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How A Week in Indonesia Changed Me Forever

There’s something hypnotic about sitting down on a chair and looking at the waves. It’s a liberating feeling, to give in and just be.

My first ever solo trip to Indonesia became a blessing. I don’t know exactly when though. There are that many memories, of complete loss of control, of ridiculous conversations, of finding my place in the world, of gulping down sea water like a fish.

First act

I started this journey by famously falling off the surfboard right by the shore of Kuta Beach, Bali on the first bloody day. And hurting my knee so bad it turned black and blue. Until then I’d only thought this was an expression but of course, it wasn’t.

I’d joined a group to learn surfing in 7 days. Yes, I’m crazy! Even though I’m a dancer, the center of gravity surfing requires made me doubt what I’ve been doing till now. It’s exhausting and brutal. (Hands-down genuine respect for surfers!)

Mt. Agung in its humble entirety | Playgrounds, Nusa Lembongan ©

This trip was a sabbatical from the routine. To wash the generic life I’d accepted off me. But when I left Indonesia, I got more than I wished for.

It’s like when you have an out-of-body experience. You see things more clearly and closely. That’s what happened to me but on the inside.

Bali was a chaos, the good kind. It reminded me of seaside Kerala villages with its freakishly narrow roads, assault of two-wheelers, roadside food joints, ancient Hindu temples, and a sea of people.

It felt good breathing in salty air, bargaining with taxi drivers forever in broken Bahasa, meeting people from all walks of life.

Made my surfing failures a bit bearable.

Second act

As we moved to Lombok, I felt like we traveled back in time. This neighboring island of Bali is unexplored and raw. If you ever want to experience how Bali was 30 – 40 years ago, head to Lombok.


My footsteps mixing with canine paws | Kuta Beach, Lombok ©

It was only in Indonesia that I had a whole beach to myself, twice. On Kuta Beach of Lombok (above) and Nusa Lembongan. Never happened before and never did after this. And that’s okay because the calm I felt in my beating heart in those moments was enough to last a lifetime.

I remember how it felt. The sand molding below my feet, waves coming in and going back, the air enveloping my skin, a dog or two barking their heart away. It felt good!

We continued to surf in Gerupuk’s amazing waters, taking a boat a few hundred meters inside to ride beginner-friendly waves before sunrise. After 3 days of worse-than-average performance, I finally stood on the foam board for 8 full seconds. Take that center of gravity!

I was in, baby. I could now proudly say that I did in fact surf in Indonesia.


Proof | Gerupuk, Lombok ©

Third act

We made our way to Nusa Lembongan, the last and most beautiful destination on our itinerary. By the time I stepped out of the boat that went through Gili Trawangan, I’d gotten soaked head to toe.

A window that wouldn’t close and choppier than choppy waters made for the worst setting.

Our rooms at Playgrounds were nothing less than a paradise. A balcony overlooking crystal clear, blue (with a hint of turquoise) waters. The volcanic Mount Agung snuggled in clouds. And a beach for adventure seekers.

I’m happy to say I was able to surf for more than a minute on this island’s waters. You could say I was motivated, by the fact that it’d be the last chance before I could do this again.

Surfing is 95% paddling and 5% riding the board. My shoulders and arms by now had accepted the weight of this fact. But Nusa Lembongan wasn’t going to make it easier for me.

The more I tried to paddle, the more adrift I went. I kept paddling. What pulled me out of this was my adorable instructor.

He was a fan of Bollywood and graciously let me know that Shah Rukh Khan was his uncle. That was enough to make me try riding the waves harder and succeed.

On the last night, we headed down to the beach to cheer one of the instructors as he fired up his MacBook Pro and started mixing sick beats in a sea-facing, open pub. That was NOT what I’d expected! And he was good at it, like really good.

After settling down, I stepped on the deserted beach with a sky full of bright stars. The sounds from the pub echoed, creating a rhythm in the air.

My feet moved with the comforting waves, dancing to the sounds that almost seemed like they’d traveled light years to reach me. It was only me, the waves, and the longing that I was born to dance on this night.

Traveling is all about such little, unexpected things.

Whether it was seeing a doppelganger of my best friend or fearing for my life every time I got up on that surfboard, Indonesia was the place that changed me for the better. A pleasant surprise that would always remind me what it means to travel.

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