Indonesia Inquiry

Something about Bali

December 15, 2011 Communities and Cultures Travel & Living Abroad YouTube Videos 0

The Balinese already know that there is something special about Bali.  It’s interesting when “outside visitors” make their way there – often from very long distances – and end up finding themselves or learning more about the world.  Whether it’s surfing the local waves, exploring religious temples and attending ceremonies, tasting the unique delicacies, taking in the amazing and diverse art forms, engaging in conversations, or simply exchanging smiles, visitors generally have some kind of “a-ha” or “light bulb” lesson.  Sometimes the lesson is big, sometimes small, but a lesson nonetheless.  Observers might attribute such personal growth to the process of comparing and contrasting life situations different to one’s own which can lead to clarity about priorities, attitudes, and behaviors.  The Balinese would most likely add/emphasize a religious or spiritual dimension to this explanation, one where the islands and people are deeply connected to God(s) in that precise location, which contributes to understanding, peace, and love.

From various cultural, political, sociological, or economic perspectives, there are at times criticisms lodged against those “outside visitors” to Bali.  There are debates about the meaning and practice of these “genuine” journeys.  For example, who gets to take such trips, and why?  Who doesn’t get to have similar experiences, and why?  Is the learning “real,” and more specifically, what exactly is being learned?  What is the line, so to speak, between “escapism” and true “cross-cultural understanding?”  Are these journeys just about the self, only about others, or some combination thereof?  How much of the journeys are about individual personalities versus how much are about the constraints (or freedoms) related to socioeconomic status, education, race or ethnicity, gender, nationality, etc.?  Who is benefiting and how when it comes to these journeys?

The following two examples touch on several of the aforementioned issues and give food for thought for the questions listed above as well.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

(2006 book & 2010 movie)

The Drifter by Rob Machado

(2009 movie)