The Art of ‘Doing Nothing’ and Other Things I Have Learned From Taking Time Out

Untitled design-8One of the best things about our trip so far is all the fabulous people we have met.  Being a busy and popular tourist destination, people come and go from Bali all the time. Some friends we have spent months with and others just days, but for each and every friend we have made along the way, we have obviously had that initial conversation, the one with all the standard questions that come up in a conversation with a stranger…

Where are you from?   How long have you been here?
What are you doing here in Bali? *cringe*

It took me a long time to figure out why I struggled with this question.

And then I realised.

It made me feel a bit embarrassed and almost, well, a little bit guilty.

I felt embarrassed because at the moment I am doing officially nothing. I have no obligations, no responsibility and quite frankly not many cares.  I’m not travelling or seeing the world on a gap year, I’m just here. Taking time out. Enjoying the now (the guilt I put down to being British, we always feel guilty about something).  So when I answer, and explain to people that Jim and I aren’t working, we are just here on a career break, enjoying Bali and pursuing our hobbies, in all honesty, I still cringe a little bit.

A million questions run through my brain.

Does that make me sound really lazy?  Or worse, smug? Do I sound like I have no ambition? That I’m unintelligent? Lost? Career less? Jobless, SACKED? Spoilt?

We have a full spectrum of responses to our reply from ‘Oh cool, we are doing that too!’ to ‘Huh? Do you not get bored?’ and obviously a barrage of other questions, about money, previous jobs etc…. I never find it any less uncomfortable.

I’m not going to lie, when we first arrived in Bali knowing it would probably be for a prolonged period of time, I had a little freak out. It was pretty daunting, the prospect of having nothing to ‘do’.  It seemed so different to the traveling and backpacking I did in the past, three years just seemed so long and the uncertainty of everything (houses, visas and general day to day living) unnerved me a little.

On our first night here, tired, jet lagged (and to be quite honest scared s***less that we would fail to make it work), I sat on a bean bag, on a beach, beer in hand, watching an amazing display of Chinese lateens stream into the sky and I cried. I cried and the hubby did what he always does when I am begin ridiculous, he smiled, comforted me, made me laugh and told me it would be ok.

So with February marking the half way point of our adventure, I feel it a good opportunity to sit back and take stock and really reflect on what is important to us as we move forward. And although we haven’t been ‘doing anything’ as such, here’s a few of the lessons I have learned along the way that i’ll be taking forward to my life when we get back home…..


You Need Very Few Material Things To Be Happy

When we moved to Bali, we packed up our house and sold almost all of our belongings.  In my head I was (secretly) planning the exciting and exotic new wardrobe and all the amazing things we could spend our money on, but strangely these ambitions never transpired.  I don’t have many clothes (& the ones i do are fairly old and tatty), I never dry or straighten my hair, we live in a small room which doesn’t have proper walls and share an outside bathroom with whichever smelly surfing boys are living next door.  Its a simple way of life, but it’s WAY more than enough.


Cold Water Showers Are Bearable But Don’t Get You REALLY Clean

If you don’t believe me, go 5-6 months without one, then have a bath in hot clean water. Then take another bath.


Things Always Have a Way Of Working Themselves Out

Flat tyre in the middle of nowhere? No phone? Stolen Bike? Lost? Dropped your husband’s new surfboard down a flight of concrete stairs?  No matter what pickle you find yourself in, things will work out for the best and you will be amazed at the kindness of strangers (kindness of an angry husband, maybe not so much).


Be Nice

Don’t ask why. Just do it and reap the rewards. A smile will go a long way, especially when there is a language barrier.


Sing. Even if You Can’t

The Balinese are a musical bunch.  Whether it’s the workers at the restaurant behind or room singing loudly (and out of key) at 6am while preparing for breakfast, or the road workers slogging away in the sunshine, it’s not unusual to see them belting out a tune with a big smile on their face. Now they aren’t all the best singers, some of them are down right awful. BUT they aren’t singing for me or you, they are singing for them. Just because it feels good to sing, and that never fail to make me smile.

My favourite example of this EVER was when the Indonesian surfer Mega Semadhi won the prestigious Padang Padang cup here in Bali last year.  His proud mum got up on stage and belted out the national anthem in celebration to the crowds of people in the beach.  She was loud, proud and totally out of key.  It was SO flipping cute and went down a treat, earning her a well deserved standing ovation!


When was the last time you got to take some ‘time out’?
What would your ideal retreat from the real world consist of?

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2 Responses

  1. Carole
    February 04, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Hola Helen!

    You and Jim are such an inspiration to me – ignoring all the doubters that talk about mortgages, difficulties of coming back to reality etc etc. You made a courageous and awesome decision to just take the leap of faith and follow your dreams and it’s amazing :-) I have approx 2 years left in my current job and no clue as to what to do next BUT I do know I want to leave and do something else, somewhere else! People always shake their heads and look at me as if I’m crazy but you can’t spend life wondering what if…So, 2 years to make the most of living in Spain and then a new adventure will begin. One I don’t expect to be easy at first but if it was easy, everybody would be doing it!!

    My mini will be the hardest thing to leave behind (friends have whatsapp ;-) ) but living in shorts and bikinis all day and riding a moped is a pretty fair exchange. Every time I go on my mini travels, my rucksack gets smaller so subconciously I’m downsizing already!!

    Best option for me?? Somewhere with awesome snow for boarding in the winter and great beaches for the summer. I think S America is calling…

    Have a fabulous second half of your trip, looking forward to hearing about the adventures to come!!

    Love to you and jim xx

    • helen
      February 04, 2014 at 11:55 pm

      Aww thanks Carol! I hope you’re having a wonderful time in Spain… certainly looks like you are! Boarding and Beaches….I reckon Chile might be a good option! :D

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