Metamorphosis

We all know what to expect from McDonald’s, Starbucks…etc. There is comfort in uniformity and knowing what to expect. Someone far away decides the contents and form of your food and you trust and accept. #Franchising is as old as #religion ; you see a religious image and know exactly what it means. I saw Ramadan greetings in Jakarta complete with a camel! Packaged image that has little to do with the nature of Indonesia’s tropical weather. They probably saw a native camel…never! When I spent Xmas in New Zealand, I saw carolers wearing earmuffs and surrounded by cotton to simulate snow. When did New Zealand get snow in December? Never! Packaged image that has nothing to do with the nature of NZ where Xmas is in the middle of their summer. Just like body food, religions package soul food in predetermined, ‘one size fits all’ bites that offer uniformity, security and comfort. #Inherited lives with inherited #beliefs keep replicating inherited systems. Because safety, even the illusion thereof, offers comfort, or the #illusion thereof, inherited lives work. #Fear of exclusion and the unknown prevents most people from questioning: “Why on Earth am I wearing earmuffs in the heat of summer?” or “what do camels have to do with Ramadan?” or “should I really cut the most sensitive part of my baby boy’s penis?”. We are, after all, social animals. #Exclusion translates in our primitive minds to death.
Most of us live an inherited life until it fails us. Something goes terribly wrong so we start #questioning. Why do we do things? In what should we believe? This disturbs the stagnant waters of uniformity and the illusion of safety. Resistance ensues. The inherited system is threatened. Its very existence depends on illusions and the lack of critical thinking. It uses fear to keep the straddlers in line. Fear works most of the time. Yet something stronger is also at work; your #intuition and inner guidance. You know in your core there’s a different way. You keep going despite the fear. There is pain, tears, loneliness, self doubt and #death. Yet something inside you, stronger than your fears and exhaustion keeps you going. People will discourage, criticize and disapprove but your #conviction is stronger. Then #metamorphosis happens. A new you is born out of the ashes of what needed to die. You start living a life of your own choice and creation. A custom-made life that fits and modifies to your needs. Surprisingly, you become a hero and a role model, even to the naysayers. Those who love you stay in your life, despite the differences. Those who don’t, you don’t even remember their names. By living your #bliss, you are a beacon for others to find their own light. Only then you know your purpose: Follow your heart!

#travel #travelblog #unconditionallove #westandinlove #soulfood #innerguidance #southeastasia

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Traveler or Tourist?

Earlier in the day, I was sleeping under a tree in a park. 2 trees away, a guy who looked like he works there, was napping during his break. Later the same day, I was getting a 1.5 hours massage by a gorgeous hunk in a fancy spa after a crab dinner. Earlier in the week, I was sleeping in a bunk bed in a dorm where 2 people crashed on the floor because the hostel was overbooked. I had to step over them to go to the toilet in the middle of the night. Luckily it wasn’t clogged anymore. Before that, I was in a spacious room in a chic hotel with a pool, traditional architecture and breakfast buffet…
I enjoy going from rags to riches to rags to riches and everything in between. It keeps me alert, humble, reminds me not to take anything for granted and enjoy any and all experiences. Each mode has its pluses and minuses.
When I live it up on the economic scale, I get more space, better service and facilities, more privacy, ease and better quality. However, it’s not easy to meet and get to know people, especially locals. As a solo traveler, it can get lonely. I typically have my guards up because many people see me as a money bag and therefore a target for theft and extortion. Even without extortion, there’s always the unspoken expectation of money exchange. This gives interactions a buyer/seller dynamic. However, the worst part of the upscale lifestyle: it often takes me farther from nature. We pay more money to separate ourselves from wild raw nature and all its healing powers. We create ‘artificial nature’ packages; pretty but with no essence.
Traveling on a low budget, staying with Couchsurfing hosts, in hostels, communities, work exchanges and camping is a much more enriching experience on many levels. Not only do I meet and befriend amazing people, it’s also closer to raw nature and local cultures. Without money spoiling the interaction, it’s much easier to connect on a human to human level. Exchange life stories, experience the local cultures, try new things and liberate myself from irrational fears. Everyone is eager to help and share without expecting anything in return. It may not be as comfortable, clean, spacious or easy, yet it’s always more fun, especially when solo traveling. And the irony is, it’s safer. The more I have (or perceived to have), the more I’ve got to lose.
My purse was snatched away while sitting on a beach in southern Spain in broad daylight. I was in an exclusive touristy area. People saw the robbery and no one batted an eye. The next day, I sat a few meters away on the same beach but where the locals hang out. When I moved with the shade, someone came to give me my hat which I had forgotten in my previous spot. Ironically, the hat is more expensive than the purse I lost the previous day, with all its contents.
Many travelers avoid tourist traps because of their superficial nature, crowds, noise and peddlers overcharging for their wares. I enjoy switching between traveler and tourist. Each mode has something to offer. Major landmarks, unique spots and attractive locations will always be tourist traps. Tourist money keeps them well maintained and boosts the local economy. Non touristy areas offer a down to earth authentic experience, yet often are not well maintained or clean. Traveling between both worlds keeps my mind and senses engaged. We can all coexist. There’s a place for everyone. Life is abundant if we choose to see it.
#travel #travelblog #tourist #traveler #unconditionallove #westandinlove #coexist #bali #indonesia

Sunset at Jimbaran beach. Bali, Indonesia

Tanah Lot Temple

Ceremony on the beach. Bali. Indionesia.

Banah Cliff. Nusa Penida. Indionesia.

Nusa Penida coastline. Indonesia.

Climbing down to Diamond Beach. Nusa Penida. Indonesia.

My last supper in Bali.

Hotel courtyard in Kuta. Bali. Indonesia.

Sunset in Kuta Beach. Bali. Indonesia.

Who makes up this sh!t?

Is travel all fun and adventure? No, of course not. There are a few stress factors. Deciding what to pack, where to stay, what to do…etc. All these decisions get easier with time and practice. However, the number one stress factor that never gets any easier, and often gets more painful and complicated are the dreaded airport security checks. I could never guess beforehand what they will pick on. Each country, airline, airport and I’m guessing clerk and time of day, has their own rules that you won’t know until that fateful moment when you’re going through security and then BAM! They hit you with their arbitrary regulation. It’s different every single time and keeps getting weirder and more bizzare.
Leaving Bali, they let me take both my backpacks as carry-on! Yay! Never happened before but I always try. Going through the scanner, they flagged my bags. Oops! Forgot to empty my water bottle? Nope. Must be my shampoo! Nope. Toothpaste? (I knew I should’ve bought the small size) Nope. Coconut oil, even though it’s a small bottle? Nope. OK. I give up and wait for the verdict. “Do you have a selfie stick?” The officer asked. “Yeeees?”, I answered with a puzzled look on my face. “It’s not allowed in carry-on luggage. You have to check it in” they said. New one! Got me. Again. What will they think of next? Bags? I can just see in my mind’s eye a stoned sadistic security manager thinking to themselves “today, we’ll ban underwear. From 8am to 7:46pm. Then it’s floss until midnight. You never know how those suckers can misuse such a dangerous tool!”

#travel #travelblog #airportsecurity #arbitraryrules #bali #indonesia

The other side of Fear

In addition to all the amazing places I experience, one of the most enjoyable aspects of traveling is meeting like minded people. Tucked under all the mainstream ways of living, there’s a huge and ever growing subculture of travelers who have ditched their fears and the illusion of safety, said yes to their passions and followed their hearts. All ages, backgrounds, cultures and life paths are represented. We trust. Not because we’re naive, but because we trust ourselves. Trust, like love, starts in the mirror. If you’re yearning to join us, the question is not “how much does it cost?”. Because that is entirely up to you. It’s like asking “how much does a car cost?”, well, as much as you want to spend. Whether it’s a Porsche or an old beat up truck, it will get you where you want to go. “How do you do it?” When there’s a will, you’ll find a way. Especially in this day and age, almost everything can be done online. Take your skills on the road. Trade. Generate passive income. Share your passions and you’ll find people who need it… There are as many ways as there are travelers. What works for me won’t necessarily work for you. Be creative and think outside the box. The real question is “are you ready to see beyond your fears?” Fear is just a story we’ve been repeating to ourselves for a very long time. The good news is: you don’t have to plan the whole journey, just take one step at a time. More doors will open at every step that you can never anticipate.
When you get sick and tired of your fear stories, come join us where the weather is always nice, the people are always smiling and the adventures never end.

#travel #bali #indonesia #nusapenida #beyondfear #travelculture #unconditionallove #trust #westandinlove

It takes a village…

It takes a whole village. Not only to raise one child, but also to grow rice. It’s very labor and time intensive. A rice field is an eco system in its own right. It sustains many different life forms: from reptiles (eels, worms, snakes) to fowl (ducks, chicken, birds) to animals (cows, pigs, humans). Each plays a different and important role in the cycle. All cooperate and work together to ultimately keep everyone in the cycle fed and alive. 3-6 months after the seeds are planted (depending on the kind of rice), the top part of the plant, which contains the seeds, is cut off. The village women work together separating the seeds from the stalks, spreading the seeds out in the sun to dry, milling to remove the hulls, then distributing, storing, selling, cooking and eating the delicious fruit of their hard labor. In the meantime, the rice fields remain constantly flooded with water. Worms, eels and snakes live in the soil and help aerate it. After the harvest, the ducks are let loose in the fields to eat the leftover grains and harmful bugs as well as fertilize the soil with their poop. Before the new crop is planted, cows are used to plow and fertilize. Some people use plowing machinery, which is faster but it kills the eels and breaks down the seeds. Rice is the main staple in South East Asia and most families in the countryside have their own rice fields. Unfortunately, many in popular touristy areas are “paving paradise and putting up parking lots”*. Villas and resorts are rapidly replacing the rice fields, which are, ironically, the main tourist attraction. Tourist money is easier, plentiful, less labor, no community cooperation necessary. The kids get their electronic gadgets, wear glasses and get health problems. Isolation, separation and fear set in and society becomes “westernized”. Who needs to eat when they’ve got the expensive toys? GMO foods will do just fine…we all know how that story goes. “Don’t it always seem to go…That you don’t know what you’ve got…’Till it’s gone”?*

* From Joni Mitchell’s song “Big Yellow Taxi”

#travel #rice #indonesia #bali #unconditionallove #westandinlove

Holy Guacamole!

As a devout atheist, one tree has a much higher spiritual content for me than all the temples, churches, mosques, synagogues and other human made holy guacamoles. However, my consumer trained mind sees a price tag on something and it thinks “it must be worth seeing”! That’s how I end up visiting special holy guacamoles around the world. I admit, they often have impressive architecture, interesting iconography, beautiful settings…etc. Worth visiting as a study in the diversity of human culture. Yet the common features are always the same:
1. They receive an inordinate amount of money, attention and resources.
2. Stories. They’re full of stories. Age old stories. Kept alive, often passionately so. The stories keep them alive and they keep the stories alive. Unfortunately, the stories are often taken too literally and way too seriously.
3. They conjure up a lot of fear. Fear keeps them alive and they keep fear alive. Fear of an angry God, punishment, hell… etc. In reality, it’s mostly fear of exclusion. As social animals, we have an innate need to belong. In our primitive brain, being an outcast equates to death. This may be true when we’re young and dependent on our families to survive. However, as we get older and more independent, we need to reexamine and reevaluate. Holy guacamoles scare us from doing exactly that. Irrational? For sure, but it works.
4. They comfort as well as oppress by overemphasizing the need for safety and security over passion and freedom. That’s why people flock to them when their sense of safety is at risk.
5. They don’t like women. The feminine body scares the sh!t out of holy guacamoles. You can see images of furious faces, men’s and animals naked bodies, weapons of all shapes and sizes, killing, torture, gut wrenching agonizing imagery of cruelty… that’s not scary. But a woman’s leg, bust, shoulder or even hair!!!! OMFG!! That is the end of the world as we know it. We all came from a woman’s vagina. Does that make it sacred and holy?? NOOO! That makes it the most shameful, dirtiest and despicable thing. Something that can never be shown, discussed or even mentioned in holy guacamoles.

I’d much rather touch, feel and talk about vaginas, sex and love freely without any shame or guilt. I’d much rather enjoy nature, my body and my freedom. I’d much rather question and reexamine stories and fears. Nature is my holiest holy guacamole!

#travel #travelblog #religion #holyplaces #indonesia #bali #westandinlove #unconditionallove #tirtaempul

Monkey Business

They work in pairs. The younger one distracts me with his looks and cuteness, he’s all over me, caresses my face, plays with my hair, his soft skin against my face feels so good. While the older, more experienced one goes straight for my backpack. Monkey business, the real deal!

#monkeyforest #monkeybusiness #monkey #bali #indonesia #travel #travelblog #unconditionallove #westandinlove