What I learned about myself in Bali

The book Eat, Pray, Love made the Indonesian island of Bali an even more popular place to come and find oneself. It has morphed into a yoga and spirituality buffet. But this is not why we came. And my story isn’t probably a common one you’ll find coming from the island. What I learned about myself had nothing to do with Bali, really.

what I learned about myself in bali

Friends and people who have been following along on our journey were probably surprised we came to Bali. After all, I make it no secret I’m not fond of ultra touristy spots. Some you just have to see for yourself (Paris and Marrakech for starters), but generally I avoid them. So why the Island of the Gods?

Curiosity.

Yes, that’s right. I had absolutely no plans to visit the island until two fellow bloggers who I respect shared their love for it. We tend to have some similar travel styles, so I figured it was worth checking out. We began in Ubud which is supposed to be more tolerable and the island’s seat for culture and cuisine.

I liked it. For the first few days.

About day 4 or 5 I was over it and trying to figure out where else to go. Our flight to Australia begins in Bali, so we have to be on the island. At first I understood why so many people really like it. But it wasn’t long before I was thinking “People really like this place?”

what I learned about myself in bali

Don’t get me wrong. Ubud is quite beautiful. We had a lot of fun in the Monkey Forest Sanctuary, even if one did leave me a rather rude present on my shirt. Like we usually do, we stayed outside of the tourist zone, which is probably how I could handle it for as many days as I did. You can check here to find some hotels in Bali.

By day 9, though, I was ready to scream at the next person who asked if I wanted a taxi or a massage.

Food was also disappointing. We did find a great burrito place, which Tigger was craving, and we ended up eating there 3 times. However, the Balinese and Indonesian food we had just couldn’t compare to the food trifecta of Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. I ended up not taking a cooking class because I just didn’t find the food interesting enough.

One of the things I wanted to do when we came here was take a painting class. I’ve taken a couple of watercolor classes, and I really enjoy painting and drawing. I haven’t worked with acrylics yet, and when fellow travel blogger Val shared her experience of taking a painting class, I thought “That’s what I want to do when I’m there!” Bali has a plethora of artists, and I figured this would be the perfect place.

I found this teacher while Tigger and I were doing our best to get lost. There was a small gallery with a sign in the window for painting lessons.

I had expected to learn a few techniques and that would be it. While he’s an accomplished traditional Balinese painter, he loves doing abstract paintings. I sat down in front of an empty canvas as he asked me what colors I wanted.

What?

I figured he’d put something in front of me like a bowl of fruit or something, hand me a brush, and away we’d go. I was going to do abstract art? Not normally my cup of tea.

“Ummm.” I had no clue what colors I wanted to work with. How was I supposed to know? I just went with the first 2 colors that came to mind and picked green and blue.

He set some things up, handed me a palette knife, and showed me some techniques. I stared at my canvas.

“Pick a point of focus and begin there.”

what I learned about myself in bali

Yeah. A point of focus. That makes sense. A point of focus. Yeah. Right.

That’s when I discovered something I never really realized about myself: I have a very ordered mind. Sure, I easily “think outside the box.” It’s something past employers have always commented on. And, I do love writing fantasy and even wrote a fantasy novel! But when I write, I don’t use outlines. I have a thought, I let the flow begin, and off I go! And I’m very open-minded about things. Ordered minds don’t work that way do they?

But to just paint. . . nothing?

Perhaps I have a structured mind. Maybe that’s a better descriptor.

I looked at his smiling face and glanced back at my almost bare canvas. What the hell do I do now! I wondered. Why was this so freaking hard? I can take a blank page and write like crazy. When I have a camera in my hand, I can see all kinds of things. Put some ingredients in front of me, and I can usually turn them into something delicious.

But this. . . this was different.

And I have no idea why.

I decided to just go ahead and follow the same principle I use in writing: Just write. I picked up the knife, slapped some color on the canvas, and made a shape. Boring! I thought. Then I did it again. And again. Suddenly, something opened up. I started feeling what colors I needed. I let my hand just do its own thing and removed myself from the process.

Then it was fun. A smile crept onto my face, and I loosened up. As my painting began to take shape, I started feeling it more. I felt like I was actually creating something, and my spirit soared.

what I learned about myself in bali

I have always loved how art can take us into the deep recesses of our core and expose us to ourselves. The act of creating is something powerful. Whether that be cooking, writing, drawing, photography, or painting. Art brings healing and frees us from our self-inflicted prisons. Drawing was pivotal to my healing process after my suicide attempt.

What I learned about myself is that I need to pursue this passion more. I need to dedicate more time to practice the various forms of art that I enjoy. To create. And I need to help my mind break out from structure more.

Bali may not be responsible for this epiphany, but I’m kind of glad it happened here.

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32 Comments

  1. Without question, art is healing… it’s also the way I think through things and figure out what’s going on under the hood… so glad you made this self discovery… So your Balinese experience might be summed up by “Burritos, Poop, Paint?” :)
    Jennifer Miller recently posted..Ten Things I’m Learning From Life & TravelMy Profile

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    • Tigger doesn’t like doing art. No drawing, coloring, or painting. I think sculpture and working with clay is more his thing. I miss sitting down and coloring with with little ones. Always so much fun. I keep trying to tempt him, though. :)

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  2. What a great story, Talon. I am not at all an artist, but ever since Tony & I started our trip, I’ve been exploring different activities—some that I knew I loved, like writing, and some that are pretty new to me, like photography & yoga—trying to hone in on what makes me tick and makes me feel most alive. For me, I know my ultimate passion truly is writing: there is an urge to “paint” with my words that builds up in me and that I just can’t shake. But it’s been really fun to explore other avenues of creative expression as they do tap into different pools within us. I hadn’t thought of trying out a painting class in Bali, but when we get there in late July, who knows? :)
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..Sunday Sketchup: Cambodia, We Knew Thee WellMy Profile

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    • I’m like you with writing. I can’t not write. I think I would actually explode if I tried to hold in all those words and images. I’ve done drawing people and really enjoyed it, but painting is a whole different realm. Really pretty fascinating to see what comes out of it.

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  3. This is awesome! I love what you created and love that you made such an awesome discovery in a spiritual place like Bali… Art really feeds the etheric body and I know that when I move around a lot and fast (like you seem to have been doing recently), art really does the trick for me. It really replenishes my energy in a way that sleep or anything else cannot. And painting is one of the purest form of creation! I am very excited for you!
    Catherine Forest recently posted..Switching gearMy Profile

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    • Yes, we’ve been moving around faster than we care for, although it’s been nice to slow that down a bit. Australia will be nice since we’ll be in spot for almost a month. Going to enjoy unpacking the suitcase for a change!

      Painting is much more cathartic than drawing for me. Especially doing abstracts. Going to play with that more.

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  4. Sometimes lessons and realisations about life and ourselves happen when we least expect it and in the most unexpected places. I’m so glad that you’ve rediscovered your love for drawing and painting all over again Talon :)
    Toni recently posted..Change is gonna come…My Profile

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    • I definitely think there’s an existential tie-in there. I know the more I search for something the more elusive it is, but when I simply put it out to the Universe and remain open it’s so much easier.

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    • Me, too! Hope to take some more as we continue to travel. Actually, would like to park it somewhere for a while and take a full quarter or something. Looking at ideas. :)

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  5. Hey, maybe this is the reason you really ended up in Ubud. I know plenty of people that ended up there for one reason or another and learned a great deal about themselves in the process. It’s just that kind of place.
    Adam @ SitDownDisco recently posted..So what’s the plan, Stan?My Profile

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    • Perhaps. I think it would’ve happened anywhere, but you never know. :) Coincidentally (or not), I happened to pick the same instructor that Val did without realizing it until I wrote the post and linked to hers.

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    • Ubud is OK for a few days. I personally wouldn’t stay there longer than 4 days.

      Indonesian and Balinese food is just very plain after having been to Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. It isn’t bad, it just isn’t all that memorable either.

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      • Oh, Thai and Malay food is THE BEST. I like Vietnamese food, too, but it’s a bit blander and just not on the same level for me.

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        • I agree. Vietnamese is quite good, but it doesn’t pack the same flavor punch for me as Thai and Malaysian.

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    • I definitely plan on taking more classes and spending more time doing it. Strongly considering enrolling in a longer class. Actually, wouldn’t mind taking lots of art classes. I so thoroughly enjoy it!

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    • It is quite fascinating, no? I always knew I can be fairly logical and analytical, but I also have a more open side so it surprised me when my brain just said “Umm, no.” LOL

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  6. I can definitely relate to the logical and orderly side. I spent years in the sciences, and then moved on to be a technical writer for about a decade. Even the act of writing narrative travel posts was intensely difficult at first (and it’s still hard now, but better). I love the fact that you persevered past your first reaction (so many people wouldn’t have done that!), and went on to discover something about yourself.
    Micki recently posted..25 Free Must Have iPhone Travel AppsMy Profile

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    • I can see where that would be quite the challenge, especially after doing technical writing. I’m glad I stuck with it, too. Opened a new world to me. :)

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  7. So glad you’ve ended up having something good to connect Ubud with. I would very happily sit and sketch/paint for days. I find it very therapeutic. It’s a bit harder to do (*read: pretty impossible) with two little toddlers hanging off your ankles! Still, I have plans to one day do an art retreat somewhere lovely… with wine. That would make me very happy.

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    • That sounds quite lovely! And I haven’t tried painting or drawing while drinking yet. Hmm. May have to experiment!

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