The tourist industry here is brash and caters to a type of tourist that we haven’t encountered often in our travels. As we walked up Jalan Legian looking for a good place to stay, we got stuck behind three young Australian men shopping, apparently enjoying themselves but spouting the "F" word like burps after a big meal
. I imagine they were picking up souvenirs like the ashtray that declares, “I got smashed in Bali” with the punchline, “then I did it again.” But as soon as we got off the main street and made our way through the maze of high-walled alleys between houses and “beach inns” (that are not on the beach) we found ourselves back in the gentle Bali that we knew from elsewhere, the temples and statuary and incense and offerings lining our way. We did find a quiet oasis, a budget accommodation with a garden and meticulously maintained temples within. With that to anchor our sanity, we walked out to explore the beach, which stretches for miles with enthusiastic surfers tackling the waves. It was a pleasant walk along the shore as long as we kept our gaze out to sea—otherwise, it’s a crowded city beach for miles, with the frequent landing of planes off its south end, reminding us of our imminent departure.
Fast forward past a forty-hour journey in three stages via Singapore and Tokyo to Vancouver. Flying south from Alaska over our snowy Coast Mountains, I was startled yet again by my emotional response. These dark and snow-dappled mountains stretching as far as the eye can see, these rippling blue inlets and craggy shores: they move me in a way few other places can. A couple of days later, speeding toward Savary Island in a small boat, I kept my sunglasses on to hide the embarrassing tears that pricked my eyes as the scents of sea and forest carried by the wind said to me, “this is your home, and you know it.”
The day I arrived at Savary it was not in our family’s 17-foot Double Eagle powerboat, but in a friend’s: ours had had its bowline severed the previous windy night by the prop of a boat that had dragged anchor, and it was missing
. We had an anxious day of phone calls back and forth to the police and Coast Guard, and much discussion among friends on the beach as to what had happened, where it could be, and what state it would be in if found. Sunk was one possibility, especially as the day stretched on and no one reported seeing it. At 10:05 p.m., a cruise ship spotted it between Denman and Hornby Islands, and the Coast Guard called at 11:30 p.m. to say they had brought it in to Deep Bay on Vancouver Island. I had been home barely 48 hours, and this drama highlighted the contrast between the travelling life and life at home: home means I take responsibility for mowing my knee-deep lawn and pulling out shoulder-height weeds in my little garden, cleaning house and cooking, insuring my car and driving again, and it means not allowing our boat to float off in a stormy sea. Travelling, on the other hand, allows us
to float unencumbered, save for a backpack, through places where others hold the responsibility for the mowing and weeds, cleaning and cooking, and driving.
It takes a while for the significance of a journey to sink in. We weren’t exactly transformed, like the butterflies I saw in Singapore Changi Airport’s butterfly garden; I feel like much the same person who left six months ago. However, we have opened our hearts and minds wide to the world we wandered through, gathered sights, sounds, smells, and stories, and we will now “draw in,” as Robert Frost says, to “consolidate our gains.” Memories of our trip will likely emerge from time to time and influence our thoughts and decisions
. At this moment, I am thinking a lot of the young man from Rajasthan who asked me what my dream was (I had no good answer because I was already living my dream) and then declared his is to learn how to use the internet but he doesn’t know how to read English and he didn’t go to school: how can he learn how to read English, he asked me. And in connection with him, how simple literacy would improve the lives of so many living in poverty in India. And those thoughts have led me to research the work of literacy organizations in Canada and India, and who knows where that will lead. It might just be the next story I have to tell.
For now, though, I’m signing off and this is the final blog posting for this adventure. To the readers of these blog postings, thanks for following our journey; the comments and emails and “likes” encouraged me to keep writing.
And thanks to the first reader of every blog post, my partner in drifting: “there’s such a lot of world [still] to see” . . .
From our idyllic retreat on Gili Meno, we made the sea crossing back to Bali, and then the car journey along crowded roads (the van's brakes metal on metal) to Kuta, the infamous part of Bali near the airport. It was here that bombs went off in 2002 in two packed nightclubs, killing 202 people and injuring many more. On our walk north up Jalan Legian to find a quieter place to stay, we passed the memorial located where one of the nightclubs, Paddy’s Pub, used to stand, opposite the empty lot where Sari, the other nightclub, used to be. Just two and a half weeks before, the last of the 2002 Bali bombers was finally sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for this mass murder.