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Living Abroad: The Darker Side of Bali

TravelIris BusnackComment

Side Note: I intended for my blog to be a site for which I could post my experiences and travels as they happened. But, due to some of the unfortunate experiences I endured (read below) and perhaps too many nights dancing on tables in Singapore and swinging from the chandeliers in Hong Kong (LOL) – time quickly passed me by and was hard to find time to write. So, although from memory, I try to write in the order as things happened.

Canggu - Bali, Indonesia

Canggu - Bali, Indonesia

My first few weeks in Bali were literally sunshine, glitter, and rainbows. Then, I got robbed. Being a complete headache in itself, trying to get my life as a foreigner back together was crazy. Replacing credit cards, passport, phone, etc. was a complete nightmare and extremely uncomfortable as a single women. I had lost my valuables and gained insight into what it felt to feel completely vulnerable.

Thankfully, soon after the incident I became close friends with my friend, Faith, who lived at the end of my street with her husband, Lawrence, and met an American friend who was living there for work. Going out was more frequent and I was having a blast. However, I couldn’t help get extremely nervous going home at night. I was always so nervous of getting robbed again or even worse, experiencing a home robbery since I lived alone.

Experiencing Bali as a tourist is a lot different than staying there for long periods of time.  You become familiar with faces and a lot more aware of happenings. As time passed, there wasn’t a week that went by that you wouldn’t hear about some tourist or even someone you knew on the island that got groped, robbed, bribed, bag snatched, pick pocketed, assaulted, or followed home. And this is probably something that happens a lot more than we are aware of in many tourist countries, not just Indonesia, but it was outrageously eye opening and kept me even more alert to my surroundings. Extremely important ladies!!! Always be alert and trust your instincts.

Trusting my instincts got me out of a potentially even worse situation the night I got followed home to my Villa one night. I noticed a man following me shortly after turning down my street, when I pulled over to approach the guy (and to actually see if he was following me) he acted as if he didn’t speak English and started reaching for his bag between his legs, he seemed super sketchy. Luckily, I had just hired security (because 911 doesn’t exist) that looked over a few other Villas in the area and sped off straight to him. The guy followed me all the way there until he noticed my guy. My heart was beating out of my chest as he quickly sped past. I could not sleep that entire night!

They say Bali is full of Karma. I like to believe that if I hold any kind of Karma in this life, it is good Karma. But for some reason, in Bali, it felt like I constantly had this black cloud over me. I was ready to leave Bali and hit the refresh button in order to return a month later with a do-over. This time traveling with a friend, and staying with friends who had been living in Ubud for 25 years in their beautiful villa over looking the fluorescent green rice paddies. It was quiet and relaxing, just what I needed.

About three weeks into our stay, I woke up in the middle of the night to catch a man dressed in all black (literally only his eyes showing) perched on my window of our second story bedroom. My lack of clothing had me stunned and a bit stalled in my immediate reaction to attack the guy. With just a sliding window between him and I (my side being closed and the other side being left open), I stood up to begin banging and screaming on the window to scare him off from trying to climb into the opened portion. He seemed to finally disappear into the dark, so I quickly tried to find clothes only to notice him trying to climb into the window AGAIN!!! Running over quickly to bang on the window again and yell as loud as possible, he finally gave up. I saw him climb down off the ledge hopping over the wall.

Bali was an extraordinary place there is no doubt about it. But, I could no longer force the fact that it just wasn’t the place for me to be long term, as much as I wanted it to be. Everyone I had spoken to that has lived there for years say you have to give it six months and Bali will either embrace you with open arms or chew you up and spit you out. Well, I was basically trying to hold my hair back while Bali was vomiting me out. Lol- so to speak.

Coined the Island of the Gods, this place is equal parts magical and equal parts mysteriously dark. It challenged my instincts, vigor, and resilience, and with that, I decided to move on (with a little PTSD to boot, ugh!). Regardless, Bali will always hold a special place in my heart and will definitely go back (I’ll just stay at a swanky hotel

The Night Tinder Saved My Life...

TravelIris Busnack1 Comment
Photo from Pinterest

Photo from Pinterest

Let’s be honest, Tinder has earned a bad wrap. And most women looking for even a decent conversation wouldn’t be caught dead on the app.

But, ladies, when traveling abroad – Tinder can quickly become you’re best friend or even a lifeline, as it soon became for me.

Over six months ago, I packed up all of my things and decided to move to Bali, Indonesia. I had never been and didn’t know a soul on the island. Once I arrived, I began exploring the places I had researched (or basically eating my way around Bali). Life was great! But - as time started to pass, hanging out with myself became a bit boring. I wanted to meet people and it just wasn’t happening (very unusual for me as I am quite the social type).

Actually, I did meet one guy a few days into arriving, who called himself “Doctor”. He was a dentist who clearly thought highly of himself (I think there is an entire Seinfeld episode based on the topic of Doctor vs. Anyhow, somehow by the end of the night, I ended up on a romantic dinner date with this dude, which for me, was just a little too fast and wasn’t feeling his 0-100 in 60sec approach. Also tried to top it off with an attempted make out session. Thanks, but, I’ll pass! I was really hoping this was not all Bali had to offer.

A few days later, I downloaded Tinder.

Tinder tip #1:

Perfect way to meet other solo travelers or a local who could possibly introduce you to a larger group of people/ friends.

Tinder tip #2:

Be sure to clarify what you are looking for (or in this case, most likely, what you are NOT looking for) before meeting up in order to avoid any awkward situations.

Tinder tip #3:

I have a general rule that if you didn’t take two seconds to write a little something about yourself, you are not interesting enough to swipe right.

Tinder tip #4:

Highly suggest being VERY thoughtful in your swipes. Never swipe right if you are unsure, if it takes you too long to think about which way to swipe, swipe left.

In my head, I imagined Bali as this magical place where only the tanned, 6’2 or taller surfers could enter. Just a whole bunch of chiseled bodies running around with surfboards and blonde hair. Ha! There may be a few of those in Bali, but boy did Tinder quickly dissolve that fantasy.

Continuing to swipe away, I matched with a few people. A guy I will call “S” had sparked up a conversation with, “such a shame, I just saw your height”. I replied, “you must be short”. After a bit of banter, he admitted his height to be at 5’7. I’ve had to sacrifice height my entire adolescence because I was always taller than all of the boys. So, height is usually non-negotiable for me. However, he kept the conversations fun, harmless and like myself he was also in Bali by himself. Making it clear that I had no interest in a short man, we continued to chat now and then and eventually met up for drinks.

Our “non” date was planned last minute as we were both in the same area in need of a few drinks to end our day. He looked just as he did in his photos (phew!) and his personality was awesome! We sat chatting for hours and he even joked with the waiter when he asked if “S” and I were on our Honeymoon, with a reply of “yes”. I love when a man isn’t too serious and can make me laugh. With “S”, it was non-stop laughter. After our fourth drink we decided to call it a night and I insisted on going Dutch on the bill to show that it was NOT a date. Lol. After dropping me off, he suggested we go surfing the next morning. So we met bright and early the next day, surfed for a few hours and then he, once again, dropped me home and said our goodbye with no more than a friendly hug.

That night, I got robbed. Two men on a motorbike snatched my bag from my lap while en route on a scooter to my villa. Not only was my phone, ipad, passport, credit cards, and cash stolen – but so were my villa keys. I had never felt so helpless. I was in a foreign country with no one to call and no way to get into my villa. Finally finding a police post and getting directions to a police station, the driver had offered to lend me his cell phone in order to call someone. I replied in tears “I don’t know anyone here and I don’t know anyone’s phone number”. As I quickly pulled myself together, I remembered I knew only ONE person in Bali, “S”.

I quickly got on the drivers phone and logged into my account in order to message “S”, quickly to find out that you can only message through the messenger app (and in order to do that you have to log in and verify your phone number etc.). So my only hope of having somewhere other than an Indonesian police station to sleep in, was to post an S.O.S comment on “S’s” page in hope’s that he would see it and even take it seriously enough to respond. Luckily, he did. Within the minute he called the phone number I left and asked if I was okay. While holding tears back, I explained what had just happened and asked if he could meet me at the police station. With no hesitation, he replied “of course!”. After spending a very awkward hour in the police station, “S” let me crash at his place until the next morning when I could get into my Villa.

Not only did “S” save me from a potentially even worse situation, but, his genuine kindness and help continued throughout the weeks to follow by helping me get my life re-sorted post robbery. At this point I didn’t know how to ride a scooter so I was solely dependent on him to drive me around getting a new phone, passport, and he even offered to lend me cash until I could get my credit cards replaced. Remember, we had only known each other 3 days at this point. But soon, he became a close friend that felt like we had known each other forever.

So, this post is dedicated to the man I met on Tinder, who literally saved my life. You have a big heart and kind soul. And, to all of the solo female travelers, don’t be afraid to get on Tinder while you are abroad. It has introduced me to so many people along the way and in turn, so many more experiences. Remember, happiness is a journey, not a destination ;)



Why I Quit My Job to Move to Bali

TravelIris BusnackComment
Nusa Penida, Bali - Indonesia

Nusa Penida, Bali - Indonesia

This idea has become more and more of a phenomenon, quitting the day job to enjoy the simpler things in life. Blindly, I have ended up on a trend that I had no idea I would be a part of. I was exhausted of working tireless hours (at a job I loved) for a company where I could not relate to their company ethos, and had no time for my personal life.

Single, living in New York City, and the unbearable winters were getting tiring. All I was interested in was a huge life change. Being from Arizona, I love sun and hot weather. Being a product of hippie parents had me curious to see the Eastern part of the world. So it is no surprise that a trip to Thailand in January of last year would catapult my decision to quit my job and travel the world. Before visiting Thailand, I consulted my mother on whether I should visit Thailand or Bali for vacation. In the end, I chose Thailand for vacation and when it came time to make the move abroad, I decided on Bali because I had never been. Simple.

After making the decision and the move, every so often I would get forwarded an e-mail by friends of articles on similar topics and even more specifically on Bali. Apprently, Bali is all the rage right now. After seeing the movie Eat, Pray, Love you would think this place is full of middle-aged divorced women going through a mid-life crisis trying to find themselves and their very own Kutut….lol. But, after spending four months in Bali, this isn’t the case.  Feeling a bit relieved (lol) and happy with my choice of Bali, I have never felt more inspired! Bali oozes creativity and is full of talented people from all over the world who crave a life of basking in the sun, taking it easy, and working from a place that is beautiful and full of entrepreneurial spirits. It’s almost like living at a yoga retreat. Except if you’re not a yogi, then you’re a surfer but at the end of the day you’re all grubbing on Nalu bowls, organic foods, drinking cold pressed juices or Kombucha, and enjoying a Bintang at sunset. Above and beyond the entrepreneurial high, the lifestyle is one that could get anyone addicted!

Why I Chose Bali

Why did I choose Bali? A question I am most commonly asked. Well, my hippie mom. Plain and simple. When you’re young you are usually embarrassed by your parents and not until you are older do you really realize how cool they actually are. At least, that’s how I feel.

The epitome of a flower child, my mother attended Kent State University in the 1970’s during the Vietnam War protests that caused the death of four college students, saw Bob Marley & The Whalers at a little bar in Canton, Ohio before Bob Marley gained worldwide fame, listened to Gil-Scott Heron who  engendered Hip-hop music,   traveled the world, and tells me stories of days when she and her girlfriend would do magic mushrooms on their way to a Grateful Dead concert trying to time it perfectly but end up getting lost and not making it till the show is over. Lol.

That being said, my mother likes to brag about things she’s already done that are making a comeback. Lol. And this includes traveling all the way to Bali before it was the “thing to do”.  I have been hearing about how magical Bali is since I was ten years old and before areas like Seminyak or Canggu even existed. I was infatuated with one day visiting the place my mother spoke of so highly and experiencing it for myself.  I couldn’t wait to interact with the beloved Hindu culture and the wonderful Balinese that nicknamed my mom “Nancy Reagan” because at the time, that was their association with an American with the name Nancy. Lol. The stories were endless and the infatuation my mother had with their kindness and spirits are eternal. And she may have mentioned hot surfers in there somewhere…lol.

It’s hard to say whether my travel bug is genetic or simply because I have heard tons of stories from both of my parents that have inspired my interest to see more of the world and have similar stories to share one day. Either way, it was amazing to have full support from them both to take this adventure.

Has This Experience Changed Me?

I think all experiences contribute to who we are and who we eventually become. From a very small age I always knew I wanted to be in fashion. I couldn’t wait to graduate college so I could move to New York City and get my career started. I was hungry and motivated. Fast forward ten years, still in love with the fashion world but exhausted with life and the industry. I was in dire need of a sabbatical, a reboot, a recharge. Some take these long sabbaticals to “find” themselves or sometimes have self realizations etc. This experience has in fact just reinforced how well I do know myself. I still would die to own every Celine bag, travel the world in first class, and miss every single shoe and handbag I left back home. However, the most important thing this experience has done is change the way I think about myself. It has empowered me to believe in me. Picking up and leaving everything behind to live in a foreign country by myself was completely frightening. But, experiencing that fear of diving head first into the unknown helped me gain confidence and motivated me to start a new beginning.