Why I Honestly Came to Bali

It’s no secret that I was unhappy for the first month or so of my Asia trip.

Okay fine. I was inexplicably miserable for the first month of my trip. I descended into a dark place where I battled depression, anxiety and an overall despair for the future. For a while I seriously considering flying home. (How anyone could have a near mental collapse in a tropical paradise is beyond me, but here I am.)

And similarly, it’s no secret that I partied a lot in Thailand and Cambodia. And countless pints of beer, excessive sun and lack of sleep and exercise do not do your health any favors.

While I turned a mental health corner in Koh Rong due to some much-needed alone time as well as tremendous support from friends and family back home via Skype (love you guys!), and have felt so much better ever since, I still wasn’t feeling 100%.

I came to Bali because I was in rough shape, both physically and mentally. I specifically ventured inland to Ubud, the cultural heart of Bali, to reboot and recharge. And I have to say – I couldn’t have picked a better place for a retreat.

From the verdant rice paddies and intricate Hindu sculptures to the streets strewn with yellow frangipani, I feel like I’ve stumbled into an exotic, macaque-addled dream world.

Bali Retreat

Bali Retreat

The Balinese leave daily offerings on the street to honor the gods – palm baskets carefully filled with rice, flowers, cookies and incense. It’s a beautiful gesture of gratitude, and Ubud feels like such an inherently spiritual place.

Bali Retreat

But of course, it’s not perfect – there are tons of fellow tourists clogging the streets, as well as relentless vendors in the street hawking wares and services. You want taxi?

Bali’s also a bit pricey compared to the rest of Southeast Asia – right now I’m paying $15 a night for a shoddy private room as well as $5-10 per meal, which are expenses that are adding up quickly.

But it’s so worth it. Ubud is exactly what I need.

One of my goals at 23 is to get in the best shape of my life, and I’m trying to do just that.

Bali Retreat

I attend yoga and pilates daily, and consume a diet of leafy salads, smoothies and grilled meats. And I’m attempting to cut out alcohol and white flours. (Okay, I slipped and had a glass of white wine last night. I’m sorry.)

Bali Retreat

Bali Retreat

Also I’m loving my classes at the Yoga Barn. Though unfortunately they don’t offer bikram yoga (hot yoga), they have a fascinating list of classes I can’t wait to try like acro yoga (partner yoga), sound meditation healing and capoeira.

I’m also catching up on freelance work as well as getting way ahead as I have a jam-packed month ahead in December: a few weeks of diving on Gili Trawangan, and then precious time with family and friends back home over the holidays.

But I have to admit – I’m a bit lonely. As much as I’m very over sleeping in noisy hostel dorms, I miss the camaraderie of my fellow travelers. Sheesh, am I ever happy? When I’m with a big group I need alone time, when I’m alone I crave company. Ugh.

I have a lot of work to do in the next ten days, but I’m here, I’m working on myself, and I’m so grateful to have this opportunity. And if in ten days I have made strides in making meditation a part of my life, finding a balance between freelancing and travel and slowing down my monkey brain (oh, and if I’ve become slightly bendier), I’ll be pleased.

Bali Retreat

Bali Retreat

Have you ever created a retreat for yourself? Where was it?

Note – I was not perked or paid by Yoga Barn for this mention – I’m just very happy with them and wanted to share with all that might be interested in practicing yoga in Bali!

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

60 thoughts on “Why I Honestly Came to Bali”

  1. First of all good for you for finding some healing time rather than giving up and heading home. I agree that Bali is the perfect place to recenter yourself and recharge the travel batteries. I hope to go myself at the end up next year. Enjoy! And you’re not alone in the grass always being greener haha.

  2. im glad you’ve found your place to recharge your batteries! for me, i detox and recharge at home ;) when im home, i eat super healthy, make green juices daily, and just relax. traveling can take a toll on a person, so having a place like my home, or your bali, is SO necessary. dont worry about the loneliness ;) you’ll find a yoga buddy or someone who is doing the exact same thing soon enough ;)

    • I totally agree – travel can really get unhealthy after a while (at least in my case) and it’s so good to just stay in one place and develop a healthy routine. And thanks, Megan, hopefully I make some friends soon! :)

  3. Some of those yoga classes sound amazing! Some exercise and relaxation does wonders for your body. Hope you enjoy the rest of your time there!

  4. That yoga spot sounds like an amazing place to heal and recover. Acro yoga is super intriguing just from the name alone! I was having a rough time too recently, and exercise and healthier eating made a huge difference, so I hope it does for you too. Enjoy the rest of your time in Bali!

  5. You are in a place, Bali, I’ve read a lot about
    and would love to go there. I hope you do meditation,
    for meditation is a way of life. Once you know this
    your life becomes very serene and happy. Yoga is a great
    relaxer as well as a strength builder, and both yoga and
    meditation can become a way of life. We have made our
    home a retreat–eating nutrition food, quiet time, exercise,
    and all the things that make you happy. Lou has had on his
    chalk board forever it seems—“Whatever the question, Love is the answer.”

  6. It’s good to get a healthy balance and it may require more alone time than the company of others. I’ve had the most amount of alone time to myself now than on any other trip however I’ve become less distracted, more focused with the future and at more confident in every decision I make.

    p.s A glass of wine can’t hurt anybody!

  7. It’s going anywhere on my motorcycle. It’s the best meditation, counsellor & therapist for me. It’s always a good idea to schedule in “me time” you accomplish more when you can focus without anyone around.

  8. SO happy to hear you’re doing better! I really enjoyed Ubud too, would have loved to do a retreat similar to what you’re doing now. And darling you know I’m always a skype call away x

  9. Wow! Bali sounds incredible. I can relate to feeling depressed when I should be anything besides that! I’m thinking taking some kind of retreat is what I need to pull myself out of it. So glad to hear things are looking up for you, Ashley!! :)

  10. i know what you mean about when you are with friends you sometimes want to travel alone, and vice versa. It’s harder i think when you leave friends to travel alone. I try to do the reverse and start solo (when you’re excitement at it’s highest) then meet up with friends later on. really enjoyed reading that post though, your honesty is refreshing!

  11. I’ve been enjoying reading your Asia travels. I’ve spent years living abroad and traveling through Asia, South and Central America and Europe and I’ve learned much along the way (as we all do). Perhaps you aren’t enjoying traveling through Asia as much as your time living as an Expat because you aren’t meant to be an on the go traveler. Perhaps you were always meant to be an expat, living and working abroad. It’s the perfect balance of being with people and having alone time because you are settled in a routine, whereas with travel you are always on the go and never settled … if that makes sense. Just food for thought :)

    • Ah, thank you for writing this Alli. I’m definitely, definitely a better expat than backpacker- I just care so much more about getting to know a place’s residents, language and culture than I do about seeing its sites. I’m glad that you were able to see that and it also feels good to admit it :)

  12. Bali is a destination I would so love to visit. I know many people from the Oceania region compare it to Americans and Cancun but I think if you go more off the beaten path it definitely looks like a spiritual paradise. One day!

  13. I love that you shed light on the possibilities of feeling unhappy while in a beautiful place! It’s truly not always paradise, even when your surroundings are perfect, and that’s something that’s so hard to explain to people who haven’t gone through it. I’m in France right now, and I know that’s how I felt in the beginning with a side of guilt! But Bali looks absolutely beautiful and good luck with the rest of your mental health vacay!

  14. I think it’s good that you found a place where you could get a bit of the alone time you needed–and Skype is awesome for getting emotional support when loved ones are far away–I’ve relied on it for that purpose many a time since I moved away from my family!

  15. Ashley, I loved the honesty of this post. Some people are prone to thinking that traveling never has its problems. Just because a traveler gets to experience awesome places doesn’t always mean that everything else is okay.

    Like others have said, it’s great that you were able to get alone time that you needed. Alone time cannot be underestimated, even on the road.

    Bali sounds incredible. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  16. I’m glad Ubud does good to you, as it has been doing to so many weary travelers. I’ve been to Bali for several times now and I always loved every single visit. In less than two weeks’ time I’m going back to Bali with my best friend who has never been to the island before, and I couldn’t be happier to stay at Ubud.

  17. I’m glad that you managed to find a happy place in Ubud. I think people can underestimate how taxing travelling can be, both physically and mentally. I remember reading a post from Steph of Twenty-Something Travel quite a while back now, about her feeling so utterly depressed and alone in Laos.

    I feel you on the people thing, though. When I’m alone, I want to be around other people, and when I’m around other people, I sometimes find myself wanting to be alone. Oh, the complexities of life…then again, if everything made sense, then we’d never learn and everything would be boring, right?

    • That’s so true- I felt like I met a lot of people who were completely baffled that I could feel unhappy in paradise. But traveling, especially traveling alone, can be really taxing like you said!

  18. Thanks for this post, Ashley! I’m glad I stumbled upon your blog. :) Way to go for doing this while you’re young. My boyfriend and I are yoga teachers headed to India and Southeast Asia in January and Yoga Barn, Ubud and Bali are all on our list! I hope you can enjoy some time with family and friends for the holidays. :) Safe travels!

  19. Hey Ashley! I’m so happy I stumbled upon your blog! I want to go to Bali next year and I really want to try Yoga! How much did you pay for the yoga retreat? Sounds awesome:)
    Greetings from Australia,

    • Hi, Nadja! I actually am planning on coming up with a post that details exactly how much I spent :). But for now I paid 1,200,000 rupiah (about 100 USD) for 20 sessions at the Yoga Barn, which I can’t recommend highly enough. Lodging was something like $20 a night for a private room at an Ubud homestay. It was a little pricey but so, so worth it!

  20. Oh my gosh, I can 100% related to this feeling! I actually wrote a post about a very similar experience… http://kaleenaskaleidoscope.com/balis-magic-got-groove-back/ I went to Bali this summer and it really helped turn some things around for me. Loved doing yoga at Yoga Barn, too! I think a lot of people romanticize the idea of travel, especially when you’re off in some beautiful tropical location, but it does not necessarily mean you have no problems and can often times be incredibly trying. How long did you stay in Ubud? (sorry, I’m totally comment bombing your site today, haha)

    • Your photos of Bali made me miss it so much (and I’ve been gone less than a week!) And I was in Ubud for three weeks… I couldn’t bring myself to leave the Yoga Barn! And please, I love your comments :)

  21. Hi Ashley, I completely understand. Travel can certainly take its toll and it’s important to find places where you can get healthy and clear your mind. Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica has always been that place for me. Being in Southeast Asia I’ve been overstimulated and undernourished. I too now am in Bali, and am heading to Ubud tomorrow. Koh Rong for me was also a grounding place where I recharged and remembered why I was on this journey to begin with. I plan to do plenty of yoga at the Yoga Barn as it’s a place I’ve always wanted to visit. Enjoy your holiday time at home with family, I will be enjoying mine in Bali. Lots of love to you from this part of the world! :)

    • That’s so great you’re in Bali! I loved it so much and would love to go back. And enjoy the Yoga Barn… I would highly recommend Les Levenson’s class- he’s such a special instructor. Happy holidays to you too!

  22. Firstly – what a great post! Very glad that I found your blog today.

    I’m hoping to explore and work from Thailand and Indonesia for a couple months this year. It’s nice to know that other female freelancers my age are carving out time to travel.

    What hostel did you stay at in Ubud? Would you recommend it? Any insights would be helpful!

  23. Hi!

    My husband and I are planning to visit Bali next month. Could you suggest some fun and interesting stuff for 5 days? I have done a fair bit of research online, but to get some tips from a person who’s already been there would be helpful.


    • Hi! I would definitely recommend Ubud (head to Sari Organik, Glass and the Yoga Barn!) I’ve also heard great things about Pura Ulun Danu Temple and Canggu. And I loved hiking to the top of Mount Batur and visiting lots of sites around Ubud!

  24. What a fabulous post and your pictures are amazing by the way!
    Yep! Bali is just so relaxing and a lovely place to stay and recharge. I first went to Bali in the 90’s and had a great time in hiking, meditating and having fresh seafood dinners on the beach!

    I’m coming back after 16 years and with family in tow, at the end of our SEA trip. They’re gonna love it!

  25. Wow u sound exactly like me miserable most of my trip and now off to Bali hope it helps would love to talk More

  26. Hi Ashley,
    I just stumbled upon your blog post while researching for my own spiritual retreat in Ubud and at Gilli. Great reading about your experience and viewing your lovely pictures! I hope you’re in a good place at the moment, both psysically and mentally!

  27. Ubud is such a great place to slow down the pace while taking care of yourself. It’s a shame that many people would only to go Kuta or Seminyak. Ubud is definitely my favorite and can’t wait to go back.

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