As I strolled through the streets of Ubud I suddenly came to a quick halt when I saw the sign with the words: Ketut Liyer’s House & Family. Medicine Man, Healing & Meditation, Palm Reading, Balinese Astrology, Painter, Home Stay.
Here I was; footsteps away from the famous-kind-of-toothless-medicine-man of Bali…
Eat, Pray, Love put Bali on the map, more so than what it did for the other two parts of the book: India and Italy. India is still messy, Italy is still filled with carbs, but Bali is now filled with something else…
Visitors to Bali (mostly females) now plan their vacation around the places shown in the movie; visitors want to have their own Eat, Pray, Love experience – an experience like the movie, not like the book. They just need the highlights from the movie, not the full story from a 360-page memoir. It’s like a little checklist they carry around for the “perfect” experience:
Go to the beach they showed in Eat, Pray, Love.
See Ketut Liyer the medicine man.
Get a hair treatment from Wayan the healer.
Cycle around in Ubud.
Visit the market.
Do yoga in the rice fields.
Nowadays these checklists come in all shapes and sizes in the form of package tours. These retreats / spiritual experiences / self-discovery journeys contain all those “important highlights” and somewhere in the website copy you’ll always find the words “Eat, pray, love” or a wordplay of Eat, Pray and Something Else. These “experiences” don’t come cheap, on average it’s a ridiculous steep amount of $1200* for just a week.
Here I was; footsteps away from the famous-kind-of-toothless-medicine-man of Bali. I peeked through the entrance gates and saw a few people waiting around for palm readings and what not. I took one last peak, turned away and continued down the road. I didn’t even see the medicine man.
I turned away from the “opportunity” to meet this guy because it was not part of my journey. I didn’t want to follow in the footsteps of someone else’s journey.
And that’s just the thing about Indonesia – Indonesia is so much more than a list of “things to do” and “things to see”, it’s so much more than just Bali and more than Eat, Pray, Love and living vicarously through a movie. Indonesia is the place where no plans are the best kind of plans you can have, it’s the place where random encounters can leave you changed forever, it’s a place with plentiful things to offer if you just let go of that checklist.
Allow Indonesia to be your spiritual retreat and make it your own. Let the fresh air of the islands be your healing centre,the streets of Indonesia your labyrinth; the ears of a friend your meditation cave. Let the sand be your yoga mat, the water your nirvana and the sunset your astrology reading. Let inner peace, gratitude and contentment be your fortune teller for tomorrow, let your senses teach you and let the smiles of the beautiful Indonesian souls be your guru, because when the student is ready the teacher appears.
Eat, pray and go do something else! It’s your journey, OWN it!