I AM perched beachside on the island of Bali, ice-cold Bintang beer to my right, snatching deep, soul-satisfying breaths. I detect the salty smell of the ocean, a fragrant curry being cooked somewhere behind me and the heady scent of clove cigarettes wafting in my direction. I am an avid anti-smoker (I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life) but there’s something about those clove sticks which remind me of apple pie and exotic Asian holidays. I spend an entire hour sitting behind the smoker, passively inhaling the start of my break, which affords me the rare luxury to slow down, and in the end, become blissfully bored.
The next day I’ll board a boat to Nusa Lembongan, an island 30 minutes off of Bali, and battle the cloying humidity and general chaos. But none of this bothers me. I have my bag, a book and time. Two weeks in fact, to not be troubled by the constraints of the clock, or others. I quickly learn the phrase for no worries, sing engken, and will use it often in the next fortnight. I have absolutely no worries in the world. Travelling alone, I take the time to learn a few more useful Indonesian phrases. I want to connect with the world around me, not just hurtle like a hurricane through it. I become adept at the usual greetings, and then move on to the weather. I spend long, lazy days discussing the fact it’s hot panas and there has been no rain ada ida hujan. I become proficient at asking for a table for one satu and in my wildest fantasies, which I have plenty of time to indulge, I imagine I am quite the conversationalist.
On my first week, I have established myself in a traditional thatched roof hut on the quiet side of the island. I float down the steep timber staircase each morning to banana pancakes and pungent, muddy Balinese kopi for breakfast. It’s a small, family-run resort of just eight huts and slowly, I learn to know these Indonesians who delight in my curiosity. I cuddle new baby Made and swim with her cheeky brother Gede, who is five and mischievous. I tease Grandma who scales the coconut tree with a machete. “You’re a wild woman,” I say in English. She may not understand every word, but she gets the intonation and laughs and waves at me. The hard-working Wayan takes the time to teach me even more words. I punctuate reading chapters of my book with dips in the pool in the mornings. By lunchtime, I walk two minutes down a goat track beside the beach to a café on a cliff which captures the best breezes. I eat satay sticks and sip a cold brew while watching a sassy storm grumble on the horizon. The storms will knock out the electricity most days for an hour, during which I’ll sit on the stairs of my hut and watch big, fat raindrops fall on the frangipani leaves. By late afternoon, I amble through the village to a yoga sala I’ve discovered where we’ll stretch and meditate to the sound of a mooing cow in the paddock next door.
By early evening, I’ll shower in my outdoor bathroom before I’m back at my cliffside café, in time for cocktail hour. It’s all margheritas and merriment as I watch the last rays concede the day. I’ll clamber down from my perch when it’s finally cool enough, to one of the restaurants by the beach before I pluck my way in the dark back along the beachside track to my hut. I scale the staircase and climb into my bed, tuck the mosquito net around me, and redolent of childhood holidays, read by torchlight. I sleep solidly, for nine glorious hours every night, to the sound of the ocean smashing against the cliff, only to be awoken by the crow of a rooster. On days when it’s cooler, I’ll wander down potholed roads not caring where they’ll lead. I follow swirls of incense into temples. Cuddle more plump Balinese babies.
On my second week, I move to the more active part of the island and into another traditional Indonesian hut. I have a discussion with a young German tourist who is grappling with the notion of being blissfully bored. “We have no word for surrender in the German language,” she says, without irony. I advise her to go with the flow. That at first, I too found it difficult. But necessary. I rifle through pre-loved books at my resort, looking for a new tome to read into the night. There’s so few English books here, and I resort to reading trash I’d never consider at home. It’s delightfully decadent. I’m so blissfully bored, I even have time to indulge being sick when I am struck down by the inevitable Bali Belly. For once, with no meetings, no pressing deadlines, no travel, I can acquiesce to the illness and lay in bed all day. When I’m well enough again, I snorkel with strangers in the warm waters which produce similar corals and tropical fish to those at home. I fight strong currents to avoid being smashed against the rocks, chat with foreigners. I walk for miles and hire a kayak to paddle the mangrove forest. I learn the salacious saying for just walking, Jalan Jalan, and use it often when I’m approached for transport. It’s indulgent to use my legs for once. I stop and smell frangipani flowers. Observe the neapolitan swirls of clouds at sunset.
At dinner, I become the ardent observer. The German family on their phones, not connecting. The Swedish couple with their two little kids, sipping Rose wine, the sexy wife displaying not only her entire leg but her underwear as well. I giggle to myself. Sink my feet into the sand and truly ground myself. I sweat profusely, toxins exploding from every pore and better than any expensive facial I would receive back home. A young boy who sells jewellery at the beach every day grows accustomed to my presence. Shares a joke with me by pointing at my flip flops, and then his. We are both wearing the same gold-embossed havianas. We look at our shoes, and then into each other’s eyes, and burst out laughing. A rare, shared moment between two divergent cultures. I am blissfully bored. And I adore it all.
The Global Goddess funded her own holiday to Bali and loved every minute, Bali Belly and all. She stayed at Lotus Garden Huts at Mushroom Bay Beach, and Sukanusa Luxury Huts at Jungut Batu
I’M running late for a date with Passion. I arrive in Hawaii early morning after an overnight night flight from Brisbane, clutching all the usual clichés: a suitcase, welcome lei, and the remnants of the previous evening’s airline meal attached to my dress. My travelling companion dives straight into Oahu, literally, and is off for a learn-to-surf lesson. Me, I prefer to let Hawaii wash gently over my jetlagged self, and wander down to Waikiki for a cold beer, a meal of mahi mahi and a feast of people watching. Sated, I sleep like the dead in readiness for my full island tour the next day, and my much-anticipated date with Passion.
It’s been 22 years since I’ve been to Hawaii, and my only memory is of Waikiki and the fact my ex-husband punctured the li-lo on which I intended to laze in its warm waters on a tree before we even got to the beach. So I’m desperate to see what’s around the next corner. I join a tour which will spend all day weaving from Waikiki through a snapshot of suburbia, to sugar cane fields, past beaches, through valleys, onto ancient Hawaiian grounds and around waterfalls.
Incredibly, every tour on which I’ve ever been anywhere in the world serves up the same cluster of characters. The gregarious gay couple; the comfortably chubby married pair; the Russians in their Cold War swim wear range; the loud Americans and softly-spoken Canadians; the Bintang bogan with his attractive Asian wife in grossly inappropriate high heels; and the single Australian woman…who happens to be me.
While I self-indulgently imagine the rest of the tour tries to unravel my mystery – I do like to apply a Mona Lisa smile along with my sunscreen – I watch Oahu unfurl before me and secretly count down the hours until I can meet Passion. At this stage I should reveal I don’t know whether Passion is a man, a woman or a concept. In the meantime Maurice, our tour guide who grew up in Hawaii in the late 60s, shares Oahu’s secrets. We pass the Baskin Robbins ice-cream shop where Barack Obama worked his first job and learn that Elizabeth Taylor once lived over near the North Shore. There’s also a smorgasbord of film and television locations, including the house from the opening scene of Fantasy Island where the pint-sized Tattoo famously shouts “The plane, the plane!” as well as the giant green hills of the mythical Jurassic Park.
But what piques my interest most is the tale of a particular house, high on the hills, one that Elvis Presley wanted to buy. Despite repeated and insanely high offers, the owner refused to sell to the King of Rock, instead inviting Elvis to holiday there whenever he wanted. Elvis took him up on the offer and the pair became firm friends. I spend the rest of the tour fantasising about Elvis turning up on the doorstep of my quaint tin and timber Queenslander cottage back home in Brisbane, which is similar to a Hawaiian beach shack, and daydreaming about that hunka hunka burning love. And several other nice Hawaiian boys I find along the way. Yes, while the rest of the tour is on the beach collecting shells, I’m starting my own collection…
I’m snapped out of my lustful thoughts when I arrive back at the hotel, late for my date with Passion. I rapidly shower, and rush downstairs to the bar where I learn that Passion is yet to arrive, the irony of which is not lost on me as I drink a Longboard Lager. It’s not till dinner is almost finished that I finally meet Passion, a beautiful woman who rushes up to our table and enthusiastically orders dessert while chatting with gusto about her day. It turns out Passion is the Marketing and Communications Manager of The Modern Honolulu in which I am staying and says her grandmother picked her name from an old Troy Donahue movie. “It wasn’t the easiest name growing up, but I grew into it,” she laughs.
And it gets even better. Just before we depart, we also meet another staffer, Patience, who also carries all the characteristics of her lovely moniker. At this stage I ask Passion whether she will bestow on me a Hawaiian name, one which will carry me through the rest of my journey through this incredible land. She knows nothing about me, apart from the fact I’m an Australian journalist, but looks at me knowingly, and says: “My intuition tells me that you are Healani, which means heavenly haze.” I laugh out loud. Yes, The Global Goddess has well and truly arrived in Hawaii. And Elvis is definitely not dead.
The Global Goddess travelled as a guest of Hawaii Tourism. To book your own escape go to http://www.gohawaii.com/au; stay at The Modern Honolulu http://www.themodernhonolulu; and to see more of Oahu take a Discover Hawaii Tour http://www.discoverhawaiitours.com