We try not to look at this trip as something “we deserve,” but it is something we can do and wanted to do and are doing because we believe there is value and growth in it. Two weeks in, the challenges have felt continuous: if we felt we “deserved” this, we would probably be asking what we had done wrong to deserve it. Until yesterday, this travel did not feel like vacation.
Physically and emotionally exhausted, we tested our mental fitness by literally criss-crossing the island of Bali in search of volcano climbs in East Java and beach time on Gili Air. With rare exception the weather has not cooperated. We had cold, wind, rain, and/or fog for the volcanos, generally cloudy, humid, and hot on the buses, and near torrential down pours on the island. We have lived for the glimpses, but they have been elusive. On top of that, I struggled with a sinus infection, and Susan had traveler’s diarrhea for 3 days of her beach stay; and in the middle neither of us wants to talk about those few things that are always on our mind.
But we persist.
Unable to find the mental distractions I was seeking. Distractions from the stressors of anxiety, fear, and despair about our future and ‘the’ future in America. Escapes from the sadness, loneliness, or confusion about having left Thailand. Instead, adding on challenges like a new language barrier, cultural unawareness, daily behavioral insecurity, and budgetary conscientiousness. And also the complexity brought on by spending money that could be used for more just purposes and being in an area that draws based on consumerism and materialism.
I have started to recognize that part of this struggle is a complete lack of routine. The last week I have been able to resume running, meditating, and journaling in various frequencies. As usual spending time looking at my mind has helped me understand it - a little. Our ambitious travel planning failed to plan for days of rest: you really cannot go all-out, aggressive travel experience for 6 weeks straight!
Oh the memories, stories, and laughs we will have when the time comes to reflect on these experiences! The time will come, right?
Still a Nice Time.
Despite all this, we are finding ways to enjoy ourselves. As we let go of the (perhaps unrealistic) hopes we had for this trip, we find ways to take advantage of what is given to us. The random Hindu dance ceremony, Susan at an organized Yoga class, time spent at the museum seeing Balinese artwork, or randomly following a sign and seeing beautiful rice terraces. Peace and anxiety settle toward balance in perhaps a Karmic kind of way.
And let’s not forget the people! A Muslim woman giving us rambutans on the train. Australians touched by the injustice of sulfur miners working for $15 a day. A Hindu man doing his best to explain the portion of a 7-hour ceremony we dropped by as we sit in the street. Two young women from Belgium volunteering to help disabled youth and adults in Ubud, Bali. The reciprocated smiles of people as we pass through fields, farms, and villages.
Of course, after we tell people we are from America they inevitably bring up the charades of our government and Donald Trump, but mercifully the conversations are extremely short. We try to represent our country favorably, and they remind us that the whole world is aware and watching.
We wade forward into the deepening waters of tomorrow, because we have to. But we grasp pieces of what will be our temporary life raft as we speak slowly and gently about the steps to be the people we desire to be upon arrival at the visible flotilla of family, friends, life, memories, and expectations on the horizon.
It looked like a nightmare as we rented a moped and arrived at our first waterfall of the day (5 planned). We could not have been there 5 minutes when the downpour started, and my spirits bottomed out. Sitting - no - festering as the disappointment and frustration mounted over 15 minutes I expected to be eternity.
Then the weather cleared, and we visited 5 amazing and amazingly different waterfalls in one day. The rain was intermittent, but mostly cooperative. We had lunch. We drove through the beautiful countryside. We pulled over to see a sunset on the rice fields. We arrived home with my spirits lifted, joy restored, and need for control again relaxed. Renewed energy to help ensure Susan can find experiences that will help her have her own version of this feeling.
Even if the middle is nowhere, it might still be exactly where we are supposed to be.