During my time in Bali, I was introduced to the Japanese proverb: “The Bamboo that bends is stronger than the Oak that resists.”

While it may seem counterintuitive, rigidity offers the perfect environment for fracture. Whereas adaptability accommodates life’s ebbs and flows.

Stiffening and avoiding hardship isn’t a show of strength. Just as admitting that life is suffering isn’t succumbing to sadness.

But there was a time in my life when I rejected this fact—call it an act of defiance, a stance of misplaced positivity, a false belief that control equalled strength.

But I’m truly the happiest I’ve ever been. Now—as someone who surrenders to this truth.

So if you needed the reminder: stand tall in the stillness, but make room for give in the storm.

x, S

This post offers my final farewell to Bali (until we meet again), and what better way to end this than with my tour through Ubud’s mountains and rice paddies a la Eat. Pray. Love.

I stayed in the beach community of Canggu during the weeklong retreat, but on my day off, I chose to go on a mountain bike tour (with Bali Eco Cycling) through the mountainous region of Ubud (which I also discovered to be the mecca of affordable and unique home decor. Noting for next time).

The bus ride took just over an hour as we traveled up-hill on winding roads through various towns and pockets of shops and temples and the first stop on the tour was at the crest of a mountain overlooking a maze of rice paddies. It’s so hard to properly capture the scale in a photo, but if you look closely top-left, that orange speck by the staircase is an adult human. Just wild.

After getting my mind blown by rice, we grabbed breakfast in Kintamani at a cafe overlooking Mount Batur and its calderas (essentially the craters formed after an eruption), one of which is now a lake. In the second photo, you can spot Mount Agung spewing smoke.

Breakfast consistent of a refreshing pineapple smoothie bowl and banana pancakes. We also were treated to a coffee flight with a sampler of Lewak coffee (AKA cat-poo coffee), the most cup of java in the world. Yes, it’s what it sounds like: a feline native to the area eats the coffee beans whole and whatever comes out gets roasted and brewed.) It was super strong, and while good, it’s definitely just hype IMO. I did fancy the Ginseng coffee, though!

After we got our fill, it was time to hop on our mountain bikes and start the four-hour bike trek through lush forests, rice paddies, plantations (of cloves, coffee, cocoa, vanilla, tapioca, taro, local vegetables and exotic tropical fruits), and traditional villages.

En route, we got to stop whenever we wanted to explore. On one stop, we were invited into a traditional Balinese home where we got to learn more from the homeowner about their culture and lifestyle, including cock fighting (which yes, however cruel, remains an important aspect of their culture).

It’s honestly impossible to capture the feeling of these rural streets. The photos make it looks so desolate, and while it was quiet and zen compared to Canggu, the air was filled with a calm sense of community. Dozens of dogs roamed the streets, kids ran around chasing each other and giving us high-fives as we passed by, people softly whistled while they worked, swarms of motorbikes buzzed by.

Of all the temples I saw, the one below was my favorite, made entirely from recycled volcanic rock, dried palms, and wood. It was such a beautiful reminder of Mother Nature’s offerings and our ability to create beauty from chaos. Again, the detail and the scale of the building is impossible to capture, especially when you realize it’s all hand-carved, but it’s still kicking me in the pants with inspiration and motivation.

Until we meet again, Bali. I love you, I love you, I love you!