Plan? What Plan?
We were standing in the check in line for our flight from Cairns to Bali. When we got to the front of the line, I saw the sign. I cringed. In order to board the flight you must have an onward ticket out of Bali.Shit. Seriously? It’s not like we’re going to defect to Bali or anything. We just want to soak up the sun and culture, maybe get a cheap pedicure, see the temples, do a little yoga. Apparently the Indonesian government doesn’t agree with this method of travel. They want you to have a clear exit plan.
Rob turned to me because I am in charge of booking Asia and this is our first stop.
"You didn’t look into this?”
“Ugh, where’s the adventure if you have to book and plan out every little detail? I kind of wanted to check out the country before we plan to leave.” I privately admit this might be more than a minor detail.
So there we were, at the front of the check out line, waving people past, as we fired up the laptop so we could book some flights, and be allowed on the damn plane. Anywhere would do, really, since it was getting close to boarding time.
“Hey, look at that! Fights to Singapore are super cheap! I’ve always wanted to see Singapore!” Rob rolled his eyes, shook his head in exasperation as he scanned the flight possibilities.
He planned New Zealand, Samoa and Fiji. It was meticulously organized; flights were booked 6 months in advance, cars were rented, travel visas secured. We saw all of the sights – but honestly it lacked a certain je ne sais quois – adrenaline, maybe?
Okay,okay, I'll admit New Zealand was fun-- even with all the planning.
We were just finishing a one-month, unplanned detour through Australia.
Prior to leaving Canada, Rob didn't really want to go to Australia. But we’re literally flying through en route to Asia and we have a tent? Why don’t we get a car and tool around a little? I argued. All Rob could see was crocs and snakes and spiders.
Our friend, Bitey, enjoying a sunset with us.
I saw wild adventure.
We ended up staying a month and absolutely loved it. In fact, so far, it has been Rob’s favourite country. Na, na, na, na, boo, boo.
Had we pre-bought our tickets, pre-planned every destination, we never would have seen those stoned, non-biting animals...
Or snorkelled in The Great Barrier Reef...
Or sunbathed on one of the most famous beaches in the world...
Back in the Cairns airport, Rob almost had a nervous breakdown having to buy tickets as we were checking in. (Me, I get off on this kind of stress.) But, alas, we had onward tickets (to Singapore!) and boarded the plane.
While everyone slept peacefully on the flight, I started to get a little nervous about the accommodation and driver I’d booked in Bali. Or, thought I'd booked.
We were leaving Cairns on June 19th and arriving in Bali on June 20th at 3 am. I booked the house from June 20th-27th – because technically we were coming in on the 20th – but it occurred to me on the plane, that, they could interpret this as the night of the 20th going into the 21st.
I had flashbacks to when I arrived in Africa late at night and no one was at the airport to pick me up then either. I was sure I’d given them the right date. Either way, I was stranded in a developing country, in a city of millions that was suffering from rolling blackouts-- with nowhere to stay. In the end, I found a place to crash and it was one of my best nights in Africa. It was such a great exercise in resourcefulness and independence.
We were on a cheap Jetstar flight, so there were no perks like movies or magazines to distract me from spending four hours imagining the look on Rob’s face when we didn’t have a place to stay. Could I sell this as an exercise in resourcefulness and adventure?
"Okay, mum, where we staying tonight?" "Um, the airport."
The last time on this trip I’d been charged with finding us accommodation was in Franz Joseph Glacier, New Zealand. I found a hostel that the guidebook described as a “gem”, but I missed the irony. We camped on a 4x4 piece of astro turf in the parking lot, up against the back of the hostel where I actually saw someone urinating out of the window. Not on the tent! Go left! Go left! Not on the tent.
The place was overrun with twenty-year old Swedes and Germans whose main drive was to get laid. Ya, do you like to paaatee? I like to paaatee. They finally left at 10 pm, only to bring the paaatee back to the hostel when the bars closed 3 hours later. The final straw was waking to a station wagon that had wheeled in beside our tent, a used condom pitched out the window.
Well, that place was fun! I said optimistically. I will probably never live down Franz Joseph. And that will be nothing compared to this if there’s no guy called Wayan to pick us up at the airport.
When we landed in Denpasar, Bali at 3 a.m., miraculously, Wayan was standing there with a placard with my name on it. I owe the Travel Gods I’d prayed to for the last four hours one of my children. (I’ll let them sort out who gets to go with a few rounds of Rock, Paper, Scissors.)
I happened to give Wayan our flight number so he sorted out when exactly we were arriving and would need the house. Thank god, someone was paying attention.
We woke up in our environmentally sustainable two-story house to the sun rising, amidst the surrounding rice fields.
All was well.
(Ironically, this was another example of my “fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants booking” of the past few weeks. We met a French family who were also traveling the world and they had spent a few weeks here, loved it, and recommended it. I never would have found this place trolling Booking.com, back in Canada, eight months ago.)
We swam in the pool, rented scooters and explored the incredibly funky and fun town of Ubud where we ate in good restaurants, visited the temples and the Monkey Sanctuary.
...where Rob acquired yet another monkey on his back that isn't me.
Unlike Franz Joseph, this time it all worked out brilliantly.
Right now we’re staying on the ocean, in an off the beaten path town in Northern Bali. I was told about this place by a potter whose studio we’d visted in Australia (that country we weren’t supposed to visit). These are interesting places and digressions recommended by real people who are out there traveling right now.
Much to my husband’s dismay, I will forever be fan of “winging it” – but maybe I’ll look into travel visas and onward ticket requirements before arriving at the airport for the next flight. But wait, looks like I won’t have to-- Rob is booking the shit out of Singapore right now.