Since returning from a trip to Bali with my partner Russ last week, I have been asked a few times what the best part was. I have said things like the trek up Mount Batur, going to Gili Air, or visiting Monkey Forest. While these were definitely highlights, it got me thinking about what really were the most special moments, the things that left the biggest imprint on my heart.
What came to mind was the night out we had in Seminyak, dancing like complete idiots in Motel Mexicola and laughing until our cheeks hurt. It was going out for burgers with Russell’s cousin Tayla, and spending hours just talking around the table long after our plates had been cleared. Tayla, if you ever read this, I don’t even know you that well and I love you so much already. I hope we get to hang out more one day.
In Ubud, it was Russ riding on the pool exercycle like a maniac, while all the other guests lounged peacefully around the edge. It was the little Indonesian man at the waterfall, who was ecstatic when I accepted his request for a selfie. It was the zookeeper at Monkey Forest, who was constantly cracking jokes and had the cheekiest smile. It was having a baby monkey wrap its fingers over mine.
On the ferry, I was right on the verge of sleep when a big wave splashed through the open window and hit me in the face. It was the moment Russ looked at me, I looked back in a daze with my face dripping wet, and we both cracked up laughing. In Gili, it was floating in the water with my arms wrapped around Russ, kissing his shoulders. It was walking to breakfast by myself one morning, and receiving countless high fives and beaming smiles from the locals.
It was the Canadian boys we shared a taxi ride to Canggu with, who were so friendly and made a long ride feel short. It was the waitress who served me the night I dined solo at a candlelit restaurant, who asked me lots of questions and just oozed warm energy. It was sitting around the dining table talking with our Airbnb host from Venezuela, who was one of the most kind-hearted people I have ever met and made us feel like old friends rather than guests. It was coming home to a voice message from him, saying he hoped we would come back to surf with him, meet his wife and take a picture together.
Bali gave us beautiful landscapes and colours, amazing food, lots of sunshine and a new sprinkle of freckles. It gave us an appreciation for small things we often take for granted, and a curiosity to explore other places and experience different cultures. But the thread that runs through all these vivid memories is people. It’s kindness, laughter and love. Traveling offers a lot of opportunities for learning, growth and connection, but in a social media saturated culture that glorifies travel, I think it’s easy to fixate on the idea that travel is necessary for a life well lived. While I am not sure that having a plane ticket to somewhere exotic is a prerequisite for a meaningful life, I am certain that having an open heart is.