Solo Retreat in Paradise – Bali, Indonesia

This article has been written by Marjo, she is sharing her story and feelings as a solo traveller. You will find her story very inspirational.

Travelling Solo For The First Time : First Feelings

After a long week of work in the sparkling city of Singapore, here I am in Changi Airport, mixed between excitement and apprehension, as I am about to embark on my first solo adventure that would not involve work!

I was so nervous about travelling alone and never really considered it until the recent tragic events in my life that left me without my travel companion. I found myself suffering a serious case of wanderlust and took the opportunity of a business trip to go and explore the beautiful island of Bali.

The plane was full of groups of friends setting off on an exciting holiday. I remember envying them for a moment and then spending the rest of the flight wondering what it is that I was looking for. The truth is that I really had no idea.

I landed late in Denpasar and after a successful, friendly taxi fare negotiation, I got driven to The Bedrock Hotel in Kuta, near the airport which I booked just for the night. So far, so good!

When I woke up in the morning, I had a very different feeling from the night before. All worries seemed to have disappeared and excitement completely took over! I couldn’t wait to start my little adventure, get out there, meet new people and explore.

Originally, the idea of the solo trip was to calm my mind and gather my thoughts. I started looking for a Yoga retreat. I had never done it before and thought that Bali could be the perfect setting to give it a go.

I booked via BookYogaRetreats by Tripaneer and chose to go for 3 nights at the Rama Garden retreat in Nusa Lambongan, a beautiful island off the southeast coast of Bali. My booking included pretty much everything: pick up from my hotel, boat ride to Nusa Lembongan, transfer to the retreat, half board accommodation, yoga and surf lessons.

The Day of Arrival 

I got picked up from my hotel and driven to Sanur where I would later catch the boat to the island. There was a long walk from the car park to the boat and I initially panicked when I saw that we were on the beach and that there was no way I could carry my big heavy suitcase. I felt a bit embarrassed as I was surrounded by backpackers and here I was with my gigantic luggage…

As I got out of the car, the driver unloaded my suitcase and without hesitation, he lifted it and carried it all the way to the boat, on his shoulder! I was relieved and impressed at the same time.

It was like that for my entire stay in Bali. Not once have I had to carry my suitcase. I naturally offered tips in exchange for their precious help, but not always did they accept my money!

After 2 hours of traveling (car and boat), I finally arrived in Nusa Lembongan or should I say, in paradise… Long sandy beach, clear water, no buildings in sight… My perfect paradisiac gateway.

Nusa Lembongan
Nusa Lembongan

A Welcoming Retreat at Rama Garden Lembongan

Arriving at the retreat, the car had to drop me off the “main road” as it couldn’t go through the small alley leading to the beach, where Rama Garden was located.

Rama Garden Lembongan
Rama Garden Lembongan

As I arrived, the welcome was warm and friendly, and yet again, a member of staff rushed to help me with my luggage. The staff gave me a complimentary refillable water bottle (fresh drinking water was available at all times) and prepared a welcome homemade smoothie. It hit the spot! Light and refreshing, all I needed.

Homemade Smoothie at Rama Garden
Homemade Smoothie at Rama Garden

I sat with the staff for a little while, got to pick my activities for the next few days and they took me to my room. It looked like a tree house! All made of wood, bathroom outside! So different, calm and simple, I loved it.

As I wanted a simple experience with no luxury, I went for the cheapest accommodation. It was great, but I would advise to pay the little extra for air-conditioning. I am a heat lover, but it does get hot during the day and the heat doesn’t seem to go away at night!

One of the accommodations in Rama Garden
One of the accommodations in Rama Garden

The first activity I chose would start in 30 minutes: Yoga! I got picked up on a scooter and dropped off at the Secret Garden Bungalows. I got directed to the Yoga Shack in the secret garden. The place looked like the perfect setting to practice Yoga: calm and relaxing, surrounded by nature. When the instructor arrived, I rushed to tell her that I was a complete beginner and not very flexible! She instantly reassured me, I didn’t need to push my body.

She explained about the type of Yoga that she was teaching. Yin Yoga is a mindful practice that focuses on connecting your body with your mind.

A calming music came on, and so the class started. I instantly got into it. Her voice was so relaxing that I think I fell asleep for a moment.

Towards the end of the session, for unexplained reasons, I felt extremely emotional. I was glad to see that no one really took notice. The instructor came to me and explained that it was all my anxiety leaving my body. I did feel serene, relaxed and in peace. It was a very strange experience. I wish I could feel that way all the time!

As I walked back to the retreat, my tummy reminded me that I hadn’t fed it all day! I asked the staff if I could eat something and they kindly gave me a list of options. They cooked fresh food for me, on the spot! As I sat at the table, eating my dinner, a couple of ladies sat at another table asked if I was travelling alone and if I wanted to join them. They both were from Sydney, Australia but one of them had lived in Bali for years. A moment later, a couple more people joined us: one from South Africa and one from The Netherlands.

I am not shy in nature, but I never thought it would be this easy to meet people and make new friends. It turned out that they were all travelling solo and had never met each other before.

I remember thinking how incredible this was. I was making new friends from all over the world, thousands of miles away from home, who knew nothing about me. I could be whoever I wanted to be. I am not saying that I lied about myself, but it was a relieving feeling to know that there was no need to bring up the troubles in my life. I could be happy me, without anyone thinking that I was trying too hard. And I really was happy.

After a wonderful, exhausting and full of surprises first day, it was finally bed time! I got into my “tree house”, read some pages of one of the few books I have managed to finish! (I am not a big reader): The alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Great read, highly recommended.

In the morning, I met with my new friends for breakfast nice and early as I had to head to my second activity: surfing! Two of them were on the same class as me.

Breakfast was delicious, cooked fresh right in front of us, refreshing smoothie to go with it and a cup of surprisingly good coffee! I am a big coffee drinker and a bit fussy about it, I had not liked coffee in any Asian country I had visited until that morning.

Delicious Breakfast in Bali
Delicious Breakfast in Bali

Surfing in Bali

We arrived at the Monkey Surfing School, and were welcomed by the instructors who kitted us up and explained the basis of surfing.

I tried surfing once in Australia, it was an absolute disaster. So, I thought that by taking classes, I would get better. I am usually pretty good with sports but as it turned out, surfing wasn’t for me. I managed to stand on my board once and take a wave which was such an amazing feeling. The rest of the time I was falling, getting knocked out on waves (and by my board! Ouch…) lazing around, sitting on my board, watching people surfing, daydreaming and getting heavily sunburnt (which of course I would only realise later). Put sunscreen on! It’s true what they say, it’s worse when you’re in the water.

Monkey Surfing School
Monkey Surfing School

I made a few more friends while surfing and we all met for lunch. One of the Australian ladies I met the day before had organised a mini open bus activity for the afternoon. She refused to take any money from us! We spent the rest of the day being driven around wonderful Nusa Lembongan, seeing all the different sights, swimming in clear water, visiting temples, chatting to the locals. It still felt slightly surreal for me to be there on my own, but not really alone.

On a clear day, you could see Mont Agung in the background (highest point in Bali).
On a clear day, you could see Mont Agung in the background (highest point in Bali).

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Gala-Gala Underground House
Gala-Gala Underground House

Gala-Gala Underground House: hand-carved by Made Biasa, a local farmer and priest, it’s a 500 square meter hole in the ground, with tunnels everywhere, steep, narrow entrances and rooms. The maker was inspired by an episode from the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, where the heroes of the tale, the Pandawas, hide in a forest cave for 12 years. He used the “house” to meditate. No one is really able to tell if anyone actually lived inside. I myself found this place oppressive but I can sometimes feel claustrophobic and didn’t spend too much time inside. My friends however, absolutely loved it.

Cockfighting spot: it's not very well captured but there are two gigantic roosters kept under these traditional baskets.
Cockfighting spot: it’s not very well captured but there are two gigantic roosters kept under these traditional baskets.

Cockfighting is an ancient religious purification ritual which is still popular in Bali and especially in Lembongan. It is an illegal practice unless its purpose is religious. Although it is a big part of the local culture and I love discovering and getting involved in tradition, it is also inhumane by most standards. I had to politely turn down the invitation from the locals to witness a cockfight.

Dream Beach
Dream Beach

Dream Beach: simply the most popular spot on the island. You cab chill on the beach, take a picture on the famous Balinese swings and swim in clear water.

We took a short walk north from Dream Beach and found Devil’s Tears cove. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any picture that would do this spectacular place justice. An absolute must see displaying an impressive show of Mother Nature’s power, with a sunset out of this world. As much as this would be your perfect Instagram shot, do not get tempted to take selfies on the edge of the cliff, the crashing waters are huge and would just swipe you away.

In the evening, after yet another wonderful meal, I went to a party that one of the surf instructors earlier invited us to.

Another magical day was coming to an end and I went to bed with such a relaxed mind that I fell asleep instantly.

I must say that although the aim of the retreat was to yoga and surf, I couldn’t face going back on a surfboard after the poor experience of the previous day.

I asked the retreat if I could swap against another activity and they offered diving or snorkeling. Unfortunately, I do not have a diving certificate, so I went for snorkeling which I thoroughly enjoyed until I started to feel sea sick.

We took a boat that took us to different spots where I saw all sorts of fishes. I was mostly impressed by the Manta Rays, majestic!

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Manta Rays
Manta Rays

As I spent the last hour feeling rough, I couldn’t wait to come back and chill for the rest of the day. I did want to spend some time alone, so I went for a little walk, found a nice spot on the beach and laid there with a book and chilled music until sunset.

Sunset in Bali - Solo Traveller
Sunset in Bali – Solo Traveller

The next day was my last on the island. I had my last Yin Yoga class and had to head back to the main island in the afternoon. I had rented a villa in Ubud for the next 7 days where my parents, who were traveling around Asia, would join me the day after.

The car journey from Sanur to Ubud was something! There doesn’t seem to be any main roads in Bali and it took forever. The driver stopped somewhere in the center of Ubud and expected me to get out of the car. It wasn’t my final destination, but he refused to take me to the villa, even though it had been agreed earlier on. It was already dark, and I didn’t want him to leave me there. He explained that the Villa was 7 km away and it would take more than half an hour to get there! I insisted and promised to give him extra cash.

He finally drove me there and I gave him the equivalent of 15€ (and yes, it did take more than 30min to drive 7km!). I will never forget the look on his face and the never-ending gratitude ritual.

I met with the local man who looked after the villa I rented who witnessed the scene. He explained that I gave the driver way too much cash, that it was days of pay for him. But I didn’t mind, I was so glad I got there safe and made someone so happy!

Villa in Ubud
Villa in Ubud

The End of My Solo Travel 

This is where the solo part of my travel ended. The rest of my amazing and mind-blowing stay in Bali is for another article!

Short experience, but sweet and I learnt so much about myself!

Bali holds a very special place in my heart. It goes beyond the beauty of the island, the kindness of everyone I have met. It made me realise that you could just do that… Go off into the world and let it carry you along and that when you are somewhere else, you can be someone else.

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