I arrived in Hanoi exactly three weeks ago, so it makes sense that I write this now.
Three months ago, I left for Bali. I didn’t have any money but my parents were kind enough to lend me $300 toward a cheap flight from Vancouver to Denpasar I’d found online. I made the remaining $275 for the one way ticket by selling my first book Bound in Blood and Skin, 3oo copies of which I carried around with me in an old suitcase. I signed hand-stitched copies for every familiar face I saw; some people even gave me thirty bucks for it! These people, along with my parents, made this journey possible.
I really stunk by the time I got to Denpasar, which isn’t surprising. I started to stink long before my peers as I’ve always perspired a lot. I remember the first time I was told that I stink. My Uncle Roch informed me shortly after my cousin Brady and I took on his older brother, Ben, in a play fight.
I declared myself to be Jake the Snake Roberts before tagging myself into the match, whereupon Ben put in me a sleeper hold. When I finally came to, my Uncle Roch hovered above me: “Nick, you smell like a sausage!” he exclaimed.
I wasn’t sure what Roch Schock meant that evening, but I started wearing deodorant soon after: he must have told my mom.
So I stunk by the time I got to Denpassar, which is a shame since the whole reason I went there was to impress a girl– the very same girl who told me I stunk as I walked through the gate.
I tried to hide it. I held my upper arms tight to my torso, and drank coconut water like an embarrassed Velociraptor for the duration of our two hour drive from Denpasar to Ubud.
My “plans” only extended to the end of my friend’s stay, which is to say exactly ten days. After that, I didn’t know what I would do. I found Bali to be quite cheap, however, and the colours, flowers, and offerings inspired me, so I decided to stay for as long as I could.
A friend of mine, who has lived in Ubud for many years, was kind enough to ask his friend if I would be able to take the massage room behind his restaurant– Shiva’s Cave– for a month.
I soon handed over my last 800,000 Rupiah to Agus who, along with his family, was very welcoming. My room had an en-suite bathroom replete with a bamboo shower head, and a whole team of ants to keep me company. I was able to write and write and write as productivity is often inversely proportionate to wealth.
I was broke for most of my first month in Bali. I had planned to live on my Income Tax Refund for as long as I could, but BC Health Care took a large bite out of those spoils. I lived on Ramen, and sometimes I busked with an old recorder I’d found, playing “Stairway to Heaven”, over and over while sitting next to a flea-bitten Bali dog named Jimmy, with whom I shared fleas, and a love of Led Zeppelin.
When my cheque finally arrived, I rented an old scooter and planned a trip to Lovina– a beautiful conglomeration of three beach towns on the Northern part of the island. I joined every Facebook group I could find with Lovina in the title, and posted my query on the wall of one such group:
Hello. I plan to be in Lovina this Sunday. Does anyone know of a cheap accommodation? I plan to stay for a month.
I soon received a response from a guy named Adrian. He said he had a small place up on the mountain, and while the place had no electricity or water, I would be welcome to stay there for as long as I’d like to. When I asked him how much the place would cost, he replied: “What do you mean, like money?”
I scratched my head, and replied… “Uh, yeah?”
He said, “Look, man. I am not a swinger or anything. Like I said, my place isn’t much, but you are welcome to stay there. Just help me keep the fridge stocked with Bin-Tangs and I’ll be happy! I will be there next Tuesday. Let’s connect then.”
And so I packed my backpack and my monkey-stick, said goodbye to my friends, and started riding my little scooter up the volcano with Chance the Rapper in my ears. My steed was sluggish by the time I got to the top, and I couldn’t see much for all the rain, but I kept moving as I wanted to make it to Lovina before dark.
As I started descending the volcano’s north side, my skin tingled for all the beauty and fragrance. While I liked Ubud, I missed the sea: my zigzaging path down the mountain, and through the surrounding villages felt like a homecoming. I must have either been smiling like a simpleton, or smelling like a sausage because all of the people I passed laughed at me.
I pulled into Lovina just as it was getting dark. I’d entered the address of some hostel into my phone prior to leaving Ubud, and was doing my best to follow the commands of the deranged Google Map woman who kept on interrupting Chance, telling me to “Turn Left, Turn Left, Turn Left.”
I drove in circles for what seemed to be hours.
Finally, a kind Ketut pulled up beside me at a traffic light.
“Where are you going?” He asked.
“I have no idea! Do you know of a good place to stay?”
“Yes! I have a hostel about twelve kilometers from here. Follow me!”
I ignored all of my self-preservation instincts, and blindly followed Ketut because he was a Ketut– from my experience, all Ketuts are kind. Fortunately, Ganesha smiled upon me, and I ended up at Lovina Gede Homestay: the most beautiful homestay in all of Bali!
Ketut showed me my immaculately white room. I hung my monkey stick on the door and followed him to the beach-side restaurant where I signed a three day lease for the room and drank a complimentary Bintang. I got riotously drunk that night, and told all who were listening that I would never leave. I had arrived.