I began writing this blog on the tiny island of Gili Meno, and I published the first instalment from Gili Trawangan. These tiny tropical islands belong to Lombok, a two-hour boat ride away from neighbouring Bali. I spent three magical days on Meno, in a hut right on the beach where I could write without distraction (as challenged on the Life Design Lab). I would lay in my hammock and listen to the ocean, eat alone at little warungs (local cafes) looking out at the white coarse sand and clear blue water, and even discovered a wonderful yoga teacher called Giulia Lops. Giulia, a Brazilian national who is also a talented filmmaker, was working at the only resort on the island and teaching in a beautiful shala made entirely from bamboo. We bonded over a shared paralysis about how we were to going to move forward with our lives – could we even imagine life outside this paradise? And we talked about self-confidence, and how women struggle to love themselves, and chakras and sunrises, and we encouraged each other as creatives to get out there – me with this little blog idea I was working on and she with her filmmaking. Yaas queen!
From Meno, I hopped across to Gili Trawangan, which felt positively metropolitan in contrast. There was a bustle of tourists and horse-drawn carts (no cars or mopeds to be found on the Gilis), bars and cafes with actual wi-fi, and dozens of dive shops – this was the party island. I snorkelled and dived with turtles, watched an incredible sunset over Mount Agung (towering above Bali in the distance) and I met up with Robyn – an old friend from Dubai who has been working on Gili T as a dive instructor for a few years now. Robyn turned her back on the corporate life to spend her days diving and meeting people from all over the world, and she’s found Indonesian and international colleagues that have become family. We got rather drunk with a group of her friends celebrating a birthday (while I was high on the response to my first blog post) and we had a fab time catching up (and a less than fab hangover).
This all happened after my Unsettled retreat in Bali had finished, and after a solo visa run to Kuala Lumpur. Since my time there, however, Lombok and the Gilis have been devastated by a series of earthquakes and aftershocks. Hundreds of people have died, hundreds of thousands of homes have been destroyed, and many, many people are very vulnerable right now in need of shelter and supplies. Thousands of people were evacuated from the Gilis, but Robyn (thankfully safe) and her wonderful colleagues at Uber Scuba have been co-ordinating a relief effort for and through their Lombok-native staff. There are other grassroots organisations recommended by friends in Indonesia making sure that any donated funds get to where they need to go, both in terms of immediate aid and the rebuilding that is underway. If you’re able to spare something then please, please do.
I’m gutted that these beautiful islands are suffering through such a turbulent time. After my days of writing and rewriting, and the angst and self-doubt and rallying it took to press ‘publish’ on my first silly little blog post, there on Gili T in that little vegan café with the great wi-fi, and then the overwhelming love and support I received from friends and family, and even a few strangers, for that very blog post… And then the turtles I hung out with when I was diving in the afternoon, and trying to sing like The Little Mermaid through a regulator at a depth of 18 metres, and the awesomely chilled locals at the warung serving up satay chicken and fried rice and beers with a warm, open smile, and the drinking and the dancing… And even the next day when the bonkers Eid parade carried a giant Qur’an as a carnival of happy, torch-wielding islanders celebrated the passing of a prosperous and peaceful Ramadan, and the day after that when the sun was still shining and the sea turquoise and the fishing boats pottered in and out, and tourists arrived and life continued as I waited on the beach for my boat back to Bali, looking out at the serenity of Lombok with its volcanic peaks… It was here that something major switched in me. It’s where I began writing what I truly wanted to write. It’s where my little blog and podcast idea became something real, in the world, holding me accountable to my big ideas and thoughts and feelings, ones that I’d never expected to have the courage to put out there – let alone think that people would read. The Gilis gave me so much, and I hope those special islands and their special people get what they need.
The Endri Foundation
Raising money for the forgotten children of Lombok, with a special earthquake fund
Lombok Earthquake Support
Local Go Fund Me page