To travel is to open up, let go, and embrace the present moment. But what happens when that very present moment is filled with crippling distress and debilitating panic? The day I arrived in Indonesia I experienced one of the worst yet most beautiful travel moments of my life.
I arrived in beautiful Bali, a destination I had been waiting to reach for months, so naturally I was very excited regardless of being awake for over 24 hours while in transit. At the recommendation of my hotel, I booked a taxi with Uber. While navigating the Uber app, a fellow Canadian girl was also doing the same and asked to share a ride with me, which I did not hesitate to say yes (Canadian folk stick together while on the road).
We dropped my fellow travel mate off at her accommodation and I continued on with my journey to mine. Some time has passed and we seemed to be drawing near, but I noticed it was not a touristy area whatsoever and I didn’t recognize any sites from my previous travels here. I just noticed little villages and families. I asked him to stop and ask for directions, but he refused, so I rolled the window down and asked a local passing by. I could tell by his expression and body language that we were quite far away from where I needed to be. We turned around and he drove down another street and told me it’s very far away and now I needed to pay even more. He then stopped the car and refused to keep going and told me to get out. I pleaded with him to take me to Ubud and he simply said it’s too far now.
So there I was, just me and my bags, on the side of the road in the blistering heat in the middle of no where without a clue of where I was.
I tried using my phone to figure something out but it was useless as the battery had died. I didn’t have a ride and that’s all I needed. The tears started to flow at this point. I’m stranded in an unknown area by myself with no access to any taxis.
I’m literally sobbing in the streets and then a nice young local stopped and asked if I needed a ride. I told him where I needed to go and what had happened and he appeared shocked that the driver just left me there but even more surprised at how far away I was. He said he had a friend’s villa I could stay in for the night because Ubud was just too far, but I told him I’ve already booked my stay and I just needed to get to my hotel. Meanwhile, every single local that has driven by has stopped to see what’s going on and they all joined forces together to help me. There were about fifteen locals including men, women, and children who surrounded me trying to help. The first young man kept saying “Don’t cry, don’t worry”. They spoke in their language and I could tell they were organizing some sort of a plan. Next thing I know, a local woman said she knew the area where I needed to go so told me to hop on her scooter.
Together as a group, they strapped my backpack on the front of the scooter and I carried my other one on my back and they threw a helmet on my head. They told me this woman would take me to my hotel. I’m still crying and completely overwhelmed at this point. But now, I’m overwhelmed at the kindness and generosity of all these locals who didn’t hesitate once when they saw me in distress. This woman agreed to drive me on her scooter two hours out of her way. I kept saying thank you over and over as tears kept streaming down my face and she kept saying, “No problem ma’am” with a sweet smile and kind looking eyes.
To think, I had people insisting that I don’t visit Indonesia given its political unrest, high risk of terrorism, and also given that it’s a country that contains the highest Muslim population in the world.
There are so many misconceptions and stereotypes that people all over the world hold, but all I know is that I’ve personally experienced and been showered with nothing but love, kindness, and generosity.
It was a very long and hot scooter ride with bags in tow but we finally made it to my destination. I jumped off and started crying more, tears of gratitude this time. I kept thanking this woman, telling her she’s an angel, while hugging and kissing her. I grabbed my wallet and she outright refused to take any form of payment. I told her if she personally didn’t want to keep the money then I asked her to pay it forward to someone who needed it. She told me she didn’t need it because she has God. I cried some more.
A perfect stranger she was, who didn’t for a second hesitate to help me when seeing me in distress, took care of me and kept me safe, drove me hours out of her way, got me to my destination safely, and expected absolutely nothing in return.
I am a firm believer that it is absolutely essential that we as women need to stick together and take care of one another while traveling, and also in life in general. As women, we still live in a society (in some areas of the world it’s much worse than others) where we are scrutinized, abused, judged, oppressed, marginalized, and unequal to our male counterparts.
Despite all that, we are fierce, bold, strong, and powerful beings and when we join forces together we become even stronger; and can move mountains. This is what sisterhood is all about.
I’ve never been more touched or moved in my entire life. I am still moved to tears and completely overcome with gratitude.
Thank you to this woman for being the most beautiful embodiment of what it means to be a woman in a shared global sisterhood and for reminding me and restoring my faith in common humanity. I am forever grateful and completely overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude that is palpable beyond measure, something I have never experienced so strongly until now.