Something funny happened when I went to Bali. And by “something funny,” I mean, all sorts of things went wrong.
On the first day, the airline lost my luggage. On the second, I got a horrible sunburn (because my sunblock was in my suitcase). On the third day, I submerged my phone in a pool…. and so it went. Bali was amazing! Yet, there were a lot of ups and downs. It was not a vacation but an adventure.
But isn’t that life? Mixed in with triumph, aren’t the “somethings wrong” the things that make up the adventure? That make the story worth telling? And teach us about life? That’s what my time in Bali was, a giant metaphor for (or lesson in) life.
Life Lesson #1: You don’t really need it. You also don’t need that other thing. Trust me, you don’t.
Last summer, I decided I was going to go location independent, give up my home and travel the world. This meant getting rid of just about everything. If it didn’t fit in my car, it was sold or given away. Yet, before I left for Bali, I was still amazed by how much stuff I have and really do not need.
On the way to the airport, I told my mom I wanted to get rid of all the excess (in my closet) when I came home. “Everything I need fits in this suitcase. If I can live for three weeks without it, I probably don’t need it at all.”
After flying from Philadelphia to Chicago to Hong Kong to Singapore to Bali, I waited at the baggage carousel and jokingly sent out this tweet.
At what point, while waiting at the baggage carousel do you start to worry?
— Sooner Not Later (@SNL_Catherine) February 11, 2015
As I hit “send,” the conveyer belt shut off and I laughed/choked as I realized the answer was, “Now” (or should I say sooner, not later).
“It happens all the time,” the guy at the information desk shrugged. “It’s probably just in Singapore. If it is, it will likely be here today.”
My suitcase! You know, the one holding “everything I need” was M.I.A. and no one could tell me what country it was in, let alone when (if ever) I would be receiving it. Jet-lagged and wearing the same dirty clothes I had left Philly in two days earlier, I spent the day in shock trying to ask waitresses where they buy underwear (it didn’t go over well).
The next night, after no response from the airline, I located a mall in a nearby tourist trap of a town (one that I had no intention of visiting) and spent the evening trying to find some cheap clothes that would fit. (People in Bali are tiny, and the underwear sales lady let me know it #TheseHipsDontLie.)
Five minutes after arriving back at the hotel, the clerk arrived with my suitcase. I hadn’t even opened my shopping bags yet. After a few minutes of shock, I finally opened it and then just stared. Even in this tiny suitcase, there was SO MUCH stuff. Hair straightener/curling iron (didn’t use it once), flip flops, sneakers, bathing suits, beach towel, clothes, socks, underwear, pajamas, books, shampoo…
Just a few days prior, I had labeled these items most essential; but then I spent two days coming to terms with the fact that my bag was lost and none of it actually was essential.
And then, the next night, we went to a place called the Potato Head Club where we could sit at the in-pool bar and watch the sun set over the ocean. I thought I was completely capable of walking from the edge of the pool to the center of the pool (where the bar was) with cash in my left hand and my phone (in a waterproof case) in the right. I took one step and slipped, completely submerging myself and my phone. My iPhone. The one I’d had for three years! With sheer panic and embarrassment, I went rushing over to the bar for napkins. It was in a lifeproof case, but I knew the case was old and torn and was letting water in. Yet, somehow, everything seemed ok. My friend Ruth and I ordered a pitcher of sangria, took some pictures of the ocean, and chatted with some other people in the pool.
About an hour or so later, I asked Ruth to take my picture but each one came out blurry… nope, not blurry, foggy from moisture somewhere in the lens. At this point some bystander turned to me and said, “What are you doing with it still on!? It’s going to short circuit! Turn it off and don’t turn it back on!”
We soon left the Potato Head Club in search of rice. Rice, the main staple of Bali. Something I thought would be easy to find. Coming across a Circle K, I went in and asked the girl at the counter, “Do you have rice?” She just shook her head, “I don’t know what it is.” I foolishly tried to describe it, “It’s white and small. You grow it everywhere?” Nope. She just shook her head. So off we went down the road, popping into other convenience stores along the way. Eventually, I shouted, “Coco Man!” remembering the strangely named grocery store someone had directed me to for an ATM that morning. I went in, grabbed a bag of the cheapest rice (strangely organic), plopped my phone down into it, and headed to dinner exhausted.
I’d just gotten my suitcase back and now this? Throughout the night, and in the coming days, I’d find myself reaching around for my phantom phone, only to remember it was at the bottom of that bag of rice (after 3 or 4 days, the phone dried out and turned back on. Then it died, never to return again.)
After about a week, I quit reaching for it and even started to appreciate not having it. I didn’t have anything to distract me when I went to bed. I couldn’t set an alarm clock. I didn’t know what time it was when I woke up.
The only time it really bothered me was when I wanted to take pictures, but Ruth kindly shared her phone in those moments. The rest of the time, I reminded myself to just embrace the moment.
But, now I am home, and I have a new phone. My suitcase also made it back with me and I’m left trying to keep in mind the lessons of Bali, “You don’t need it. You really don’t.” Which actually reminds me, I should probably get to work on that closet…
If you could use some help letting go of the excess, check out “The Secret To Letting Go” from my friend (and Sooner Not Later Sponsor) Megan Starbuck!