Our journey continues… leaving the city life of Peru and moving to the tropical island life of beautiful Bali. It has been a huge cultural and climate shift as we settle into the much more mellow and slow-paced lifestyle that we’ve found here in Indonesia. There have been many traveling adventures; braving countless boat rides (on crappy local boats, hoping we make it across the water without the fucking thing sinking;) dealing with the extreme insect populations (namely a massive cockroach infestation in one of our hotel rooms;) whitewater rafting down the Telaga Waja river (my new favorite activity;) and the most interesting and by far the most challenging experience has been dealing with the locals. Dealing with the issue of trust.
We hear the word “trust” so often these days; written on cards, bumper stickers, magnets, t-shirts… talked about in every fucking new age and spiritual anything…”just trust.” You tell yourself and others that if you just trust, then all will be ok. As I started to deal with the local culture here, I found that I needed to revise my perspective on this word and find a new definition of it for myself, because just “trusting” wasn’t completely doing the trick.
As travelers in South America, my husband and I fit in and looked like we were locals. We have dark hair and features, so everyone assumed that we were from some South American country, and it really helped that my husband also spoke decent conversational Spanish, so we got by pretty easily. Of course, we dealt with some shady characters trying to rip us off, but we were well equipped to deal with the scenario. As you might guess, our “cover” was pretty much blown when we stepped off of the plane in Bali. So for the first time on our trip, we were totally and obviously tourists, and we were treated as such.
It’s so crazy, because everyone, and I mean everyone lies to you. Not in a “bad” way but, they will tell you anything at all as long as it serves their purpose. Everyone has a different explanation or answer for everything, so it is really hard to know who and what to believe. And by far the most extreme lie is what the price of things are. The issue of money is alive and well in different ways all over the world and it is always when people and things get a little tricky. And look, I totally get it, they see that you are a green tourist all wide eyed and excited to be in a new place and they take full advantage of the fact that you don’t know shit. It feels very strange. At first, I was very frustrated, because I couldn’t get a straight answer from anyone, and it was so clear that everyone was trying to fuck us over. It immediately puts you on the defensive and you start to walk around in total judgement and fear. We were irritable and I found myself just being mean and trying to show that I was a fucking tough-ass and no one was going to get the better of me. And of course, that kind of crap attitude does not work with anyone, but I felt too vulnerable and wasn’t exactly sure how to deal with the situation we were in.
So that brought me to the idea of trust. I tried to just be nice and to trust, but that shit got me nowhere, and of course, I was determined at this point to figure a way around the situation. I mean.. I was going to be here for 5 weeks, and after that I was just going to go deeper and deeper into other foreign lands, so there had to be a better answer than being a tough- ass bitch.
I began to distance myself emotionally from the situation and just look at what was happening. It was a fact that everyone was lying about stuff. It was something that I didn’t’ agree with, but I totally understood. If I was in their position, watching all these tourists coming into their homeland, spending all this money on “stuff,” while I was struggling to make ends meet, then yes, I would fucking lie to get as much as possible too. Because to be honest, there are tons of people out there who are on like 2 week holidays, who don’t care about a budget or how much they are spending, so the locals can easily get away with scamming them. But we were traveling for at least a year and had to make our money last so the “tourist price” wasn’t going to cut it.
Anyway, I started to see very clearly the “pattern” of what was happening. It wasn’t new information that I was being offered a “tourist price,” it was just what they did, not good, not bad.. just what it was. So I decided to change my views on trust. I was not going to blindly trust in someone or something because it was the compassionate or spiritual thing to do, instead I was going to trust that people are going to just be what they are. I approached every interaction I had with the knowledge that there was a great possibility that I was first going to be lied to, so instead of being upset or taking it personally, I just looked at them in the eye and offered what I was willing to give because a person’s eyes will always reveal the truth. And I stood my ground, without being mean, or upset… just confident. And then we would barter for a few minutes and it became fun instead of threatening. And the people really get into it when you barter with them because that is a part of the culture, and we would end up laughing and in the end we reached a compromise that worked for both of us. It was really so simple, and from then on, the burden of the situation was lifted and everything became easy.
It was then that I began to enjoy the beauty of this place and these people who are so devoted to their customs and traditions. There are daily offerings handmade by the women of the house that are placed outside each and every threshold, whether it be a home, a shop, or a restaurant. People pray daily in front of these shrines for good fortune and abundance for themselves and their families. The community is so tight and everyone knows and helps one another. Smiles can be genuine and eyes can sparkle at you as you greet people on the street. The lush and gorgeous landscape is heavenly and peaceful in this truly magical little land called Bali. These are the things I see now, because I have taken the time to set my judgements aside.
The world is a crazy place, and when traveling you learn that cultures are so fucking different and you just have to trust yourself to access the situation and deal with it. You have to trust that things are not right or wrong, they are just the way the are… and how you navigate successfully is to just know what you are getting into and not get emotionally attached to the situation. If you sense that someone is a shiester, don’t get mad, just leave the situation. When you know what you want, and where you stand, everything around you becomes a choice. When you clear your mind from emotion, the path that is right for you becomes illuminated and the steps forward are there for you to see. And as a result, the people around you regard you and treat you with respect.
Of all of my “lessons” on this trip, this by far was the most poignant. It has changed the way I see everything in this world and how I will deal with people whether I’m In Bali or back at home in the States. You empower yourself by digging through vague blanket statements like “love,” “trust”, “faith,” or “believe”… to come up with your own way of walking through this world, based on what is true and right for you.