After a little more than two months in Bali, Indonesia, I had some strong opinions about the place, which I shared in 5 Things I Have Learned After “Living” in Bali. Now that our total time in Ubud is closing in on five months, I have minimally removed the quotations around the word living, which is a start.
Back then, my thoughts focused on how fabulous it was just to not have to unpack and repack the backpack every few days. Now, I appreciate that even more as we head back out on the road for the next two months, hitting 9 countries, 4 of them new.
At the time, I realized I was ready to slow down more, I needed a detox, and I needed access to a large city. Most telling, I realized that I did not feel like I fit into Ubud, and that I could not live there long term.
Well, let’s see how things have changed in the last two and a half months? What have I learned from our time living in Bali?
As I continue to struggle with the definition of home, and how to answer the question where am I from, I have started to feel more comfortable answering the question where do I live. After five months in the same villa, in the same neighborhood, or banjar, I feel a heck of a lot more comfortable in saying I live in Ubud. I have even started to change my city online to read Ubud. When I recently registered with the Yoga Alliance as a yoga teacher, I listed myself as living in Ubud. That has got to count for something.
2. I Love Yoga
It is well understood that both Eric and I needed the detox we got in Ubud. After ten months of beer, liquor, and eating everything in sight on three continents, a break was needed. The fact that I was told recently that my liver needed a detox.
After five months of hard core yoga I feel fabulous. I have lost weight, I have slimmed down, my clothes are falling off of me. For those of you who know how sensitive I am to being a big chested woman traveling in Asia, my big chest has become slightly less big.
Eric has gotten hooked on yoga as well, doing at least 7 classes a week on average. He has also slimmed down. His manpris (capri pants for men) are falling off of him too. He is so hooked that he keeps joking about attending the High Vibe teacher training in 2014. At least, I think he is joking.
I am also enjoying teaching yoga. I taught a handful of private classes and have appreciated introducing yoga to people who don’t normally practice. I want to teach more.
3. Decent Dining Options
In my last Bali roundup, I opined that I need access to a large city. We spent 12 of our years together living in cities, and appreciated their offerings. Although we had found a few places to eat in Ubud that we liked, but had a small rotation of 4 or 5 places we ate at all the time. I need more variety.
During this stay, though, we expanded our horizons. We found 4 places for good pizza and pasta. I found a fairly decent cheese steak. There is a sushi place added into our rotation. And, there are plenty of places we have yet to try.
I still recognize the benefits of a large city, and know I will need to leave the island if I want to buy decent bras and panties (or ask a friend from NYC to bring some with her to Bali as I recently did). The important thing is that I don’t feel as suffocated in Ubud as I did before. After all, the big cities do not offer fresh air, gorgeous rice paddy views, traditional cultures, and Balinese Hindu offerings – all things I have grown to appreciate in Ubud.
4. Maybe We Do Fit In Ubud
I realized how conservative I was when we first arrived in Ubud. Ubud has a tendency to make liberals feel like Dick Cheney on arrival. Things here lean to the left, and often lean a bit too crazy. Things here are often described as “Ubudian,” a word I have added to my lexicon.
I am beginning to feel more like we fit in here each day, even though there are moments when the liberal side of Ubud catches me off guard. I recently saw a white woman driving her motorbike down one of the main roads, in flowing clothes and dreadlocks, with no helmet. She seemed to be talking to herself while using one hand on the top of her head, making a move like she was sucking her brain out of her skull, repeatedly, while driving down the street. At first, I just thought “how Ubudian,” until I realized she had someone on the back of the bike and was obviously describing something to that person. Still, at first she kind of looked crazy and it made me realize that there are all types of people living here.
We have started to make friends. We no longer feel lonely as we get together with people for dinner several times a week – probably more than we did back in DC. We also run into people as though we are locals. Eric has his laundry ladies. He has a “parking guy” in front of our favorite Padang. We are welcomed at Anomali Coffee and numerous restaurants where the staff recognizes us. We run into people on the side of the road that we know. I saw a friend at the salon when I got my hair cut. I welcome that feeling of recognition. I like the small town feel.
For our last night in Ubud, a great group of people joined us for drinks, and a little drag queen show. On the way back to the villa, we stopped at the bale banjar, or neighborhood community center for a festival to the trees, where our friend Wayan was working as temple security, a Pecalang. We saw dancing and listened to the gamelan, as we drove the motorbike one last time through the rice fields. It felt like home.
I do still see a clique atmosphere in Ubud, and I believe we have had to demonstrate our commitment to stay here in order to develop more relationships with the expats. I would prefer to be more open to travelers and transients who come through Ubud, to make them feel more comfortable. There also seems to be a distinction between the yogis and the non-yogis, and hope to straddle the two communities.
5. We Are Moving to Ubud
I guess that leaves the last thing we have learned: We are moving to Ubud. After reexamining the expat lifestyle while considering big cities like Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, and Hanoi, and after saying a few short months ago that I need a big city, there is something about Ubud that just makes sense.
After our first 2+ months in Ubud, I was ready to leave. This time, I am afraid to leave. I don’t want to leave the bubble. We want to spend the next year continuing to practice yoga, and continuing to get healthier. I don’t want to leave the easy and cheap access to yoga, or the ability to get a decent massage for less than $10. I don’t want to
leave the rice paddies, and the Balinese offerings, and the great Mexican at Taco Casa. I want to continue learning about the Balinese Hindu culture and understand more about the ceremony and history of their traditions. I want to see the beauty of this place every day. I want to live someplace where it is completely acceptable to place pretty flowers on the front of Eric’s motorbike and in my hair.
As for yoga teaching, I don’t know if I can teach in Ubud at a studio, but I have options. It might be possible for me to teach private classes to expats and tourists, to teach at hotels, to offer workshops, and I have an idea for a retreat that I would like to offer in 2014. I will be giving it a go. I may try to do a 500-hour training next year.
So, there you have it, after 14 months, lots of discussions, and some epic pros and cons list, we are settling down in Ubud starting in December (after our two months of travel). This decision did not even necessitate a pros and cons list. It resulted from a series of moments where we just felt right, where one of us said to the other “we should move here.”
I’m putting people on notice. We plan to get a 2 or 3 bedroom villa, so we will have room for guests. There is a friendly wager between Eric and I too. He said no one will come to visit us. I say, we will end up hosting people more regularly than he thinks. Prove him wrong With Husband In Tow fans. Come visit Ubud in 2014!
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new food and drink destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together they have traveled to over 70 countries.