Bali is known as the island of the Gods. Throngs of visitors travel to this idyllic island in search of healing for their souls’ ailments. Heartbreak, physical illness, loss, or deep-seated hopes – these are just some of the reasons people are driven to set foot in this spiritual country.
I set off on this trip in both trepidation and excitement. I was afraid that I may not have fully healed from my heart surgery, but at the same time, I wanted to get on with life and trace the steps that I’d left behind. Despite having undergone a life-threatening medical procedure, I still harboured optimistic thoughts and hopes for the future.
Bali is my first sojourn in fulfilling a lifetime’s dream of wanderlust. I needed to find consolation and figure out what it really meant when I received the grim news and heard my cardiologist explain the need for my heart’s echocardiogram. I remember thinking: “What does this all mean? Where do I go from here?”.
I couldn’t find a better companion for my trip than my girlfriend with whom I shared parallel experiences. For her, it was a trip planned as a step to fulfil her ambitions regarding business possibilities. For me, it was a trip to rediscover myself. Ultimately, though, we both wanted just to let our hair down, let loose, and free ourselves from our worries.
On my first day of the trip to Bali, I visited Tirta Empul temple in Ubud. The temple (also called pura) is known for its pools of water that people bathe in to cleanse themselves. My tour guide said that whatever one wishes for in life may manifest by allowing the water to soak their bodies. I took photos around the compound of the pura and was stopped by the sound of tinkling bells. Somehow, I could feel vibrations from the sound of the bells, and a sudden calm came upon me.
That evening, my girlfriend and I wanted to enjoy the sunset by the beach. We took a motorcycle ride and clutched tightly onto the Gojek rider, heading to Potato Head Bali. We exchanged stories on our experiences of sorrow and pain, of laughter and unexpected miracles. When I saw my beating heart in the echocardiogram and was hit with the news of the signs of my heart failing, I was devastated. But over the next few weeks, I learned to accept that all journeys must end, and instead of ruminating over my sadness, I looked at this revelation as the gift of a new pair of eyes.
The sunset arrived as the sky grew dimmer. The sun looked resplendent over the horizon. I was in awe of what I saw. The realisation of the fragility of life heightened my senses. Life is a dream that will pass on, but at the same time, it is as real as we experience it. Sounds have become more melodic and colours more vivid; indeed, the world around us is beautiful. To be able to experience life itself is a miracle.
On our final night in Bali, we went to Lumbung restaurant in Ubud for dinner. After a hearty meal, we walked to the front to enjoy live music. The musician strummed his guitar to familiar pop songs, but we decided to bribe him to sing our Indonesian favourites. We mimed to our beloved songs and danced to the tunes on the floor. We surely turned heads with our antics, but those were our precious moments to bask in the reality of the little precious resource we have – time.
I ended the trip feeling revived, once again filled with hopes and ambitions. I still dream of enrolling in the creative writing course at Oxford, visiting Istanbul, going to a NOAH (Indonesian rock band) concert, and continuing to be surrounded by those I love and who love me. I’ve been given second chances at life, which I never expected: a chance at a new career and a lover that accompanies me through life’s peaks and troughs. Whatever the outcome of my heart condition, it will not cause my spirits to falter, for as long as it still beats, I shall keep on living.