My trip to Bali last year was unlike any I'd taken before. For starters, it was the first time I'd had a layover in my life (and, for someone who is scared of flying, that was a BIG deal), but it was also the first time I'd been to Asia - somewhere that wasn't hugely Westernised - and it was quite a culture shock for me.
Looking back through photos, there are a lot of things I learned on that trip that I think we could do with integrating into our own lives in the UK. Of course, I know we all have our own traditions and ways of life - and I am very proud to be British - but these little takeaways stayed with me long after I touched down at Heathrow:
Try not to have a face like a slapped arse when you're in public - which can be hard when you have a natural resting bitch face, like mine. The Balinese people always seemed to have a smile on their face and would say hello as you passed them by. As a Londoner, I am naturally sceptical of strangers, but as the trip went on, I found myself sometimes even being the first to say hi when we passed someone in the street. I felt at ease to go up to strangers and ask questions, too. Obviously, at home, the biggest test of this attitude is public transport behaviour. Instead of giving in to the knee-jerk reaction to look away when I catch someone's eye, instead I try to smile. Hell, on a coach to Norwich recently, I chatted to my seat neighbour for the full three hours and loved every minute of it. You may not always feel like it, but you can really make someone's - or your own - day. Oh, and Christine, if you're reading this, HEY!!
I described Ubud High Street as a mixture between a road in Delhi and Covent Garden's Neal Street in the post about my visit. The noise and the culture were fabulous, but what did start getting on my tits was the constant calling out of "taxi? taxi?" every three steps. Mate, you've just seen me say no to your buddy, and yet you ask again?! It really reminded me of those soap sellers in Covent Garden. However, unlike these street sellers, or our cold callers for that matter, they actually take no for an answer first time. They don't push you, try to convince you, or anything. Because of that, I now try to be more graceful with my rejections of street sellers. Everyone's got a job to do, eh.
Stay true to your faith
I'm not here to preach to anyone; it would be inappropriate, hypocritical and, well, it's not what you came here to read. However, the Balinese faith is unapologetically strong, but in a subtle way, and I really admired that. An example is on our day with Ketut, he repeatedly, and seemingly randomly, beeped his horn. 5am, 10am, 3:30pm; it didn't matter. When we asked him why, he explained that it is considered a sign of respect to beep everytime he passed a temple. He could see I wore a cross around my neck, but didn't say it in a way to minimise my faith, or act as if his was more superior. That might sound like just not being a dick, but you'd be surprised at how many religious and Athiest folk I come across daily who don't act in such a way.
Be kind to animals
Okay, so our Ubud hotel did do a mass bug spray at 10am every day, and I absolutely despised how dogs were treated in the country, but on the trip, I got to see a lot of animals in their natural habitat. While they didn't necessarily treat their animals with the same dignity that we do over here, my British self being in such close proximity to these animals gave me a whole new outlook. Even seeing schools of fish going about their business made me sad that I eat them. Seeing turtles, monkeys and other wildlife just roaming made me more conscious of my recycling (or lack thereof) and made me want to do better for them.
We travel to learn, right? Experience amazing things and escape from our mundane lives? Like with all my trips, I tried to soak in as much as possible, but it just so happened that this time, it had a longer lasting effect.