights and wound up extending it. When I left on the 12th day, I was leaving family and my second home.

That sounds really great!
It was a true blessing. I had so much decompressing to do from leaving my whirlwind life from home, that I really needed that comfort zone of not having to worry about the typical tourist things: Where am I? Where am I going to eat? Where am I going to stay? What am I going to do? I just didn’t have the energy for all that at the time. I was still working to close out unfinished business from home, like filing for taxes!

Oh my! Did you get everything taken care of?
Yes, well extension filed at least! Executing logistical items is just a tad bit more complicated and time-consuming while abroad. Telecommunications is a big example. Even being in a place with ‘good wifi’ means it is likely good sometimes. There are timezone differences (I’m 12 hours ahead of EST), and I have found that even some of the most simple things can be almost impossible to accomplish, and with more heightened online security these days, every time I try to do something new from Indonesia, (like pay for something via paypal), it becomes a red flag! I’m still working on getting a simple screen protector for my ipad that doesn’t cost an arm and both legs!

What’s been your greatest challenge so far?
Balancing the desire to be alone with sometimes just feeling lonely. I was enjoying the quiet, peaceful times, but then at the beginning I would think, “Is this what its going to be like for an entire six months? What have I signed up for here?” Everyone who I ever spoke with who has done extended solo travel speaks about how great it is and all the great people you meet along the way. Travel blogs that I have read write about all the new, exciting things people do/did. No one talks about the challenges that one might face. One blogger even said that she intentionally does not speak about the bad, but prefers to focus on the good when she blogs. Hello???!! I thought the whole purpose of blogging was to give real insight into one’s life and experiences. That’s the good, the bad, and the ugly, in my opinion. I don’t want people to think that I’m traipsing around the world, having the most perfect life. Ok, well, it is a perfect life for me right now, but its by no means always easy. For all my friends and family that say they want to live vicariously through my experiences, that’s great, but it means experiencing happiness, sadness, excitement, fear, loneliness, fulfillment, and everything in-between.

So what did you do about the loneliness?
Nothing. I just kept living, adjusting. Chatting with friends and family helped (not my phone bill, but I’ve worked that out too!). And then I spoke with a former colleague (whom I greatly admire) who relocated to New Zealand a few years ago. As we spoke and I explained what I was doing here and some of my concerns, she reminded me that being by yourself doesn’t mean that you’re alone. Deep. Sometimes its all in the lens of how you approach life and specific situations.

Once I left my new family in crowded, busy Denpasar to go to the lazy beach town of Candi Dasa, I eventually went back to my old outgoing self and have made some great friends, leading me to extend my stay here to three weeks! lol I’ve even been invited to a wedding that I will be attending this Thursday!

Lol, you keep extending all your stays!
Yes! I’m falling into (being led) to some really wonderful places, and I truly loathe packing and unpacking!! My strategy of staying in fewer places for longer periods of time is definitely working for me. Besides, with my level of pickiness with where I stay, it gets too stressful trying to find new places! 7-10 days per stay is my minimum requirement. I was also struggling with the challenge of balancing doing inner-work (my real purpose for the trip) with seeing the island. I know I would regret coming all this way and not having the real quiet time for myself, but the explorer in me would also hate coming all this way and not seeing and experiencing the beauty of my surroundings.

And extending your stays has helped?
Yes, creating longer stays has helped me to do both somewhat. What’s funny is that I actually feel pressure as a blogger to ‘do’ more so that I can share stories of the ‘adventures’ that I have had. I’ve learned to get over that self-induced pressure. I’m so honored and humbled by having some of the most wonderful, supporting friends in the world, and I know that they just want me to be happy and hear about my life, regardless of how exciting or boring it is. Besides, as one friend put it, I have a remarkable way of taking two hours to tell the most interesting story, and all I really did was get up, go to work, and go home! lol I just hope that they don’t hesitate to continue sharing the ups and downs of their lives while I’m away. Hearing these stories helps ward off the homesickness.

So we’ve spoken a lot about your challenges, but what’s been good?
The beauty, the people, the food, I could go on and on!! Bali truly is a remarkable island! Its incredibly verdant (which does mean we get our fair share of rain, and it can get quite hot and muggy some days), and practically every which way you turn there’s something beautiful that you want to marvel at, or stop and take a picture of. I’m working on letting go of my inner-photographer and sometimes just being present and enjoying the beauty of this place (doesn’t always work; still gotta capture the amazing shots!!). The people are extremely friendly and welcoming. Spirituality is a deep part of their culture and daily rituals, which I think is what makes them so grounded and balanced. The Balinese are Hindu (all of the rest of Indonesia is Muslim), but practice their own version of Hinduism. While no one has ever said this to me directly, I think they know that they are special people living in an amazing place. Indonesia touts many of the spice islands from long ago and has been settled and influenced by Indians, Muslims from several countries, Dutch settlers, and a myriad of others. The food, as a result is really delicious! There are all sorts of different flavors, spices, curries, and broths. Like most any other Asian country, there is rice at every meal, and everything from bread to chips to cake can be rice-based! I was starting to worry about coming back having gained the Indonesian 15 (I just made that up), but as Ratih explained, there’s no such thing here, as you’ll just sweat off all the calories! lol

That’s good news. So no weight gain? I actually think I’m losing weight, but couldn’t be sure as I wouldn’t even begin to know where to find a scale around here! lol While there are a lot of fried foods and rice in the diet, the portions are also relatively small, and most people’s regular daily lives require them to be much more active. Hence, you are hard-pressed to find an obese Balinese person! (I do see a few heavier, older women here and there). Now that I’m finally more rested, I’m enjoying a much more active lifestyle as well (yoga, swimming, walks to town, occasional hiking, etc). Even so, I still feel somewhat larger than many, especially the women who are short and tiny! And don’t get me started on backpckers! Is there a traveling requirement for backpackers to be thin? Or do they just burn it all off carrying the heavy bags? (Granted, if that were the case, based on the 74lbs of luggage I’m carrying on my back, I should be a size 2 by now! l More on packing and luggage in a future blog). Every now and then, it all makes me self-conscious and mentally brings me back to my days of being obese. But this is an ongoing occasional travel woe.

Yes, but you must know that you’re a very attractive woman.
*blushing* Why thank you!! I know, but historically, weight was always been an issue/battle for me. Still an ongoing battle to reach my goals and not ever go back to where I was. But its funny that you mention being attractive, because here I’m considered especially beatiful. Not because of a great complexion, tantalizing eyes, or fabulous bone structure, but because of the color of my skin! I try to explain that all my life I’ve only ever wanted to get darker, but they just laugh at me as if I’m some silly girl.

Tying in the Indian influence, Bali continues to exist in a caste system, at least informally, though its slowly starting to fade, and most Balinese are extremely color-conscious (the lighter you are, the better). Though their caste system is tied to familial profession (Priests, Royals, Businessmen, Farmers), skin tone indirectly reflected that – obviously if you were of a lower caste and a farmer, you were out in the sun and got very dark. Thus, lightness reflected a higher class, and now is inherently seen as more beautiful. The same way that heaviness in medieval times was beautiful because it reflected prosperity in being able to eat well. Skin color is such a big deal that some Balinese hardly ever visit the beach (too much sun), and I have to be very careful when I buy lotion or facial products because most skin care products have whiteners in them!! Heaven help me if I accidentally started using a skin whitener!

Wow. This is all very fascinating! I hope you continue to blog about all of your experiences, good or bad.
I will! I’m trying to get better about posting at least once a week, and I have a ton of photos to upload to the blog as well.

We can’t wait to see them! And we look forward to having you back for our third and final installment!
As do I!

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4 Responses to Constructing a Journey Interview – Part II

  1. Wanda Lucas says:

    Zuri, I love this journey for you. Thank you for your honesty. Listening to you makes me feel as if I am there with you. Thanks for the trip; albeit brief.

  2. Carolina says:

    Ever since your Journey Interviews started, I can’t help but picture you (the two of you) sitting across from each other doing this interview: a professionally-attired, interview Zuri, and a Sarong-draped, relaxed, & tanned Bali Zuri. Thanks for the insight on the journey, it’s best served this way – the highs and lows all included. That’s just how life is anyway 😉

  3. Beth Rollison says:

    I LOVE these interview style posts – your creativity is flourishing! And love to see you being true to yourself and very open and honest with us. Good work! Glad to see you finding balance and that you’re also having fun! And finally that you’re really finding your truth – something that happens in the tougher moments of solo travel:) Big hugs from VA!

  4. Tanyea Amos says:

    Your journey is phenomenal. Thank you for sharing this with your family and friends as we witness the “truths” unfold….!!

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