The Essence of Bali

By Jeremy Arndt

After almost 6 years of traversing the globe together, Nancy and I have had our fair share of adventures. We’ve traveled nearly 20,000 km around the vast continent of Australia in the close quarters of a van, trekked through the remote villages of Myanmar, criss-crossed the United States in our converted school bus, “Two Birds” and much more. However, nothing quite compares to the magical experiences we had while motorbiking around the Indonesian Island of Bali.

There’s something special about Bali that I can’t quite put my finger on. I noticed it when I awoke on our first morning on the island… a certain calm serenity that is ever present, just beneath the surface of each moment. Once we experienced this feeling, we made a point to get ourselves off the beaten path and find the charm the people and landscapes of this island had to offer.

Of course, we fell in love with our first destination, Ubud, instantly, but it’s not exactly off the beaten path. We could have easily spent our entire trip here. We came here to co-lead a yoga and sacred music retreat at Soulshine Bali, a retreat center founded by Michael Franti. We decided to stay in Ubud for nearly two months. At one point, Nancy suggested renting a motorbike and driving it around the island. I thought it was a fantastic idea! As soon as she realized how serious I was about making it happen, I think she had second thoughts. Who would be crazy enough to do a road trip on a scooter? We were!

Our second month was spent living in a small house tucked in the rice fields outside of town. Here, we became more acquainted with the island and planned our trip. We spent a month getting to know Ubud more intimately, as well as making small day trips on the motorbike to get used to riding it long distances. While in Ubud, we met our friend Ari, who helped us to find a fabricator who made us a rack to hold our luggage on our bike. During this time, I also took an Indonesian language intensive course from the Pondok Pekak library to help immerse ourselves during our adventure.

At the end of our second month, we departed…


The morning we left, we stopped to get some supplies and then headed north. We had no idea where we would stop the first night. We just knew we wanted to get to the north. On the map, Bali seems rather small, but when you’re driving through it on a motorbike, you realize it truly is a vast place. We passed through many towns and villages, met locals in roadside warungs, saw some of the most beautiful landscapes of our lives, as well as drove through a region with an active volcano, Mount Batur.

Our first day, we made it all the way to the north coast to the small town of Lovina. We loved Lovina, where we stayed at a guesthouse called Taman Lily. It wasn’t the nicest place we had ever stayed, but full of charm and beautiful gardens. A true budget hotel and only a few steps from the ocean, it was a deal we couldn’t pass up at around $12 per night! For the next week and a half, we used Lovina as our base camp for exploring the region, including long walks on the beach, magnificent waterfalls in the surrounding area, roaming the north coast as far as Tedjakula, and going inland to Bedugul, famous for it’s beautiful lake temple Pura Ulun Danu Beratan.

From Lovina, our journey took us west, where we spent some time in Pemuteran and went SCUBA diving for the first time, amongst sea turtles and even an Octopus. The Balinese instructor made it easy to forget our fears of the deep water and enjoy the beautiful coral reefs and feel comfortable in the completely foreign environment under the sea.

The west coast was one of my favorite places to drive on the island, even though we didn’t make too many stops. We were met with mile after mile of beautiful scenery, driving through the West Bali National Park region and onwards down the coast to Canggu. I still have images of the majestic rice fields meeting the sea on the west coast etched into my memory. Somewhere along the way, our luggage rack broke. We had to stop a couple nights in Canggu while we found a place to get it fixed. It wasn’t my favorite stop on the island, but it was nice to enjoy some modern amenities, nicer hotels, and some eclectic cuisine while we were in town.

After the rack was fixed, our journey took us East. We had to go back into the urban environment briefly, passing just north of Denpasar and up the east coast. We put in a long day driving and drove straight to Amed. The eastern coast of Bali had some of the most colorful coral reefs I had ever seen in my life. I’m no expert diver/snorkeler and I don’t claim to have seen most of the world’s reefs, but even renting equipment and going straight off the beach, I saw more sea life and coral than I had seen in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

 

Amed captured our hearts and we stayed longer than we originally planned. We enjoyed sunrise walks along the beaches and sunset dinners overlooking the idyllic coastline. We spent our days driving up and down the coast, exploring beaches further and further away from town.

We used Amed as a hopping point to a short trip to another island, Gili Air, which we also fell in love with. Gili Air was like stepping back in time. Two of my fondest memories of the island were witnessing the peculiar and somewhat brutal sport of Lombok Stick Fighting as well as enjoying the island free of the noise of modern motorized transportation. The entire island was serviced by horse drawn carriage or the occasional electric motorbike.

After a week or so in Amed and some days on the island, our 5 week journey by motorbike was coming to a close. Our trip went into rewind, taking us back to Ubud, to the very same guesthouse we arrived to late at night, three months prior. On our last night on the island, serenaded by the Balinese suling at a candlelit dinner in the tree tops overlooking the Ayung river, I asked the love of my life to marry me. Certainly, the magical essence of Bali had influenced this moment in our lives and her decision (she said yes!). It was the perfect ending to a beautiful adventure.

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In 2011, Nancy and Jeremy met at their local yoga studio in Michigan and soon departed for an adventure of a lifetime to Australia. To share their stories, they founded Live Love Travel Dream. Their journey has since taken them for extended travels through 8 countries and three continents. Nancy is a yoga teacher, dental assistant, and animal lover. Jeremy is a musician and has spent the last 8 years traveling the globe sharing his music on the Handpan in 23 countries and 5 continents. His stories are reflected in his songs and can be heard on his “Journeys” series of albums. In 2018, they will return to Bali to lead another yoga and sacred music retreat, this time in one of their favorite places on the north coast of Bali. Follow them on social media or join their email list to keep in touch.