The Girl in the Villa Across the Room from the Gecko in the Closet

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.  ~Helen Keller

Bali. It was the first stop on my journey. I have been excited to go to Bali for so long. My visions of Bali were like the scenes from the movie Eat, Pray, Love. I pictured myself riding a bike, much like Julia Roberts did in the movie, along the roads by the rice fields, staying in a beautiful villa that is outdoors, and finding an amazingly handsome man to have a love affair with. What I have come to find in my 52 years of living is that when we are looking forward to something, we create scenarios in our heads of what we think the experience will be like. If we replay that said scenario in our head enough times, it becomes our reality. We do this with relationships, jobs, where we want to live, and almost every experience that has yet to exist in our future. This practice, which is a very natural occurrence for most people, has one drawback. It keeps us from appreciating the actual experience because we are comparing it to the made-up experience we created in our head. My actual experience in Bali was somewhat different than my vision…

It all started with checking into my beautiful outdoor villa in Ubud. This is where I was supposed to stay for a month and live in bliss. It was when the owner of the villa dropped me off in a parking lot and his wife was waiting to take me to the villa on a scooter (notice I did not say bike like I had in my vision!) that I realized my vision may have been a tad bit off. After the uphill mile-and-a-half ride from hell to my villa, I began to settle in.

My outdoor living room in Ubud

Now, if you have never stayed in an outdoor villa, it is NOT like what you see on social media (unless you are staying in a 5-star resort).

My bed inside the yurt

When it rains, you get wet…along with everything else that is outside. You even cook outside… with the snails, ants, frogs, and geckos. I did sleep indoors (in a yurt) on a beautiful bed with a mosquito net and had a companion…but it wasn’t the amazingly handsome man I imagined. It was Gary the gecko (see the picture of Gary at the top of the blog).

Gary was the gecko who lived in my closet. He was unlike other men I have befriended in that he was very vocal and had a lot to say. He seemed to be most talkative at 3:00 in the morning when Rodney the rooster (the rooster in the villa next door) also began crowing very loudly. (Side note…since I encountered so many “creatures” during my stay in Ubud, I decided to name them all since we became so “close.”) Gary hid behind my t-shirts in the closet. He thought I could not see him (much like a small child who does not understand that when they cover their eyes to play peek a boo you can still see them) when I opened the closet door because he was only half hiding behind my shirts with his long tail sticking out. He never left. He was a bit sensitive and became upset and very vocal if I did not talk to him when I opened the closet to get my clothes, which he often pooped on.

Although I grew fond of Gary, the final straw for me was the massive thunderstorm that sent me flying under my covers like a 5-year-old little girl, with loud thunder and lightning that I swear touched down right next to my bed. I stayed a total of 6-days in Ubud and then threw in the towel. I said my good-byes to Gary the gecko, Rodney the rooster, Sammy the snail, Freda the frog (who liked to sleep in my only frying pan in the kitchen), and the many ants that paraded on my kitchen counter and headed to a new place in Seminyak which was all indoors…or so I thought.

Sammy the snail

Freda the frog who slept in my frying pan

My place in Seminyak was a combo of a hotel and an apartment. There was just one problem. When I checked in, the place looked nothing like the picture on the website. I came to find out the place had flooded the day before and they had no other rooms to put me in. At this point, I was sure that the water from all the storms in Ubud were chasing me! Five days later, I moved to a different room in the same hotel. Not great, but better. At this point, I was counting down the days until I left Bali.

I did some amazing things in Bali and some parts were very beautiful. But with all the traveling I have done over the years, I have come to find that there are some places we just do not jive with. Bali was one of those places for me. And believe me, I tried. I ate at some great restaurants, I saw a Balinese shaman, I visited beautiful islands (like Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan), I sat on a wooden swing and swung over the rice fields in Ubud, I drank Kopi Luwak, I visited the Garuda Visnu Kencana statue, and I took part in a beautiful ceremony with water fountains at Tirta Empul. These experiences were wonderful but no matter what I did, I still had an unsettled feeling inside. I could not “nest” and settle into Bali like I have in other places.

Offering I made to give the shaman

Bali Swing

Nusa Penida

Sometimes we think our feelings have to do with our surroundings, which at times, they do. But other times we blame our surroundings (or people in those surroundings) for our feelings. I was thousands of miles away from where I called home and this time, I had no place to run to and no one to blame. I had no apartment anymore because all my things were sitting in storage. I was forced to sit in Bali and face how I was feeling without running for comfort and cover.

Sometimes, we need to be taken out of our ordinary in order to see the extraordinary about ourselves and our life. I began to really become present where I was. Not wishing I was someplace else or wishing it was different. I radically accepted my present circumstances. What is interesting about radically accepting “what is” is that miracles occur when we do this. My bum knee began to not hurt anymore, friends began texting me to check in and see how I was doing and they all offered me encouraging words that helped keep me going, and time seemed to move a little quicker.

Titra Empul

I can’t say that I will ever go back to Bali but what I will say is that I am grateful for the gecko in the closet, the thunderstorms, the harassing taxi drivers, the so-so hotel room, and the scooter rides from hell. The uncomfortableness of all these things helped me find the place inside me where I can be comfortable no matter what my external circumstances may be. Not everything in life can always be perfect but the secret to life is that we can make any situation perfect by shifting our mindset. Perception is reality and my “reality” of Bali now is a place of wonder, lessons, water, and let’s not forget….geckos!

Terima Kasih Bali!


And So It Begins…
Sunset at the Pangkor Laut Resort in Malaysia

It all started about 6 months ago…March of 2022 to be exact. I was living a blessed life. I had a very nice apartment in Scottsdale, Arizona, I lived right by my only grandson and got to see him anytime I pleased, I had a thriving business and was an overall healthy 52-year-old woman (minus the menopause!). There was just one problem…I was bored. I know that may sound trite given that I just said I was living a blessed life. But it’s true…I was bored.

Since the pandemic, I spent most of my time in my apartment alone. I had friends, of course, that I saw occasionally for dinner or a drink but I was beginning to feel as if I did not even vibe with my friends anymore. I know this may sound mean, but everyone seemed to be getting on my nerves.

I tried many things to remedy this ailment of mine. I signed up for a co-working space that I could work from just to get out of my apartment a couple of times per week, I began taking Tai Chi, and I even took a few road trips with friends. I was trying to fill what I call a “soul void.” A soul void is when you feel as if something is missing from your life but you cannot quite put your finger on what it is. The only thing that made me feel somewhat satisfied and a bit “fuller” was when I traveled.

Traveling has always been my jam! When I travel everything seems to flow so much easier. I meet the exact people I need to meet who have the information or knowledge I have been seeking, my soul feels as if it is alive again, and the nagging fears that seem to plague me when I sleep do not seem as scary.

It’s funny how when you look back at events in your life after they have happened that you realize how those exact events were preparing you for something about to happen in your life in the future. At the end of 2021, I decided I wanted to try and work remotely from another country to see if it was doable for not only my business but for my psyche. I signed up with a company that manages trips such as these for remote workers and booked two trips…one to Cape Town in November and one to Colombia in December.

Cape Town, South Africa waterfront (the view from my apartment window).

My time in Cape Town was interesting, to say the least. Although I realized I indeed could work from another country successfully, different time zone and all, I ended up having a roommate that let’s just say I didn’t jive with so much. The situation with this roommate was so toxic that by the time I got to Colombia in December, I was spent emotionally and mentally. I ended up only staying in Colombia for a week and cut my trip short and came home. This situation I experienced was so toxic, I became frightened to travel again. Now I felt like the one thing that usually brought me solace was taken away from me. The song by Alanis Morsette “Ironic” seems to sum up perfectly how I was feeling.

Fast forward to June of 2022 when I am in the car with my younger daughter driving back from Flagstaff. I began telling her how I felt as if I was in a rut that I could not get myself out of and she said something at that moment that changed everything. She said, “Mom, you are always your best self when you are traveling. Why don’t you just put your stuff in storage and travel around for a little bit… Maybe then you will find whatever it is you are looking for.” Now, my first reaction to this was terror. Mainly because a friend I had met in Cape Town told me the same thing back in November and it sent waves of fear up my spine. I remember thinking, “I am a 52-year-old woman who has an established career. I can’t just make myself homeless and travel around the world. Who does that!” Well, despite the fear, this time the thought stuck. You know when that happens…someone says something to you and then you cannot get it out of your mind. Once you finally do get it out of you mind, you hear something on TV or overhear a conversation and it is there all over again. I interpret events like that as signs from the Universe, nudging you in a direction that is for your highest good.

The contents of my suitcase before leaving on my journey.

Speaking of signs, while all of this was transpiring in my head, a friend of mine that owns a travel agency in England called me up one day and asked me if I wanted to go on a two-week culinary adventure in September to Malaysia. My first response was no. When you have an aversion to spicy food, a culinary trip to Malaysia where everything is spicy and cooked with chilies is not usually on the top of your list. And then I began to think…in all of my travels I had never been to Southeast Asia. I had heard great things about Kuala Lumpur too. Then the thought that changed everything hit me. What if I go on that trip and then just stay out there for a while? What if that is the beginning of my trip around the world…my “journey back to self” tour?

Being bumped to first class on the second leg of my flight to Malaysia is not a bad sign! 🙂

So, I thought I would play with the idea. I decided that the two main obstacles for me to actually do this were my apartment and my car. My lease on my apartment did not run out until January and it was now June. Breaking a lease is never easy nor is it cheap. My car was the other challenge. I had just leased a brand-new Honda CRV the year before and did not want my car to just sit for a year while I made monthly payments on it. That felt like a waste. This prompted me to make a couple of phone calls. Come to find out the cost to break the lease on my apartment was less than a month’s rent payment. Considering my rent had been raised 23% the year before and was slotted to be raised another 15% when my lease was renewed, this was a no-brainer. My car was a bit more challenging. It would cost $10,000 to get out of my lease, which was not happening. Then I had a thought. My daughter who lived near me in Arizona did a lot of driving taking my grandson to and from school and she could use a nicer vehicle. I asked her if she would be willing to sell her car and take over my car payments while I was gone. After doing some research and finding out that Carvana would give her $15,000 for her car, that was a no-brainer as well.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Now I had to make a decision. The two main obstacles had solutions. So now what? I don’t know if it’s because I am a Ph.D. and prone to research things endlessly or it was just me procrastinating making a decision…maybe a little bit of both. I kept doing research. I researched places I wanted to go, I read blogs and social media posts written by people who were crazy enough to do what I was thinking about doing, I researched storage units, and other places I could live if I decided not to go. You name it, I researched it. Then something happened. I began to get excited. I have studied self-development long enough to know that feelings are everything. Our feelings are the signpost that let us know if we are on the right path. The path that is in alignment with our highest good. The better the feelings, the more in alignment we are. My feelings were beginning to change.

Usually, when I am stuck making a decision, I use a tactic I call “the death bed test.” Sounds morbid, I know. The death bed test is simply this. I pretend that I am laying on my death bed about to die and ask myself this question, “When I am taking my last breath and I think about taking a trip around the world and if I decide not to do it, will I regret it”? If the answer is yes, regardless of the fear, I do it. If the answer is no, simple. It is either not meant for me or it is not time. The answer this time was a quick and resounding YES!

My friend Kati and I at one of our cooking classes in Malaysia.

In July 2022, I signed the papers to break the lease on my apartment. I had a plan. Movers were coming to pack up all of my belongings and put them in storage on September 17 and on September 20 I was leaving for Malaysia. After Malaysia, I would drive to Singapore for a couple of days with my friend and from there begin my journey back to self in Bali.

As I sit here in a Starbucks, of all places, in Bali looking out at 1000 scooters on the street and a diverse array of travelers, I find myself still feeling a bit lost but at least on a path. I have no idea where this path will lead and if I will even last a year, but what I do know is that I am here. Moving forward, putting one foot in front of another, and taking an active part in living my life to the fullest. In the end, I will at least know I gave it a shot.

Stay tuned for more adventures and lessons from my journey back to self!

Salamat tinggal for now!