a butterfly in bali

One of the greatest gifts I’ve been given from taking this journey is the plethora of cultures and worldviews I’ve been exposed to. Naturally I expected to come away with a better understanding of the Balinese people, but I never thought this experience would teach me so much about places like Australia, Germany, China, Cambodia, Scandinavia, Spain, Thailand, the former Yugoslavia or the rest of Indonesia. As my step-father lovingly pointed out before my departure, I am a bit of a social butterfly, so did I really expect to spend two weeks in complete solitude? Well actually, yes, I did, but apparently that was a foolish expectation as I don’t think I’ve stopped socializing since I arrived. But what an education! I’ve learned about everything from where people from Shanghai go to ski, to the reign of Poi Pot in Cambodia, to the joy of Portuguese Fado music, to the fall of Yugoslavia. I’ve immensely enjoyed hearing stories from people about their native countries as well as the other countries they’ve lived in, worked in or visited. I now have an international group of friends on Facebook and offers to stay in some remarkable places as I pursue more traveling throughout my years. I still have five days left back on Bali, but already my gratitude for this experience exceeds even my wildest expectations. Already a fair, open-minded person by American standards, my time here has expanded my awareness for life in other parts of the world and also exposed a genuine interest in it. Traveling will never be the same for me after this trip – in retrospect my previous approach to travel only allowed a tiny sliver of what a particular culture had to offer (trying the local cuisine, visiting historic sites and museums), but what really makes a place colorful is its people. Reading a travel guide or researching online might give you the most basic facts about a place or an event, but hearing someone describe their version of something in their own words is irreplaceable. I’m frankly rather embarrassed at the sheer number of countries I’ve had the good fortune to visit with what now seems like disregard for the local community. But on the other hand, I hope to have many more years to make up for it and certainly enough time to share this new attitude with my husband and children. A colleague of mine who’d traveled to Bali gave me the sage advice to “talk to the people” and I can’t thank her enough (hope you’re reading this, Leigh!). This social butterfly is spreading her wings to their fullest potential.

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