Back in 2009, I did something that I had been promising myself for many years. I embarked on my first long-term trip to New Zealand and Australia. For five whole months, I explored two new countries and challenged myself in ways I never imagined. I jumped out of an airplane, bungy-jumped off of the Auckland bridge, abseiled into caves, climbed a volcano, hang-glided over the sea, and scuba dived with sharks at night. Reading this makes me seem like some sort of adventure junkie, but I actually wasn’t…at the time. Sure I had slowly been exploring life’s possibilities and trying new things like white water rafting in the Canadian Rockies and riding as many roller coasters as I could, but still, I was a relatively shy guy who wasn’t really into adrenaline sports or thrill seeking.
When I first landed in New Zealand however, I felt like a new person. I had this new zest for life. I had this incredible adventure ahead of me and I was free to do with it as I pleased. It was only 7 AM when I pulled up to my Queenstown hostel after an early flight from Canada when I noticed an advertisement for sky-diving. I figured “what the hell?”, and immediately signed up. Less than 30-hours after landing in a new country, I was up in a small plane, getting ready to jump out at 15,000 feet.
From that moment on, I was ready to try anything, which is what lead me to exploring an entirely new side of myself, willing to take on anything that sparked my interest. But while New Zealand and Australia sparked the adventurer within me, it was a mini side-trip to Bali that officially got me hooked on travel.
I still remember the moment. I had been traveling up the West coast of Australia with some strangers I had met online when suddenly our car broke down. I had already been in Australia for three or four months and although I was having a good time, I had reached this point where I was just tired of it. I’m not sure if I was tired of constantly moving around, or tired of always having to find new people to travel with, or tired of the trip itself, but I didn’t feel like finding another group to travel back up the coast with. After a check-in with the mechanic, the car was officially finished. It was too expensive to repair and so we found an internet cafe to collect ourselves and plan our next moves. One of the girls mentioned a place called Bali.
This sounds so weird to me now but I didn’t know what Bali was. I literally had never heard the name before. Despite it being a very, very popular place, it was new to me. Indonesia sounded so exotic to me. Despite being the extremely well-travelled human being I am now, back in 2009, that wasn’t the case. Actually, except for visiting a few provinces in Canada, spending two weeks in Denmark for a marketing course through my college, and a short trip to Mexico City to visit Karla (my wife now), I was very much an amateur.
I decided that Bali was going to be my next move, but I wanted to go by myself. I did a quick search online and found a cheap flight from Perth to Bali. I gave myself just one short week (regrettably) and booked two one-ways, one from Perth to Bali and one from Bali to Darwin, so that I could take the famous train (the Ghan) down to Ayers Rock upon my return.
The next day, I boarded the flight for the short 2-hour flight to Denpasar, Indonesia, which is the main city of Bali. The airport was very poor and rugged at the time (it’s recently been upgraded and is very modern and beautiful), and when I reached the officer, he asked for $25 USD to pay for a tourist visa. Visa? I had never heard of this before. I quickly looked back and asked another traveler if this was legit. haha. I truly can’t imagine that this was ME back then. So ignorant of my surroundings, yet it was this ignorance that lead to such a magical time in Indonesia. I paid my $25 USD, jumped in a taxi, and headed to the only place I knew existed. Kuta (the girl who mentioned Bali at the Internet cafe had also mentioned this area).
Now that I’ve been to Bali three times over the last seven years, Kuta has become my least favourite place, but at the time, it was a smorgasbord of new smells, tastes, and senses. It was also INCREDIBLY CHEAP compared to Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. It must have been a busy month as well because it took me hours to find a vacant hotel within my budget. Eventually though, I found the most spartan bedroom possible (in retrospect, this place was kinda dirty) for just $6 CAD per night. Despite being quite ugly, I was pretty excited after paying $35 CAD per night for a dorm room throughout Australia and New Zealand. My own room! Woohoo!
Over the next week, I found new friends from all over the world, practiced some surfing, made friends with a local Balinese guy who drove me to another town called Ubud on the back of his motorbike, rode my own scooter for the first time, chilled with monkeys in Monkey Forest, and watched exotic dance performances.
It was truly the week of a lifetime for me as I had never experienced anything like Bali before. It was unlike anything I had ever seen. Chickens roaming the streets, a family of five crammed onto one motorbike, ancient temples, and so forth. It was unbelievable.
Bali completely changed my life because it inspired me to keep travelling. Australia and New Zealand are wonderful countries and absolutely perfect for backpackers wanting to experience nature, hiking, and incredible scenery. But they’re similar to Canada in that they’re very developed, and who knows, had I not visited Indonesia, I might have just come home and never had the urge to truly explore the world.
But that’s not what happened. Bali awoke a new sense within me. The explorer. Suddenly, I couldn’t just go home and settle down. I wanted to explore the world. I wanted to re-visit Bali. I wanted to explore the rest of Indonesia. The rest of Southeast Asia. The entire world. And I made good on it. Since visiting Bali back in 2009, I’ve now been to a total of 38 countries and over 250 cities spanning 6 continents. I’m now a “professional traveller” if there is such a thing, and my wife has been there for the entire journey. Travel has become a way of life. It also inspired me to become a writer and a photographer and I now also teach others how to travel the world.
I’ve seen much more wild places than Bali since that trip but despite it’s heavy increase in tourism, there’s still something very special about it. The people, the culture, the temples. Bali is so unique. It’s so different than the rest of Indonesia. It’s so different from the rest of the world. It really has its own identity. I guess that’s why it has become so famous.
As I write this story, I can’t help but think how incredible it is that one trip or one adventure or one encounter can completely change your life. For me, one simple week in Bali did just that. Come to think of it, I didn’t even do anything that special while I was there. I mostly just wandered around the streets. But for me, it was like I had entered a National Geographic magazine. A new world.
I was inspired to become a global citizen and I was inspired to design my life around travel, to ensure that it was engrained into my life.
Want to visit Bali?
There’s a number of ways I can help you get there and one of them is Travel hacking. Travel hacking is the art of democratizing free or low-cost travel. It’s taking advantage of the frequent flyer industry and learning how to earn hundreds of thousands of frequent flyer miles/points so that you never have to pay for another flight again. I’ve created two courses that help you become travel hackers.
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Travel Consulting: I’ve spent more than 5 years travelling the world and continue to travel as a lifestyle. I’ve been to all the continents except Antartica and have experienced a wide variety of travel including nature safari’s, adrenaline sports, city tours, and 5-star hotels. My travel always consists of adventure and education. After receiving a lot of requests over the years, I’ve now started a travel consultantcy to help people like yourself design the best itinerary and get the most out of your trip. A lot of research goes into my trips to ensure I see as much as I can. The difference between me and a travel agent is that I don’t actually book your travel and I DO charge a fee upfront. When you don’t pay a fee (as is the case with most agents), the opinions you’re getting will be biased. This is because all travel agents get a commission for lining you up with certain tour groups, hotels, and so forth. Therefore, it’s not always in your best interest. By paying for my services, you’re getting 100% unbiased advice and planning assistance to ensure you’re getting the best experience. Plus, I’ll likely be able to get you deals anyways. If you’re interested, send me an email to matt (at) livelimitless (dot) com.
I hope I’ve inspired you to travel!