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by Kristin Campbell

Bali, a tiny island province of Indonesia, is often referred to as the Island of the Gods, and most appropriately so.  After 33 hours of travel from Atlanta, it was more like arriving to a living postcard of paradise.  After reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ years ago, Bali was one of those places I had added to my list of ‘I’ll get there maybe, someday.’  I’m so glad I finally realized that there is no time like the present to start tackling that lengthy list of places I want to visit, because it far surpassed all of my expectations.

The first few days of the trip were spent relaxing on the south side of the island at the Bukit Karang Villas (Villa Johnpaul) where we had our own private villa, pool, and personal driver.  Definitely off the beaten path surrounded by what some would view as being third world.

A few miles away from Dreamland Beach, it was a great place to unwind, enjoy the view, and take in the culture.  Amazing sunrises from the patio, hot and sunny morning runs down to the cliffs and beach, and some serious wave breaks.  One of the best parts was seeing the locals putting their offering out each morning.

Small baskets made out of palm leaves, and filled with fabulous smelling Frangipani incense and flowers are placed outside of residences and businesses daily as part of Balinese Hinduism tradition to appease the Gods with a repeated act of faith.

When I asked our driver what the offerings were for, overflowing with happiness, he said “to be thankful, make more lucky, and have more love.”  What a lovely part of their everyday life and culture to begin the day by practicing gratitude and appreciating what they have, and the simple things.

By most materialistic U.S. standards they don’t appear to have much, but are obviously a spiritually rich culture.

Speaking of the simple things, one of my favorite things in life is a good sunset, which we definitely found at Jimbaran Beach.

Known for its world famous sunsets, the beach is also lined with great restaurants to have a sunset seafood dinner with your toes in the sand.  We were lucky enough to enjoy all of the above, along with getting serenaded by a local Mariachi band singing us their rendition of Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl, or in this case, Blue Eyed Girl.  Not quite what we were expecting, but it was fun entertainment!

Another highlight from this part of the trip was spending the day at Finn’s Beach Club in Uluwatu, or as I called it, a little slice of heaven.  With an infinity pool at the top overlooking the Indian Ocean, and cliffs so steep you have to ride a cable car to get down to the beach, it’s definitely a piece of paradise.

The beach and cliffs made for some amazing photo ops, and also offered good surf in the afternoon as well as calmer waters for stand up paddle boarding by early evening.  It was a great place to enjoy the water, and the view.

For those looking for more activity, I would definitely suggest Kuta and Legian Beach where we spent the second half of our trip.  There is something for everyone in this area, from the beach and water sports, to shopping, plenty of restaurants and great local cuisine to choose from as well as nightlife.  I was blessed to spend my 35th birthday enjoying a sunny morning run followed by an excellent view of the ocean and glass of sangria with one of my best friends at a cute little beach bar in Legian.  It doesn’t get much better than that. #thegoodlife

And last but not least, no trip to Bali would be complete without a visit to Ubud, a small town known for its rice paddies, steep ravines, arts and crafts, and of course, yoga.  It’s actually regarded as the cultural center of Bali, and offers a general feeling of well-being and good energy to be enjoyed throughout this bustling little town.

Ubud is also known as being one of the largest centers for yoga in southeast Asia, so of course I had to get my vinyasa on.  Vinyasa refers to the linking of body movements with the breath, or a specific sequence of breath-synchronized movements to flow between yoga postures.  The Yoga Barn, one of the top rated studios in Bali, offers a wide variety of classes, everything from traditional Bikram, Vinayasa flow, Yin and Restorative as well as meditation.

Their outdoor tree house studios are the perfect place to enjoy a workout and take in the scenery.  I’ve taken a lot of Vinyasa / power flow classes in the decade I’ve been practicing yoga, but this one was definitely unlike any other.

Now don’t get me wrong, true to form it was a wonderful workout with plenty of sun salutations, flows, and downward facing dogs, but it was the end of that class that will stick with me for a long time to come.  Instead of the traditional meditation in silence at the end of class, the instructor led us through a form of laughter meditation.

I’ll be the first to admit, it sounded kind of wonky as it was being explained.  The instructor starts off by fake laughing in order to get all 50+ students in the class to laugh.  My first thought was yeah, right.  Well, if anyone ever needed proof that energy is wildly contagious, they could have found it in that moment.

It started slow at first, a few giggles here and there and then the next thing I knew the whole studio, myself included, had erupted in laughter and I’m not talking about just funny ha-ha.  You know, like the kind of deep belly laughing that makes your eyes water, and your abs hurt because you can’t stop, and you can’t catch your breath.

By that point, I had no idea what was so funny, but it was.  Absolutely.  Hilarious.  I still don’t know what was so funny that afternoon, but I can tell you the amount of positive energy and true happiness radiating out of that tree house studio was something amazing.

There is an old expression that says “blessed are those who see beautiful things in humble places where others see nothing.”  This couldn’t be more true of Bali.

A tiny  island in Indonesia that by many standards is considered very third world.  But for me, this little slice of paradise put a lot of things into perspective.  I feel as though Bali and it’s culture is a valuable reminder of how important kindness, generosity, and gratitude really are.

The locals are so friendly and cheerful, and grateful for all that they  have.  I’m very thankful for the time I was able to spend there to take it all in and get a big dose of enlightenment.

So thanks for an epic adventure Bali.  The light in me honors the light in you, Namaste.