September 1996, I tearily walked through airport security at Heathrow airport, waving goodbye to my family. It was the start of a travelling adventure, a year backpacking around the world. A flight off into the unknown, to countries I had only read about in my guide books.
First stop, on my around the world adventure was Bali, one of the biggest of the Indonesian archipelago.
Arriving in Bali, the heat hit me, then the noise and smell. Our flight arrived in the dead of night, yet as I walked outside of the airport terminal, all around me was a cacophony of noise. Busy, chaotic, wild and exciting. Tuk Tuk taxis beeped and whizzed past and street vendors frying noodles in woks. Colour! Vibrancy.
It was a world away from the quiet village life I’d left behind, I was terrified and thrilled all at once.
Our first night was in a hotel in Nusa Dua, not far from the airport. A beautiful place, the Conrad Bali wasn’t your typical backpacker hostel. A rather sumptuous place to stay. Waking the following morning, I couldn’t believe my eyes, the pool, the beach – what a wonderful way to slowly adjust to the tropics.
It was a shame, I had only booked one night there. If I was to return to Bali, I would definitely think about staying here again. The room was beautiful, with a large king sized bed, and en suite. A balcony over looking the main pool and out to the white sandy beach and turquoise ocean beyond.
Breakfast that first morning was incredible, my first taste of true exotic fare. Fresh fruit salad, mango, lychee, kiwi, dragon fruit and more. Small tropical birds filled the air, and the sound of the waves in the near distance.
Sadly I said goodbye to the Conrad and headed off into the sunshine in search of a hostel, I was serious at backpacking don’t you know!
That first encounter with the exotic heat, sight and smells has stayed with me all these years. Bali will always be one of my most favourite places I’ve travelled to. Even after 20 years, I still believe that.
The beaches, the temples, the food, the Balinese people – Buddhist, proud and always smiling. I stayed on Bali for a month, travelling to nearby island of Lombok and to the smaller island of Gili Trewangan. Where I didn’t ever want to leave. – True paradise.
Bali is where my travelling bug bit, hard, after this first wild experience, I needed to see everything. There was a big world out there! So many countries and so little time to explore.
And so I embarked on five years of travel, 1996 to 2001 – epic. Whilst friends were buying houses, and forging a career, I was swimming in blue lagoons, climbing mountains and eating food from foreign lands.
Do I regret it? Nope. Would I do it again, oh yes! But you can keep your hostels – I’ll go 5 star next time!
Have you been to Bali? Where was your favourite place on the island?
Collaboration Note: This post was written in collaboration with traveloka hotel deals , all words and opinions are my own. Images are via unsplash.
Lou Archell, a writer, photographer, stylist and founder of Littlegreenshed. A UK lifestyle & travel blog
Lou is also a busy mum of two amazing boys and the founder of Sisterhood Camp – an annual creative retreat for recharging and empowering brilliant ladies, Lou is passionate about supporting and inspiring others whether through her workshops, writing, photography or lifestyle hacks.