My Love Affair with WhatsApp

I have been a huge fan of WhatsApp for years. Having a daughter who travels and lives on the other side of the world makes me so grateful for this versatile communication app that lets you text, leave voice memos, send photos and videos, and make international phone calls, with video or without, all for free.

I mean I’m of the age that I vividly recall the excitement of a thin blue airmail envelope filled with tiny scrawled text that took weeks to arrive from Europe, so for me, WhatsApp is a revelation.

For years, we’ve had a family WhatsApp thread that includes my son and daughter-in-law in Mexico, my son and daughter-in-law in Massachusetts, my daughter and her partner wherever in the world they are, and me and Karyn in Santa Cruz. We post photos, link to articles, share news, adventures, creative projects and all kinds of random things (no politics allowed).

For our writer’s trip to Bali, we created a WhatsApp thread for the three of us leading the trip so we can quickly and efficiently communicate. And a separate WhatsApp thread for participants of each of our two groups. And WhatsApp makes it easy to communicate individually with our travelers as well.

At first, there wasn’t much posted on our group threads; it was an occasional place to communicate group information, answer questions, and share links. Last week, there was a long discussion about the challenges people were having trying to get their evisas online—and then Nancy reported on the ease with which she was able to get hers upon arrival, easing everyone’s stress on that technological problem.

The past couple of days, as people have left home for Bali, the number of posts increased dramatically. People were arranging to meet during layovers in Taipei, comparing ideas about the best laundry soap for handwashing underwear and quick dry shirts, and posting photos from other parts of Bali (those who arrived early). Smiling travelers posted selfies announcing their departure or bragging about how they managed to bring only a carryon.

I’ve loved reading these posts and responding to them. We’re forming a community virtually before we meet in person. (Thank you, WhatsApp, or as they say in Bali, “Terima Kasih!”)

There is a lot of excitement on the group’s thread right now, and on the receiving end, I’m getting excited, too. After a year of planning, our trip officially starts tomorrow. Two of our participants arrived last night. Two more are arriving in an hour. And the rest will get here tomorrow around dinner time.

Today, Nancy and I got a ride to Ubud and spent the day with Surya, one of our two guides. We met with two of the healers group members will get to work with a little more than a week from now. I’m not going to write about my experience for several reasons. First, I want our group members to go in without preconceived ideas. Second, these men are not Eat, Pray, Love healers who advertise on Instagram or want tourists flocking to them. They are local healers Surya knows—the real deal—whose clients are primarily local Balinese. They want their names and locations kept private. Finally, such sessions are sacred and can be diluted with sharing. But I will report that I am lying on my bed, feeling peaceful and grounded, drinking in what I witnessed, experienced, and will savor for a long time.

And on our drive back from Ubud to the Lotus Bungalows, I jotted down a few new questions to add to my ongoing list of curiosities:

Can those bamboo poles really hold up that roof?

Why do some Balinese women sit sidesaddle on the back of scooters while others straddle the seat?

Why is the capitol of Bali physically being moved?

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