A paradise so perfect you can’t help but start conjuring ideas on how to come back and never leave…
So this is the moment in my life where that idea took root and refused to let go. By the end of the meal I will have made up my mind to quit my corporate job in New York’s, to become a professional travel planner. For real? YES! And here are some reasons why:
Welcome to February 2013 on the semi-remote island of Gili Trawangan, located just 45 minutes by boat off the coast of Bali, Indonesia. Right now most of my colleagues are working like mad at Wall Street jobs and freezing in a New York blizzard, while I am sitting here in my board shorts, drinking $1 cold beers and getting free WiFi. No, life isn’t always fair. But we all get to make choices. And I simply chose to come here.
I heard about this place from Bali expats who come here for a vacation when the need to uhhh “get away” from Bali? So yeah, when I heard this I made an immediate change of plans to check out Gili Trawangan for myself. And when I say “check it out for myself” that means I will be traveling alone,with no hotel reservation, no guide, without using any guidebook or the Internet. Because that is simply how I like to travel.
So what’s it like? Well, similar to world-class destination, its impossible to capture the uniqueness of Gili Tranwangan in words and pictures. But I here is a taste of the experience:
I’m paying $30/night for a beach-front, ocean view bungalow run by a local kid who goes by the name “Eddie Money.” No joke. He is awesome. He plays guitar in the hammock while his lovely wife makes sugar-lemon crepes, fresh fruit, and coffee for breakfast each morning.They serve it to me on my own deck, which has a hammock and beachfront garden view. For only $30/night I think its the best deal on the island.
But here is the deal: Eddie Money’s beachfront bungalows can not be found on Trip Advisor. Or AirBnB. Or anywhere on the web. Because they don’t market on the web. In fact, they don’t market at all – aside from a hand painted wooden sigh that hangs in front a garden that practically hides the place. All that to say this: it’s the best place to stay that you would probably never find if you depended on conventional guidebooks or travel planners. But I am not a traditional guidebook.
I am a life-long traveler who specializes in finding hidden gems and alternative travel ideas for budget minded jetsetters and fun-loving, fitness-driven adventure seekers.
So in this scene I am riding my mountain bike (which costs $4/day) around to sand and dirt trail leading to the “far side” of the Gili Trawangan island. Fortunately I discovered it was a place few tourists visit. I was lucky to even find someone to take my picture when I stopped for lunch.
I was thrilled to learn that the person who I asked to take my picture was Andrea Kunzig, an award-winning travel photographer who has worked with National Geographic legends like Steve McCurry (my personal photography hero!) Randomly meeting someone like Andrea Kunzig was exactly the type of “travel-magic” places like Bali and Gili Trawangan are especially known for. Keep in mind, on the island of Gili there are no cars or paved roads. People travel by foot, mountain bike, or a mule-drawn carriage “taxi.”
When I rolled up to this restaurant (after pushing my bike across the sand for 400 yards) there was only one other couple occupying one of the 5 “open-air-dining-huts-on-stilts” that sit perched over the sea at high tide. After the couple left, Andrea Kunzig arrived, we struck up an inspiring conversation around our mutual passion for travel and photography. She snapped my picture and said goodbye. Then I jumped off the side of my dining hut into the crystal clear water – and then sat in the sand what felt like my own private beach located at the very edge of the world. While “downtown” Gili Trawangan can start to feel a bit like a Spring break party scene, just a short bike ride away you can escape into almost complete solitude.
For me it’s simple: Nature + Nightlife = Paradise Found!When the food arrived (fresh chicken, salad, and rice) I climbed back into my dining hut and ate like a man: With my fingers! Dripping wet, shirtless, in only my board shorts. It was my own personal moment of heaven on earth! Considering the endless supply of $1 cold beers, free WiFi, and only the sound of the waves and Bob Marley playing on my iPad, I guess it makes a lot of sense that this would become my new happy place on planet Earth!
Next Up: I am going Video Skype my friends back in New York. No, not because I am such a great friend…but because it’s the end of February…and I am really, really mean.
Want more information on affordable travel options for Bali?
CONTACT: Ian Andrew OSullivan | ALTERNATIVE ESCAPES | +1 917 518 3535