I’m at the airport in Bali, Indonesia, waiting to get on a plane for the next 24 hours back to Florida. I’m filled with a mix of emotions, which is exactly what I love feeling, because I’m actually feeling. When I’m in a routine I don’t feel as much. Unless my routine gets disrupted, I generally feel similar from day to day, and that’s boring to me. I welcome chaos or change, as it feels normal to me. I flew to Indonesia for a month to see a long time friend of mine in an attempt to be in a relationship with him. A month has passed and I’m flying back single. I spent some time reflecting on what I may have done differently, but I know, I did exactly what I wanted and needed to do to continue where I’m going.
When I arrived in Bali a month ago, I felt fairly empty. Not bad, not good, just somewhat numb. Perhaps because I came here to sail with my friend, and I let him make the decisions of where to go and what to do. I didn’t invest much of myself in being here. This was in part because of laziness, and in part because when I’m with someone, particularly a man in a relationship, I don’t mind relenting control. Sometimes it feels good not to be the organizer. Sometimes this works well, sometimes not, but I’m ok with it. What I’m not ok with, as I realized, is being dependent on someone else. It makes me feel and act weak, and I need a balance to feel like myself. For the first few days being here I was interested in my surroundings and the newness of everything. After a few days, I didn’t feel as interested and instead I felt tired, on edge, and just not myself. I felt annoyed with myself for feeling like that. I attributed it to the heat and my lack of energy as a result. On two separate occasions, older women called me a “bitch” and a “princess”. This annoyed me because it was true. I wasn’t present in the moment, I didn’t want to be where I was, and I felt disconnected and as a result, I was a bitch, more on that later.
After a week in Bali, my friend and I went sailing on his 35-foot catamaran, SV Harmonic. It was a bit of a journey to get to the anchorage- an hour-long drive, a two-hour boat ride, and finding a local at a resort who would give us a ten-minute ride to the anchorage. Indonesia hasn’t yet catered to yachting, and finding a marina or centrally located anchorage is hard to find. SV Harmonic was anchored in Gili Gede, a small island situated off the southernmost tip of Lombok. The marina manager, an Australian sailor, is in the process of building a marina. There are a number of small villages on the island, and embedded among the trees are a few restaurants owned by expats, some whom appeared to have settled on the island after marrying Indonesian women. The island is very unpopulated, extremely un-commercialized, and very tranquil as a result. The first night we walked to a restaurant owned by a French man and his Indonesian wife, we walked down a mud road, passed a cow pasture, a temple, and about 20 tiny shacks with women and children sitting out front; playing, smoking, or simply standing there watching you walk past as a rare sight; a white woman in a dress smelling of perfume.
It was exciting to be in this new place. I was happy to be on the boat at first, and at various points throughout the trip. It was beautiful to wake up to the sun rising, to jump into the sea the moment you wake up, to not have any particular schedule, to have a drink on the bow while watching the sunset. Then there were moments I didn’t feel were great-swimming with garbage; not having a shower; having wet salty frizzy hair constantly; sleeping in a damp bed in the heat; hearing the Muslim prayer calls starting at 4 am and sharing a very tiny space with someone you are dating. It was this contrast of feelings that made me feel like a bitch. I felt I should just be happy, I was on a yacht for Christ sakes.
When one of the women I referred to earlier called me a bitch, it was because I had made negative comments about living on the boat. I had done so after she had commented “must be nice to live on a yacht”, which made me uncomfortable and quickly respond in an effort to assure her, it was not as idyllic as it may seem. After that conversation I considered how things seem compared to what they actually are. I will not complain about living on a boat, I know it can be an amazing experience, my point was simply that if you haven’t experienced it, you may feel differently when you’re actually on the sailboat, and your partner tells you to get out of the water so he can take a shit, cause the shit will be floating out while you swim. Living on a boat with a partner sounds amazing, and it still sounds amazing even after I’ve done it. In reality, I wasn’t ready for that life with that person.
I don’t know if I’m doing the right things in life, perhaps I’ll never feel like I am. But I know that I continue to feel as though I’m looking for something. Maybe that is what I’ll continue doing; exploring, without really having an endgame, but rather that is the endgame, to continually wander around meeting new people and having as many experiences out of the norm that I can. I was considering that my sub-conscious may be more aware than I think, and I actually blindly trusted my instinct during this trip. I have wondered for years now why I have trouble in relationships, primarily that I feel interested in a man, and very soon after this interest begins, it comes to an abrupt and uncomfortable end as a result of me finding small things “wrong” with the person. I recently googled “why do I hate everyone I date”. The information I gathered from various sites regarding this search, teamed with my behaviour in Indonesia made sense. At one point in the trip, I threw the relationship. I picked some arbitrary reason to start a fight and make bold statements as to why I was not interested in being in a relationship. I stopped myself to think in that moment of what felt like irrational anger and sabotage, why am I doing this? What I was doing would end the relationship, why was I doing that for no apparent reason? I didn’t know the answer, but also decided I would continue throwing it, and I needed to trust why I was doing that. For years, I have thought all I’ve wanted is to be in love with someone, and I still want that, but I think there’s something else that’s more important to me. I don’t know exactly where I’m going, and until I do, I don’t want anyone to hold me back from this path I think I’m on. If I meet someone and his path compliments mine, great, I’ll explore that, but for now, I want to decide where I’m going independently.
So I ended the relationship. After three weeks of being in Indonesia, and having been on a sailboat for two weeks with my boyfriend, I needed to be alone. We had been sailing around Lombok and we came back to Bali together. I met up with a girlfriend of mine that I hadn’t seen in twelve years and it was great. I felt connected again and excited. We stayed out late and interacted with likeminded travellers. I stayed alone in a hotel and from the moment I walked into the room, I felt calm. I smiled at the space and just felt content. I met up with another girlfriend, went home early, and enjoyed the solitude and quiet. For the last week of my time here, I had my independence back; I felt self reliant, and excited.
And now I’m leaving. Being here a month has made me finally feel a little bit more like it’s home. There’s a community here. It feels very easy to meet people. And I don’t want to leave. I feel empty again like I did when I arrived. And I think that comes from being alone. I came here alone and it reminded me of all the flights I took with my ex. When he held my hand when the plane took off and kissed my cheek. When I could fall asleep on his lap while he pet my head. And now, as long as I can remember since then, I’ve been flying alone. I think that’s the one thing I keep thinking of. Flying with a partner is one of the intimate moments I really miss. But this is what I’ve decided, and keep on deciding, to be alone. I hope there is a good reason for these decisions I’ve been making because as it stands, I don’t know why this is what I’m choosing. I feared I may be ending relationships because of a fear of commitment or getting hurt. I think now that I am trusting myself, that I am ending relationships because it’s not right with the person, or with my goals, whatever the hell those may be.
I will sign off with two songs that have played in my head for two years while I’ve been getting deep with myself. The theme song from The Facts of Life “You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have, the facts of life.” And White Snake- “I don’t know where I’m goin’, but I sure know where I’ve been, hanging on the promises in songs of yesterday, an’ I’ve made up my mind, I ain’t wasting no more time here I go again, here I go again.”