A Decade on the Other Side of the World

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I’m often asked what brought me to Bali. It’s a story that I rarely tell. It’s a long one. Definitely not the one that begins with “I was traveling the world, landed in Bali, and realized it was paradise.” I’m finally ready to tell the story. I need to tell the story. There’s a healing that takes place in the revealing of our stories.

A New Life

Ten years ago this year, I left everything I knew and moved to the other side of the world. Indonesia…a series of islands I barely remembered learning about in school. I vaguely remember an ex-boyfriend dreaming of a surfing trip to Bali. Where on earth was Bali?

I’ll never forget the day I said “goodbye” to my homeland. My 5 month old baby in my arms, my husband (at the time) sitting next to me, and over 24 hours of travel brought us to a foreign land that had much more in store for me than I ever thought possible. Jakarta was our destination.

Landing in one of the most polluted, populated cities in the world, with stares coming from every direction, left me wondering if the whole idea was a huge mistake. Little did I know what was soon to happen.

Not one month after our arrival, I came down with Dengue Fever and was hospitalized for several days. It was the first time I had ever been apart from my son. I was in a foreign hospital feeling worse than I ever had in my life. I missed my home. I missed everything that was familiar.

The Great Depression

Life went on.

With each month that passed, I prayed for a way to feel at home, yet the feeling never arrived. Depression came on with a vengeance and I questioned the decision to live every day. Many days left me wishing I was anywhere other than where I was. I felt so alone, no matter what my husband and his family did to try and make me feel comfortable. My little boy was the reason I got up every day.

The only relief I found was in our trips to Starbucks, which reminded me of home. That’s the funny thing about Starbucks – they’re pretty much the same no matter where you go. That cafe, with the familiar smells, cheery music, and green aprons was my lifeline at the time. Until it wasn’t enough…

The Big Decision

Every passing day left me feeling more and more hopeless. Nothing felt “right.” I had lost my identity, lost my way of life, and most significantly, lost my spirit.

I had to leave. It was the most difficult decision I had ever made. I knew my husband was meant to be in his homeland; Jakarta was where he thrived. So I did the only thing I knew to do at the time. I asked for a divorce.

The months that followed were beyond painful. Stress had taken its toll on me.

I collapsed. Literally.

Rock Bottom

There I was, on the floor, rapidly losing my life. Just that morning, I was baking muffins and a few short hours later, I was barely alive. A virus – some strange bacteria – who knows what it was. I still don’t have any clue.

I remember being carried to the car, going in and out of consciousness. My Mom was called. I think I told her I was dying. The last thing I saw was my little boy’s face, then I drifted off into nowhere land. I woke up in the E.R. with tubes hooked up to my body, faint voices in strange languages fading in and out.

I was alive.

The doctors said I was lucky to have made it. Just a short while longer and I would have been dead.

I had been given another chance.

It was time to begin picking up the pieces of my shattered life – a life I had chosen nonetheless. I knew I couldn’t take my little boy away from his father. Something within me could not pack up and head back to America. But, I knew we had to move somewhere other than where we were. So, we spent a little time in a smaller city on Java, and I enrolled in language school. After all, if I was going to try and remain somewhere in the country, it would be much easier knowing the local language.

Gaining Strength

Things were tough, yet I was feeling more empowered with every day that passed. Little signs kept popping up everywhere, pointing me in the direction of Bali. I had no idea why. I would see people walking around with “I Love Bali” t-shirts, hear news about the island, and stumble upon websites about it. Something was trying to get my attention.

I finally listened.

One synchronistic experience after another led to an opportunity to pack up and head out once again. With cats and rabbits in the moving truck (yes, I’m serious), and flights booked, we were off on a new adventure. Being so close to Java, it was doable for visitation with my son’s father. Finally, a solution had arrived.

The Universe gives us what we need for the expansion of our soul, however. I still had some big expanding to experience! :)

Excavating My Authentic Self

Far from the “Eat, Pray, Love” romantic adventure, life in Bali has a rhythm all its own. It either embraces you or chews you up and spits you out with no mercy to spare. For me, it has been an invitation to dig into the deepest realms of my soul. I’ve learned more about myself in the time I’ve been here than the other three and a half decades of my life put together.

As a highly sensitive person in an energetic power center of the world, things can get very intense. I’ve been through dark lows and amazing highs, soaring and dipping, leaping with every ounce of faith I have. Every experience sheds another layer off the stories that weave through me. The wounds of the past just can’t seem to stay hidden here. There’s no use even trying. Bali is the “liver of the world.” It’s meant to filter out the junk and eventually show us the beauty that was in there all along.

I know deep within my heart that I was brought here for a reason. Every experience that led up to this moment was meant to be. It’s not something I could ever understand with my rational mind.

It’s only in the moments of deep stillness, with birds and blossoms all around me, that I remember the greater purpose of it all.

The Journey Continues

I honor every part of the past that has led me to this moment. I have learned that our stories, as real as they seem to us, do not define us. They’re here to take us to our truth and show us the essence of who we are.

I don’t know where the next decade will take me. The journey is still unfolding. I’m sure there are many more realms to uncover and explore on this grand adventure.

With trust and faith in my heart, I take a deep breath, say a prayer, open my arms as wide as I can, and embrace this wild and precious life.

To be continued…

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Deborah March 30, 2013 at 8:32 am

Thank you for sharing your story. The imagery of every experience helping shave off another layer…that’s powerful.

I’ll look forward to reading another chapter!

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Alia March 30, 2013 at 8:24 pm

Thank you for reading, Deborah. It means so much to me. I think this could be a book! :) So much to tell. Sending you love.

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Rachel March 30, 2013 at 10:49 am

Knowing more of your story makes me love you even more. I have thought of you today many times and said your name a lot, each time felt like a blessing for you and for me too.

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Alia March 30, 2013 at 8:25 pm

I’ve been thinking of you so much Rachel…feeling angels all around and knowing your presence is here. I’m feeling the blessings. Loving you.

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liz March 30, 2013 at 11:26 am

So deeply appreciate you sharing these pieces of your story. I’m imagining we’re having tea and I’m listening and nodding as you speak these truths. Yes.

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Alia March 30, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Oh how I would love to really be sitting together with tea (and chocolate of course), sharing stories of our lives. Perhaps one day that will become reality. I adore you, beautiful Liz.

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Helen March 30, 2013 at 11:38 am

I felt a cool breeze as I continued to read your beautiful expression…thank you for sharing your bravery! My parents loved Bali and now I get to read of your experiences!

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Alia March 30, 2013 at 8:30 pm

I hope you’ll also come to Bali one day, Helen! There’s so much to experience here. In the meantime, I’m sure I’ll have plenty more to share from this side of the world. :) Thank you for reading, my friend. xo

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Simone April 1, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Oh Alia, thank you so much for sharing your inspiring story of growth and continuing transformation. You wrote “There’s a healing that takes place in the revealing of our stories” … well, that healing takes place in other hearts as well. What a relief to know that the speed-bumps along all our journeys are a normal and expected part of the whole process.

You also wrote, “The Universe gives us what we need for the expansion of our soul” … so THANK YOU, Universe, for Alia!!!!

So looking forward to meeting you again SOON, Alia!!! Counting down the days :-)

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Alia April 2, 2013 at 9:18 am

I’m so looking forward to seeing you here in Bali in just a few short weeks, Simone! Thank you for your light, love, and continued support. Much love to you.

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Elloa April 17, 2013 at 9:50 pm

Dearest Alia,

Your story is so powerful – I had no idea you had almost died, and more than once in some ways. I can relate to a lot of your feelings and the soars and lows you’ve been through. I haven’t been to Bali but my younger sister has, and she reports having the best time of her life out there. She borrowed my backpack, which felt really significant, as if she was taking a part of my spirit with her.

I have just received your beautiful gift… strangely, it was sitting INSIDE a drawer in my desk, although I’m sure I’d never come across the envelope before. Absolutely beautiful. Thank you so much, and I adore the colours and bead.

I think it’s amazing that you have been there for a decade. Today I am celebrating a decade plus one year in recovery from addiction. It’s a long time, and the blink of an eye.

Much love,
Elloa x

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Alia August 6, 2013 at 9:05 pm

I love you so dearly, Elloa. I think of you so much – both you and Nige. I imagine you both cycling for miles and miles, experiencing the beauty of what it means to be truly alive. xo

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Erin August 6, 2013 at 10:29 pm

You said it perfectly…. Bali refines us, and brings us to our greatest essence. Sending you love as you discover another part of yourself in this return “home.” I am on the same journey.

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Cassandra August 7, 2013 at 10:34 am

This is a beautiful story and I thank you for sharing. I feel parts of this in my own story. I left America 4 months ago and now live in the Philippines. Sometimes it’s a real challenge adjusting to this new way of life, but it’s where I need to be right now and offers things America can’t. Kudos to you for being so brave and staying strong.

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