1. My boyfriend 😉 Because he is the most patient, kind and beautiful soul I have ever met. And because he makes me feel like a princess! – At least when he is not grumpy about something I did… 😉
2. The waves. I moved to Indonesia because of my love for the ocean and riding its waves. As you probably know, Indonesia has some of the world’s most famous waves. I love to travel around different islands and riding new waves. The water is tropically warm, turquoise and full of amazing wildlife like colourful fish, turtles and dugongs. Once there was even an Orca whale in the line-up in Uluwatu! Wish I had been there at that moment to see it. I just love not having to worry about getting in and out of my wetsuit in the cold and ‘defrosting’ after the surf. As much as I love surfing in France and other parts of Europe – simply nothing beats the freedom of jumping into the balmy Indian Ocean in your bikini!
3. The kindness. Kindness, respect and humility are central to Indonesian culture. I love the people here for their genuine, pure character. Many Indonesians grow up under very poor conditions and learn during childhood that nothing is free in life. Nothing can be taken for granted. Despite, or maybe because of this, they are some of the most generous, warm, welcoming and accommodating people I have met. If they only have a cent in their pocket – in fact it is often the very poorest family offering – they WILL invite you for a meal at their house and give generously of what little they possess. This kindness makes my heart go all soft and mushy… In what other countries do we still get to experience this kind of pure, generous kindness?
(Of course there are exceptions, but it’s like that anywhere in the world, isn’t it?)
4. The tropical climate. We are all children of the sun. However, the weather in Germany (raining or cold for 70% of the year) is constantly contradicting this fact. That is why I eventually packed my bags and decided to move on to milder climates: Melbourne and the entire continent of Australia were a pretty huge improvement. However, there were still those grey, cold and rainy days, where you feel awfully reminded of Europe…
So I moved to Indonesia and finally found my version of the “Endless Summer.” There is only little change of temperatures and daylight hours between seasons. To me it truly feels like being in paradise when I am tickled awake by the rays of a warm, tropical sun every morning. And I am not exaggerating 😉
There are two main seasons: Dry Season (Ind.: ‘musim panas’), from approximately June to October, and Rainy Season (ind.: ‘musim hujan/ dingin’) from November to May. The actual length of each season may vary each year, though. Some travel agencies advise tourists to only visit Indonesia during the Dry Season (high season for tourism), but I do not agree. It is pretty awesome here all year round!
I mostly enjoy the rainy season for the change in wind direction: Yayyy, finally the Rights on the other side of the coast start working! It is also nice to get a bit of a rest from all the ‘outdoor free play in the sun’ during the Dry Season. Anyway, the monsoon rains mostly occur in the afternoon, after you’ve already had a day in the sun full of activities. A little shower in the arvo comes as a welcome refreshment. True, there are those days where it just rains buckets for 24 hours… but as a European, I know pretty well how to hibernate: Get some snacks and 2-minute noodles, rug up in a fluffy blanket and watch movie after movie! It’s nice to get a chance to just be lazy every once in a while 😉
5. Motorbikes and scooters. Having your own bike brings along with it a new sense of freedom. You are always breathing fresh air, you feel the wind in your hair and it is almost like flying from one place to another. It is the best way of getting to the surf: You simply chuck your board on the racks and drive off. No messing around with roof straps on the car or packing bulky board bags.
Bikes also come in very handy in Indonesian traffic (absolute MAYHEM!) While everybody else is stuck in the long queue of cars, you are more flexible on a bike and can just navigate in between vehicles or on the side – if necessary even on the sidewalk/ pavement 😉
6. The entrepreneurial spirit. Indonesia is a developing nation and the entrepreneurial spirit is constantly growing. Not only in the big urban centres of for example Bandung and Jakarta the numbers of young entrepreneurs are booming. You can feel it here in Bali, too. People are becoming more confident to start out on their own and there are some extremely creative minds, setting up awesome new companies and stores.
There is also a huge community of freelance expats and tourists, especially in the buzzing hipster-hub, Canggu. It is great to have the opportunity to just hang out at a café and meet inspiring people who fill you with new ideas! I first started out as a freelance writer here in Bali. And it was priceless for me to meet some more experienced freelancers, who generously offered to help me set up my accounts and share their knowledge! This initial advice and inspiration really helped to kick-start my freelance ‘career’ and make my ideas and dreams become reality. If I had been on my own, I would probably still sit here and wonder if I should really do something that ‘uncertain and crazy’! 😀 Read more about some of the people who inspire me in the category Dream Makers.
7. The positive femininity. Especially Bali is a great place for (surfer) girls. There are so many expat and tourist surfer girls here. There is even a whole Company designed just for us: “Surfer Girl (from Summerland)!” It seems that the balmy climate and high-quality waves are drawing more and more surfer girls to Bali. It is an ever-growing community, including the local rippers. Let’s share the waves, spread the love and show how awesome it is to be part of the surfer girl community!
I feel very safe here and there is a very strong, positive femininity about this place. My group of girlfriends support each other in the water and on land. It is great to have so much female support, especially when you are so far away from home! It is also a great cultural experience: There are so many girls from places around the world here – all united by the love of surf!
I also love Bali because you can really dress like a girl. You can run around in dresses and skirts all day and night. (A thing I dearly missed in Germany, especially in colder months, where I was mostly covered up in layers of clothes, topped off with snowboard pants and jacket.) In Bali, there are also plenty of occasions to dress up a little and dust off those beautiful high heels, for example for dinners with friends, an evening at a bar, or clubbing in Kuta, Seminyak and Canggu.
Bali is also a great location for photo shoots. Plenty of photographers travel here for leisure or on an assignment, because the lush tropical countryside and white sandy beaches look simply perfect on photos. Often, they are here to work on their portfolio and offer free shootings. Even though I used to be very camera-shy and would rather be standing behind the lens than in front of it, I came to appreciate the femininity behind it. It is simply fun to drive to the beach with girlfriends, have a laugh and play in the sea and sand! And practically as a bonus you get some pretty awesome footage for your boyfriend or Instagram feed 😉
Because Bali has been a popular tourist destination for decades, the locals are very accepting when it comes to revealing Western fashion. They have partly even adopted new ways to dress. However, you still need to consider the more ‘subtle’ dress code in Indonesia and respect local customs. On other islands, like Lombok and Java, that are mostly Muslim, it is a completely different situation. In general, it is a very good idea to take a look around and dress like the locals, if you don’t want to be the centre of attention, ridiculed or even harassed. I also recommend wearing board shorts and a rash guard if you want to surf outside of Bali.
8. The idea of Karma. Indonesian people are very spiritual and attempt a virtuous life. The mostly Hindu culture in Bali is built on the idea of Karma. In very simplified terms, it means: “What goes around, comes around.” Therefore, a thief would for example be punished with bad Karma, which would cause him to be hurt or otherwise brought to retribution by the universe. If you do only good things and help others, you will receive good Karma and more good will come to you, perhaps in the form of love and friendship, or even material wealth.
Sometimes bad Karma will cause the disapproval and condemnation of the entire community. If other members find out about a theft, the responsible person will be sought out and publicly punished or shamed. Stealing, in particular, is frowned upon, as it will make tourists feel unsafe and ruin the tourist industry.
The idea of Karma is widely accepted and really works as a factor for social stability. If a tourist forgets their wallet or other precious goods at a hotel, for example, the staff would be naturally tempted to take it because of their own poverty. However, it is a Hindu ideal to be virtuous, rather than rich. Thus, the threat of bad Karma will lead the hotel staff to keep the goods safe until they can be returned to their rightful owner. One time, the owners of a small warung (shop) at the beach kept my rash guard for more than a week, because they knew that I would return! It leaves you with a very happy, warm feeling deep inside when you know that you can generally trust the people around you.
9. The landscape. Almost everywhere you look in Bali and other parts of Indonesia deserves being on a postcard or magazine cover. The landscape is so lush and diverse: There are beautiful, long white sandy beaches and black volcanic beaches. You can see rice terraces, waterfalls, lakes and mountains. The ocean sparkles in the sun in all imaginable shades of blue and there are vibrant reefs under the surface waiting to be discovered. Bali is a perfect place to live in the outdoors and explore the wilderness!
The roads are lined with tropical forest, coconut trees and the gardens exhibit all kinds of colourful tropical flowers. One of my favourites is the bougainvilla, a bush with pretty red, pink or purple flowers that reminds me of holidays in Italy, on the picturesque Costa Dei Fiori (Coast of flowers).
Also the Frangipani tree, or Jepun as it is locally called, is very beautiful and versatile. It is used in many Spa products, like massage oils and perfumes. I have a couple in my front yard. They are not hard to grow at all: You basically just throw a branch from an older tree on the ground and it will grow roots! Lucky for me, as I have a history of abandoning my plants, forgetting about them, or leaving them to wither during my absences… Oops 😉 It is so simple to become a successful gardener, once you move to a tropical country where everything just grows by itself!
10. The peaceful, laid-back atmosphere. I still remember how aware I was of the change in pace when I came to Bali for the very first time: Everything just seems to slow down. I realized how I was overtaking everyone as I walked, because my ‘natural’ purposeful, energetic German stride was way ahead of everyone non-European around me. I soon became used to the more easy-going, carefree, almost shuffling Indonesian way to walk (95% of the time in flip-flops).
The way to walk is just one example of the different pace and lifestyle in Indonesia. When you move here you basically need to dial everything you do down a notch. Talk more slowly and not so loud. Wait for things to be done at their own time, not as soon as possible. Don’t expect your Indonesian staff or colleagues to work at the same pace as you. The list goes on like this.
In the beginning, it seems hard to get out of the habit of being in a rat race. You can take it or leave it. Some despair at the attempt to adjust to the Indonesian way of ‘getting things done’ (or at trying to force their ways upon the locals). Others learn to adjust and start seeing the benefits of a lower-paced life. It simply increases the quality of life if you don’t constantly have the pressing feeling to be missing out on something, or to have something unpostponable to deal with right now (or best: to have been done by yesterday). It is not that things just stop happening. They just happen at their own time. True, it is a constant trial of patience, but I see it as extremely positive for life in general.