Traveling solo in Bali

About a year ago, I took my first solo trip (ever) to Bali!

At the time, I was going through a new self-love phase, after a difficult breakup and living away from my family. I finally had a job where I made enough to pay for my own travels, and after hearing my aunt talk about how much she loved going to Bali alone (for yoga training), I decided I was going to go there myself.

It was scary thinking about going to a new country alone for the first time, but my aunt assured me the area she went to was really safe, with many other travelers and friendly people.

She stayed in Ubud, which is considered the cultural heart of Bali. Ubud is up in the mountains, with so many cool little shops, and it basically feels like you’re in some magical jungle village. Even coming from my tropical paradise on Guam, being in Ubud felt like a dream. The trees are amazingly tall, and everywhere you turn just walking the streets there are different statues and hidden gardens.

My parents had just visited Ubud and other parts of Bali months before my trip, and my dad recommended I stay away from popular tourist areas like Kuta. I read reviews online about the beaches being trashed and just full of western tourists partying, and felt bad thinking about the impact of outsiders on a beautiful country — especially because we experience similar things on Guam with trying to take care of our island. I decided I wanted to avoid that area and stay in Ubud, to try to have a more authentic cultural experience in Bali.

Although my experience in Ubud was amazing in many ways, I think it’s just getting way too popular among western travelers so I felt like a lot of places were too touristy to cater to that demographic (myself included, ironically). There were shops selling yoga clothes and tank tops that read cheesy things like “namaslay” or other puns on “namaste.”

At some points, I felt kind of disillusioned seeing everyone taking photos and thinking about them posting like Bali is some mystical place when really it felt like a westerner fantasy and not authentic due to the mass amount of tourists coming through.

I feel like remote places in the world like Bali and Guam get their authenticity sucked out by catering to tourists and watering down culture in some ways, but a lot of our economy depends on tourism. It’s just a complicated experience traveling as a westerner and also being part of an indigenous population struggling to keep its culture despite outside influences.

Anyway, if you choose to venture to Bali, I highly recommend going to Ubud. Just know that even though some parts of it are definitely beautiful, you should still expect it to be pretty touristy (probably even more so over the past year since it’s becoming an increasingly popular destination lately).

Here are some tips I learned through planning my own trip:


First, I recommend using Google Flights to search for the best prices for your trip. It’s simple: you just put in the dates you’d like to travel and it’ll show you the most inexpensive options.

Flying from Guam, I used Philippine Airlines to book my trip. I went from Guam to Manila, and had a long layover (more than six hours, I think) so I went to the SM Mall of Asia. It’s not far from the airport (just take a Grab, or taxi if you haven’t downloaded the Grab app). Shopping options aren’t so great on Guam (besides buying from local makers, which I try to do as much as I can), so I had fun browsing the shops like Uniqlo and Zara. They also have a ton of food options (from fast food to dine-in/sit-down restaurants), so I had an inexpensive meal at a small Japanese restaurant at the mall.

It’s best if you have cash exchanged before you get out of the airport — maybe exchange cash for Philippine pesos at your local airport. I ended up not having cash with me so the taxi driver brought me to a stall in the city where people exchange money, but it was sketchy as hell and I was scared I was going to get robbed, especially as a woman alone. Luckily it was fine, but I wouldn’t recommend exchanging money unless it’s at a credible place. Also be sure to download an exchange rate app so you can check if prices sound reasonable to you and don’t end up over spending.

I made sure to book a hotel room near the airport when I first arrived in Bali, then headed to Ubud with a driver from the hotel the next morning. It was great to have a room waiting for me nearby, because I was so tired from traveling the day before, and it takes like an hour or so to get to Ubud from the airport (that’s an extra two hours of traveling you don’t want to do at the end of the night).

On the way back to Guam, I had like a 12 hour layover between Manila and Guam which was ridiculous. I was exhausted from traveling on a redeye flight, so all I wanted to do when I got to Manila was take a shower and rest. As per a recommendation from one of my coworkers who travels a lot, I booked a cheap hotel room in Manila just for the day so I’d have somewhere to relax. It wasn’t in a very safe area, but I just tried to stay in the hotel most of the time and went to the mall nearby to grab food. If you do something similar, I would recommend booking a hotel closer to the airport so you don’t have to worry about getting stuck in traffic on the way back. Rush hour in Manila is no joke!

My Airbnb right by the Monkey Forest.


My dad taught us to travel light, with just a backpack (even on a month-long trip to Europe). It’s faster and easier than bringing luggage, because you don’t have to check anything in and can skip the super long wait at the luggage carousel.

I only went on my trip for about four to five days, so it wasn’t too difficult for me to pack light. I made sure only to bring comfortable shoes and clothing (especially stuff I didn’t mind getting dirty, just in case). I packed a white t-shirt, sports bras, a couple tank tops, a light maxi dress and jean shorts (plus undergarments and socks). For the flight and travel days, I wore Adidas track pants, a t-shirt and a hoodie to stay comfortable.

I also bought clothes at the mall in Manila which I ended up wearing during the trip, but I made sure everything could still fit in my backpack.

Instead of bringing my laptop for the flight, I bought an iPad the day before the trip (which I realize isn’t an option for everyone, and was probably a rash decision on my part). If you have a small portable device to bring on your flight, I’d recommend leaving laptops at home in case they get damaged (plus they’re heavy).

Here’s my packing list I kept on my trip planning Google Doc:

  • Passport
  • Global Entry card
  • Yoga clothes
  • Basic clothes
  • Small toiletries: face wash, moisturizer, shampoo, conditioner
  • Basic makeup: mascara, brow pencil, lash curler
  • Portable charger for phone
  • iPad, charger
  • Journal, pen
  • Book/Kindle, charger
  • Medicine, melatonin, birth control
  • Eye mask, ear plugs
  • Earbuds

For lodging, spas and activities, you can check out a story I wrote for work with all my recommendations: Chloe Babauta explores Ubud, the heart of Bali.

I would’ve just written out all my recommendations in this post, but I think I already wrote it best in that article (and I can’t copy/paste it here because it belongs to my work company lol).

Breakfast in Ubud, Bali.

Also a few more tips I wrote down after my trip:

  • If staying in Ubud, best to book a room/Airbnb closer to the center of the town. I was on the edge next to the Monkey Forest, which was nice because it was close to that attraction and a bit away from the noise, but it was a far walk to get anywhere and made me want to go out less. Pro: it made me walk more.
  • Make sure to pull a lot of cash before getting there, exchange rates are expensive at ATMs (I think) and I had to pull a lot of cash. Also best to use cash because not everywhere accepts cards.
  • Greenbike cycling tour was hands down the best experience of my trip! So beautiful cycling/touring through parts of Bali I would’ve otherwise never seen on my own. It’s worth the price — includes food and tour guides are great.
  • Get a massage every. damn. day. They’re cheap as hell and if you find one you like, the masseuse will know how to take care of your body better if you want to come back. Tip big: a little money goes a long way there. Book ahead for a full spa day, which is so worth it (like $60 for a 5-hour spa package). I booked mine with Nur Salon Ubud.
  • It’s fun to be spontaneous, but plan ahead. If you want to do classes or tours, they’ll probably already be booked. I wanted to do a silver-making jewelry class, yoga at the Yoga Barn, etc. but didn’t have enough time and couldn’t work within their time slots because they were booked.
  • Get a DRIVER. This was the best decision I made on my trip. It’s like $40 for them to drive you around and show you around for a day and you get to hit all the spots in comfortable transportation. Also mine ended up being my photographer since I was traveling solo!
  • It’s a bit obnoxious, but bring a selfie stick just in case if you’re traveling alone. Going to Bali is a once in a lifetime experience, so take as many pictures as you can (but stay in the present as much as you can too). I only used the selfie stick when I was alone in my room or at the pool at my Airbnb, so I wasn’t disturbing anyone or being outwardly annoying (as some tourists can be whipping out their selfie sticks in public places).

How my low self-esteem is ruining my life

I’ve been going through a really low point in my self-esteem over the past week.

About a week ago, I popped a pimple on my chin and kept picking at it until it turned into a dark scar (I’ve watched too many Dr. Pimple Popper videos and tried to be a hero with my comedone extractor tool). I also have a big cold sore on my lip, which turned into a gross scab.

Every time I have a patch of acne or cold sores, I get really self-conscious and think that’s all people can see when they’re talking to me. Even worse, I have to record videos of myself for work almost every day — which means potentially thousands of people will see me at my worst.

On top of that, I’ve steadily gained weight over the past year. As a result, I feel terrible about my body almost every day. I’ve suffered from body dysmorphia for at least six years, so I’m still learning to be happy with how I look at a healthy weight. But even though I know my body is supposed to be beautiful the way it is, I can’t help but hate what I see almost every time I look in the mirror.

More: Taking control over my eating disorder

More: How to deal with Instagram-related insecurities

I had an emotional breakdown at the gym today because of all this. I haven’t gone to the gym in like more than six months, since I mostly just work out at home now — but I’ve been exercising inconsistently because my family was visiting last month.

So when I was lifting weights today and looking in the mirror, all I could see were flaws. When I look at my arms, all I see is fat. My stomach: fat. My legs: jiggling fat when I move. My face: dirty pores, small pimples everywhere, acne scars. I even hate small things about myself, like how my feet have such low arches and I have weird bumps all over my arms.

Most of the time, it feels like there’s a mean voice in my head constantly berating me. I wrote about this in another blog post about dealing with an eating disorder, when I finally became aware that there was a voice, and was working on standing up to that voice in my own head.

It feels like I’m being bullied by someone constantly, who knows all the worst things to say about me to make me feel terrible. I end up hunching over, cowering from this bully, but I feel helpless because I don’t know how to make it stop. There’s nowhere to hide because it’s inside me. Is it me? I don’t know what made me become this mean. Today, I literally said “please stop” aloud to myself in the mirror, with tears rolling down my face.

Having this voice constantly criticize me feels like there’s a weight on me most of the time. My shoulders sink, my eyes look wistful, I don’t smile. This heavy feeling seeps into me, into all my other thoughts and the words I say to others. I tweet passive-aggressive things because I am not happy with who I am. When my boyfriend doesn’t compliment me, the voice takes that as an offense and it tells me he doesn’t love me. It tells me that everything it’s been saying to me is true: that if your boyfriend doesn’t constantly tell you you’re beautiful, then you must be ugly. Even though he doesn’t deserve it, I project this onto my boyfriend and read his actions as a confirmation of my biggest insecurities and worst fears.

More: What I learned from living with my boyfriend for six months

The voice doesn’t just make me feel terrible — it makes me miserable and mean myself, and I pass on that negativity to everyone around me. The voice makes it harder for me to eat or enjoy food, because it makes me feel guilty, fat, and weak for not being able to resist unhealthy treats that taste good. It makes me eat smaller portions because it tells me I’m fat.

I don’t know where the voice came from or why it thinks these things of me. There are so many women who aren’t stick-skinny, whom I find so incredibly beautiful. I would never even think of criticizing them or pointing out any flaws they might see in themselves — so why don’t I extend the same kindness to myself? Why am I okay with picking apart the tiniest details of Chloe and telling her she’s unworthy of love?

This voice makes me feel worthless.

I honestly don’t know what to do about it, because I can’t even remember what it was like to live without it. It doesn’t matter if anyone tells me they think I’m beautiful, because the voice will still be there no matter what. It’s louder than anyone else, louder than my parents, my boyfriend, my friends, and much louder than the kind voice in my head that chimes in when I have brief periods of feeling good about myself.

One of my new goals for the month is to start therapy. I used to see on-campus psychologists for free weekly sessions while I was going to college, but I only took advantage of this service for two different periods (maybe 6-8 weeks in my second and fourth years of college). I think after a quarter of school or so, you’ll have to be referred to an off-campus doctor and pay for services.

More: How Passion Planner helped me get my life together

More: My goals for 2018

Therapy was really useful to me when I first learned I had an eating disorder, and when I was dealing with some anxiety and emotional issues. Now that I’m working and busy with other things, it feels like therapy is just another chore I have to do eventually but never get around to it.

My goal for this week is to call therapist offices and schedule an appointment, and hopefully have my first session sometime this month. I definitely recommend therapy to anyone I can, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with getting help. Even if your friends or family want to help you, you might get to a point where there’s nothing they can do for you. Seeking professional help is completely normal, and is just as important as any physical health issue.

In the meantime, I want to work on quieting that voice and making room for another one. I know there’s a good voice inside, but she’s not as strong as the mean voice. Or maybe she is strong, but we’re just not close enough so that we don’t talk often. Hopefully I still sound sane to you, whoever is reading this. I know it’s not going to be an easy thing, but I desperately want to get to know her better, and have a friend on my side when the mean voice gangs up on me in my head.

I need to work on letting that voice be my life coach, my guiding guardian angel who will encourage me, or be compassionate towards me when I fall short of my own expectations. I need her to tell me it’s going to be okay, and that even if I feel terrible in the moment, things won’t feel this bad forever. I need her to be there for me, because I know deep down (even when I can’t drown out the noise) that the bad voice is wrong, and that I deserve better. And eventually I will be better.

I remember when I was 19, I started going through my big self love phase. I taught myself to love being on my own, I started my own projects (and later, this blog), and I got a tattoo to commemorate this part of my life. For years, I thought this period of growth was the big lesson I had to learn. I thought, okay I know what self love is, I’m set for life! Nothing can ever bring me down again!

Looking back now, I can’t believe I thought that was it for me. That I figured out the secret to self love, and I would always feel good about myself. After going through painful periods of growth several more times since then, I know now that the work is never done. Learning to love yourself is a lifelong journey, and there will always be ways you practice self-destructive behavior or moments of low self-esteem.

For now, this is my new phase of growth with a big new challenge: learning to change my negative self-talk to a positive voice of encouragement, and how to be okay with my body. Someday when I gain or lose weight, or when I have kids, or when I’m aging, I’ll have to deal with those obstacles too. I’m sure it’ll feel like the worst I’ve ever gone through while I’m going through it.

But I hope the one thing that stays constant is my willingness to try, to learn, to heal. The work will never be done, but I’m excited to see where it takes me (and write about it along the way!).