Whenever I tell people I live in a holiday destination, the most common reaction is: “Wow, your life must be so relaxing”. I can immediately see images of extended beach sunbathing, coconuts, and romantic sunsets (or skinny dipping sessions) by the ocean bubble up in their pretty little heads. Too bad none of that really is my life.
Photo: Andre Hamann
Don’t get me wrong – I love life in my magical “Bali-bubble”. But more often than not, my days are marked by jumping from teaching one yoga class to teaching another, attempting to squeeze in a bit of online work in a café here and there, while being stuck in nerve-racking traffic in between, trying to navigate around hordes of drunken and disoriented island visitors.
“Living in Bali holds a sense of ever-present impermanence”
Bali living is characterized by a certain sense of chaos and impermanence. Apart from the locals, I don’t know anyone who has a regular work schedule. Many expats and nomads are their own bosses and either hustle until they doze off over their laptops, or only work when they really need to.
Even as an employed yoga teacher the timing of your classes can sometimes feel like a “living thing” determined by sunset times, surf sessions and seasons – and you better be prepared in case you suddenly have to sub for a colleague who caught another tropical fever, has to do a “visa-run”, or spontaneously decided to leave the country (happens more often than you think).
And then your favorite vegan café may randomly close for a day due to an unforeseen Balinese ceremony (there are many of those), causing sheer desperation instead of mental relaxation amongst its dedicated Instagram followers.
In case you’re looking to build a romantic relationship in this holiday hive, impermanence becomes even more evident. Most tourists escaping to the island are either looking for an exotic holiday fling or a sweet one-night-stand, no strings attached, of course. Understandable – they aren’t here to find the ultimate “hangout-buddy” for life but to escape their nine-to-five-jobs for a little while and potentially enjoy a fun “casual” connection before they head back to so-called “reality”.
“How do you build friendships when nobody stays for more than a couple of months?”
And this doesn’t just apply to romance, but also to more platonic alliances. Thing is, in order to really thrive us cute little humans need a healthy support system that we can rely on. Just in case shit hits the fan (and at some point it will) and we require a bit of help or simply a trustworthy listener. But how do you build truly awesome friendships when hardly anyone is staying for longer than just a couple of months at a time?
Whereby our friend impermanence seems to be appreciated in many forms of short-term liaisons amongst the tourist gangs – as pointed out above – it tends to be a rather unwelcome guest at most dinner tables. Why? Because it reminds us of our own (rather scary) biological perishability – a topic us Westerners just love to shuffle right under the carpet. The struggle with our personal human impermanence becomes visible in the amount of Botox-groupies on the island also, their numbers rising as quickly as those of new spas and beauty parlors.
“In yoga, we learn to commit to steadiness – no matter what”
Luckily, in yoga we have a pretty solid strategy for dealing with life’s ever-changing character (or irritating island traffic). Instead of letting us be thrown off by its constant flux we exercise non-attachment (in Bali for example to any sort of time specifications) and stillness – in body, breath and mind. How do we do that? Yup, by practicing the yogic postures (asana) in a mindful and intelligent way; including holding them until our legs get shaky as hell and our mind begs us to quit – and then commit to perseverance and steadiness no matter what.
Because when we manage to hold “chair-pose” (keeping your knees deeply bent and holding your arms up) for about 5 minutes without falling apart physically or mentally, we have a bigger chance of keeping our shit together whenever life knocks us down to our knees, or when our favorite vegan café decides to take another day off (which is basically the same thing).
Kisses from the island,