Eat, Pray, Love in Ubud, Bali: A Paradise Destination of Rediscovery and Healing.
Healing is the central theme of the inspirational memoir Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia—a true to life autobiography of Elizabeth Gilbert, a divorced woman who rediscovered life and the meaning of true love through her travels. Eat, Pray, Love inspired me to embark on a journey to Ubud, Bali to understand myself, and these three words from Gilbert still play a significant role in my life.
In July 2019, I packed my belongings and said my goodbyes to my life in the sandbox that is Abu Dhabi. I set out to start a new life and career in Indonesia—an exotic Asian country of Zen living, self-reflection, and gratitude.
Most people think of Indonesia as a slideshow of breathtaking sunsets, pristine beaches, sacred temples, and verdant rice paddies—sights and landscapes of the paradise that is Bali. However, maybe far from the popular allure of this tourist-laden place, I initially visited Pekanbaru—a quaint city located in the province of Riau on the island of Sumatra. When I arrived in the busy town, I was greeted by the thick jungle that was home to thousands of wild monkeys. Monkey-watching, a hobby I found too inviting to do, became a favourite pastime.
I found that it was time to go after being acquainted with the place, and having experienced three months of poor air quality due to the slash and burn of palm oil plantations in neighbouring parts of the island. Fall break came to invite my soul once again, and I was off to Eat, Pray, and Love my way through Ubud, a small town located in the uplands of Bali.
Finally, to Bali
I arrived at Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS), the international airport located in the southern region of Bali. A cab driver welcomed me with an open smile of hospitality, leaving a warm impression of what Bali is as a living paradise. He quickly loaded my luggage into the car and informed me that the drive to Ubud would take about an hour and a half. It was a busy Friday afternoon, with many people waiting impatiently in traffic headed to the beach. Scooters zoomed in and out between cars in congested streets and intersections. The journey to Ubud became apparent as I started to notice tall, adorned statues, shrines and temples, and even the sight of volcanoes off into the distance.
Having arrived in Ubud, busy streets lined with cafes, yoga studios and boutiques are waiting to be explored. The winding roads led us from the hustle and bustle of the city centre to the rice fields of Tegallalang. I checked-in to my villa, immediately amazed by the views of the neighbouring rice paddies and my first Balinese sunset. That evening I enjoyed a relaxing swim and a plate of delicious pumpkin ravioli, retiring in my villa to relax and wrap the day. Day 1, with all the sights and sounds of commuting, setting afoot in Ubud, had come to an end.
The local restaurants and cafés are teeming with flavourful vegetarian dishes, fresh juices, delectable sweet treats, and tasty cocktails to offer. I tried the famous ‘floating breakfast’, curiously awed with having my favourite meal of the day at the pool. Things got quite interesting, as the day wore on.
I decided to travel four kilometres from my hotel to the Tegallalang Rice Terrace. Most people come here for the views and pictures at the different swing stations. I did both, of course, but also decided to do something that I had actually passed up several times prior. During my time at the Tegallalang Rice Terrace, I decided to indulge in an organic tea and coffee tasting. In addition to the tasting, I decided to have what the server joked about being a “poopacino.” Coffee made from ‘poop’ was definitely not on my to-do list, but I decided to give it a try. The kopi luwak, also known as civet coffee, is one of the world’s most expensive coffee varieties. It is made from partially digested coffee cherries that are eaten and defecated by luwaks, an Indonesian cat-like animal. As unappealing as it sounds, it was actually a very smooth cup of coffee with a distinctive yet pleasant taste.
*The entrance fee into the Tegallalang Rice Terrace Entry Fee - $7.15 USD
*The tea and coffee tasting was free, however, kopi luwak is paid.
While on this trip, I was eager to start each day with gratitude, meditation, and prayer, something that I hadn’t regularly been doing since my move to Pekanbaru. This trip allowed me to renew this healing routine for the soul. I was grateful, and yet, I still wanted more. I wanted to experience the true Balinese Zen.
I booked a seven-hour tour on Airbnb Experiences, described as being a “holy trip for the soul.” The tour included prayer and offerings at a local temple, water soul cleansing at a waterfall, sound and crystal relaxation healing, as well as Karmic reading by a Balian, a Balinese shaman.
Our first stop was the sacred Taman Beji Giriya Waterfall located in Badung. We descended down a stairway into a series of canyons and through sacred waterfalls—washing, cleansing, and drinking the sacred water.
I felt the greatest release standing arms wide, open-handed—yelling my loudest scream under the waterfall. At that moment, I felt the release of all my frustrations, stress, and doubts. My body, mind, and spirit become one: devoid of all negative thoughts. It was an amazing experience: cleansing the body, mind and spirit—receiving blessings of abundance, health, and happiness.
*Price of the Matasidhi Holy Trip for the Soul - $83.30 USD / 965,000 IDR.
(Transportation, sarong and vegetarian lunch provided)
The people and culture of Bali make it one of the most amazing destinations I have visited. A sincere feeling of love is radiated by its inhabitants, whether from their kind gestures, warm smiles, or selfless hospitality. With all the love in the ambience and breeze of Bali, it is the perfect place to practise self-love and enjoy the things I love.
From the villa, I couldn’t help but to stop and look around, appreciating even the warmth of the sun, the crisp, fresh air, and lush green scenery surrounding me. But once the sun had set, I decided not to stop there.
I wanted to celebrate my love for music and dance by attending traditional Barong dance at the Ubud Royal Palace. The Ubud Royal Palace is a historical building built in the 16th century, once the official residence of the royal family of Ubud. Barong is a traditional dance, the most well-known dance in Bali. Barong tells stories interweaving mythology and history in one performance. These stories are often centred on universal themes of love, war, or the battle between good and evil. The traditional dresses, music, and dances were all captivating and worth sitting in even through the rain. The Bumblebee Dance, or Oleg Tambulilingan, was my favourite as it represented a traditional Balinese love story symbolising the courtship ritual of young Balinese natives in love.
*Shows are held nightly beginning at 7:30 pm. Price of the ticket - $7.15 USD / 100,000 IDR.[AH1]
I travel quite often and alone most of the time. This trip was different. I was especially excited to take my first solo trip to Bali. I wanted it to be my own—a time I could focus on myself and my spiritual and mental health. So while it may not have included all of the top tourist locations or Instagram spots, it was just what I needed, wanted, and imagined it to be. I can honestly say that Bali fed my mind, body, and soul. I did it. I made this Bali trip my own. It may not have included all of the top tourist locations or Instagram spots—but it was just what I imagined it to be.
If you’re unable to get away, don’t let that stop you. Eat, pray, love isn’t something that can only happen in exotic travel destinations. Here are some #EatPrayLove tips for eating, praying, and loving anywhere, anytime—helping you find joy and purpose consistently.
- Eat. Try a new restaurant or recipe. Feed your mind by reading a new book and or listening to a thought-provoking podcast.
- Pray. Start your day with prayer or meditation. Give thanks for your blessings or the small things we sometimes take for granted. Pick up a gratitude journal from your local bookstore, or download the Calm App for daily meditation and breathing exercises.
- Love. Be loved and give love. Read a positive affirmation, write it down, and share it on your social media. It could be just what someone else needs to make it through the day.
People tend to think that happiness is a stroke of luck, something that will descend like fine weather if you’re fortunate. But happiness is the result of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly.
- Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia
About the Author
Lauren Ashley Smalls is a 33-year-old teacher from South Carolina, USA with a background in Early Childhood and Literacy Education. She recently relocated from the United Arab Emirates to Indonesia and enjoys monkey watching, bike riding, and learning to play tennis. Lauren is a purpose-driven woman that uses her Faith, travels, and smile to spread love and light to those around her.