The morning sunlight that spilled through the curtain bathed my bed in its early glow. I opened my eyes to the chirping of the birds and the rustling of the leaves faraway. Nobody worked in the rice fields today. Nobody started their motorbikes’ engines. Nobody shouted from the neighboring village. The world and its familiar noise disappeared.
At first, I thought: “How silent it was!”
But soon, the silence was filled with the hum of the refrigerator, the song of the cicadas, the buzzing of the bees flying around the bougainvilleas… and I could hear a bird (that perched itself on the branch of the frangipani tree) flapping its wings.
It was the Day of Silence for the Hindu Balinese. Nyepi; retreating from the hustle and bustle of the busy world. And the whole island was resting. Everybody stayed home. Everything was closed (even the airport!). Internet and phone signals were shut down. Lights were turned off.
I sipped my coffee downstairs, surrounded by the Ibu’s orchids, listening to mantras from my headphones while journaling my thoughts for the day. This was the first day since the Covid-19 outbreak that I didn’t start my morning by checking my phone for the latest updates. Today, the world was limited only to the one in front of me: the rice fields, the garden, the orchids, the terrace. I didn’t (and couldn’t) know anything past this.
As all the lights stayed off across the island, the sky was now full of these glimmering specks and twinkling dust. From the rice field, the fireflies came into view, flickering.
It was magical.
At that moment, I felt so connected to everything above and beyond our world, our Universe. After weeks of uncertainties, of going about my days while trying to navigate my fears and worries, last night I finally felt fine.
It dawned on me that the stars had always been there. The sky I could see from the upstairs balcony had always looked THAT magical. I just didn’t notice it on regular days because the lights that surrounded me dimmed the radiance of the stars.
But it was always the same sky; with the same amount of stars.
Sometimes, to see the stars, we need to turn off the lights and be in the dark for a while. Maybe, that is what we’re experiencing at the moment. I wish, in this situation, I can choose to see not only the darkness but also the stars.
Usually, it started out with a conversation like this:
+ “What are we going to have for lunch?” – “I don’t know. Can’t think of anything.” + “Me neither. Let’s go to the market, then.”
+ “What are we going to do this weekend?”
– “I don’t know. Can’t think of anything.”
+ “Me neither.”
– “Visit the market?”
While traveling, visiting local markets (and grocery stores) has always sat on the top of my bucket list. I love people-watching and local markets are the best place to do this while sipping a cup of freshly-pressed orange juice or having a bite of that delicious Kibbling (fried cod) sandwich–topped with onion sauce.
Some of them, like the flower market (Bloemenmarkt), Waterlooplein flea market, Het Spui book market (Boekenmarkt) and the ever-popular Albert Cuyp Market can be pretty packed with tourists–but even then, I still find the whole experience entertaining.
It’s all about the music in the air, the clinging and clanging of goods and utensils, the explosion of scents and colors, and the murmurs on the stalls on the left, and on the right: everything is so alive, so vibrant, so attractive!
My favorites to visit are actually the neighborhood markets–smaller local markets in different residential areas where locals get their fruits and vegetables, fish, meat, and bread. The one closest to where I was staying the last time was the Ten Katemarkt in Amsterdam West (the hip foodcourt De Hallen is nearby!), and the other one I love is the Noordermarkt on Saturdays–when they have their farmer’s market.
Some tips before visiting the local market in Amsterdam:
Find out what kind of market you’d like to visit. There are book market, flower market, flea market, fabric market, art market, vinyl market, and many more.
See the opening days/hours. Some markets closed early (or completely closed) on certain days. You don’t want to be disappointed!
If you don’t have enough time to explore the popular markets, find a neighborhood market that is closest to where you stay. You can always get some food there.
You can find more information about the local markets in Amsterdam (location, opening hours/days, and what they sell) here and here.
Personally, these are some of my favorite things to see (or buy!) when I visit Amsterdam’s local markets:
Heavily-decorated vintage plates and cups.
Delicacies from a country I’ve never visited, served from a food truck.
Watercolor postcards or canvas paintings.
Home-made jam, tea-mix, or spices.
When I’m alone, I can spend hours in these markets: standing in front of different stalls, sniffing the fresh produce, reading the labels on jars, running my fingers through vintage dining utensils, and admiring the naturally artistic way the sellers move behind their counters.
It reminds me of the feeling I have while I am sitting by the beach, gazing at the rolling waves licking the sand.
It’s strange how I can always feel somewhat calm in the midst of such a bustling environment.
Do you have that one friend you haven’t seen in years—but somehow you know that both of you still consider one another as trusted friends?
I guess that’s how I would describe my friendship with Chika (hope that feeling is mutual!). We knew each other through our blogs, became friends, randomly went to Singapore together, and saw each other at irregular intervals. I couldn’t remember the last time I saw her, really—must have been more than 2-3 years ago. So, of course, when she messaged me out of the blue and invited me to come along with her to Bali for a 3-day trip, I said YES.
MY DASHING ‘BELATED’ BIRTHDAY
When we arrived at our hotel, Chika, being the sweet thing that she is, surprised me with a chocolate cake with a candle on top. “Happy belated birthday!” she shouted, and we laughed, and we screamed, and we hugged, and then I blew the candle.
“Why are you so romantic?”
“I know. I should be a guy,” Chika laughed. “I think I’ll be a romantic boyfriend.”
And of course, soon after, conversations about love, heartbreak, guys, and relationships ensued: over a plate of chocolate cake.
I guess this was how we set the tone for the rest of our Bali getaway. For Chika, this would be her well-deserved vacation to take some rest from work. For me, as Bali has been my second home, I don’t have any plans for sightseeing or exploring. We just wanted to stay in, watch movies, order room service, and catch-up.
DASH HOTEL, SEMINYAK: OUR QUIRKY RABBIT NEST IN BALI
Chika invited me to stay at Dash Hotel in Petitenget, Seminyak, during our getaway. I didn’t think I’ve ever heard about the hotel before; but when I saw the facade, I realized that I have been passing this hotel many times!
Why, it is located near some of Seminyak’s beach-hangout places like Potato Head and Ku De Ta. And it is also only a walking distance from some of my favorite spots, like Biku and Cafe Organic.
I have always found this particular hotel intriguing, as it looks so bold and ‘out of place’ in the midst of Seminyak’s signature style; just like a rebellious teenager. Every time I passed this hotel, I always told myself that I wanted to see what it’s all about one day.
And finally, I got a chance to do it! (thanks, Chika!)
Inside, the hotel’s playful design screams fun, young, and vibrant. It’s so bold in a way that you might love it or hate it (like you would a durian!). I happened to like it simply because being there, looking at those vibrant colors, made me feel happy and energized. The hotel is so unique in its own way, that I would definitely tell a story about the quirkiness of it and my fun experience staying here in some dinner parties.
I instantly fell in love with ‘the Red Bunny’—which turned out to be… everywhere.
There’s a giant upside-down Red Bunny by the red poolside (yes, the pool is red!), a big Red Bunny plushie on the bed (place upside-down), a smaller upside-down Red Bunny on the table, and little Red Bunnies on our yellow bathrobe! (I still regretted my decision for not buying the smaller Red Bunny… it’s so soft and cute!)
The room (including its walls and ceiling) is vibrant with industrial/urban street style. Chika and I found it so intriguing that we started snapping pictures, to see which side of the walls would appear to be more photogenic. We laughed when we realized that we have a big bathtub in the middle of the room, right behind our huge bed: it’s sitting there in the open.
“This place could be such a fun place for adventurous young couples in honeymoon!” I climbed into the bathtub, fully-clothed. “It’s so big; I could even sleep here!”
But I guess our favorite spot in the room was our bed: it was so soft and comfortable; the perfect place from where we can watch movies, browse the Internet (yes, wi-fi is really fast!), and of course: having our girl’s talk.
So, that was how most of our days went by. Swimming in the red pool, lounging on its pool chair, climbing up the stairs to The Shack (where they have a pretty rooftop bar and jacuzzi), and lazying in bed watching HBO movies from the TV set, wrapped in our Red Bunny bathrobe.
Of course, with their playful and quirky approach, I would assume that the hotel would be wild and noisy: full of young people celebrating their summer or spring breaks. But, turned out, during my stay (even in the evening), I wasn’t bothered by any loud noises at all! There were also some couples and families staying here. Chika and I even talked to an old Italian couple on vacation during breakfast.
DINING IN AT MYA KITCHEN
When we’re hungry, we dragged ourselves to the hotel’s restaurant because we didn’t feel like going out. Luckily, the food was surprisingly tasty (were you, like me, skeptical towards hotel’s restaurants sometimes?), so we kept coming back to Mya Kitchen, ordering so much food every time (but our plates were always clean!), switching between comforting Asian and Western food.
My comfort lies in savory dishes like chicken wings, pasta, and porridge, while Chika’s is in sweet drinks like this one (Chika said it was sinfully delicious, but I would leave it to her to explain):
Our favorite time at the restaurant, though, was breakfast time.
We were surprised when we got a menu with so many options! The staff told us that they didn’t serve breakfast buffet, but we could order anything from the menu, as much as we wanted, and they were all included in our breakfast package!
Upon hearing this, Chika and I ordered a bunch of food and drinks; we ended up having our breakfast in 2 rounds. We were laughing when the table was so cramped with our plates and bowls; but again, we finished them all. Very impressive, indeed! (or we’re just that hungry).
WHEN CHIKA WAS GONE.
On our last day, Chika left for the airport very early in the morning, as she needed to catch a meeting in Jakarta. When she was gone, the room suddenly felt so empty and quiet.
I hugged the Red Bunny and tried to sleep some more, but I couldn’t seem to do it, so I just turned on the TV and watched some movies. I found out that I also got a mild fever and a cold, so rather than going down for breakfast, I decided to order room service. The chicken porridge was warm and tasty, and after a while, it gave me the push to finally leave the bed and hit the shower.
At around 10, I went up to the gym, thinking that I would do some morning yoga (they have yoga mats!), but as I passed the Rabbit Hole (their spa), I changed my mind. What’s better than having a massage when you have a cold?
I entered the spa, and the lady told me that they were free, so I could get my massage right away if I wanted to. I said yes immediately and decided on a back and shoulder massage; as I started to feel some tension developing in my head and shoulders.
To be honest, I did not expect much from the massage. I thought it would just be an excellent way to relax a bit, but turned out the lady who massaged me was very good!
It wasn’t one of those massages when you cringed instead of loosened up. The pressure was good, and the ambiance was so serene. I liked it when my massage room was quiet; with a faint smell of aromatherapy. I could feel some of my tight muscles unfurled; especially around my shoulders; and when I was putting my clothes back on after the massage, my mild headache (that came with the cold in the morning) had disappeared.
I went down to the lobby area afterward, where they have a sun-bathed seating area/library to do some journaling before I checked out (follow my Instagram to have a look at my Bali travel journal).
I have always loved some quality time with my girls; even when we have nothing better to do but watching movies together or reading books next to each other (or dining in!). With some friends, it seems like no matter how long you haven’t seen each other, you can always catch up so effortlessly; as if there’s no expiry date on your friendship whatsoever.
I felt so lucky and blessed knowing that I have some wonderful girlfriends around me. The ones who support and believe in me. The ones who wish to collaborate instead of competing. The ones who may not have similar views or beliefs about life with me, but mature enough to not let differences get in our way.
Do you have a circle of girlfriends you cherish as well? How do you spend quality time together when you can’t meet up frequently?
After spending more than 5 years going back and forth to Bali (well, Ubud, to be exact), I have finally found some of my most favorite body care products that are made in Bali. I had a great amount of time illustrating them as well, so here are 7 of Bali body care products I personally love!
1. ALAM ZEMPOL SOLID PERFUME: BERGAMOT
I have been a fan of their solid perfumes for years! Each one comes in a small tin can that can be easily slipped into my wallet, jeans’ pocket, or handbag. I always bring one with me during international flights as well (due to security checking, it’s too much of a hassle to have liquid perfume in my bag).
However, what I love the most about their series of solid perfume is the soft, faint, and fresh fragrance. Every time I smell it, I feel as if I have just gotten out of a shower. Rose, Jasmine, and Frangipani are also some of my favorite fragrance from their collections. However, the Bergamot is currently my favorite!
2. BALIPURA AURIC SPRAY: PURE LOVE
I love spraying Balipura Auric Spray as face/body mist after exposing myself to the hot Balinese sun. Well, actually, this one is ‘marketed’ as a ‘healing spray’: made from holy water, blessed by a Balinese priest, and infused with crystals. Thus it helps to ‘cleanse’ your aura.
Despite this backstory, I simply love the way this spray feels on my skin; as well as its muted fragrance. Pure Love has always been my favorite fragrance. Besides, who doesn’t need a bit of pure love every now and then?
3. DUKHA SUKHA MINERAL DEODORANT: SOOTHE
This mineral deodorant has been my life-saver! In principle, I do not like gelly/liquidy deodorant with fragrances. I prefer the powdery ones, but most of the times, they stain my clothes. Dukha Sukha is a mineral deodorant without fragrance (although they come in three types: pale pink-Soothe, pale yellow-Glow, and pale green-Fresh).
To use it, simply wet the mineral with water, and use it like you would use a usual roll-on deodorant. And I have to tell you that this deodorant has helped me to clear the dark skin underneath my armpit; due to shaving. After a year of using it, I was surprised to see that my armpit’s skin has returned to its original shade! This deodorant is quite expensive but it can actually last for about a year.
4. UTAMA SPICE ESSENTIAL OIL: LAVENDER
Utama Spice has always been my go-to brand for essential oils. First, because they are working with local farmers. Second, because their price is quite reasonable. Third, because their oil is not too thick or more diluted than the more expensive (or serious) brands. For me, these reasons are enough to choose their essential oils for casual use.
If I have to choose one essential oil, Lavender would be it! I can use it to cure acne/pimples, repel mosquitoes, make a body spray, or put a few drops of it on my pillow for a good night’s sleep. (I also love to use this oil as a vaginal wash!). Don’t forget to dilute your essential oil with other carrier oil/water before using it!
5. DROP BALI VIRGIN COCONUT OIL
I love virgin coconut oil and I am not too picky about it. Most of the times, any brand will do. However, Drop Bali is definitely my favorite. Not only because it comes in a beautiful glass bottle (with a pipette!), but also because of its smooth texture and faint coconut fragrance. It feels as if their coconut oil is being absorbed more quickly when I applied it to my skin.
I use virgin coconut oil as body lotion, toothpaste, face/make-up cleanser, moisturizer, scrub (add some salt or coffee powder), lip balm, hair conditioner, and after-sun lotion. Sometimes, I also use it for oil-pulling. It is very versatile!
6. NADI’S HERBAL FACE CREAM: BALI MOON
This face cream does magic to my skin! I use it at night, before going to bed–and I always find my skin so supple and moist in the morning upon waking up. True, this face cream is very oily. Truth to be told, the moment after you’re applying it, your face will shine like fries. For this reason, I only use it before bed. But maybe this ‘oily’ feature is what gives the cream its magic?
The face cream contains some Ayurvedic ingredients like Amla and Tulsi oil. Amla (gooseberry) is believed to be rich in antioxidants and vitamin C; thus can help to tone and tighten our skin, make it firm and soft. Tulsi (sweet basil) oil has anti-inflammatory property to deal with skin irritations and acne. It also has a soothing and relaxing effect.
To date, this is the cheapest face cream I’ve ever used in my life. I’ve been using this (and only this, without other products apart from coconut oil and sunblock) for my face for more than 4 years now.
7. BALI ALUS MASSAGE OIL: CEMPAKA (CHAMPACA)
I love Bali Alus’ massage oil because of its faint fragrance and its smooth feeling when applied to the skin. The oil helps my fingers to slide smoothly when I massage my shoulder, arms, or legs early in the morning, or before my evening shower.
Cempaka (champaca) is my favorite fragrance so far because it truly reminds me of the smell of Bali! Sometimes I also use it as a moisturizer before bed, dabbing it a bit on my knee, elbow, and the sole of my feet.
Where can you find these Bali body care products?
Some grocery shops in Bali, like Bali Buda, Coco Supermarket, or Down to Earth Market have it. Or, the best way to get them is by ordering them online via your favorite e-commerce platform!
It was a cloudy Saturday, but the weather forecast seemed promising. So, with our rented motorbikes, we drove down to the beach.
Our destination was a beach close to Nusa Dua. A friend told me it was a considerably quiet beach. We followed our Google Map faithfully–but it led us through a truly challenging off-road path. We didn’t give up, though, and thankfully, the sign to the beach showed up before we changed our mind.
The beach has a cave-cliff entrance–resembling the beaches along Uluwatu, and we need to climb down hundreds of stairs to get to the water. Good thing was that we were surrounded by trees along the way, providing us shelter from the afternoon sun.
The beach was quiet, as promised. The water was crystal clear, calm, and perfect for swimming. The sand underneath my feet was so soft and smooth. Vale was happy to find a huge cave for us to put our stuff and take a nap. It was a perfect spot to lie down on your beach towel and read a good book (I am currently reading Essence and Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume by Mandy Aftel).
I love the fact that I could still find people from the village fishing here, along with visitors (and a dog!) who came for surfing, swimming, or having a picnic.
There were only a few stalls selling food and drinks at the parking lot (young coconut, instant noodles) but there were none by the beach. And nobody was trying to sell me anything. After experiencing some crowded beaches here in Bali, this lovely little beach gave me room to breathe. To just sit still and stare at the seawater lapping at the sand.
PS. Some of the pictures (capturing me by the beach) are courtesy of Daniele Besana.
I was sick all morning the other day, having a headache and throwing up every once and a while.
I curled up in bed, falling in and out of sleep and being miserable. I felt much better when I opened my eyes around noon and felt hungry. Hunger is always a good indication of my health. When I am not hungry, I am somewhat sick.
Since I had been working from deadline to deadline these past few weeks, and my day started out so late already, I decided to have a break. I browsed around to see some relaxing activities to take while recovering from my headache and found one. At 5 pm, the co-working space Outpost in Ubud, Bali, was having a Paint & Sip activity, hosted by Bartega Studio.
It was said to be a social painting kind of event: where you’ll meet people, learn how to paint, and sip wines. I decided to sign up when I saw an available option for people who do not wish to drink wine. With my headache, I didn’t want to take risks!
What is this social painting session actually?
Bartega Studio (their base is in Jakarta) hosts a social painting event because they think it’s something fun to do: you meet people, you talk to each other while you paint, and in some instances, sip wine together.
I, myself, have always found it relaxing and therapeutic to draw, doodle, or play with paint and watercolors. The idea is not to create a masterpiece, but simply to play around, get my hands dirty, and experiment. Sometimes it’s interesting to just let yourself loose, and see what kind of shapes and colors would appear on your blank canvas afterward.
I also notice that when a group of people creates something with their hands, a certain conversation will flow. A spontaneous conversation without any purpose or agenda, without feeling like there’s a certain emptiness to fill. Everyone is busy making something anyway! So, each passing conversation feels very relaxed, random, and… social.
With some music on and some wines sparkling on the table, we started our session that day: to paint a scene from Ubud’s Monkey Forest.
Benson from Bartega Studio guided us on how to create this painting step-by-step. Some ladies also decided to improvise that day, and it was totally okay. Art is a medium of self-expression, isn’t it?
One lady replaced the temple in the scene with a painting of herself.
“Because your body is your temple!” I smiled.
“Indeed! Oh wow, you got it!” she laughed.
We were painting with acrylics that day, but I was treating the acrylic paint the way I treated my watercolor. The result was a very pale and pastel-y end result (that was my painting on the left in the picture below). However, it was a fun experience, and now I learned one or two things about working with acrylics!
Book your private session
Bartega Studio can also help you set up a private social painting session paired with excellent wine selections. Either it’s a birthday party, an office getaway, or simply a gathering where you want to have fun with acrylics, they can organize a session for you.
Going solo? No worries. Check their schedule for another session here.
There are times when a painting is not a solitary act. This is one of them!
Studio Perak in Jalan Hanoman, Ubud, has always been my go-to place for finding beautiful silver jewelry with reasonable price. Compared to fancier stores around Ubud, so far, Studio Perak is still the champion for the combination of quality, design, and price. Lately, they have also been making a set of rings with chakra symbols and mantras that I truly adore!
Plus, while in Bali, I’m happy to plant a good karma by being a responsible buyer. Studio Perak shops operate under the principles of fair trade. Silver artisans can set the price of each piece of jewelry themselves. There is no value or payment gap between women and men silversmiths. No children are being employed. Silver artisans in Studio Perak can even work from their own home, according to their own schedule!
MAKING MY OWN SILVER JEWELRY
A few years back, I participated in Studio Perak’s silversmithing class. It was my first time to make silver jewelry from scratch. I enjoyed it so much and made 2 pieces of silver jewelry. Both were gifted to a friend on the same day. Thus, technically, I didn’t really have my own DIY silver jewelry! And I want one (or maybe two)!
So, this morning, I went back to Studio Perak for another chance: to make silver jewelry as a gift for myself.
I brought along some of my old stone collections; including this yellow citrine. I wanted to turn this one into a ring.
As I started, I just found out that it was more time consuming to make a piece of silver jewelry with a stone. This is because you need to create a frame for the stone first. Cutting the silver plate and wrap it to match the shape of my stone was taking most of my time today.
Once the frame for the stone was done, I started to measure the size of my finger and created my silver ring.
“Would you like to put an engraving inside the ring?” asked Bli Ketut, the teacher from Studio Perak and our master silversmith of the day.
I said yes.
He then gave me a set of alphabets to be hammered into the insides of my silver ring. I decided to choose the mantra Ram, chanting for the solar plexus chakra. Citrine is also a stone that corresponds to this chakra.
And this is how we attached the ring to its stone frame: with a flame. While Bli Ketut molded the ring and the frame together, I pumped the torch with my feet under the table–making sure the air was flowing to keep the flame burning.
Since there was still some time left after this process, I decided to make another piece of jewelry. I wanted to recycle an amethyst ring I found in a random street stall in Pontianak into a bracelet.
The stone was taken out from the frame, and I created a new frame following its shape, to be attached to a silver bracelet.
The most meditative part of the silversmithing process was polishing the silver jewelry. It was amazing to see the dull ring and bracelet that had been hammered and torched suddenly sparkled after the polishing session.
And here they are, shining under the sun!
BOOK YOUR SILVERSMITHING CLASS IN UBUD
If you’re interested to make your own silver jewelry, just drop by at Studio Perak and book your class schedule at least 1 or 2 day(s) before. They have 2 classes every day, from 9 am – 12 pm and another one from 2 pm – 5 pm.
For IDR400K, you can get up to 5 grams of silver to work with. This is mostly enough to make 3 rings, or a ring and a set of earrings, or a ring and a simple bracelet.
Browse for design inspirations for your jewelry before the class, so you can consult with Bli Ketut on the design and start right away. Looking for inspiration right there and then could be overwhelming!
If you’re working with stones, you’ll need more silver plates to work with. This is because you’ll have to create the stone frame (and it takes quite a lot of silver plates). For my ring and bracelet, I use up 8.88 grams of silver. For the extra 3.88 grams, I paid about IDR53K.
I brought my own stones with me to the class. However, if you’d like to work with stones (but didn’t have one), Studio Perak has a lovely collection of stones and crystals in different shapes you can choose from. The price is also very reasonable, from IDR10K for a small piece (suitable for rings or earrings) up to around IDR25K (slightly bigger ones, suitable for pendants or bracelets).
Are you interested in making your own silver jewelry in Ubud? What are you going to make?
PS: If you’re not into jewelry and more interested in making your own batik, check out this post from my batik workshop in Ubud!
STUDIO PERAK Ketut Darmawan +62 81 236 51809 or Studio +62 361 974244 JI. Hanoman, Ubud 80571, Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia [email protected]
This morning, I took some time to sit by myself in a coffee shop, accompanied by a warm cup of cappuccino and Alice Hoffman’s The Story Sisters. I started the day early, wishing to get more work done. These past few weeks have been hectic with deadlines, and at times, I felt as if my brain was boiling.
Ubud’s sky was gray. The air felt fresh against my skin as I sat there, sipping my coffee in silence. I left Alice Hoffman on the side, and found myself appreciating my surroundings instead: the dogs barking, the birds chirping, the motorcycles passing, the trees around the Monkey Forests rustling–the sounds of the morning. And I noticed how wonderful it was: the feeling of warmth that crawled from the tip of my fingers that were cupping the coffee mug.
Suddenly, I was still.
I dropped everything in that fleeting moment: my to-do list, the emails I need to sent, the invoices that have not been paid, the calls I need to schedule, the sentences for a web copy…
For the time being, there was only me, a cup of coffee, and Ubud in the morning.
As the warmth of the coffee mug permeated my skin, a deep feeling of gratitude swept me off of my feet, and I could feel my muscles relax: I smiled. I truly felt grateful to be here: to be back in Ubud, to be able to enjoy a cup of coffee leisurely at 8 in the morning, to be surrounded by the people I love, even to have today’s deadlines and work ahead of me!
And of course, I was lucky.
Of course, I should be grateful.
However, since the first day I came back to Ubud, I hadn’t actually felt it. I had been buzzing around, meeting friends, snapping pictures, painting, attending events, going out, typing away on my laptop, but I hadn’t really felt the wave of gratitude for the simple things: for being able to be here.
I almost forgot how beautiful that magical feeling was: an instant wave of gratitude and appreciation towards life as it is. It was not one of those moments when you say gratitude as a ritual or part of a routine–or those moments when you said to yourself: okay, I need to be grateful. Or those times when something nice happened to you, and you were grateful for that.
I was referring to something spontaneous. A spontaneous rush of gratitude.
I wonder when was the last time I had this sudden rush of gratitude and appreciation, something so strong and so spontaneous, and at the same time: so fleeting. I could only go back to as close as a few years ago–when I was lying on my back by the beach in Sebayur Island in Flores.
The island was dark and the sky was full of stars.
So full I was almost sure that I could see the whole of the Milky Way.
This morning, the whole of the Milky Way was spinning inside my cup of coffee. And happily, I let myself spinning in it.
This was the thing that didn’t go as planned: we’re supposed to reach Munich, Germany, in 8 hours.
It was Friday afternoon—the first day of our 21-day road trip in Europe. We were supposed to pick up our rented car earlier at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, but we went into some last-minute frenzy and arrived a bit later. When we left Schiphol, already behind schedule, it started raining. With thunders.
We applauded ourselves for ‘leaving this rain behind’ and decided to adopt our happy, sunny summer mood. So off we went, accompanied by Despacito blaring from the stereo.
We should be in Munich by 7 PM. Or maybe, on the pessimistic side, 9 PM. But the reality was this: we didn’t reach Munich on our first day.
Entering Germany, we got caught in a horrible traffic jam.
I told D that the traffic jam made me feel as if I was on Jagorawi highway, back in Jakarta. I never thought there could be such a long and massive traffic jam in Germany. Sure, we started off in the middle of July, when summer vacation was in full swing and everyone was out with their campers and caravans. But there must be something more than this.
We sat in the traffic jam for hours: talking, singing, making jokes, and trying to find some means of entertainment until we got tired of them all. We also found out the culprit of the traffic jam: massive road works.
The good news was that recently, in June, the EU was set for free-roaming. This means we can use our Netherland or Italian SIM card to access the Internet without any roaming charges, all across the EU!
With the help of Google Map, we decided to find a detour—leaving the highway to avoid the road works. This detour led to another detour since the alternative road suggested was also undergoing road works and (un)welcoming us with roadblocks.
At the end of the day, we found ourselves being on a detour of a detour of a detour, driving along small and winding countryside roads.
That was when we realized that we would not be in Munich by the end of the day. Surrendering to this, we decided to adjust our plan and tried to find a place where we can camp, put up our tent, and sleep for the night before continuing our journey the morning after.
That day, we ended up in a small town called Frickenhausen.
Early in the morning, we left the camping ground and found out that the highway was not getting any better.
The traffic jam was still as bad as yesterday, so we had no choice but to leave the highway and once again, took the small countryside roads. This wasn’t all that bad, actually. I had to admit that I liked it more than the boring highways.
Sure, you would need to drive slower and it might even take a longer time to reach your destinations, but I love the view from the window of my passenger seat. The houses, the farms, the hills, the fields, the mountains, the charming old towns… I thought suddenly I understood the meaning of the sayings: the journey is the destination. It’s the moment when you stop counting the hours to your point of arrival; realizing that you are somehow enjoying these in-between hours to get ‘there’.
And then, I screamed.
I screamed when everything turned yellow.
We passed rows of sunflower fields!
Not many people are aware of this, but I have dreamed of standing in the middle of a sunflower field since I was a child.
For this reason, I love sunflowers. When I started a photography business with a friend of mine a few years ago, we called it Sunday & Sunflowers. We launched the business by sending pots of sunflowers to our friends and colleagues.
So, I was smiling and laughing and screaming uncontrollably when we were passing a random town that day and seeing sunflower fields along the way! It was like finally having your childhood dream in front of your eyes! Seeing this, D stopped the car in a quiet patch of road, and let me absorb the beauty of the flowers while jumping and dancing around happily.
I didn’t walk to the middle of the field, though, because the sunflowers were planted very close to one another and I was afraid that I might harm them. I just walked around back and forth sniffing the sunflowers and jumped backward in surprise when a huge bee was buzzing from one of the flowers, almost kissed the tip of my nose. I giggled. My heart was filled with a simple kind of joy, a simple kind of happiness.
Maybe, sometimes, things don’t go as planned because we need a detour.
Because maybe, if all goes well, we won’t see the things we would love to see, we won’t experience the things we might be happy to experience, or we won’t grow to be the person we could have been. Maybe things need to go wrong before it can get right. Maybe we are forced to go on a detour because we are too comfortable riding along the wrong path. Maybe it’s about surrendering instead of fighting, about trusting instead of fearing.
I wish you all a happy summer. And may you, too, find your sunflower field anytime soon.
PS. Could you remember a time in your life when things did not seem to go as planned; and later in life found out that it had actually help you to be who/where you are right now? I would love to hear from you!
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Hi. I'm HANNY
I am an Indonesian writer/artist/illustrator and stationery web shop owner (Cafe Analog) based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. I love facilitating writing/creative workshops and retreats, especially when they are tied to self-exploration and self-expression. In Indonesian, 'beradadisini' means being here. So, here I am, documenting life—one word at a time.