I’ve always been a people-person.
In my youth, I joined the Girl Scouts so I could hang out with my school friends on the weekends. I excelled in all of my classes, but lived for recess and lunch breaks. And in my post college years in Los Angeles, brunches with the girls were a weekend non-negotiable.
I’d mastered the art of being a social butterfly.
But for a long time, one thing I hadn’t mastered was an ability to be comfortable in solitude.
I dreamt about traveling to Bali, Indonesia for years, drawn to the landscapes of rice terraces and lush greenery which were a contrast to the urban landscapes of LA. I knew it was a spiritual place, with sacred sites and long traditions of yoga and meditation practice.
A part of me wanted to have my own cliché “Eat, Pray, Love” experience.
I couldn’t begin to count the number of itineraries I’d scoured online and photos I’d viewed, in preparation for a visit. But as someone dependent on another’s company to make an experience feel complete, the trip had never come into fruition.
A few months ago, I decided I was tired of my repetitious LA life of “work, brunch, repeat”. I wanted to shake my comfort zone and gain confidence in the fact that I could pursue whatever I wanted – without a social security blanket.
And so begins the story of my first solo travel experience in Bali.
I boarded a 6AM flight feeling bright and energized, despite the early hour.
Do you remember how long you’ve dreamt of this?
Sitting at your computer, researching and daydreaming… fantasizing but never taking action? And here you are on a plane, making your dream come true.
My insides smiled with pride and anticipation as I watched the clouds outside my window.
When I landed in Ubud, Bali, I was initially disappointed because it was raining – Angelenos don’t do rain.
But when I arrived at my hotel and took in the view from my balcony, I realized no storm could take away from such a beautiful place.
And it delivered…the next morning I awoke to the most magical sunrise I’d ever seen; photos could never do it justice.
Magical would be the resounding word for my Bali vacation.
When you’re surrounded by beauty and new experiences, it’s harder than you’d think to find time to be lonely.
I expected to have moments of “I wish someone was here to experience this with me.” Instead, I found myself constantly thinking, “I’m so glad to be on my own time, unrushed, and able to take this all in at my own pace.”
My days were filled with long walks along the Ubud streets, popping into shops for gelato or a closer look at some artwork.
One day I stopped to chat with a local artist who painted eggs with such care and detail that it took him a full day to complete each one. For the most part I let my days unfold by chance, following the roads that piqued my interest and the paths that felt “right”.
It’s a different kind of fun to be in charge of your own itinerary; or in my case, to have the freedom to not really have one at all.
In my group travel experiences, there had always been pressure to agree on a plan. Not an issue when you travel alone!
Even when I did have a plan for the day, traveling alone meant I could alter it as I pleased.
One afternoon I decided to visit a temple, but I passed the cutest little spa on the way and popped in for a pedicure. It ended up taking over an hour (you’ve never seen more thorough work!), but I could relax and enjoy it knowing I was no one’s time but my own.
On another day, I woke up at 5AM to go on a sunrise hike – the kind of thing I might’ve skipped if I was traveling with a group (who wakes up that early on vacation?!). Yet it turned out to be my favorite part of the trip.
The trail, called Campuhan Ridge Walk, was set just outside of Ubud’s tourist center. I did myself the favor of going at sunrise because there is little protection from the sun once you enter. It turned out to be a great decision because I’d beaten the crowds.
The Walk was lush with greenery and jungle views as far as the eye could see. Ubud’s town center was a very bustling place, so I was happy to escape into the serenity of nothing but plants, views, and the sound of nature.
At one point I stood at the edge of the path, meditated quietly and took in the scenery.
I’d found the peaceful moment I’d envisioned when fantasizing about my Bali trip long ago.
Throughout the trip I visited many of the ancient temples scattered around Ubud. My favorite was Pura Taman Saraswati, which honors Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge, wisdom, and the arts. I felt connected to this site as a woman who values art and literature, and who traveled to Bali in the very pursuit of knowledge and wisdom of self.
As I walked the grounds, I couldn’t help but think about the goddess within myself who’d pushed me to take this trip.
Navigating a foreign place on my own made me feel capable and unstoppable. There’s something to be said for the sense of self-empowerment solo travel can instill.
On my final day in Ubud, I followed a path off the main street in an effort to escape the crowds. After climbing some make-shift stairs and walking along a dirt road, I found myself amid a seemingly endless field of rice paddies.
Rice farmers came in and out of view as they stooped to collect the small sprouts, and I felt almost out of place witnessing their daily routine.
I walked down the path greeting locals and taking in the sights.
The area was mostly untouched from the usual signs of tourism. I only saw a small smoothie stand and a hand-written sign for a local cooking class against the backdrop of nature. I felt lucky to have stumbled upon what felt like an authentic piece of Ubud by following the road less traveled.
Once again, taking a chance on the unknown had rewarded me with something beautiful.
Looking back on my trip, my only regret is not going sooner.
Bali was everything I’d imagined it to be.
The food was delicious, the locals were welcoming and kind, and its beauty exceeded anything the photos I’d viewed could capture.
Its spiritualism shined through in Ubud’s temples and religious sites, inspiring me to go within and take a good look at my own spirit. Bali turned out to be not only a vacation, but an opportunity for internal growth.
As women, we tend to place limitations on ourselves. Why can’t we do the things that make us feel alive?
We worry about upsetting our loved ones or significant others, bosses or clients, or simply disrupting the status quo. We move with caution and prioritize security over adventure, internalizing the projections society created about what a woman “can do” or “should be.”
We’re often not even conscious of these self-defeating beliefs, until we look back and notice how many opportunities we’ve passed on.
Solo travel helped me shatter the limitations that I had been holding onto.
It helped me realize that ultimately, the people that truly love you will support you. Your job will always be there (if you do good work). And that veering “off course” when your soul calls for it may lead to you finding the right path for yourself after all.
It took removing myself from my daily norm to come to this realization.
I credit solo travel with giving me insight on myself, my fears, and my ability to face them.
I left Bali with a renewed sense of confidence that I don’t need anyone else’s permission to achieve my goals. And a sense of comfort realizing that I am all the company I need.
Anyone else who comes along is just icing on an already delicious cake.
And it has made life so much sweeter.
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