After a fun few days travelling with friends around coastal resorts in South Bali and over to the nearby island of Gili Trawangan, we have returned to rest for a while in Ubud. The town, I have learned, takes its name from the Balinese word ‘ubad’, meaning ‘medicine’.
The two weeks I spent by myself here I certainly found to be therapeutic – not just the indulgent spa massages and acupuncture session with a local healer to calm my aching shoulders, but taking the time to be still and read books. I also found myself reflecting on love.
Like many travellers, the break-up of a long standing relationship started a ball rolling which lead to me taking this trip. Mixed in with the muddled feelings of grief and the practical considerations of setting up a new life by myself, was a sensation of delight that I could do whatever the hell I wanted, without compromise. Not only this, but a new priority to reconnect with the person I was before the relationship began – falling back in love with the bright 22-year-old me, who had dreams, ambitions and passions, some of which got a little dimmed along the way.
One of these dreams was to travel the whole way around the world. A road trip across California and Nevada early on with the ex-boyfriend revealed to me the delights of a holiday where you’re free to travel spontaneously, wherever and whenever you want, and allayed my fear of arriving somewhere without accommodation pre-booked. Flexibility and freedom are key – and I loved it.
Years later we often didn’t even go on holiday as we couldn’t agree on a destination. Once we’d managed to make it to the gorgeous island of St Lucia for two weeks, but – I’m ashamed to admit – we considered leaving to go home a couple of days early because we became a bit bored of sunbathing, eating, table tennis and more eating, within the confines of the resort. Perhaps a sign that, after years of fun and adventure together, the heady, spontaneous magic was on its way out. We weren’t appreciating what was right in front of us.
Shortly after the relationship ended, I was lucky enough to return to St Lucia to visit a friend there, who had kindly offered to put me up. It was a wonderful, much-needed break, and I certainly had no desire to leave early.
Around a year later, on a whim I attended a free seminar for single women in London. The dating expert leading it was magnetic and had the entire female audience enthralled – young, handsome, charismatic and with a cheeky glint in his eye, he was full of genuinely fascinating psychological insights into dating in the iPhone era. He challenged the theory that ‘there are no good men out there’ and put it to us that we are missing obvious opportunities to connect with them.
This is probably a symptom of Londoners in general, that we don’t often look up and see people, as we’re too busy distracting ourselves with one electrical device or another, or barging our way through the bustling crowds to our next meeting. It’s also about a lack of courage and finding an easy way into conversations with cute strangers. This is why there are so many heart-wrenching adverts posted in the tube free-sheets searching in vain for ‘the girl with the purple umbrella on the Central Line’ sharing a shy smile with a man in the same carriage, who later kicked himself for letting her step off the train at Tottenham Court Road without taking her number. So many missed chances, if only we grabbed them.
After this seminar, I decided to sign up for a weekend-long course, to find out more about this expert’s tips. It was a packed event, with at least 100 women attending. The Saturday evening involved an on-the-ground opportunity in a central London bar to put what we had learned into practice and strike up conversations with the men there. It was daunting at first, but two phone numbers (and a cheeky kiss) later, I was brimming with confidence. It hadn’t gone unnoticed as the next day I was handed an award for being a natural at it. What can I say.
But separate from this was another realisation. One of the main messages of the course was to be in love with your life, to remember what your dreams were when you were 18 and pursue them; to think about your young relatives and how you can be a role model for them. This, for me, was powerful and the first time the round the world trip idea had popped back into my mind for a really long time.
And now the idea is a reality. While at the Sanctuary Thailand in March, I spotted a sign for a free talk called ‘Healing the Wounds of Love’. Part of me smiled at this dramatic-sounding name and imagined people walking around with bloody injuries caused by the slings and arrows of Cupid’s bow. But my curiosity got the better of me and I turned up to listen to Jungian therapist, author and Ubud resident, Jeremiah Abrams, share his theories on love and relationships. He quoted the 13th century Persian poet Rumi, which has stuck with me: “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Jeremiah affirmed that everyone we give our heart to has a gift for us. That all romantic relationships go through similar stages during their course. He encouraged us to listen to our dreams, however surreal and nonsensical they may seem on the surface – that this is our psyche being free to express itself and communicate to us from the heart.
Maybe I have been one of the walking wounded after all, without realising it. Sitting in Ubud, with its spiritually curative air and calming surroundings, I felt opened up in a beautiful and vulnerable way, to look at myself with new eyes, appreciative and grateful. I also found myself dreaming about my ex, which I rarely do, as if I was finally, fully letting go of this part of my life and moving forward to what’s next.