Why do you travel?
The art of giving back
Why do you travel?
What purpose does it serve you?
For me, I think most people seek to travel to experience the real world; something they, ultimately, haven’t been exposed to. From seeing it, scrolling on a screen, or in an advert, to being wholeheartedly there. Experiencing a different place and its culture can transform one’s sense of perspective on everything they’ve previously known.
When undertaking a trip such as ours, spending 6 months travelling across 9 or more separate countries and multiple climates, as a couple nonetheless, you’re left with a fair amount to write about to say the least. What immediately springs to mind are subjects along the lines of travel logistics (of which there is so much to consider), culture, experiences, popular “do’s and don’ts” or simply what it’s like travelling as a couple. Yet in the spirit that is Yugen and in the spirit of adventure, we decided to write something that would really resonate with the wanderlusters and travellers.
Will, rocking our organic cotton t-shirt
After having spent the first 2 weeks of our travels in Bali, areas such as Kuta and Canggu, we headed for the lesser visited and more mountainous area of Tabanan. Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with the Magaluf-esque vibe of Kuta or the chilled-out surf element of Canggu (we enjoyed this lifestyle a lot) - but our reason for travelling was primarily to experience the real, local life of the countries we visit. The Tegal Project, in Tabanan province, allowed us to do just that. This project is one of many mediums that Kadek, our host, uses to improve his local community. He and his wife, Devi, provide a temporary home for travellers wishing to experience Balinese village and family life. In exchange for helping out on his eco-farm/future homestay, the Tegal Project provided us with home-cooked Balinese meals and a roof over our heads. A working day entailed clearing and cleaning the site, cooking and tidying, building trellises for young passion fruit, planting other fruit and veg and beginning the clean-up for Tegal's permaculture terraces that had been destroyed in a recent earthquake that washed the hillside away.
Other than a home exchange for travellers, Kadek’s aim for the Project is to educate visitors on a more sustainable way of life. By working alongside nature, cultivating the land (if you’re lucky enough to have some), and giving as much as you take, you ensure a balanced way of life. It was really inspiring to get to know the Tegal family and to become a part of it; feeling like we’ll have a home to come back to if (when) we decide to return.
There was a noticeable difference however, between our temporary home and the surrounding area. Venturing out of the farm into the local village allowed us to experience the somewhat less forward-thinking, yet entirely friendly and simple lives of the rural residents. For us, this was much more valuable than spending our precious hours sunbathing on one of Bali’s (extremely beautiful) beaches.
For anyone looking to see and be immersed in the true nature of a country or area, we would highly recommend volunteering with altruistic projects and endeavours or staying in local homes. We found many of ours through a volunteering site called Workaway. By seeking out these places, you are often led to beautiful areas and beautiful people. More often than not, you will be presented with opportunities that tourists, unknowingly, miss off their bucket lists.
A memorable example of this non-commercial beauty was our visit to 9 Angels. On a recommendation by Kadek and a few other locals, we followed directions out of the hustle and bustle of Ubud. In only 10 minutes we’d wandered through what, from the outside, looked like an empty shop front. Thinking we must have gone wrong, a small sign reassured us and we continued into a world filled with fairy lights, where people laughed and smiled and most importantly cared for one another. A donation pot allows you to pay as much or as little as you like for a buffet of local dishes, with offers of support if you’re too low on funds for the food. Hand-crafted structures decorate the tented area, although it was the spirit of the people that lit up the room, and their passion to help others. There are no requests or hassle for money, just recommended prices (roughly 6000IDR per item - about 30p) that prompt donations. Alongside is a request to wash your own dishes post-meal.
Everywhere you turn there is something new to capture your attention, from extensive book-swap shelves, to the stand selling coffee and vegan products. A fire pit rests in the centre with kind faces tinkering on guitars, ready with a big smile when you sit down to join them by the embers. We had never previously experienced such raw, unprompted generosity and kindness for all equal people. There are plenty of fashionable and “spiritual” places to eat in Ubud, none quite as magical as 9 Angels.
Ultimately, if you venture off the beaten track, even for just a week of your travels, you will find yourself in a completely different version of the places that usually thrive off your tourism. So the next time you’re planning an adventure, or considering a pre-planned tour, just remember that there is so so much more out there to explore.
Our travels shouldn’t be about absorbing as much of the world as we can at any cost, we should all aim to be an active part of the world community. After all, life is a balance and we should strive to repay the communities that show us the experiences of a lifetime. For want of a better phrase, we’ve deemed it ‘the art of giving back’, and we are striving to continue this as we travel through the rest of Indonesia, Borneo, South East Asia and finally Nepal. All of these countries have the potential to inspire individuals on different levels. We don’t just want to see the 7 wonders of the world, we want to discover our own wonders and return to these places as much as possible, to the incredible people we meet along the way and to make new connections.
For anyone who made it to the end of this post, and found some inspiration to adapt their travel plans to include some of the real, raw and a little bit unique; then you can get involved in your projects through www.workaway.info or check out the Tegal Project and 9 Angels Warung.
Stay excellent and happy travels!
Wow what a blog post! This has definitely made us want to visit Bali and do a work away with locals. We hope it's inspired you, let us know in the comments if you have done a work away or been to Bali. For more ideas on volunteering and how you can give back to local communites, check out our dedicated volunteering page.
Happy travels and volunteering!