Deviating the norm is all about remaining true to your authentic self.
This means constantly looking within to identify which path or direction you'd like to take on your journey. Solo travel is the best kind of travel for becoming an expert at tuning into your own needs and desires. When you allow those innermost needs and wants to lead you, you evade the guidance of some prescribed norm or the expectations of others.
As a solo traveler, I feel out a new place by looking within and deciding on my own time when it's right to move on to a new destination. I quickly felt out of place when I arrived in Ubud. I wasn't connecting to it in the way I had thought I would—and that's okay! Not every place we go will be a good fit.
I came to appreciate many aspects of Ubud during my stay. However, there were two prominent features that were missing for me: a body of water and mountains. I realized these features are truly the bread and butter to my happiness as a solo traveler. Now was the time to embrace it.
Ubud is Landlocked
The city of Ubud, Bali's art and cultural center, is found smack in the middle of the island. It's full of fuming vehicles, bustling tourists, and pushy Indonesians eager to sell you tours, artwork, and vegetarian delights.
There is nothing but roadways and farmland surrounding Ubud.
I do have to admit that the rice farms all around the outskirts of Ubud are very beautiful. I also wasn't too far from Bali's volcanoes with epic views of the entire region if I felt like climbing a mountain (which I do love to do).
In fact, I had many enjoyable moments and memories over the 4 days I stayed in Ubud. I made friends with a monkey. I practiced yoga for free. I even observed an illegal cockfight. All of the experiences I had in Ubud were unique and exciting in their own right.
But at the end of the day, I decided Ubud was not for me. Why? Because I'm a water bug and a mountain goat at heart.
Ubud is completely landlocked and I couldn't see the mountains from the city center. With no mountains in view or large, open water in sight, Ubud was not having the same effect on me as it seemed to for other travelers.
Water is a Theme in My Travels
I arrived to Ubud after spending 4 days on the Nusas—three small islands to the East of Bali. Nusa Lembongan was remote, calm, and, most importantly, all about the beaches and ocean. I loved it there.
Consistently throughout my travels, I have found I am happiest when I am in the presence of large bodies of shimmering, liquid beauty. When I am landlocked, as I was in Ubud, I will usually put myself through great feats of physical prowess to fulfill the need to be near water.
For example, I bicycled 8 miles uphill in the Bali heat to get to Tirta Empul, a water temple north of Ubud.
Jumping into the water there and following the Hindu purification ritual was as much about getting my water "fix" as it was about the cultural experience.
In contrast, I generally felt unimpressed with my surroundings in Germany. I also felt landlocked there. Unsurprisingly, most beautiful location I went to during my stay was when I visited Austria with my cousin. We had lunch next to the Achensee, a lake which sits in a valley between the Alps.
Where does this water obsession come from? Some astrology nerds would say it's because I am a "water sign." Archaeologists, historians, and evolutionary biologists would say it's genetic—humans have depended on water to build whole societies throughout the ages.
I say it's because I grew up boating in the summers.
From the time I was a wee lass, I've been jumping off the back of boats into rivers, lakes, and oceans. I spent my teen years and early adulthood jet-skiing on New York's Hudson River.
Now that I have my SCUBA license, I cannot imagine staying away from water for any length of time in my adulthood.
Mountains Put My World Into Perspective
Mountains definitely work themselves into these water-filled scenes I obsess over.
As if the gorgeous turquoise waters surrounding Nusa Lembongan weren't enough, the blue silhouette of Mount Agung across the sea on Bali mainland had me smiling ear to ear every day.
My favorite water scenes from the other places in my travels were often paired with mountain views.
There's nothing quite like those Emerald Lakes in the Tongariro Region of New Zealand. But their wonder would be cut in half if it weren't for the volcanic, mountainous landscape on all sides.
Similarly, Mt. Cook as a backdrop to Lake Pukaki put this place above the rest. It's what made me camp in its presence for 3 nights straight.
Mountains remind me of how big our world is.
They capture my sense of wonder about our place on Earth and in this Universe. They also capture my goal-oriented self—my desire to set goals and conquer them by climbing to their peak.
Goodbye Ubud, Hello Candidasa
I was coming up on the last day of my booking at a hostel in Ubud. I did a bit of research online and found a place to go to next.
Crystal Bay Beach is a resort in Candidasa boasting beach front property, access to snorkeling, and mountains in view along Bali's east coast. I was so ready for it.
The next day, I got a driver to take me to my new destination. As we left Ubud, we circled around one of the city's iconic stone carvings of the Hindu hero Arjuna. I blew Arjuna a telepathic kiss goodbye.
No hard feelings, Ubud, you were just not my type.
Next time, I'll give you the full report on my stay at Crystal Beach. Get ready to fall in lust with the place!