14 Jul Finding Home
Imagine nothing, just a night sky filled with a billion stars and warm grains of sand cushioning your body, seeping in between your toes. The waves gently crash onto the shore, lots of laughter and reggae music playing from a distance. This is how we spend our nights on an island in Indonesia once only visited by surfers and adventurers.
The sky is crystal clear and there’s barely any light pollution that you can see the length of the Milky Way. Life is simple. We gather around a bonfire at night, sharing stories of what we did that day, where we surfed, what we saw in the ocean. We welcome the few travelers who stumble upon our secret island, curious where they come from, how they got here and if they plan to leave. We pass a small glass of locally made rice wine around the bonfire. It tastes like vinegar, but no one really cares. It’s the only alcohol we can get for now.
The sun rises behind a vast mountain range, a blanket of mist forms just right above a jungle of coconut trees. The call of prayer from the nearby mosques echo throughout the landscape. Local fishermen push their wooden boats out into the deep blue sea to get their first catch for the day. Surfers on their scooters breeze past the winding roads, eager to get their morning stoke before breakfast.
And here I am on my humble yoga deck that overlooks the entire south coast of the island, breathing the fresh misty air while waiting to start my 6:30 am yoga class. I have never seen a place so alive, dragonflies and butterflies chase each other around the trees. Curious baby monkeys come closer to take a peek, their protective mothers sitting just right behind them. There are no mirrors, no walls and no props in this yoga shala.
The silence is golden. It dawned on me, that every single mistake in my life has taken me to this very point. Every single breakup and heartbreak has led me to this paradise. And that I regret absolutely nothing. What was I so afraid of? Somewhere along the way, I followed a whisper and made a conscious decision to follow my heart, my intuition. And now here I am, perfectly content and even enlightened.
Up until recently, I felt completely lost and frustrated about how I was about to move into my 30s yet I had nothing to show for. I was underpaid and overworked in my corporate career. My family has grown apart over the years, my friends are on to their second babies. And I, remained completely clueless as to what I was gonna do with the rest of my life. I wasn’t miserable, but I wasn’t happy either.
I discovered yoga shortly after quitting my job in a superficial industry that made money from telling women that they were too dark and ugly. My life was filled with deadlines, meetings and hours of Manila traffic after a whole day of typing away on a computer and mindlessly flipping through the latest glossy magazines. As a Marketing Director, I worked 10 hours a day, six days a week and only got $545 for a month’s salary. My cost of living was just about the same.
I snap myself back to my new reality as the yoga shala fills up, sensing everyone’s energy as they enter the space. I ask how everyone’s day is going and how they’re feeling today, I guide them through some sun salutations before the warrior series. I lead them into a long calming Savasana before we set our intention for the promising day ahead.
Sitting on woven mats and pillows, we all have breakfast together around a short wooden table for some tropical fruit bowl with muesli and yogurt or some runny poached eggs with buttered toast. And the local coffee, dark and grainy. The worst I’ve ever tried, but it silences the caffeine cravings.
We all hop on our $3 a day beat up scooters and drive to a nearby beach, a perfectly crescent shaped bay and blinding white powdery sand. I sip on my large coconut as I watch these sunburnt tourists regress into childhood, diving head first into the crashing waves before rolling weightlessly onto the shore. Linda, the local sarong lady sits beside me as she opens and reads my book intently, one word at a time eager to learn English. We get hungry and drive back into town for a filling Nasi Goreng that costs us $2.
After lunch, we drive to another beach on the other side of town. I lead them into an unmarked path that ends up at a spot where turtles have been seen laying eggs early in the morning. We find a spot for siesta and cool our bodies off in the crystal clear shallow waters before I take them up to the hill to watch the sunset. The expressions on their faces are priceless as soon as they reach the top of the hill.
Imagine a jagged sandy coastline that stretches out for hundreds of miles, only lush green rolling hills separate one beach from the other. The few expats and Sasak locals have seemed to discover each one’s purpose. A different beach for bonfires, surfing with longboards, surfing with shortboards, kiteboarding, kayaking, snorkeling, swimming, siestas and skinny dipping. All within a short motorbike ride. All distinctly beautiful from the other. There are so many, we haven’t even bothered to name them yet.
Their jaws drop at the sight of a 360 degree panoramic view. Some are speechless, some get teary eyed. My childhood friend Denise hugged me tight, and whispered “Now I understand why you moved here”.
I’ve been wearing the same tattered clothes for the past few months but no one cares. I’ve forgotten what manicures and pedicures feel like. I only have a pair of flip flops but I don’t seem to need them most of the time either. Everyone walks around barefoot, salty hair and clothes damp from being in the ocean. There are no shopping malls or banks in this town, just a few roughly constructed sarong stalls and local warungs that provide enough nourishment for the people who visit.
The locals will genuinely invite you into their homes. There are no social hierarchies here. No one gives a f*ck what you own, what you’re wearing or what your last name is. People from different countries, backgrounds and religions all hangout together. Some travelers get bored after a week, some never want to leave. The cost of living is just a few hundred dollars each month but the quality of life is incomparable to anywhere else I’ve visited before.
The world is too big to stay in one place, they say. For now, while I can, I have to keep moving, discovering other pieces of paradise on the other side of the world. But this is exactly where I plan grow old, where I will build my own sustainable dream donation based yoga shala one day where people can exchange energy freely.
In my dreams and daydreams, I always find myself here.