THE seductive scent of clove cigarettes hangs in the air like an unfinished sentence on this heady evening, which is already punctuated with sweat and music. It’s all Japanese and jazz at Bali’s Ryoshi bar on this mellifluous Monday and Rio Sidik is one cool cat with his trumpet and a voice which is part Dean Martin, part Louis Armstrong. Randomly, Rio’s sister Marina joins The Rio Sidik Quartet up on stage and unleashes Indonesia’s own Tina Turner with a pinch of Pink tossed in for good measure. I’m in Bali on an Eat Pray Live tour and this part is definitely what I’d call living.
Sydney’s Nicole Long, who runs Eat Pray Live, advises her guests to “be careful what you wish for” because in Bali, it might just come true. That is certainly the case for this 41-year-old former Brit who moved to Australia after a neglectful upbringing and has had quite the ride since. In the past six years she divorced her husband, started her Bali business, and in an incredible twist, celebrated the resurrection of her marriage with which she credits Eat Pray Live.
As part of this bespoke Balinese experience, Eat Pray Live guests partake in a cleansing ceremony and visit with a respected healer, which proved to be the pivotal moment for Nicole, who escaped to Bali for a holiday in 2011 when she thought she had run out of options back in Australia.
“I had this moment in the water and I thought ‘I can do this business’. If only I had somewhere to go after I got divorced. Where do you go when you just want to be blah?” she says.
“I went for a session with a reputed medicine man and at the end of my session he took my hand and said ‘you are going to use your experience to help many women.’
“There is no way he could have known what I was planning to do with Eat Pray Live. I went back to Australia and said to myself ‘Ok, it’s now or never’. I didn’t have any money to do this but I just had this fire.”
While it would be tempting to describe Eat Pray Live as a Balinese retreat and focus on the spirituality the Indonesian Island of the Gods exudes, this experience is so much more than that. Nicole has designed a bespoke holiday which focuses on all aspects of eating, praying and living in her villa she describes as a “home away from home” for guests. The concept eschews the typical tourist traps and takes guests to local and new restaurants such as Warung Talun for a delicious Indonesian feast overlooking the rice paddies, or to the hip and happening Potato Head to lounge and drink cocktails at this cool beach club. There’s plenty of pampering and even in-villa spa treatments, shopping in local markets and high-end stores and lots of secrets and surprises all designed to connected like-minded women who are drawn to this escape.
Despite numerous obstacles since her day of revelation, Nicole persevered and welcomed her first client in October 2012, initially operating Eat Pray Live from a hotel in Seminyak. Mid last year she stumbled across Villa Griya Asih in charming Canggu while taking her first horse ride since her Australian horse and soul mate Surge died. Eat Pray Live now operates from this beautiful Balinese villa which comes complete with six bedrooms and copious living spaces around which to lounge including a gorgeous day bed around the private pool. There’s a lovely third floor meditation deck overlooking typical Balinese fields and even a resident dog Blackie – a stray who wandered into Nicole’s life not long after Surge died. Curiously, Blackie even has a print of a white horse on his coat, which might seem pure coincidence in Australia, but in Bali, Nicole believes anything can happen.
Incredibly, Nicole reunited with her husband David after they reconnected for the first time in six years, following the suicide of his best friend.
“He came over for dinner and as I opened the door I thought ‘this is my man’ and everything, all the past evaporated and he was standing in front of me and I didn’t know what to think or feel,” Nicole says.
“He said, ‘I love you Nic’ and I realised I was home.
“Throughout this whole journey I’ve found my truth and Eat Pray Live has led me back to my love.”
For more information on Eat Pray Live or to book an escape, go to http://www.eatpraylive.com.au