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.
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?
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?”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.