May the 1st marked the start of my solo travels which took me to Bali! Bali was never part of my plan but to be fair, returning to the UK for 2 months was also not part of my plan.
After 7 months in Australia I decided to return home. My future was my main priority and it was easier to plan and organise my future plans whilst I was in the UK rather than Australia. The idea of temporally returning home was something I had been thinking about a couple months prior. I wanted a catch up with Barney, family and friends and I can actually say I loved my time back home. Whilst in Australia I was busy working and any free time was spent either asleep or sight seeing. It was pretty none stop for 7 months so it was nice to come home and basically do nothing. It was like a holiday for me.
I went to the travel agents to book my flights back to Australia and as I haven’t yet explored Cairns I wanted to return back there before starting work again mid May. The original flights included a flight transfer at Hong Kong but the wait was around 13 hours. I wasn’t overly keen on that idea. Then my travel agent asked me “Have you ever been to Bali?”. I’ve always seen gorgeous pictures of Bali and the people that have been have loved the place but it wasn’t ever really in my top 10 destinations I absolutely must go to, but a mini holiday in Bali was sounding a hell of a lot better than a 13 hour wait in Hong Kong airport, so I booked it! A few days later the anxiety began and it made me realise I would be going to a foreign country I have never been to before completely on my own. My anxiety filled my head with unrealistic situations and what ifs. I had a few freak out moments but I knew this was something I couldn’t avoid. In the past I have been able to avoid situations that my anxiety didn’t like. I have been able to avoid them with hardly anyone realising it is my anxiety not actually me. But if I avoided this everyone would know that it was my anxiety and I just didn’t want that to happen. I knew that if I really really wanted to work on my anxiety and the thoughts in my head, this solo trip was something I needed to do. It was a challenge I couldn’t back down from.
The weeks leading up to my departure I did my research, got feedback from other solo female travellers and I was actually looking forward to it…my anxiety wasn’t. When the day arrived for my departure each step my anxiety tried to convince me that something negative was going to happen which could result in me having a major panic attack. I made it through security checks at Manchester, I made it to Dubai and then I made it to Denpasar without any problems what so ever. Those situations that seemed so real in my head were actually so unrealistic. However when I did arrive in Bali finding my taxi driver almost lead to panic. You walk into arrivals and there are easily over 50 taxi drivers all stood with their signs waiting for their customers. I couldn’t see mine. After walking up and down a couple times I felt like all eyes were on me which made little sweat beads form all over my face. I focused on my breathing and eventually I spotted my ride. Very friendly man, we had a good chat in the car journey to my hotel. So yet again, everything my anxiety tried to convince would happen, didn’t.
The next day (today) I had a tour booked. Once again the what ifs were flying through my head. As I was waiting in the lobby for my tour guide to arrive my palms were sweaty, knees were weak and arms were heavy. I was both excited but almost shitty myself. He arrived, I hopped into his car (front seat) and off we went. Our first stop was the monkey forest in Ubud. The conversation between me and M flowed nicely and he loves to take pictures! He was so friendly and if he thought somewhere was picture worthy, he always offered to take a photo. The monkey forest was a great start. All the monkeys are wild so caution should be taken when around them of course but there were so many! Some alpha males, some females, some with babies latched onto them and some naughty youngsters.
Next we headed to the swing above the rice terraces. I’ve seen pictures and it looked amazing but when we arrived I saw the rice terraces and the view was gorgeous then I saw the swing and thought…oh shit, that’s a big drop. You’re harnessed in so it is pretty safe but yeah, it’s a big drop. As per usual my anxiety was telling me not to do but how could I not? We were there, my tour guide had paid for my ticket it would have been stupid to back out now! I got put in the harness, sat on the swing and the staff launched me into the air. Underneath the swing is a looped rope so as the swing comes back the staff each take turns to jump for the rope, pull it down which makes you swing even further and faster. After the first few swings I had realised that I wasn’t going to fall off and fall to my death and I began to relax and it was really enjoyable. Soothed my soul.
By this point me and my tour guide had bonded and we were talking about our lives and singing songs in the car. We sang Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith and a bit of Adele. He can hit those high notes better than me. Our next stop was to a coffee plantation. Now i’m not a coffee drinker so I didn’t think much of this but I actually had a really good time. My guide dropped me off and a young lady who works at the plantation took over and showed me around. She showed me all the plants they have like ginger, lemongrass, turmeric, cocoa and of course coffee. She brought a tray over to me which was filled with different coffees, teas and chocolates for me to try. All tasters were made at that plantation and all ingredients are there as well. I have to say, the majority of the coffee was actually so fucking nice. The vanilla one was my favourite. The Bali coffee was wayyy too strong for me and the ginger tea was actually very spicy and to those who know me know that I cannot handle spice. Apparently it is good for your stomach and gut though! Other than that the rest were so so nice. Vanilla, Coconut, Pandanus, Mocha and Mangosteen were my top 5. Here they also have the most expensive coffee in the world. It’s made from the poo of a animal called the Luwak so obviously I had to try some and in case you’re wondering, it doesn’t taste like poo. It tastes like coffee but not as strong and with a sweeter taste. My guide calls it a ‘Catpoochino’. Would definitely drink again!
Dinner time was next and my guide took me to a restaurant which looks out onto the volcano and the lake. My guide dropped me off and the waiters warmly welcomed me, took me to my table and made me feel so comfortable and safe. I sat out on the balcony eating my way through an all you can eat buffet whilst admiring the view. This was my type of thing. I made friends with one of the waiters and he offered to take pictures for me. I still can’t quite get over how chatty and friendly everyone was.
Our last stop was at Tibumana waterfall. A pretty popular place with tourists and it’s easy to see why. About a 15 minute walk from the car park the path leads you deep into the trees and then all of a sudden you come out at this gorgeous, powerful waterfall. This was a place where my anxiety really tried to take over. On our way there my guide asked if I was going to go for a swim. The thought of being in swimwear around a big group of strangers made my insecurities pop into my head. When we were at the waterfall I stood there and observed the scene and said “fuck it”. I went and got changed and went for a swim. It’s easy for me to be insecure around friends or family because they know I am like that. They might not understand why but they know that I have my issues that I am working on. The people there didn’t know about my insecurities and I couldn’t say to my tour guide “Oh I don’t want to go for a swim because I am terrified of feeling vulnerable around strangers”. He didn’t know that I have near enough always been like that and probably wouldn’t have understood why so it gave me a great chance to fight against my anxiety. There were absolutely no excuses that my anxiety could use to not do this. I have my moments when it comes to wearing swim wear. If I am around friends or family I don’t care anymore, I used to care a lot but not so much anymore. But around strangers it’s different. It’s new, it’s scary and it somehow makes me feel powerless. I feel vulnerable and my paranoia can sometimes go off the charts leading to panic attacks. So I tried to change my way of thinking. I saw it as a opportunity to work on my confidence. These people didn’t know me therefore they didn’t need to know I am insecure, I wasn’t going to see them again so why should I care about what they may think of me? So yes, I went for a swim and I was almost happy to have pictures taken.
The first day of my solo travels has been a successful one. I’ve faced my anxiety numerous times without any dramas. I’ve still got a lot of practise to do when it comes to preventing my anxiety from taking over but I think I’m heading in the right direction. Anxiety has been the hardest illness I’ve had to conquer (or try to conquer). Anxiety doesn’t just disappear over night and it can so easily creep up on you even if you’re feeling great. To those fighting anxiety, I hope one day you are able to gain the courage to push back, connect with your true thoughts and enjoy life with minimal worries. One day you will get there. It might not be today, tomorrow or even this year but one day you will get there, just make sure it is when you are ready.
Sending my love to you all,