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  • Writer's pictureGina Cho

First solo trip found me in Bali

Am I making a mistake? Am I crazy to quit my job? I have a plan, I always have a plan, what am I going to do afterwards?

(The biggest mistake to date would in fact be buying my return ticket because my ex boyfriend insisted on it).

Here I am in JFK making the 20+ hour trip to DPS. The plane was empty, I had the 3 seat row to myself. So I slept the entire flight.

My driver, Dana, picks me up from the airport. A newbie traveler booked a driver in advance. He takes me to Canggu, a quaint small beach town thriving with Australians whose Bali is a New Yorker's Cancun. It’s hot and humid when I arrive to Echo Hostel. I’m shown my dorm which is a three person bunk made of thick logs. The A/C is running and I feel some comfort from the thick humid heat like a heavy cloud around me. Two girls are packing, ready to leave the next day. First thing I do is change into my bikini to go out in the pool in front of our rooms. All the rooms overlook the small blue pool outside and there are already travelers chatting. I’m extremely shy but I know I need to make my acquaintance now before it’s too late. 

I walk out to them and introduce myself. They look more or less my age and seem to be friends already but it looks like I came at an opportune time as they were just getting to know each other too. I met a French-Canadian Clara, a Brit named James, Mikael the Swede and others. We all got dinner later that night at a rooftop restaurant where it was too hot to stay so we soon left for drinks.

Fast forward another day, Dana takes me to Uluwatu Water Temple. He asked where else I want to go and I told him I have no plans. So he takes me scuba diving. The first time going, and I struggled with regulating my breathing- adjusting to relying on a tube hooked to a tank of oxygen is surreal to say the least. I cut myself on coral and forget all the sign language I was supposed to remember to communicate with my diver.

Later that night, Clara and James insist on me taking a hike up a volcano for a Bali sunrise for my birthday at midnight. I’m hesitant but it didn’t take too much convincing, especially since I didn’t have anything else planned (I had nothing planned actually). We take a long car ride to the base of the volcano and begin our trek. Our supplies include headlamps with 30 min of battery power, some chips for food and all the warm clothes we could find in our luggage for the chilly summit.

After four of the longest, hardest hours of my life we make it to the top. We had to stop frequently because it was an exhausting and extremely steep climb. I was on my hands and knees climbing up the smooth rock convinced I would slip down and tumble back to the base. At the peak, my legs are stiff and numb. The guides who spoke no English hands us some food and hot tea for us to share. Clara and I stare off at the sunrise in disbelief to see the sun shine hues of reds and yellows to purple and blues blending against the sky like rainbows painted from a watercolor set. The climb was also extremely intense. James and another guy go up to the center of the volcano but trying to walk a few feet up I feel dizzy immediately. Altitude sickness. One of the guides walks me down the mountain with Clara to get a head start. The boys climb out the center and meet us shortly after. We were slow, using sticks for balancing.

We sleep all day to recover and rest. The gang decides to go out to celebrate my 24th birthday. I ride with Mikael who told me to be careful of the deep irrigation ditches (for when it floods during wet season). We start at Old Mans for drinks and food. We played pong and killed it, making it to the finals out of over a dozen teams. (Winner gets a bottle of tequila). Old Mans closes early and the night is still young. We head back to our scooters and I fall in the ditch, my right leg thigh deep in the ditch, bleeding from the jagged cement walls. Mikael drives me to a convenience store to clean the wound. We make a pit stop for liquor and head to the beach to drink and swim in the ocean in our undergarments. The waves are rough- they are meant for surfing and being drunk was dangerous. We head back to the hostel to finish the booze on the rooftop playing games and laughing all night. These first few days I didn't want to end.

The next day I head back to the airport hungover to pick up my ex-boyfriend, Brian. I bought his flight over and since I paid for it, it was cheaper for him to meet me later. He's sweating and already sprained his ankle running to meet me and Dana. He didn't set up his phone with internet as directed so we head to our next destination and stop by a vendor along the street later.

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