This morning I met Elizabeth Gilbert.
As I was sitting and drinking my morning coffee with Joey eating a crumbly bun beside me, I saw a woman sitting in the other corner of the couch I was on, playing on her phone.
She asked me how old Joey was after Joey made it very clear, by yelling at her, that he was desperate for her attention. My boy is such a social guy!!
We struck up a conversation and I found out that she was from LA.
Recently laid off from her job.
Recently divorced with a recently sold house.
Came to Ubud to soul search and figure out 'what's next'.
As I listened to her talk about her life back home and how coming here was a peaceful retreat, I found myself agreeing with her. Of course a vacation is a peaceful retreat. You can have a peaceful retreat anywhere. Granted - Ubud is an awesome place to have it. With the jungle comes a symphony of sounds, colours, and animals. There are beautiful things to buy, healthy, cheap food to eat, raw juices and brightly coloured fruit. Not to mention the weather, which remains a bearable temperature all day with just the right amount of breeze.
But, as I listened to her, I realized she was starting to get delusional in her 'retreat', which I'm positive happens to many westerners visiting Ubud or other places in SE Asia.
"I think about my life in LA and I think why? I'm paying thousands for my apartment and for what? I pay 20 dollars for a meal at a restaurant and I think 'what for?' Here I can spend $5 and eat all I want. I can stay here for $30 a night. It's so peaceful here. What are we doing wrong in LA?"
It kind of made me cringe hearing her think like that.
First off, you're on a vacation. You're not living here. If you were living here, you'd be working. Just the same as you'd do back home. You would probably feel the same way here as you do there while you're working. This sucks. I'd rather be doing ____. Except for, if you were working here, you'd probably get cranky because where you're working probably won't have AC.
Secondly, yes. It's cheap. It's amazing. Coming from one of the wealthiest countries in the world, the sky really is the limit here in Ubud. But, you're forgetting something. The majority of local people here in Bali are dirt poor, making next to no money. Why do you think things cost so little? Because most people here are living in poverty.
Do the locals look relaxed? Like they're wandering around in a zen trance? Did they recently get a hot stone massage and a flower petal bath? No.
Here's what the locals are doing:
Crouching on the sidewalks in the blazing sun, wearing dirty clothes and practically begging you to take a taxi ride. Or get a massage. Or come into their store. Or cooking your cheap meals over flaming, steaming stove tops in an unairconditioned kitchen. Some of them are old ladies. Some of them are pregnant girls. Some of them are very young. Their children are running around the restaurant or in the kitchen with them while you sit at a table and get the food presented to you and marvel about how cheap everything is.
Of course Ubud is great for you. and me. and people that aren't locals. It's getting better for people that are locals, too, with all the tourism. But don't forget why it's cheap and why you feel so peaceful.
You're not working.
You're not in poverty.