When I landed in Bali, there was no one there to pick me up from the airport. Hundreds of Balinese men were making driving motions with their hands and chanting “Taxi?” Usually, in the US, we avoid making eye contact with those drivers and we don’t trust them.
I didn’t have phone service, and I had no idea if I could trust any of these taxi drivers. I didn’t even know where I was trying to go. I had been promised a ride from the airport from someone who worked at the school I was volunteering at, but no one was there for me. I was all alone with a lot of luggage, and a lack of sleep.
One of the taxi drivers started following me around the airport, asking me where I was going and if I needed a ride. I was a bit on edge so I tried to shake him off by saying no thank you, but he wasn’t going anywhere. I told him I already had a ride and I was looking for them. He took me to the front desk at the airport and asked the worker to announce on the loudspeaker the name of my school so my ride could find me.
We waited. No one came.
He offered me his phone and said, “Here, try to call your school leader.” Now I was starting to think that this stranger was actually trying to help me, not just take my money.
So I called the founder of the school and he told me to get in this man’s car so that he could drive me for 3 hours, up to the school.
I had no choice. I had to trust the founder and the taxi driver. So we walked to his car and put my luggage in the trunk.
I had one more thing to worry about at this point, I had no native currency, only USD. We had to stop at a place to change my money over.
I changed over $100 USD and was handed a large stack of Rupiah. I got nervous that the taxi driver knew how much money I had now. I had no idea what the different bills were worth and for all I knew, I could have been ripped off.
We drove for 3 hours as the sun was setting through mountains, passing different villages where people were burning their trash in the street, tending their shops, or cooking. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. I remember asking the driver a few questions here and there, mostly about the culture, and he asked me a few questions about America. He taught me a little bit about how their currency works. He was a nice guy and even shared some of his food with me. He told me if I needed to stop for food or anything to just ask. I felt safe with him.
Finally, we reached the school. I got out of the taxi, gave him a bit of a tip, just because I thought it was nice of him to share his food with me, and said thank you. I was relieved to finally get there after traveling for over 30 hours straight.
I held it all together and got there on my own. I wasn’t nervous, anxious, or afraid of this unknown land and culture. Why? Because I had done my research. I had read Lonely Planet about Bali, watched YouTubers who lived there, and read endless articles about the culture there. I went there with an open mind and I was ready for almost anything to happen.
I felt like if I could get to a tiny village in a country that is completely different from the US, then I could do anything. This was the reason I was choosing to travel instead of attending a traditional university. I wanted situations like this to pop up for me to handle and learn from. I learned about my confidence, independence, and problem-solving abilities.
The entire two and a half months allowed me to really grow up and find a new, stronger mindset. I feel lucky to have experienced this immersion into a different life and can’t recommend it enough to people looking to expand their boundaries.