Wow! I can’t believe I’ve been in Bali for 3 weeks now. It has absolutely flown. I wanted to give you guys an update because I have SO much to share… possibly too much for one blog post, but I’ll just see what falls onto the page!
When I told friends in the chronic illness/autoimmune community about my travels, many gasped at how I’d be able to do that and manage my health, so I really wanted to fill you in with some tips and tricks too. Enjoy!
We (my boyfriend Joe and I) stayed in Ubud for the first two weeks of our trip. This area is inland which goes against my Ocean Baby nature. However, for Ubud, I can make an exception. If you haven’t experienced it before, Ubud is the jungle-y, yoga-filled, spiritual hub of Bali. The whole area smells of incense and you can spend hours trekking through rice paddies, eating at amazing vegan cafes or doing all sorts of yoga/meditation/healing (more on that later!). Although it is getting busier and more touristy, there is an air about the place that makes you feel calm, at peace, and in touch with nature.
Next, we ventured to Nusa Penida island which is about a 45-minute ferry ride from Bali (sometimes longer, but you’re on island time, so who really cares?!). We didn’t have time to go to all of the islands (e.g. Nusa Lombongon and The Gili Islands) but our weekend here was beautiful. The island is less touristy than some of the others, so the roads are VERY rugged but the slight fear for your life is worth it for the endlessly breathtaking ocean views and waterfall hikes. It feels slightly odd to have an island break for the weekend when you’re already on an island, but #wheninbali, right?!
We’re now back in Bali, in the Canggu area. Canggu is by the sea (YAY!) and attracts lots of digital nomads, edgy tattooed people, and surfers (as you’d imagine). I’m not really cool enough to fit in and feel much more at home in Ubud (HA), but it’s still lovely here… lots of AMAZING food and beach time. Next stop on our list: Ulutwatu!
This is the biggie when you’re travelling with a health condition, as I’m sure many of you know! However, that’s EXACTLY why we chose Bali. This island is a hub for foodies and you can find health cafes everrrrrywhere. You are literally spoilt for choice. Many menus prominently feature GF, DF, and VG options. They also don’t heavily use soy (unlike Thailand and other parts of Asia), opting for coconut-based sauces and milk, etc.
Many of the staff speak English and if they don’t, we found this handy little coeliac travel card for Indonesia. Show staff members this card and they will understand that you can’t have any gluten. Balinese cafes and restaurants are very conscious about providing a high level of customer service, so you don’t need to feel awkward about asking lots of questions – they’re happy to help. The Balinese word for soy is “kedelai”, so I check this on certain meals where I’m not sure of the ingredients.
I brought my own pea protein to have in the mornings as I knew I wouldn’t be having soy products and wasn’t sure about the meat/fish quality in all places. However, there are plenty of organic markets and cafes which state that they wash produce in mineral water, so you don’t have to worry about contamination. This means there is ample opportunity to get high-quality nutrients in, and of course, I always stay on top of my supplement routine too.
Eating at the health cafes rather than the “warungs” (local eateries) can get pricey (not pricey by Western standards but perhaps for a travel budget) but I find it’s worth it for the peace of mind. Most warungs don’t have dietary requirements catered for on the menu, and the English of the staff isn’t usually as good, so it depends on how you want to go about it! Expect to pay approx $5-$10 AUD per main meal and $3-$7 AUD for teas/smoothies/juices in most cafes.
Some foodie recommendations (all VG/GFable):
- Ubud – Clear Cafe (amazing decor), Atman Kafe (pizzzza), Fussy Bird (cheaper than the others but still delicious!), Zest (luxury, nice views and good for laptop work), KAFE, The Seeds of Life, Gluten Free Kitchen (it’s nice knowing it’s 100% GF!) Earth Cafe, Moksa (bit further out and they grow their own food – organic farmer’s market behind it!).
- Nusa Penida – less options here but we LOVED Penida Colada (and who doesn’t love a pun?). They do great fish, sweet potato fries, VG GF chia pudding, and happy hour cocktails (these work out at $4 AUD!).
- Canggu – The Shady Shack (best smoothies!), Funky Pancakes (fluffy VG GF soy-free pancakes made from coconut with a 70s retro theme to the decor!), Da Romeo (AMAZING Italian decor and food, including GF VG soy-free pizza… I love pizza, if you haven’t already guessed), Cafe Organic, Cafe Vida, and Motion (sports fuel-focused). We also went to Crate Cafe, Kynd and Betelnut last time we were here but that was pre-Hashi, so I can’t speak for them now!
Joe and I have been using Airbnb to book accommodation. We’re trying not to move location too often in order to keep things less chaotic and more peaceful. My suitcase weighs a literal tonne, I swear (we have packed up our life in Aus to move back to the UK for a while!). We also usually try to get somewhere with a fridge, so I can store my probiotics (which I’ve actually accidentally left in Ubud and we’ll have to go back for – whoops!).
In Ubud, we stayed with a WONDERFUL Balinese woman at a homestay called Taman Indah (for $17.50 AUD per night). She gave us water and fruit each morning, and advised us on various things to do. She also took us to a local healer – more on that later!
In Nusa Penida, we stayed in a bamboo treehouse-style place (see photo below). It overlooked the mountains and ocean!
Then, when we moved to Canggu, we checked into somewhere which smelt of mould. We were supposed to stay for 3 nights but managed to get 2 of those refunded. I have lived in a mouldy house before and know how dangerous it is for my health (well, anyone’s health, but particularly someone with chronic issues), so I knew we had to leave. A lot of houses in Bali get damp because of the tropical climate, so it’s well worth scoping places out before you commit.
Pro-tip: if you have to stay somewhere damp, diffuse doTERRA On-Guard essential oil, it’s a great killer of airborne nasties! (Yes, I did bring my diffuser on holiday – ha!). We’re staying somewhere for approx $25 AUD per night now which has a shared pool and kitchen. It’s really lovely. Our plan is to stay here for a week or so, then head to Uluwatu for a friend’s birthday weekend!
Oh wow. SO MANY. It’s been a bit of a mix between exploring/hiking/swimming and relaxing/spa-ing/eating/drinking. Here are some of the fun things we’ve done…
YOGA. Classes are typically 1.5 hours here in Bali, which is wonderful. You don’t feel like you’re being rushed in and out like I sometimes do in Sydney/city classes (which obviously feels pretty counterintuitive in a yoga class!). The Yoga Barn is the most famous spot in Ubud but I wanted to try something different, so I went to Yoga Saraswati which is half the price of the main ones (around $7 AUD instead of $13). The building is BEAUTIFUL too. Joe and I attended a candlelit yin session! I also did a yoga/Cross Fit/pilates session at Radiantly Alive… I don’t even think that counted as yoga – Eminem was playing and we ran around a LOT. It was great fun though :). Here in Canggu, there are FREE yoga sessions at Alternative Beach Club… you can even do a class before their Saturday pool party! We have also been running, gymming, and of course, walking/hiking. The gyms in Indonesia are sweat boxes, but very cheap! You can pay $$ to go to fancy pants Cross Fit gyms, but that isn’t really my style (gotta look after these adrenals!).
Healing. If you haven’t already seen on my Instagram (@mojohealthspace), we went to see a Balinese Hypnotherapist/Acupuncturist/Masseuse in Ubud. We were escorted by our Balinese homestay host (phew!) and paid 1/4 of the tourist price (the equivalent of $20 AUD each!). The place was veryyy basic and low-key (i.e. no door, just a curtain to the road), not some luxury spa, but that was what made it amazing. He read our pulses, gave us herbal supplements/drinks, and gave me the hardest Qi Gong massage I’ve ever experienced! There are countless day spas, massage parlours, healers, etc., in Bali, and all of it is for a fraction of the price you’d pay in the West. So, definitely take advantage of the local treatments! We also went for a great back massage in Canggu at a place called Vishaka for the equivalent of $15 AUD.
Local sites! I always like to explore the local sites – waterfalls, hikes, viewpoints, temples, etc. There are too many to count but I’ll list some beautiful ones to check out: Kelingking Beach (Nusa Penida – vertical hike… pretty dangerous but rewarding beach spot at the bottom), Atuh Beach (gorgeous sunset spot in Nusa Penida), Peguyangan Waterfall (Nusa Penida – cascading pools to swim in, facing the ocean), Crystal Bay Beach (Nusa Penida), Diamond Beach Viewpoint (the spot where the main photo on this page was taken :)), Campuhan Ridge Walk (amongst the rice paddies in Ubud), Nung Nung waterfall (Ubud, JAWDROPPINGLY BEAUTIFUL), Lake Beratan temple (bit of a drive from Ubud but well worth it). I highly recommend going to watch their traditional dancing performances too. It’s a great way to get a feel for their culture, and the atmosphere is amazing.
Co-working. I haven’t done lots of this as I’ve mainly been working from cafes but I wanted to give a shoutout to Dojo in Canggu. It’s a really cool space with a pool and lots going on. I met with another coach to attend an event about designing online courses here for FREE. It was magic. If you’re planning on doing lots of digital nomad-esque activities, co-working spots are really useful… although many cafes are equipped with plenty of plugs and wifi for working travellers.
P.S. We discovered that you can pay around $10 AUD to go to posh hotels and use their infinity pools with snacks/dranks – JUST SAYIN’.
Since stress is my biggest flare-driver, coming to chill in Bali felt intuitively right. A slower pace of life and fewer responsibilities always appeals to me! However, travel ALWAYS comes with ups and downs, and things that can easily go wrong (missing possessions, money/bank issues, getting lost, mopeds breaking down, accommodation/transport issues, etc.). Even Bali isn’t a constant spiritual haven – there are bike crashes, security issues, crazy busy streets, scary communication issues, health risks, and more.
These things shouldn’t be underestimated, and if you’re the kind of person who is easily freaked out by changing circumstances or even if that’s just where you are with your healing (hello anxiety and adrenal issues – I know the feels!), it’s okay to acknowledge that you might need to adjust your travel expectations, for now. Adventure and freedom can come in many forms, and that might mean something a little different than a world trip right now, but that’s okay. There are ways to mix up your routine, treat yourself and explore new areas, activities or restaurants which won’t send you into a frenzy or tire you out when your body is screaming to rest. So do that. Tune in to you, and listen to what your body needs. Everything else will come in time. Managing Hashimoto’s is enough of an adventure by itself sometimes anyway, right?! :D. Baby steps, always.