A month in Bali

If you’re following me on social media and have seen my countless photos of the beach and various versions of vegan breakfast, you already know that I spent a month in Bali. Or is it on Bali since it’s an island? Anyway, let’s ignore the grammar. I actually can’t believe that I only spent a month in Bali, I experienced and learned so much during that time that it feels like half a year rather. I went to Bali with the organisation SLV.Global, about to do a 4 weeks placement in the mental health sector. Due to confidentiality, there are no photos of our work but let me give you a bit of an insight. My first week in Bali was orientation week – we first spent two days in Denpasar, learning about Balinese culture, the dos and don’ts and how to run sessions for different service users. The last two days were spent in the “jungle”, an adventure camp which mainly taught me that I’m not an adventure camp person. But for anyone who loves mud baths, rafting and sleeping in a bamboo hut with 16 others, this was probably a highlight. To be fair, the adventure camp did include some activities that I loved – we learned how to create traditional offerings, make chocolate sauce from scratch, dance a traditional Balinese dance and we even got to take part in a prayer which was a wonderful experience, I find it fascinating how many different religions and belief systems there are across the planet and how they shape our lives.

But onto the most important part, the actual placement – after the introduction, the next 3 weeks were spent on different projects, ranging from activity support in a psychiatric unit and working with children and adults with special needs to teaching English in the local community. In a team we would decide on a psychological target and run sessions. One of my favourite sessions was aimed at mood elevation and a decrease in social isolation – with service users we solved puzzles in a team, created a gratitude box and run an activity where service users would stick compliments onto each other’s backs. It was so heartwarming, I found it hard not to cry. An added challenge was the language barrier – a lot of service users were nonverbal and most did not speak English. Before going on placement, this was what scared me the most and I could basically picture myself standing there being the only one doing the activity as service users didn’t know what the heck we wanted from them. Luckily I was wrong – running sessions nonverbally requires creativity and patience but is 100% doable. And actually a lot easier than I thought it would be. Nonverbal communication is probably one of the best lessons I learned from this placement but it definitely isn’t the only one – overall, this placement was incredibly rewarding and gave me the chance to learn hands-on skills and turn into practice what I’d learned at university. To sum it up this is something I would 100% recommend if you want to go into (clinical) psychology! And nope, this post isn’t sponsored haha.

On another note – I was in a much better place mental health wise when organising this placement and when it came around I seriously wanted to drop out. I am not going to lie, spending this month in Bali was challenging and I did struggle with my mental health most of the time but I’m still proud of myself for pulling through and completing this internship against all odds. Even though it was hard I did meet so many amazing people, immersed myself in a foreign culture and experience many moments that will forever stay in my heart. I was debating whether to include this in this post but I want to be authentic on this blog. I think it’s important to show the good and the ugly behind travelling and show that yes, you can travel to the other side of the world and still struggle with mental illness. Neither life nor travelling are ever perfect, all I can do is my best, like anyone else.

Anyway, although the majority of my time in Bali was spent running or planning sessions, the weekends belonged to us and of course were spent exploring the island! Since I took nearly 1000 pictures (ups!) I only included a little snapshot in this blogpost, especially my highlights. One of the most stunning experiences was watching the sun set over the Tanah Lot Temple (first few photos). And one of the most interesting experiences was a cremation ceremony for sure – it was held in the village we stayed in after members of the royal family had passed away. Contrary to such ceremonies in Europe, this didn’t seem to be a sad event but rather an event celebrating their lives. Although such a cheerful event felt strange to me at first I actually think it’s impressive to view death as a natural part of life rather than a tragedy. In a way I often feel like we are too shielded from the reality of life. What else did I do in Bali? I had vegan breakfast, a lot. And it was incredible each time. If you’re vegan, Bali is the place to go, especially in the bigger towns. Apart from eating breakfast, I also spent a lot of my time at the beach – Bali might not have the typical picture perfect beaches but I personally loved their vibes and watching others surf the waves (and fail). I spent a lot of time reading whilst hearing the soft crashing of the ocean waves which is basically my favourite thing. Ever. One of my favourite beaches was Balangan Beach, it was pretty secluded and quiet and I made friends with a baby cow. And damn, that vegan breakfast. Of course we also visited different temples because how can you not when you’re in Bali?? I especially loved the Ubud Water Palace and the Uluwatu Temple which is located on a cliff. And the famous Ubud Palace wasn’t too shabby, either. Oh and I also loved Tirta Empul, a temple with holy water you could wash yourself with. Fun fact: if you want to do it properly, you have to wash yourself under every single fountain. Last but definitely not least, we visited the rice terraces near Ubud and I event went on one of the swings – overrated or not, I loved it. One of the best things about Bali are the stunning sunsets – they aren’t famous for no reason. How can you be sad about something ending if it is that spectacular? Whilst we were watching the sun set over the rice fields, we were sad to see our time in Bali ending but also grateful for all the beautiful memories.

Have you ever been to Bali? xx