Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. – Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love.
From reading the title of this post alone, the option I chose in pursuit of happiness is pretty clear. If not, the answer is to travel around the world looking for it.
After finishing university, I had been struggling with finding my sense of identity and purpose. Social media displayed everyone’s post-university successes, and “adulting” seemed like a new slang term used to describe a quarter-life crisis.
I couldn’t help but feel lost. Like I didn’t have my life together. A feeling that grew on a daily basis. Despite having finished my Law degree with credible results, the thought of becoming a lawyer started to feel soul-crushing. This is an exaggeration, I know. But the thought only became scarier, when I thought of the alternative. If I didn’t become a lawyer, that would mean a trying three years at university would be made worthless. Another anxiety-inducing thought to say the least. I was just confused and conflicted about life and what my purpose was. Although nothing was really going wrong, and there were opportunities popping up around me, I was still at a place of confusion. However, another part of me was determined to gain clarity.
Socrates once said the unexamined life is not worth living. So, in pursuit of a meaningful and fulfilled life, I sought an adventure. One full of self-reflection, in what is known as one of the most peaceful places on earth, Bali.
I made my favorite Hollywood movie “Eat Pray Love” my reality, and went on a search for purpose and peace. Although my version is titled Eat, Pray, Bali; for legal purposes of course.
2:00am. I frantically packed my bags, after reading the unit of measurement wrong on my luggage scale, in pounds and not kilograms. I knew my luggage didn’t weigh 54kg. Rushing, in a panic, unnecessarily cautious of the time, despite my flight being at 6:30am. I quickly weighed my luggage, ran upstairs, showered, brushed my teeth, moisturised, combed my hair, got dressed and looked at the time, 2:45.
Running downstairs, I find my mother gently organising my bags. Looking at me, she softly says “let us pray”, holding my hands she begins “heavenly father, may you take Ijeoma safely to her destination, may no evil eye see her, may she find favour with everyone she interacts with”, Amen. Opening our eyes we leave for the airport.
After an hour-long drive we arrive at the airport, I kiss and hug my mother goodbye and set off into the terminal. Time passes, and finally, I get checked in and make my way to the gate and board the plane. let the journey begin.
Arriving in Guangzhou China, I braced myself for a twelve-hour layover, yes 12 hours. But, by the grace of God and courtesy of China Southern Airline, I received a free 24hr visa and hotel stay of my choice with everything included, basically royal treatment. So, as soon as my visa was approved, I was escorted to my private car to the hotel, feeling like Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality, I gracefully paraded through the airport. Part of me looking forward to knocking out at the hotel and the other half excited to explore China for a day.
Driving to the hotel, my eyes struggled to remain open but determined to embrace the scene I gazed out the car window. Watching buildings transform from detached houses to cascades of urban sky rises, till the journey came to a stop.
Opening my door, the driver ushered me out, taking my bag to the golden front desk of this grand hotel. My eyes quickly scanned my surroundings as I stepped into the foyer. After receiving my key, I make my way to my room which was equipped with two bathrooms, a separate living room, and a grand ensuite; hopping on the bed, I smiled to myself and thanked God.
I proceed downstairs to get my free breakfast, basically, everything was free. After this, I went on exploring China Guangzhou.
So here are three things I learned during my short stay in China;
- Chinese people are lovely and extremely accommodating and take pride in their country.
- Chinese people have limited access to the world wide web. Social media sites and YouTube are basically banned and did not work on my phone, despite being connected to WiFi. (The struggle was very real)
- There is a good amount of black people living in China. Though their culture still remains preserved, Chinese people are open to other races and welcome us. So if you get a chance to go, go and don’t limit yourself due to the opinion of others. Explore places and create your own opinion.
Leaving China, I looked out of the plane anxious and excited about what was to come during my first solo holiday in Bali. Arriving at Denpasar airport Indonesia, I was greeted by my driver with a name sign and a big smile and a heartfelt welcome to Bali.
Day One in Ubud
Having, landed in Bali at 1:00 am in the morning. My first day began after I got some hours of sleep at my air bnb.
I woke up, to a fresh breakfast awaiting me on my balcony, and after eating I got ready and headed out for my first day in Ubud. Making my way to Ubud market, with the help of google maps and kind strangers, I finally reached the beautiful array of colorful market stalls.
The marketplace, crowded from end to end, with stalls selling everything from ukuleles to skin products, you name it, there was a stall for it. Mesmerised, I walked through the market trying to capture the wonderful spread of stalls.
Walking through, I was abruptly whisked away by a wonderful little lady called Kuma. Grasping my arm she carefully escorted me into an alleyway, where her stall was situated. Confused and a little scared, I stood still and watched her pray over her shop and pass incense over each item, and lay a basket full of colorful flowers and various plants in front of her stall.
I had noticed all the other shops and stalls had a similar arrangement of flowers in front of their shop. Intrigued, I asked Kuma what it meant. She explained that it was part of Balinese culture. The flower arrangement is called Canang Sari, an offering to their god, for protection and good luck. She went on to explain that they pray three times a day or so and each time repeat the same ritual of making a Canang Sari basket and passing incense over their property so that their god finds favour with them.
I admired her delight as she spoke about her belief in prayer providing luck. It’s wonderful to see how belief and faith are all over the world. This concept was so fascinating to me, as a Christian myself. I explained to Kuma that I believe in Jesus. Which for us means having a personal relationship with the Father, who promises to give us a future and a hope and I take comfort knowing that all things will work for my good and the Lord’s glory. Because he is my source of protection. To which she smiled, nodded laughed and said, “yeah”. I don’t think she understood me, but I was happy with her response. She said that in Bali Jesus is respected also, so I was happy.
As I continued speaking with Kuma, it struck me how grateful I am that Jesus died for our sins. As through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus, we no longer have to live under the law like in the old testament and give burnt offerings. We can come to Christ as we are and he will forgive our sins because we inherited grace from Jesus’s death on the cross. Knowing this made me understood why Kuma desperately wanted me to buy a dress as her first sale, as she put it, “it would provide her with luck”, meaning her prayers worked.
Somehow, I thought it was no accident that she pulled me out of the crowd and for that I wanted to fulfill her prayer. One dress later, I ran, not literally but figuratively out of the marketplace avoiding all eye contact. As I was bombarded by various people asking me to “take a look” at their stall and questions of “where you from” “hey” “madam” “beautiful”, though I wasn’t complaining about the compliments. The chaotic hustle and bustle got too overwhelming for me and I had to evacuate asap! I continued my adventure roaming the streets discovering the hidden architectural design of buildings from tree house cafe to contemporary minimalist boutiques and shops.
Day two, The Mountain and The Volcano
God is real, like really real. Today, was one of those days that you see in movies and say to your friends “one day we should do that” but never get to do or prolong doing and forget about.
However, today I did that! Yes, I climbed and an active volcano to watch the sunrise. It was an unforgettable and unbeatable experience, my legs are still shaking. So here are five things I learned from this incredible adventure.
The day began at 2am in the morning. Yes that early, we were trying to catch the sun. I was picked up by a strange old Balinese man, whose name escapes me, and driven to collect the rest of the people who would accompany me; a German family of four and two German men. After driving for 20 minutes, we arrived at a local Balinese house where we met other travelers embarking on the same adventure as us. There we had breakfast; banana pancakes (A Balinese specialty might I add), tea and water. After being rushed to eat, as we were chasing the sun, we received bottles of water and food to cook when we reach the top of the volcano.
Finally, we set off to the calling point, and there we were introduced to our guide. A young Balinese boy, age 24, who became our human safety net, literally. After quick introductions and a pass around of torches, we set off for a climb we would never forget.
So here are the five things I learned during the climb, can I preach a little?
- God is real. Not like I didn’t think he was real before or anything. But there’s something about watching the sunrise and the earth move, (because we move btw not the sun) that makes you just feel the presence of God and all his creation. Whilst climbing the volcano, at times I thought- yeah I’m going to die here. But with each step in the dust, each jump and climb, I kept thinking that at some point fear would be forced to leave me, at some point even though I felt scared I wouldn’t have to be afraid. Because when I put my trust in God, I would see the beauty of his works. This revelation brought me comfort, and the beauty was revealed at the top of the volcano. Looking out at the beautiful array of clouds spread over the earth, as the sun rose and kissed the skies good morning; all fear left my body. I was in awe, silently blown away and even near tears. As I thought about how terrified I once was of heights years ago when the thought alone of a roller-coaster would make me feel physically ill, no cap. The moment reminded me of a sermon I once watched, by Pastor Keion Henderson who spoke about the concept of a snake line, he said that if you live life too low you are susceptible to be bitten by snakes. But, when you are ascending a mountain, there is a point too high for snakes to live, as the atmospheric condition is not conducive to their survival. So when you elevate and keep climbing and looking up even snakes, fear and doubt will be forced to turn back and leave you alone.
- God is good but not safe. The idea of God being our refuge and safety is one taught to Christians all the time, that God’s grace is our safety net and his plans are good. God is good all the time, but he is not safe. By this, I mean that his methods of getting us to elevate won’t look like cotton candy and fluffy dogs. Even Jesus had to be killed in order to fulfill his calling. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying God will kill us, but just stay with me here. The point is, God wants us to push ourselves and live life in faith, taking risks in line with our purpose, doing things that bring him glory. By continually seeking his face, despite condemnation, regardless of whether we look cool or not. God is a God of discomfort. It is only when you get uncomfortable that you know where your comfort flows from and is found, which for me is in Christ.
- Humanity is not dead. As mentioned, I embarked on this journey surrounded by others. My group specifically consisted of 7 people, half of which was a family of four. So, whilst climbing we engaged in conversation, as everyone was excited and slightly nervous we found comfort in casual chats. Speaking with the father from the family, I found out he worked at Suzuki and his wife was a lawyer and he was well aware of the Brexit propaganda. We conversed the most as we remained ahead of the rest, and through our conversations, I realised that God sent this man to look after me during this climb. As despite not sharing my fears with him, as a father somehow he knew that I may be scared and during our conversations, he would speak words of comfort like “it’s okay we’re near the top” and “keep looking up”. These little encouragements not only made me feel safe but reassured me that I wouldn’t die on this volcano. Even when we got to the top, he insisted after the sunrise that we keep climbing to the highest point of the volcano, as it would be pointless to have come all this way and not see the view from there. A statement which reaffirmed my revelation about the snake line. Once we reached the highest point, I was stunned, again. Realising. what God wanted me to learn from this experience; perseverance in all things.
- Dogs are truly a man’s best friend. This wasn’t so much of a lesson, but more so an observation. During the climb, I noticed dogs climbing the volcano also, watching as they climbed near us, but not so close as to obstruct our way I started to wonder about the loyalty a dog has to its owner. Yes, I love dogs. One dog, in particular, I took a liking to, he hopped on three legs and his sheer perseverance to climb this volcano astonished me. I wondered why he was so adamant to climb despite having a broken paw. Then, it hit me as we reached a pit stop and took a water break. As I saw the dog go to one of the guides, receive water and get patted on the head and then I realised that the poor dog was following his owner. This taught me the beauty in companionship and loyalty, the dog’s sheer determination despite his clear discomfort to be by his owner’s side touched me and made me smile.
- The last lesson wasn’t really a lesson more of a statement. The world is beautiful and full of glory. Sitting in bed won’t allow you to experience it, get up! Climb a volcano if you can, sky dive, even simply visit another city in your country, help local charities. Regardless of what it is, do something, because you won’t experience anything sitting wishing or being filled with fear of the unknown. I know it’s easier said than done but it’s easily done when you stop with excuses and go.
Day three, Bali Gianyar Swing
“Life is like a swing, the harder you push the more thrill you experience”-Diana (me). Post, as I posted my second picture of me hanging from a swing in the middle of rice fields in Bali, I began to reminisce about the day I just had.
My day began bright and early at 10am. I left my air bnb late at 10:45am. I was picked up on a motorbike, by a small exuberant man, who kept singing my name – much to my discomfort. However, soon enough I found out, he was just excited to show off his city to me. Though I still remained uncomfortable. Nevertheless, the soothing greenery that laid parallel to the roads distracted me as I found myself in awe, smiling at the fields as we rode past, “wow” I exhaled this is really paradise. Though my thoughts were interrupted by the small man’s narration and constant shouts, “Diana look, look, look!”, though thankfully the sound of the wind often muffled his shouts and singing, (haha).
Although I must admit I admired his passion for his country, the way he spoke about the land and the pride he took in describing the different trees, “hey Diana mango tree beautiful yes”. Chuckling to myself I just embraced the wind knocking my hair back, letting him continue.
I arrived at the rice fields, also famously known as the Bali swing. I was greeted by a lovely group of young workers in synchronised “hello, welcome”, followed by a man about age 20 directing me to follow him. As my enthusiastic driver, in the background shouts over to me, like a parent dropping their child at school, “I’ll be waiting outside for when you finish!” I smiled nodded and proceeded to follow the boy.
Finally, after purchasing a ticket and walking through a maze of shops, we reached the rice fields. Looking out at the scenery, I was amazed! The land was an open field of cascading greens, filled with dents, and creases perfectly aligned, creating such a magical view.
After stepping into this wonderland, I set off exploring. Climbing up and down, crossing the bridges that connected one side to the other, looking for places to take photos, basically like a child in Disneyland.
Once I finished exploring one half of the field, I took my position to get on the swing. I laughed to myself as they fixed on my harness, remembering how petrified I once was of heights if only I knew this is what I would be doing now. Removing the stool that my legs rested on from under my feet, the men counted one, two-three and whoosh into the air. Gracefully, I smiled and knocked my head back, for the pictures of course. Bali swing completed. As they counted down the last three pushes, I just looked out into the field and thought wow is this my life.
One thing I realised about traveling on your own, is that strangers take the best pictures. Especially in Bali. As a popular holiday spot for photographers, it is best to ask a stranger if they could kindly take your photo, as chances are they are a professional.
Gianyar, Kemenuh waterfall
Don’t go chasing waterfalls. Though it is a famous TLC song, the phrase “don’t go chasing waterfalls” is quite accurate. Especially during busy hours of the day, as you will be prone to slipping and falling, and won’t really get to enjoy the beauty of the waterfall due to overcrowding. However, seeing the beautiful streams flow from the rocks is definitely worth the hassle, as there is something calming about the flow of water.
Though I’m not much of a swimmer myself (at all), I still see what is alluring about the nature of water and the sea. Standing by the waterfall made me want to jump in with everyone, but I quickly checked myself, knowing I would be the one to drown if I tried (hahaha). So, picking myself up after taking my pictures, I just dipped a toe into the water and stood in admiration. Smiling. As just like the flow of the water, my blessings are flowing and pouring out in abundance the closer I remain in God’s will.
Year 21, 31st August 2018
21, wow. As it hit midnight, I was greeted with a FaceTime call from my best friend and screams of “HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE 21”! Then it dawned on me that I am 21, wow. Putting the phone down, I reached for my notebook ‘More Issues Than Vogue’- I laugh every time I look at the front cover. Anyway, I began to write, “21 Things I am grateful for”, “21 Things I am going to achieve by 22”. Listing all my blessings and desires, it dawned on me, just how blessed I am, and that this chapter of my life is going to be one of many, impactful chapters to come. Smiling at the grace of God, I placed my notebook on the side of my bed and went to sleep. Thank you, Jesus.
So, if you’re looking for the next sub-title it’s not here. Instead, here are a few recommendations of places to go and things to do in Ubud, Bali.
But be sure to keep scrolling to the end to read about the second half of my trip, in Kuta, Seminyak, another town in Bali. God bless and thank you for reading.
Recommendations and photography
Thank you for reading the first part of my Eat, Pray, Bali adventure. Be sure to follow my blog to be notified about the second part in Kuta, Seminyak and many more blog posts to come! I hope you have a wonderful day and God bless.