"All you need is the plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to your destination." - Earl Nightingale
After 55 hours of travel, I had finally arrived in Bali ... and man was it sweaty!
Like all other international and domestic flights that come through Bali, I landed at Ngurah Rai Airport. The airport was small and frenzied, but smelled like burning incense, which I liked. Even the airport is considered a place of worship. The smell of incense also reminded me of my Dad. I remember when I was a teenager, he went through an incense burning phase and our whole house smelled of it - often. It was totally bizarre at the time, but in that moment that familiar smell became a comforting memory.
Despite a slight ATM snafu and quick anxiety attack, the airport entry was rather quick and painless. I purchased my $23 (approx. 250,000 Rupiah) entrance visa and made it through immigration in no time. Actually, the man who cleared me was probably one of the nicest people I've ever met. He greeted me with a warm smile, proudly showing off his crooked teeth, and kept welcoming me to Bali. Not your run-of-the-mill immigration experience, no doubt. Regardless, it was comforting and he put a much needed smile on my face. After collecting my luggage, which also survived the journey, I headed to the exit.
When I exited, there was a mob of airport porters and Taksi drivers. It was quite overwhelming at first, so I was thankfully greeted by Peter, the Volunteer Solutions Bali program manager. He's Indonesian, nice, thankfully spoke English and humored me in responding to my barrage of unfocused questions.
The Taksi ride to the Volunteer house took us about 90 minutes to central Denpasar. Clearly the Balinese infrastructure is not much to be desired. In fact, everything looked as if it was under construction with no plans of ever being finished. My guess is that many projects are started and lack of proper planning and funding quickly becomes an issue. In addition, driving is totally unorganized and overwhelming. There are no real traffic laws, thousands of motor bikes swerved recklessly through each lane, and the air was humid and filled with exhaust. It all made driving through the Lincoln Tunnel look like child's play. Not the best first impression, unfortunately, and it was a challenge for me to initially see the beauty that hid behind a thick wall of commotion.
I have to admit, while driving through I had a lapse of real self-doubt come over me. My emotions got the best of me and I thought I had made a huge mistake. After coming all this way, I was ready to turn around and head home. Being alone in such a foreign place became such a harsh reality, that let's call it what it was ... I experienced a total freak out. What the hell was I doing? Why would I leave everything that was so familiar to experience such discomfort? Why did I need to come all this way? What was I trying to prove? How can I find peace of mind in this utter chaos? Why would I chose to come to a place where I had no friends, no connections, no phone, no grasp of the language, and the 'icing on the cake' ... no idea where I was going.
The unknown made me feel totally helpless, out of control and vulnerable. Feelings that I spend most of my life trying to avoid. It was clear that I was faced with yet another one of life's little tests. How badly did I want this experience? How determined was I to stay and face the unknown? How resilient would I be in this state of weakness? How strong and courageous was I really?
It was also clear in that moment, that I was faced with one of life's little jokes. As I looked out the Taksi window, I saw it. A family of 4 piled on to a small little Honda scooter, that was clearly only made for two. The eldest was on the back, then the mother, then the two little ones in front. Regardless of what you think of her parenting skills, I mean no doubt that this would not fly in the States, here it was totally the norm. What came to mind, after the unsolicited snap-judgement, was the thought that if this little kid could look forward, brave the traffic, and have fun in the process ... well, then I was certainly capable of doing the same.
So just like that, with a few deep breaths and the beginnings of a smile, I faced forward.