Written by: Sina Imbacher @thehighlysensitivetraveler
The sound of accelerating and hooting scooters is ringing in my ears. I can smell the traffic smoke and fried goodies from street food stalls. My eyes rush from one side to the other, trying to see everything, even though I only get glimpses of people, dogs and buildings which we are passing. My driver takes a sudden left turn into a narrow street which can only just fit two scooters next to each other. I hold on tighter, pressing my thighs together, while we ride a bumpy road, a short cut as it seems. Suddenly some rice fields pop up next to me. I quickly turn my head to admire the bright green scenery and nearly give my driver a knock-out with my helmet. "Oh my god", whispers an excited voice in my head, "you are sitting on the back of some random Balinese guy's scooter, he drives like a maniac, which they all do, on the way to the beach, through crazy traffic, next to rice fields and street dogs!" I can't help myself but grin like a weirdo. This is such a different world to what I am used to. Welcome to crazy Bali!
I was 20 when I went on my first trip to South-East Asia. It was a rather sobering experience, to be honest. Everyone who has been to this part of the world was thrilled, telling me it was "a.m.a.z.i.n.g." And then I came back from my holidays thinking "well that was not as pleasant as I was expecting." This was before I knew I was highly sensitive. This first trip, to Thailand, was just purely overwhelming for me. I didn't know how to deal with all the new and loud sensations. It had been a rather exhausting experience. Why couldn't I be all easy-going with the noise and the traffic and the smell and the crowds? Was there something wrong with me?
Nothing is wrong with me and nothing is wrong with you. Dealing with high sensitivity in our regular environment can even sometimes be a struggle. Travelling across half the globe is a whole different story. But believe me, it is one of the most rewarding experiences!
Today I am a full-time traveller, exploring the world as a highly sensitive person. After my not-so-pleasant Thailand trip, I gave South-East-Asia another chance, this time Bali in Indonesia. And I fell in love with this place, even though it is still crazy for me. I have learned how to deal with my superpower and I want to share with you some tips on how to travel Bali as an HSP and have an "a.m.a.z.i.n.g." time!
One thing I want to mention before we dive in is, that Bali can be overwhelming. There is a lot of noise, traffic, many people and it can be quite chaotic. As we cannot (and don't want to) change this specific Balinese way of life, we have to learn how to deal with it. Hopefully, these tips might turn out to be helpful for you.
1. Slow Travel vs. FOMO
Maybe you can relate to how I feel when I plan a trip to a new place: I want to see and do everything. I wish I would not need to sleep at all and I had an unlimited amount of money. The well-known fear of missing out (FOMO). But guess what, if you try to squeeze every single highlight plus friend's recommendations in one itinerary you will feel stressed and in need of another holiday from the holiday. Slow Travel is the key. It means to skip a few things to enjoy the others more. Don’t underestimate the consequences of a full schedule every day. You will be in an unusual environment full of sensations which can be a lot already. You don't need the extra stress. Be in the moment and take your time. You will feel more relaxed.
2. Choice of Accommodation
As a backpacker or solo-traveller one often gets recommend to stay in hostels, to meet people, to not feel alone and so on. So, I stayed in many hostels for a while, but to be honest - these dorms can be tiring eventually. Noise in the middle of the night and the lack of privacy can be annoying. So, if you are very sensitive to noise, have light sleep and value privacy, consider to spend a few more dollars and book a private room for yourself or only share it with a good friend/partner. Last time I was in Bali as a solo-traveller, I booked myself a private room and was so much happier. After a day full of exciting activities, I just wanted to spend a quiet night and recharge. If you travel as a group you can also book inexpensive villas just for you guys! Check out Airbnb.
3. Which part of Bali to stay
Tourism has grown in Bali over the last few years. Some parts are more crowded (therefore crazier) than others. I can recommend the following:
4. How to get around
There seems to be only one rule (more or less followed) in Balinese traffic: they drive on the left. The quickest and most popular way to get around is by scooter. You can also order a Balinese driver to pick you up. (App tips: "Grab" and "GoJek").
5. Activities for HSPs
Yoga is very popular in Bali, you can practice it everywhere (especially in Ubud). Yoga is great to calm down and connect with your body if you feel overwhelmed.
Bali is also a paradise for surfers of all levels. Take a lesson and laugh when you fall off your board again and again. As a highly sensitive person, I really enjoy sports where I am close to nature, it gives me a feeling of grounding. You can also do martial arts there if boxing is a catalyst for you to let go of stress and negative feelings (my best friend is an HSP too and she loves it!)
If you want to do a guided trip, consider hiring a guide just for yourself. You can ask for a special itinerary and avoid big touristy groups.
6. What to bring
My main tip is to bring less, but your faves. Only lightweight stuff and your favourite comfortable clothes which suit the hot weather in Bali. For a literal scent of home, you could spray the perfume of a beloved person on your pyjama/pillow or use essential oils, which can help you to relax and recharge. Also, noise-cancelling headphones and earplugs could be helpful. Consider bringing a little journal for brain dump (write everything down when you feel overwhelmed). This helps to let go and to practise distancing yourself a little bit from all the feelings that come up and it keeps travel memories.
Environmentally friendly tip: Bali suffers from extreme amounts of plastic waste. Bring your own drinking bottle and a water filter to save plastic.
7. What to do when feeling overwhelmed
Sometimes the whole experience can be just too much. You experience so many things and it's just not home. My most important advice of all is to take time and allow yourself to tune out every once in a while. Focus on your breathing when you feel anxious, practise daily meditation to turn inwards and check how you feel. Be kind to yourself and don't force you to do all the things. In Bali they also have delivery service, so you can order your dinner if you don't feel like going out anymore.
8. Embrace being highly sensitive
This is your superpower and it gives you the ability to experience everything in a genuine way! Use all your senses! Try all the food! Experiences new cultures with empathy! Enjoy yourself! Travelling makes your life better :)
Sina was 15 years old when she created her own travel blog about her trip to India. The travel bug caught her. At 23 she left home and started travelling full-time, doing short-term jobs on the way to afford her travels. Not long ago she identified with being HSP, after criticising and doubting herself for many years, she is finally learning to embrace this superpower. Follow her adventures on Instagram @thehighlysensitivetraveler