When I first travelled to Bali, Bali meant so many novelties in my life. It was a first time in Asia, a first time in a surfing mecca, a first time in what my mind constructed as true paradise. That was two years ago, and time and experience have led me to reread my old travel journal to see how my perceptions on travelling have changed.

My fascination for flying is still untouched, because airports and airplanes are a tangible representation of close future adventures. They are promises. Even though I had a clear idea of Bali as a massive tourist destination, at that time I didn’t know any other place in Indonesia. After two weeks in paradise, Bali became my sole idea of Indonesia.

For two years, I didn’t give it more thought than that. Bali was Indonesia, Indonesia was Bali. Well, what an embarrassing mistake! Now that I have toured several islands in the country, Indonesia has become an entity of its own and Bali, to be honest, has stopped looking like true paradise. And don’t take me wrong, I still love it and enjoy it, but Bali is best described as a spoiled western-like paradise. But don’t bail out on it yet.

Too many Bintangs and you'll think Bali as a synonym for Indonesia. Photography by Laura Costas

Bali is a great landing page, and very close by you can find so much more about a fascinating, rich and culturally diverse country, that is Indonesia of course. Lombok, a half-day ferry ride from Denpasar, already gives you a whole different insight on what Indonesia is really about. First of all, forget about Hinduism and welcome Islam, the main religion of most islands around the country.

The temples give way to mosques, the luxurious resorts of Canggu and neat guesthouses in Uluwatu fade in the background to give way to slow WiFi connections, traditional huts in Kuta and scarce party garitos. But that does actually make the whole experience better. Why? The beaches aren’t packed, the waters are really clear (since pollution hasn’t darkened the colours) and you feel overwhelmed after catching a wave on your own for once.

This year, when I repeated Bali, I had to surf several days in competition with plastic bottles, bricks and other random shit thrown out by the thousands of tourists (including me) crowding the island. It’s sad and preoccupying, but we’re definitely far to solve that as a society.

The importance of perspective

And back to my point, sorry. Opening my eyes in Lombok made me think on how much my ideas on travelling have changed radically. And how travelling has changed my ideas on life and human beings. I’ve spent five consecutive months in Southeast Asia, taking all the good and bad things it has to offer. I have experienced the astonishing views, the reasonable (and also unfair and unreasonable) prices, the beautiful and kind people. On the other hand, the hagglers, scammers and the painful toilet visits, to cite some, have also been there.

Overall, I’ve become aware of how large is the world we live in, and how good, bad, right and wrong constantly mix together. And it’s fine, just like when I’m home in Barcelona and visitors tend to oversimplify: paella, toros, cerveza and maybe now Independència.

It's always refreshing to look twice and revisit the places you've travelled to nurture your perspective. Photography by Laura Costas

I’m not sure I could specify what I’ve learned from all my travels, but after visiting Lombok, Sulawesi, Flores and Sumatra, I clearly gained conscience of my wider perspective. And perspective, in a world predated by capitalism, individualism and egocentricity, is a good attribute to stretch out. Know more, learn more: about other people, cultures, societies and even religions. There’s no better school of life.

How narrow-minded do we grow up that we feel compelled to generalize after a couple of days visit, or not even that, on a whole new country and a different society. How could I transform Bali (which is a really unique spot in Indonesia, an exception) into a whole country. It’s tempting, but it’s wrong.

Well, now I won’t tell you which island in Indonesia represents my personal paradise, because I’ve learned to wait for my next adventure to validate my older thoughts. And this process keeps on going. I just know that every single 12 hour bus ride, the night ferry ride or the three scales flight journey was all worth it. Allow me a tip: Indonesia should never be visited as a one island trip.  

Locals play football next to the dumping site in Gili Trawangan, Lombok Indonesia. Photography by Laura Costas

The only thing I know is I still love Bali, those (archetypal) nights in Single Fin and those lefts in Uluwatu. But now, two years later, I know Bali is not the ultimate and true paradise. And it’s silly I actually wrote that in the past.

Paradise is, maybe, in another latitude of our world… or just an unattainable ideal in our minds. I know all this now thanks to my commitment to travel, and there’s not a single day I regret it. Work on your perspective, change it from time to time, and you’ll note how your life improves fast.

P.S. And if you can’t travel (excuses apart), open a book and travel through its pages, I would say the effect is quite similar and you just need, hopefully, some paper and a reading light.

A cook playing DJ in Gili T, Lombok, Indonesia. Or is it the other way around? It's a matter of perspective. Photography by Laura Costas