Comfort zones. They hold us back, yo! So this summer I decided to do something I always swore I’d never do… take my first trip to Asia… solo.
There were a million reasons why not. It’s so far away. It’s so different. And wouldn’t I rather share my first time hopping hemispheres with a friend?
It all boiled down to the same thing though, fear. Fear was keeping me in a too small box, making compromises with my travel dreams because I felt insecure. So I asked myself where I would go if I could go anywhere. The answer kept coming up again and again. Bali. I’d always felt drawn to Bali both as a spiritual and cultural destination and as a natural paradise. Jungles, temples, beaches, yoga, dance and volcanoes!? Sign me up! Once I knew what my heart wanted, no other travel experience would do.
As I did my research, Bali started to seem like a sensible destination too. It’s a relatively small island that’s not difficult to get around, options for activities and lodging abound at a variety of price points, it’s relatively safe and garners high points as a solo female travel destination. So Bali was a no brainer, right? Nothing to do but book my flights and pack my bags! Right?
Ha! Turns out pushing my boundaries had some challenges I hadn’t bargained for. So here they come… the biggest mistakes I made planning my trip. In my next post, I’ll publish a link-laden treasurey of the best resources I used to plan my trip. For now though, have a laugh at my expense!
Here’s how not to plan your travel to Bali…
Book Last Minute
Turns out July and August are high tourist season in Bali. And deciding to go there eight weeks in advance is a bit of a tight squeeze for bookings. Who knew? Once you start looking for accommodation you’ll see that there really is something out there in every price range, and paying more doesn’t exactly mean you get something better. In fact, the more expensive a room was on booking.com, the more it seemed like a stale, mildewy tourist ripoff. The cheaper stuff was much better quality.
My advice is not to discount Homestays, which are kind of like the Balinese version of a Bed and Breakfast and to take a look at Air B & B for affordable accommodation with some surprisingly awesome amenities.
You Need Shots To Go There???
Speaking of last-minute, you need to make sure all your vaccinations are up to date before you travel to Bali. It’s best to start your course of injections at least a month before you travel, because some will require you to return two weeks before you travel for a booster shot… and take 2 weeks to become effective.
No travel doctor in Zürich could book me in that quickly (man, do the Swiss love doing things way in advance!). Luckily for me, the University of Zürich runs a walk in travel medicine clinic where I was able to get my travel consultation and all the shots I needed. Unluckily for me… most of these shots were not covered by my health insurance! And boy they were costly. I hadn’t thought to budget $300 for a series of rabies shots (because let’s face it, strange animals find me tasty!), $100 for antimalarials, plus Polio, Hep A and Tetanus! There goes my drink money!
Fall Prey to the Solo Traveller Tax
Part of the appeal of Bali was some solo rest and rejuvenation, but there are some activities like Volcano hiking, biking and snorkeling that are just better enjoyed as part of a group. When I travelled to Iceland last year I met tons of solo travellers on our activity excoursions. It seemed to be no problem to sign up to a group tour as a single traveller. Naturally I expected a similar sitch in Bali. So imagine my surprise when researching activities and tours in Bali and finding out that with most of these tours the minimum number of people per booking was two. Some tours “graciously” allowed single people to sign on… with a 100 percent supplementary fee! No way, Jose! Fortunately, I have been able to find some tour companies that will accept my sad single self, but it wasn’t easy. I promise you that I will share all the details on the best tour companies who aren’t out there exploiting solo travellers!
No sooner did I book myself an amazing yoga retreat then did I see another amazing yoga retreat… on an island! But what about that gorgeous meditation center in a rural rice field? And shouldn’t I be doing an ayurvedic detox? Taking surfing lessons? Learning how to scuba dive? Scouting Komoodo dragons on Lombok!? Seeing all the amazing things waiting there for me to discover in Bali was enough to send me reeling with self-doubt over my choices. Why did I choose to “isolate” myself on a yoga retreat for a week of my trip when there was so much to explore? Was I going to feel bereft without a side trip to the Gili Islands? Was it too late to change some of my bookings?
At a certain point folks, I had to let it go and accept that very few places that are truly worth visiting can be fully experienced in one go. Bali, I’m sure, is no exception. And besdies, leaving myself longing for a little bit more only gives me a reason to return someday…
So what about you? What’s the greatest travel risk you’ve ever taken? Where would you love to go but are a little bit nervous about? Do you ever travel FOMO? Please tell me I’m not a complete weirdo…
Feature image courtesy of Bali.com