What is it about vacation that makes you think you could actually throw away your “real life,” move to a tropical locale and live like a local? I mean, it’s totally impractical and yet…sitting in your beach chair, under an umbrella with the ocean breeze gently tickling your forehead, frozen drink sweating beside you, listening to the waves crashing ashore – in that moment, it feels completely doable.
I could be a freelance writer and, after the kids go to bed, spend the night “working” in my pjs. Eventually some editor would read my work and offer my a big time book deal. Then that would be a best seller and some movie producer would want to make it into a film. The film would be a critical and commercial success and I’d wear Stella McCartney to the Oscars. Then I could REALLY enjoy living in paradise. But I’d give back to my adopted community and I’d become one of those UN humanitarian ambassadors. Eventually, Oprah would call.
We would find some reputable school to send the boys to or just leave it to the iPad (who needs teachers anyway?).
Our biggest complaints would be that it’s yet ANOTHER sunny day.
It could totally work.
But then, on the cold plane, flying back to reality, the certainty you felt mere hours ago fades.
Those people who live there have the same everyday stresses that you have. It’s just because you were on vacation – on a break – that makes you think living there would be equally carefree. Living in paradise is WAY different than vacationing in paradise. Or is it?
Everyone we met, from the guy who met us at the gate off of the plane, to the guy who, a few days later, walked us back onto the plane seemed pretty happy to me. And we met many people.
When we arrived at the airport, we were met by a representative of our resort. And (insider tip), you’ll want to know someone at the airport who can help you through the seemingly complicated process of actually leaving the airport. While hundreds of others wandered around the drab airport trying to read the signs to figure out where to go and what to do, our new friend asked us for some money and said he’d be right back with our passports stamped and ready to go. Why wouldn’t you give some stranger at an airport in Indonesia your passports and a bunch of money? He pointed us in the direction of baggage claim and said he’d be right back. For a moment, we ran through the, “suppose he doesn’t come back scenario,” but before we could get really panicky, he came back. No worries, you’re in Bali now. Relax uptight urbanites. The airport actually reminded us of the old Bangalore airport, straight out of 1970 with plenty of people in generic looking uniforms available to “help” weary and confused travelers. No clear signs but many lines of people and desks haphazardly placed making you wonder how any planes every manage to land or take off.
If the passport guy didn’t convince us we picked the right resort, then the driver he passed us off to certainly did. He showed us to our cool SUV with tinted windows and offered us fresh water and homemade chocolate truffles. He was quite chatty and clearly very proud of his home and his workplace. He showed us the construction at the airport was for the new, state-of-the-art airport that would be ready for the upcoming OPEC meeting in October. “And if it is not complete, we will use it anyway and just hide all the cranes.” No worries, you’re in Bali now. He pointed to the construction of the new road that is also going to go from the airport to the most beautiful resorts in Bali and will be completed for the OPEC meeting.
The ride to the resort reminded us of India too. Rows of store front on dirty roads with lots of people hanging around, lots of motorbikes, lots of energy, lots of traffic on the two lane highway, lots of temples (Bali is more Hindu than Muslim), with flashes of neon KFC and McDonald’s signs. Our driver told us they have many more convenience stores now (Circle K, like a 7-11), more fast food places, more supermarkets. Bali, for better or worse, is changing.
As we pulled off the main street, into our resort, it was like landing in Oz. The driveway was softly lit with bluish-purplish lights and hanging vines that gave the illusion of a soft rain. They call it the “Rainforest Gate.” We were stopped at the gate, the driver unrolled the window, spoke to a guard and next thing I know, the door next to me opens and they hand me a fresh flower. Welcome to paradise.
Next we met our butler who, I kind of wanted to pull aside and say, “you can relax a little. We don’t usually travel this way so you’ve already exceeded our expectations.” He was kind, attentive and eager to please. He showed us all of perks you don’t get at a Holiday Inn. Fresh fruit (refreshed daily), a hand written note telling you tomorrow’s forecast, more homemade truffles, cookies, fresh flowers (refreshed daily), beach hats and bag that are yours to keep…very classy. He didn’t even say anything when he realized we had moved Nolan’s crib into the closet. (It was roomy, air conditioned, dark and kept us all from going to bed at 6:30. Stop shaking your head.) I’m pretty sure I could’ve asked him for a unicorn.
The waitstaff was equally kind and attentive. I can say this with 100% certainty as they picked up Nolan’s utensils every 10 seconds, at every meal.
The men who greeted us every morning (first ones here…again!) and put fresh towels on our beach chairs always did so with a smile. Now, maybe this is because they feared for our milky white skin, but they always found us shade. And, they gave us extra towels so Princes 1 and 2 didn’t have to touch the sand. (Nolan screamed as if each grain of sand was stabbing his fleshy feet.)
The guys who blended our fresh, cold drinks as we swam and splashed 3 feet from them, not only didn’t grumble but, seemed to really enjoy their jobs.
Everyone, all the grounds keepers, lawn guys, pools guys, they all seemed like they wanted us to have the best time. Even if it wasn’t genuine, they made it feel as though it was.
So I’m sure the fact that they are paid to be friendly, might have something to do with it but, I do believe that people who live in paradises are happier. Less stressed. Maybe have less money but maybe less materialistic too. They seem gentler and more accepting. Think of the “vacation” destinations you have been too…doesn’t it seem like maybe these people have the answers? But maybe this is all part of the unrealistic fantasy. But 360 days of sunshine, beautiful weather, access to beautiful beaches and lush scenery has got to be good for the soul.
…whereas, murky grey pollution, dirty rivers, and bird flu are decidedly not. Hello again, Shanghai!
Can’t say we really “saw” Bali because we didn’t leave the resort. (See the pictures below, you wouldn’t have left either.) But, I got enough of a feel for Bali to know that there is more to see and more lovely people who would welcome me back.