10 Reasons You Should Visit Bali’s New Age Capital
“Oh – so you’re traveling on your own? Is that like an Eat, Pray, Love thing you’re doing?”
We all deserve some time off, especially if the voyage we go on looks like something out of a Hollywood movie. There is something about travelling to an exotic island on your own that calls to mind secluded beaches, getting in touch with the elements, and introspection. How many times have you wished that sort of getaway existed and was affordable?
In the spring of 2015 I needed a time out and googled ‘yoga in Bali’ – and up popped Ubud. I booked my tickets and beamed, proud to have rewarded myself three weeks of bliss and reflection. I expected to come to home to Copenhagen refreshed and with a heightened sense of purpose. But what I found on my return was an inkling that life as I knew it, despite conforming to conventional norms and aspirations, no longer fit. So I decided to take my freelancing career abroad. I moved to Bali.
South East Asia has long been known as a yogi haven, inviting foreigners and neighbouring visitors to the womb of its nurturing environment. While you may have heard of many of these places, one of them – Ubud, is a pioneer in conscious living. The village has been coined a “new age capital” by many a nomadic journalist. From cutting-edge sustainable architecture to modern, meditative dance forms, the community has played a part in many travelers’ newfound conscious evolutions.
So, without further ado, here are ten reasons why you, too, should consider taking a page from Elizabeth Gilbert and visit Ubud in Bali.
You’ll be reminded of your chakras at least once a day
Living in the new age vortex that is Ubud, where road signs have been replaced with “chill out” and “take it easy” placards, it’s no surprise that small talk transcends the simple ‘how are you?’. Why ask a redundant question when you can be so much more precise? Everyone here seems to be in tune with their mind-body connections and inevitably, that means being super-open about your mental health. Commenting on the state of your chakras, anxiety, and addressing mental health as a physical ailment – is no longer the eccentric trait people back home would have you believe.
Expect to be barefoot when you shop, eat, and drink cocktails
Meandering into public spaces with your soles showing used to be one of those things I wished were socially acceptable for an adult to do, like doing somersaults in public. In most venues in Ubud, it is, in fact, mandatory. On a humid day where you’ve spent the morning dodging traffic on long windy paths, taking off your sandals to have your feet kiss the shiny, clean floor in a bamboo co-working space, is pure bliss. As for drinking cocktails, barefoot is the only way.
Driving into the jungle at 6 am for meditation is just another Wednesday
In Ubud, alternative practitioners come aplenty and after discovering their secret seminars, you feel like a VIP. A very conscientious VIP. I’ve never been so excited to get up at dawn, slip into comfortable yoga gear, and drive half an hour into the middle of lush, humid jungle… to sit and breathe for three hours. As an added bonus, when you sit down to oxygenate your body through a Pranayama practice, atop a mountain facing the open jungle, you transcend the mundane. Pranayama has powerful anti-depressive effects and also helps you work out your gut, concentration skills, and breathing skills.
You’ll have a farm–to–table meal at every other eating joint
Whether scouting for savoury snacks between yoga sessions or roving the streets for a wholesome meal, every nook in Ubud is a gourmand’s delight. Before I moved abroad, I was reluctant to eat vegetarian, never mind vegan food, as Denmark still has some catching up to do on this front. Here, the vegan meals stand alone: grilled tofu skewers, juicy jackfruit tacos, tempeh buffalo wings drizzled with cashew cream “cheese”. And with many restaurants growing organic ingredients on their own plot of the jungle, permaculture is now the Ubud norm and not exception.
Design doesn’t make sense – unless it’s sustainable
When your work desk is made of bamboo, and the entire building in which you spend your most productive hours is built of bamboo – you start to question the ecology of architecture that surrounds us. All activities in Ubud have become a reflection of this. Social life does not revolve around the latest fads, outlet malls, or generic events. Instead, people often meet to celebrate architectural innovations such as the Green School or Bambu Indah, urban design, or the launch of environmental products.
Everyone is an oversharer – and you’ll love it
Where I’m from, if someone smiles at you and makes friendly conversation without wanting anything – they’re automatically deemed suspicious. Being in a new age capital is an eavesdroppers’ paradise, but before long you find yourself drawn into these very conversations, and – yes – loving it. Connecting with people involves having three-minute hugs and long eye-gazing sessions. People talk about their latest epiphanies, life reflections and personal projects they are working on. Nothing is taboo. Also, talking about your period and attending “women’s hormone balance” workshops are a thing. It’s awesome.
Yoga is no longer synonymous with Lululemon
Hitting the yoga mat back home was just another way of breaking a sweat and getting in some cardio. In Ubud, everyone from the creative Indonesian craftsman to the Californian advertising exec lines up to get down and spiritually sweaty in Ubud’s yoga studios. Yoga is understood and practiced as a science of the mind-body connection, with some of the world’s most reputable yoga instructors teaching the classes. Ninety sweet minutes that have become the highlight of my day.
Wind down for the day by swimming in a waterfall
Nestled behind rice fields, towering at the end of small makeshift paths, Ubud’s hidden waterfalls are where it’s at. When you want to unwind after a long day of working on personal projects (which most people in Ubud do), you convene in one of the dozen Ubud Facebook groups, agreeing on which waterfall you’ll climb and dip into for the day.
Dance your way to mindfulness
Ubudians are practicing a new form of mindfulness that honors the present moment. Contact Improvisation and its underground dance scene have taken off in Ubud. CI is a dance that involves heightening participants’ awareness through massage-like movements, with dancers having to stay in constant touch with someone – often in silence. Like mindfulness and ecstatic dance, the improvised dance experience teaches people to be in the present and let go of their inhibitions.
A twist to “follow your passion”
Living and eating my way through a new age jungle has been eye opening and shaken up many preconceived ideas about how life can be lived. I’ve bumped into and sparked friendships with some of the most interesting people I have ever met. Most of them don’t care about society’s expectations of them and have been on the wide-eyed journey of “finding their passion”. Many of them have found ingenious ways to make a living, whether that’s working for a startup, freelance writing, or running online businesses selling beautiful finds or coaching other individuals through life. They took the conscious decision to live life by their own defined values, often in the face of society’s expectations of them. They’re all digital nomads who work hard but live life harder.
About Author: Naz K Rasmussen is a Content Developer who helps startups develops powerful stories and content strategies. She is also a journalist who writes about Scandinavia, tech and millennials in the workforce.