Discover more from Here, There, Everywhere
Eat, Sleep, Apply Bug Repellant (Repeat)
From luggage left behind to rooming with things that fly and crawl, our first days in Bali were a mix of stress, sweat, and sweet relief as we adjusted to paradise
Hi. We’re in Bali—and we’ve been here for quite some time.
As we’ve adjusted to the weather and island time, we’ve fallen into a rudimentary schedule of sleeping, eating, sunning, writing, and religiously apply bug repellant. Although it’s not as simple as GTL1, it’s pretty close. We’ve officially sloughed off the routine demanded of the 9-to-5. We have no monthly appointments or errands to attend to in the near future, nor do we have to cram to-dos and fun solely into weekends, since every day can be a weekend if we want it to be.
Bedtime falls somewhere between 9:00 P.M. and 2:30 A.M. Melodic rain, tile-shaking thunderstorms, the gecko’s cry, the roar of a moped, the high-pitched bark of the neighbor’s dog all make up our mixed-bag sound machine.
The same sounds nudge us awake in the late morning—our new wake-up time. Just when I’d finally gotten used to the 7:00 A.M. wake-up demanded of my former job, I’ve regressed back to the late weekend wake-up, the one my high school self shamelessly followed—only, now, it’s not just on weekends. I’m doing it every day. And I’m no longer a teenager. I tell myself it’s okay; I’m an adult on vacation. But I’m also wasting sunlight.
I get out of bed, walk outside, and jump butt naked into the pool.
Breakfast and lunch don’t exist here, only brunch. A smoothie bowl, fresh juice, an omelet, bacon and eggs—whatever it is, wherever we’ve decided to dine that day, it’s plated to be photo ready.
The rain dictates what we can do. A crying sky means writing outside, underneath the safety of our overhang, or reading on the daybed big enough for four. In many ways, this portion of our time abroad has turned into an unplanned writers’ retreat. I’m writing this and still have a lil’ copyediting gig going.2 Brooks is working on his novella, and we’ve managed to write not only in the same room but at the same table.3 When there’s sunshine, though, we drop everything to savor it. A day without rain means we’re at the beach or taking a trip to a temple.
Dinner has been at a new place each night, the restaurant carefully chosen after consulting a trusty travel blog and cross-referencing said anecdotal rating with the Google ratings and reviews. We strategically booked a bungalow with a kitchen, but we have yet to use it. (Every day we vow to start buying eggs and bread to make breakfast ourselves, but we’ve yet to follow through. Dining out here is just so cheap!!!!)
After a breezy moped ride back to our villa, stomachs full of a delicious dinner, the nightly foreplay commences: reading, watching the latest episode of White Lotus (season 2), or me beating Brooks in, yet again, another game of Rummy 500. (It’s a true feat, having racked up so many wins against the board and card game king himself.) A few times, we’ve opted to go out to a bar or club, pretending to be in our early twenties again. Unfortunately, the drinks are never as good as the people-watching and the heat almost always guarantees a hangover.
And then we wake-up and do it all over again.
I’ll be honest, it’s become a bit monotonous at times, and I’ve experienced some restaurant fatigue from all the choices and frustration with the constant rain and the pesky mosquitos; however, these “complaints” deserve the eye roll I know you’re probably giving me. Compared to the weekly work drag and the outrageous prices, we’re living in paradise. Literally, we are in the tropics and a nice meal for two costs $25 (at the most). How could I complain? Even sitting outside, watching the rain, not having anything to do or any place to be, is a type of relaxation I haven’t experienced in quite some time. On previous vacations, there was always the anticipation of having to go back to something, of having to plan to be away, of having to hustle in order to relax. But it’s not that way this time. We’re just here…being.
Sounds like a dream, huh? Are you silently cursing me as you read this, thinking, “That lucky bitch.” Don’t worry; it’s not all fun and games. It’s hot. There are bugs. Sometimes it’s as muggy as a small bathroom with no ventilation after a hot shower. There is truly no inside space to retreat to. Ants are everywhere I step and look. I miss cooking a simple meal for myself. I miss having access to a clean kitchen. I miss being able to run my toothbrush under the faucet. I miss the smell of a U.S. bathroom.4 And our first 24 hours here were anything but relaxing.
After a pretty seamless travel experience from the U.S. to Israel, I instilled a bit too much faith in our Israel to Indonesia leg of the trip. I should have listened to the curt lady at the Gulf Air counter. She barked something about having to pick up our bags in Singapore, because we were switching airline carriers, and immediately followed that up with a demand to fill out Singapore entry cards. When we asked her what and where, she just yelled “Google!” Bewildered, we were left computing and filling out an online form, all while trying to make it through security quick enough to not miss our first of three connecting flights.
After a layover in Bahrain, we arrived in Singapore with the Gulf Air attendant’s warning still ringing in our ears. At the baggage carousel we looked and looked for our bags, but they were nowhere to be found. When we asked a Singapore Air attendant, they said our bags would automatically be transferred, something our baggage tags and receipts did, in fact, confirmed. We sighed, smiled, and cursed the Gulf Air lady with a laugh.
And then we landed in Bali...
...and our bags did not.
(M0th3r f#!%!r !!!!!)
And no, Brooks and I did not pack a pair of shorts, a bathing suit, or flip flops in our carry-ons. Thankfully, aside from the Holy Trinity of wallet, electronics, and chargers, I had all my underwear and basic toiletries, unlike Brooks, who only had a portable library with him.
After a trip to lost luggage and us constantly refreshing our Air Tags locations,5 we admitted defeat, took a taxi to our bungalow using the Rupiahs we were compensated for because of our delayed luggage, and feverishly proceeded to run up and down the busy Canggu main street for a place that still served dinner past 10:00 P.M. Nothing like sweating in a brewery, eating broccoli, pizza, and chicken nuggets after a 24 hour-plus travel day.
The first bites of food made us more optimistic (well, some of us). Brooks was hopeful our bags would be returned to us tomorrow, before the birthday dinner we were set to attend. I, on the other hand, had little faith in the system, predicting two-days time. (Maybe I needed more sustenance in order to become as optimistic as Brooks?)
On our first full day in Bali, we had no choice but to lounge around our pool in the nude. Noon passed (no bags). 3:00 P.M. (no bags). 4:36 P.M. (no bags). Not only did we not have our belongings, but the heat, bugs, and my initial moped ride left me a bit frazzled. Couple that with the intense PMS I was starting to experience6 and it felt more like we were visiting Dante’s ninth circle of hell, rather than having fun in the sun. Sure enough, five o’clock in the evening rolled around and there we were: changing back into sweat-drenched and airplane-stank clothes, dressed way too warm for the tropics, far too casual for a swanky dinner. I refused to accept reality.
Minutes before we were supposed to leave, I jogged up and down our street, scouring countless shops for sandals and a simple, keep-me-cool dress. I rolled up to that dinner in a 100,000 RPK ($6.40) black spaghetti-strap dress I bought on sale—a dress that demanded I constantly check to make sure both my butt cheeks were still covered—wearing sneakers, no socks. Brooks went commando in his jeans and my jean shirt. (I know, you wish you had a photo of us. Sorry.)
In preparation for my travels abroad, I’d made lists, asked questions, did research, tried to think of every hack and pre-planned necessity; yet, somehow, I missed the obvious—what I knew already. Why did I not pack a day’s worth of must-haves in my carry-on?? Let this be a reminder to you: Always be over-prepared. You don’t want to be stuck at dinner, trying to enjoy your first meal in paradise, trying to connect with your boyfriend’s Bali friends, whom you just met, all while refreshing your phone to track your luggage’s Air Tag, exchanging Whats App messages, texts, and frantic phone calls as you try to get in touch with the confused baggage delivery guy and your boyfriend, who’s subsequently left dinner to meet him.
Again, don’t worry: We got our bags. Finally. (The ~drama~ of it all!) It was pretty much all uphill from there. We relished in the surprise A.C. unit in our bedroom, and I came to appreciate the coolness that the rain restored. We’ve adjusted…kind of. Oh—did I mention our roommates?
Mosquitos the size of a fingernail. Ants of all sizes and colors, who decided my periwinkle carry-on bag was theirs to eat the handles’ stuffing out of. Flies the size of a poppy seed. Geckos speckled the size of a child’s hand, speckled like sand, and a big, black one the size of my forearm. Cute little frogs. A cat with a mangy tail and black and caramel spots, who meows like she’s in heat around the clock. It’s a regular reptilian and feline funhouse!
Can’t say we’ve fought off the bugs, but we’ve befriended the reptiles and are refining our battle plans. Bug spray is being worn like a second skin, fans run on blast, and our mosquito-killing clap is being perfected due to the amount of practice it’s gotten thus far.
Can’t say we’ve been sweating less, but we’ve adjusted to the heat and are adequately hydrating.
Can’t say our digestion has been top-notch (because there’s been gas and some questionable poos), but we haven’t experienced the dreaded Bali Belly in full force (*knock on wood*).7
Can’t say we’re miserable, because we’re in Bali.
Safe to say this Bali chapter will be a bit different. Not only is the topography vastly different from Israel, but life is different, too—I’m feeling different here. I make no promises to keep things fun and upbeat all the time, to romanticize the paradise we’re in, or to give you a detailed report of what we’ve done thus far. What I can promise is even more candid content, lush descriptions, and food reviews in the coming weeks.
From Bali, with love,
For photos that coincide with this piece, visit my Instagram @yo_marge.
Questions or comments after reading? Hit me up in the comments.
Like what you read? Throw this newsletter a like and/or share this post with your friends!
If you’re new here or have yet to subscribe, now’s the time!
If you’ve been living under a rock, GTL is the famous acronym coined by the cast of Jersey Shore, which stands for gym, tan, laundry.
Seriously, if you or anyone you know needs a freelance copyeditor, email me.
I believe there are two types of writers in this world: those who can write anywhere (cut to me writing in the Bahrain airport, on the couch while a Rangers game is on, or at 3 A.M.) and those who need a sensory deprivation tank—and when one isn’t available, they demand a quiet room, seated at a desk, with a “do not disturb” sign on the door (that’s Brooks). Somehow, in Bali, we’ve managed to create an environment that caters to both our needs and preferences.
More on all this in a later newsletter (stay tuned!).
Since COVID, I’d heard some nightmare airport and baggage stories. Just in case, we bought Apple Air Tags to put in our luggage, so, if they got lost, we’d be able to know their whereabouts. I suggest everyone do the same. It keeps you one step ahead of the airport personnel. Case in point: We knew where our bags were before we went to lost baggage, and, even with our bags reclaimed, we’re still getting emails from Singapore Air, assuring us that they’re still looking for our bags (poor guys).
If you need a definition of “intense”, let me paint a picture for you: There was a point within the following week that a sad dog meme and a post about how people could rent Christmas trees instead of buying them to avoid waste—because the trees are essentially cast aside, thrown out, and forgotten each year, like old dogs no one wants anymore—made me full on sob.
Just kidding. Between the time I started writing this and now, Brooks has been humbled by a bad case of Bali Belly. Not the worst, but certainly not just some bloating and gas. Just in case you’re about to have breakfast while reading this, I’ll spare you the rest of the details.