Canggu: A Sacred, Selfish Escape

Living in this pandemic-stricken period, I have been forced to introspect a little bit deeper than usual, which led to a need to declutter digitally. I had tons of photos from my phone (27,638 to be exact) that have spanned from 2018 until today.

It is now 2021, and the digital declutter and organization has been nothing but a cocktail of catharsis and nostalgia for me. The number of photos in my phone has been reduced to a little over 1,500. Seeing past travels and memories, smiles shared with friends, family, loved ones…it makes my heart both ache and yearn in anticipation of how we will live our future lives once this season get filed under the retrospect folder.

A past trip that has coerced me to sit down and get writing again is this solo one I took in 2017. It was a turbulent period for me, and the call to escape was strong. There was a time in my life when I wished to live in Bali, but then, I was scared that its sparkle would be part of my mundane. I traveled to Canggu despite the dangers of a volcanic eruption. I realized I never talked about this trip, more so, wrote about it, because it was such a sacred one for me. The last solo trip I took before I got hitched, and well, here it is.

Now, if I were to do this trip all over again, I would have split my lodging to Canggu, and then to Ubud, as the traffic was hellish, and I did not want to spend my minutes inside an automobile. However, when I think about it again, there are no regrets. I’ve travelled Bali four times in my life, and it was my first time in Canggu.

Despite the spontaneity of this trip, some form of structure did help. With a longing to experience living by the Balinese seaside, I also wanted to venture out to Kuta to see a shaman and Ubud because, well, how could I not? I scheduled readings with a Vedic astrologist, lunch at my favorite bebek (fried duck) spot, and left the rest of my agenda free.

Lately, as in this present moment, I have been struggling with self-expression, and I’ve been feeling pretty low, but coming back to my visual souvenirs has definitely ignited some sort of flame that has gotten my creative juices churning.

Having lived in Singapore for five years now, I can tell that I have changed so much, but I know I’ve kept the important things the same. I was telling a friend that I missed the days of being wild and free, wind and sand in my hair moments traded for the hot summer sun kissing my nape as I walk the sweltering long road to the train station. It is a different life from what I’ve been used to. I tend to gravitate towards neutrals over patterns and florals because they’re easy and quick. Less color, more basics. More mind now over heart. It is not a bad thing, but a break from this linearity has always been welcomed.

When I landed at the Denpasar airport, it felt like shedding an old skin and coming back to the familiar feeling of being unbridled and clear-headed. Of course, I was on vacation mode, so my energy was on a high. I sometimes think that Bali is laced with a holy air; a kind of healing sensation that never fails to leave me in a state of both wonder and gratitude.

During this trip to Canggu, I tried to document less and be present more. I rode through the Canggu rice paddies on a motorbike with the wind rustling wildly through my hair and the orange sunset illuminating the sky. I ended my nights at Old Man’s, with a bottle of Bintang Radler and a stick of jagung bakar (grilled corn) as I walked barefoot on the sand. I watched the sun dip into the sea and stars overtake the sky. Inspiration was all around.

There was one day when I spent the entire afternoon cooped up in my Airbnb. Writing, binging on Stranger Things, and playing with the resident Pomeranian, Indy, whose playfulness reminded me of my own darling Rocket’s. It was during this time when I felt an internal shift, similar to what I’ve been feeling as of late. How there are so many things in life that we cannot control, and that there are also so many things that we can.  

I am aware and grateful for the privilege I had during this time of my life to do a trip such as this one. Not a lot of people understand the importance of going on a solo trip. Especially if you are in a partnership, it’s usually viewed as selfish. But to me, there’s something in this solidarity and independence that reminds you of the things you’ve forgotten. Selfish, so it be, but there’s something about decisions like these that remind you of your freedom and curiosity, doesn’t it? The chance to feel fully alive on your own terms is, to me, a radically empowering feeling.

I will always be reminded of the lessons I’ve learned in this trip, and the freedom I’ve felt, especially during these challenging times.

‘Til we travel again.

xx

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