Travel Writing Tip #3: Follow your natural curiosity.
A couple of years ago, on my first trip to Bali, when we were waiting for the rest of the group to arrive, my daughter, Lizzy and I climbed on the back of two scooters to go on a non-touristy adventure.
Our guide Toto said to me, “I was told you do not want to go to the touristic places, that you want to see the real Bali. Do you want to go to the market where the local people shop?”
“Do you want to see the most beautiful rice paddy in all of Bali?”
“Do you want to see a Brahmin silver village and a blacksmith?”
He could have said anything and I would have said yes. Yes! Yes! Yes!
And so we were off.
I used to drive a Yamaha 360 motorcycle back when I was in my twenties. So the second we took off on that bike, I felt free and happy. I knew how to lean into the curves and shift my weight with the momentum of the bike. And suddenly I wasn’t just watching all that crazy driving. We were right in the midst of it!
But pretty soon, Toto turned off the main road and we were cruising up and down small country roads, driving through small villages. I was bombarded with so many images, I could hardly take them in. A funeral procession coming at us down the street, a wrapped body, carried high on a pedestal held by pall-bearers. Huge mounds of coconuts and wood. Tiny storefronts. Old women drying rice by the side of the road. And all the while, the swish of the bike, the wind in our faces, and Toto’s eager chatter. “Your happiness is my happiness,” he said. “Are you feeling happiness?”
“Yes,” I said. “I am feeling very, very happy today.”
That day, we went to a huge outdoor market and a silversmithing village, but the most glorious part of the day was still to come. It was our trip through small villages and on dirt paths and up rutted hillsides and narrow lanes to get to the Coumung Rice Terrace.
We could see the workers in the fields, mostly old men. Toto says that many young people leave Bali, often to work on cruise ships, to make more money and to see the world. And then after ten or fifteen years, they come back to Bali and work in the rice fields. “They all return to Bali,” he said. “They need to be cremated here.”
Here’s one man we met on the trail. We had to get out of the way of his cows. He smiled broadly and invited Lizzy to take his picture:
Toto was a fantastic guide. On our way back out along the rim trail above the rice fields, we stopped at a small outdoor “store” for lack of a better word, up at the top of the paddies. Lizzy and I shared a coconut there–a man playing the gamelan in the shop hacked it open for us with a machete and handed us two straws:
And then we hiked the rest of the way out–laughing as we watched two women climbing up through the narrow pathway carrying two mattresses on their heads. It was such an incongruous sight.
You will discover your own adventures as the days unfold. And then you get to write about them–and savor them a second time.
In the spirit of adventure,
The Writer’s Journey
P.S. This year’s trip is filling up with some incredible people. Here’s what a few of them have to say about what they’re looking forward to next summer in Bali:
Here’s Emily, in snowy New Jersey:
And here’s Julie, who came to Scotland with me last year. She’s coming to Bali, too!
If you’d like to join Julie and Emily and and a wonderful community to welcoming writiers in Bali later this spring…there’s still time to become part of our delightful family of travelers. Sign up here!