In 2014 my life changed completely. But what was it about a two month trip to Bali that changed everything?
I was in my final year of study for my Bachelor of Science in occupational therapy. I was living in my apartment in Amsterdam, the Netherlands (this is where I grew up), had a lovely group of friends, played field hockey every week and loved going out!
In my final year, I had the opportunity to travel to Bali for a fieldwork project (as part of my minor) and chose to take it. Together with a friend I took off in December of 2014. I was very excited!
We stayed with a local family in a rural part of Bali to teach English to children in poverty. This would give them an opportunity to later find a job and help support their families.
When I first arrived I was afraid I would get bored. There wasn't much to do. It took me a couple of days to get used to the new slow passed lifestyle. I realised how hectic my life in Amsterdam had been. But after about two weeks I was totally settled in. I got up when the sun rised, went for a dive in the ocean, read books, had a nap and went to bed as soon as the sun was down. It felt as though my body needed to catch up on sleep and restore itself.
Whilst living with a local family I was immersed in the Balinese culture. From learning about their daily rituals, going to several ceremonies, including a wedding and cremation. I found it amazing to see these people, who barely had anything, always had a smile on their faces!
After several weeks of staying with our local family, my friend and I decided to go traveling through Bali and to the Gili islands for two weeks as Christmas and the New Year were on it's way.
From fit and healthy to very weak
A week into our trip I started to feel unwell. One morning I woke up with a splitting head-ache and a very high fever. In the hospital they diagnosed me with dengue fever and had to be hospitalised. I went from being perfectly healthy, to feeling the weakest I had ever felt in my life. I had bleeding gums, could barely walk and felt immensly faint.
Every morning the doctors would come in to take a blood sample and see if my blood count was up. After four days I was allowed to leave the hospital, having spent New Year's Eve all alone in my hospital room (not exatly what I'd hoped for). I felt like an old grandma for days and had no energy at all. It was a challenging time.
The dengue fever forced me to slow down even more and live moment to moment. I had to really listen and tune into what my body needed. Did I need to rest? Or was I up for a little walk? What foods did my body crave and need? It was totally new for me to listen to my body. If I didn't however, I would feel the consequences straight away.
My friend and I extended our trip so I could recover before returning to our fieldwork project. We went to Gili Air, a bounty island just of Lombok. This is where a truly magnificent moment happened that changed everything for me...
By truly listening to my body, slowing life down and being in touch with myself, I was finally completely relaxed and felt fulfilled. Then, I felt a shift within myself. Why don't I listen to my body and give it what it needs back in Amsterdam? Why don't I allow myself to rest more? Why don't I care for myself this way when I am at home?
I started to look at my life back in Amsterdam and question things such as: 'Why was I always so stressed?' and 'Why was I so busy trying to do so many things?' or 'Am I just trying to please others and live up to their expectations?' and 'Do I ever listen to my true needs?'
I felt this new awareness about myself and my life that I hadn't experienced before.
The next day, I went on a snorkling trip. On the boat I met a guy named Brad (from Australia). I spoke to him about my new found awareness. He said to me: 'That's what you'd call self-love'. It was the first time I had ever heard about the term 'self-love', but that was exactly what I was feeling!
Not only did I feel a deep sense of self-love. Over the next few days I also happened to fall in love with Brad. After three days together on Gili Air, I had to go back to Bali to finish of my fieldwork project. We stayed in touch and were able to see each other again before heading home. We knew however, that this was only the beginning of a great relationship!
So what happened when I got back home?
Well, when I told my family and friends about Brad they all thought the same: 'This will never last'. Boy were they wrong. We have been together now for nearly 4 years!! But was he the one that changed me?
When I got back from Bali, I went back to my 'normal' life. But things just didn't seem the same. I felt like I was doing exactly as I was supposed to. I was back in my apartment in Amsterdam, caught up with all my friends and fieldhockey team, graduated in the summer of 2015 and landed my dream job as an occupational therapist. Even though this used to make me happy, it didn't anymore...
I was confused and miserable. I felt unfulfilled and wondered if this was all that life was about? If this doesn't make me happy, what does? From the outside everything looked fine. But within myself I felt a longing for more. I was curious to find the answers to my questions: 'What makes me happy?', 'How do I want to live my life?' and 'Is this all there is?'
Trying to find the answers to these quetions led me on an amazing journey! Over the last four years I have been traveling the world, met some incredible people and expanded my knowledge and awareness through books, podcasts and experiences.
I would now love to share this journey with you!
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