Destination Bali: An Overview

Destination Bali: An Overview


When people ask where my favorite place is, I answer without much hesitation – for me, Bali has it all.

The Location. Bali is one of over 18,000 islands that form incredible Indonesia. In fact, there are so many islands in this area that Indonesian authorities are still in the process of counting how many islands actually exist there. Situated close to the equator, Bali has a tropical, humid climate year-round that is favorable for lush vegetation and warm-weather-loving humans. It is home to active volcanos, powerful waterfalls, expansive beaches with divine sunsets and strong surf breaks, rice terraces and dense forests, rainstorms and sunshine. Bali’s natural beauty offers all of those moments in life that induce a feeling of awe.

The People. Over 4.2 million people call Bali home, which is a substantial increase from 3.8 million in 2010 (according to the 2014 census). The Balinese have a way of weaving humor into nearly every interaction. They are kind, hospitable and honest business people. They honor the interconnection of the human experience with the spiritual. Early in the morning, it is custom to place baskets of flowers, fruit and incense out at doorsteps in an offering.

The Culture. Balinese culture is incredibly rich and vibrant. Most people are practicing Balinese Hindu, which honors the human and spiritual worlds living among one another. The Balinese people are skilled in various art forms including: painting, sculpture, bhatik, dance and music. The Balinese music that wafts through the air is a fusion of bells, gongs, xylaphones, drums and flutes – it is a truly unique sound. To read about how to be a more conscious traveler in a new culture, read my post here.

With its abundance of natural beauty, nourishing food and healers, Bali can be so nurturing. With all of its wildness, it can be unpredictable and challenging. But all the best adventures are.

There is a world within Bali to discover, and it will no doubt lead you to discover more about the world within yourself. Here is an introductory travel guide to Bali to get you more acquainted.

Bali, by area:


Kaeli Renae in Ubud Rice Terraces, Tegalalang, Bali

U B U D: Bali’s Bustling Garden

Let’s begin with my favorite, Ubud. Ubud means ‘medicine’ and it has historically been a center for healing. Medicine men used to travel here to gather herbs and people would come from all over to be healed. Ubud is also the artistic center of Bali, with craftsmen and women showcasing their work in woodcarving, fashion, home decor and everything between. It has seen rapid transformation in the past twenty years, thanks in large part to the success of Eat Pray Love. With more exposure comes more traffic, more expat-owned restaurants and shops, but as Greek philosopher Heraclitus said: change is the only constant. Today, you can find an abundance of affordable body work, yoga studios,  health food and so much more in Ubud. 

Kaeli Renae at Thomas Homestay in Uluwatu, Bali

U L U W A T U: Bali’s Surf Hotspot

Uluwatu has long been sought after for its legendary surf breaks. There are long stretches of white sand, busy beaches and plenty of social events happening, from sunset beach parties to poolside lounges and late night bonfire raves on the beach. Uluwatu is home to one of the biggest and most awe-inspiring cliffside temples, from which the town derives its name. It hosts a range of accommodations, from luxurious oceanfront hotels and restaurants to down-to-earth bed-and-breakfasts and warungs (local Indonesian restaurants).  Uluwatu is more spread out than some of the other locations on this list, so getting around without transportation can be time-consuming.

Beach Lounges at Uluwatu, Bali, photo by Kaeli Renae
Sunset at Potato Head Seminyak, Bali, photo by Kaeli Renae

S E M I N Y A K: Bali’s Bougee
Seminyak is a highly developed and commercial hotspot. Popular among jet-setters and the luxury-oriented travelers, Seminyak offers the highest caliber of boutique hotels, shops, lounges and spas. If you are looking for a spot to shop, sip at sunset and chill, this could be your place. Don’t expect much cultural authenticity – Seminyak is designed to cater to tourists, but it is beautiful, international and chic, if that’s your vibe.

C A N G G U: Bali’s Up-and-Coming Gem

Located in the South of Bali on the coast, Canggu offers plenty of places to lounge, dance, relax, workout, shop and eat. It is an up and coming destination popular among surfers, yogis, fitness lovers and beach goers. It is less busy than its neighbor Seminyak, but the word is getting out on this edgy little beach destination.

A M E D: Bali’s Hidden Gem

If you are looking for a peaceful reprieve from the tourism and hustle and bustle of Bali’s south, Amed may be the spot for you. Tucked away on the northern coast, it is surrounded by mountains and the sea and it has become popular for divers because of a famous shipwreck at Tulamben. It is a quiet, secluded village inhabited mostly by fishermen. There are a few wonderful places to stay and relax here.

Island hopping: Exploring Bali’s Neighbors

In my book, a trip to Bali would be incomplete without a boat ride to one of the neighboring treasured islands. Here are islands near Bali that are well worth it.

Gili Air, near Bali, photo by Kaeli Renae

T H E  G I L I  I S L A N D S

These stunning, tiny islands are reachable by inexpensive boats. The islands have beachfront hotels, restaurants, bars and yoga studios. Each of the Gili Islands have their own standout characteristics. Gili Meno is small and super relaxed, Gili Air is also relaxed but a little more populated and Gili T is known as the party island. The Gilis are renowned for diving and there are diving schools with great reviews for those who want to get certified. There are no cars allowed on the islands, only decorated pony-drawn carridges. (I noticed the ponies seemed de-hydrated and over-worked. After some research, I found that the lack of drinking water and heavy weight of the carraiges has led to the sad state of many of the horses. If you are an animal lover like me, this may affect you as well. Horses of Gili is working on this issue. But more on that in a future post.)

White Sand Beach Near Kuta, Lombok, photo by Kaeli Renae

L O M B O K 

I’ve heard it said that Lombok is today what Bali was twenty years ago. A less developed,  less touristic, more rugged and more authentic experience of local Indonesian culture await. Expect to find less crowded beaches, fewer big hotels and upscale restaurants, but still an abundance of quality options.



I hope you enjoyed this introduction to one of my favorite corners of the world, I’ll be posting more in-depth guides about Bali soon so if you are subscribed you’ll get notified.

Leave a comment and let me know where you’ve been or where you’d like to go in Bali!




Energetic cleansing: smudging & how to make your own sage stick

Energetic cleansing: smudging & how to make your own sage stick

Why do we need to cleanse our energy? At a fundamental level, we can feel the energy around us. Unless we are aware of how to protect our energy, we subconsciously begin to take on energy from the people and situations around us. At times, we might also feel stuck in our own low energy. In the same way we strive to keep ourselves and our spaces clean, it is equally important to strive for energetic cleanliness. This means taking account of the energy that you emit into the world. As brain scientist Jill Bolte said:

You are responsible for the energy you bring into this space.

Which also means, you have the power to change it. As I wrote in How to be a More Conscious Traveler, it is so important to take responsibility for your energy in a new place. Smudging is a potent way to reset the energy around you and begin again, and a smudge stick will even fit in your carry-on.

How is smudging done? First, we acknowledge + remove negative energies from ourselves and our environment. Then, we infuse intention to purify. Tradition teaches us to smudge slowly, making clockwise circular movements around ourselves, our spaces and our loved ones as we say an intention aloud or to ourselves. I’ve included an intention you can use and modify for yourself at the end of this post. There are many different tools you can use to smudge, including palo santo, cedar, sweet grass, copal, tobacco and more. Each has its own use. Sage is especially good for cleansing heavier or darker energy, but it is also used to purify energy before ceremonies or rituals like doing yoga or setting intentions.

Where does it come from? This tradition was passed down from my Native American ancestors. Native Americans incorporated all of the elements in their smudging ritual: herbs to represent the sacred earth, burning it to represent fire, spreading the smoke with a feather to represent air  while calling on the energy of the bird which was revered for its ability to soar to great heights, and holding the sage in an abalone shell to represent water. It is important to be aware of calling in all of these elements while you smudge.

Consider giving back to the source of this tradition. Here are links to donate to tribes I belong to: The Choctaw Nation and Partnerships with Native Americans

There is something intrinsically powerful about making something with your own hands. Sure, you could buy/order a sage stick but when you make it yourself, you can infuse energy into the whole process.

So, here’s a simple guide on how you can make your own sage stick:

You will need:

  • Fresh sage or other herbs
  • Scissors
  • String (I used hemp)

1. Gather sage, herbs and dried flowers that grow around your neighborhood. Try different kinds like pine and cedar wood (I like to add lavender). Lay them out to dry for a day. You can surround them with crystals to infuse healing energy right away.



2. Assemble the herbs together in a bunch going the same direction, with the stems facing downward. If you have dried flowers, you may want to add them last so they show.



3. Beginning at the bottom, leave 3-4″ of string hanging as you begin to wrap the other end diagonally upwards. You may need to tuck in pieces of the sage as you go. I insert the lavender stems after I wind up the first side of string. When you reach the top, begin to work your way back down, getting as much of the leaves within the string as you can.


4. Tie a knot at the bottom to keep the wrap tight. Cut the second end to match the first and make a small knot at the end of the two to hang the sage. Let the sage hang to dry for about five days then cut the bottom knot and tie the ends in a bow if you like. Voila! You have created your own sage to incorporate into your ritual routine.


Here is a sample intention you can say aloud / to yourself while you use your sage stick:

I cleanse my energy and the energy around me. I release all energy that is not serving my highest good. Only energy that supports my well-being is welcome here.

I cleanse my mind that I may have positive thoughts, I cleanse my mouth that I may speak intentionally and in truth, I cleanse my heart that I may feel its yearning clearly, I cleanse my hands that I may create great things, I cleanse my feet that they walk sacredly and softly on this Earth and take me where I most need to go and I cleanse my eyes that I may see the signs and the wonder of this human experience. 

May I and this space be cleansed by the smoke of these sacred plants and may my intentions be carried away and spread with the smoke. 

And so it is.

Timers are a girl’s best friend

Timers are a girl’s best friend

This year, I wanted to focus more on creating. I mulled over what this would entail and decided that to create more would require getting really focused with time management. One of my favorite authors said:

This is the real secret of life: to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” – Alan W. Watts

As someone who freelances and manages my own time, I thought of a simple addition to my week that I knew I could stick to and it has made all the difference:


Here’s how this mindful productivity hack works.

Grab your phone, put it on airplane mode, switch wifi off. Set a timer for specific time increment you can stick with. I suggest starting small, like thirty minutes, or step up & challenge yourself to a full hour – you might surprise yourself.

During that time block, focus all of your attention on one task. For this time, do not check social media or messages, browse your favorite sites or begin a new project. I’m hearing from many people, especially in our smartphone generation, that little distractions can be one of the biggest inhibitors to productivity. The timer method is like a brief, intentional antidote. I found this particularly helpful for the items I had the most resistance to sitting down and getting through.

Also, some mindful tips on dealing with work anxiety:

When fear or feelings of overwhelm creep in, which they probably will, because you’re human, there are a few options. I found that having the timer enabled me to see the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. I would take a quick breath and tell myself to keep going and see what is done at the end of the timer.

A particularly useful tool I found to help subdue negative thoughts is to imagine a character in your mind speaking them to you. For example, when I learned this technique years ago I chose Yoda because he’s lovable and has a unique voice. When those self-defeating thoughts would arise, I imagined him saying them to me, and from that perspective, they became less credible and easier to shake off.

Another quick way to approach anxiety while working is to use affirmations. Pick a simple phrase, like ‘I am a skilled writer’ or ‘I’ve never done this before, but I’ve done things I haven’t done before and it’s been amazing’.. so on and so forth. Take a second to breathe, repeat your affirmation to yourself and feel it from your heart, then carry on from this space.

The timer, along with these simple mindfulness tools, can be a straight-forward and simplifying approach to time management and productivity. I was surprised to see how much more productive I was without the little distractions that quickly consume my time.

I hope this helps!

Let me know if you integrate this into your work routine and what your results are. If you have any suggestions of your own, please share in the comments!




Travel Tips: How to be a More Conscious Traveler

Travel Tips: How to be a More Conscious Traveler

After a few years of traveling to different countries and researching for freelance travel writing, I have gathered many travel tips. I would like to begin with what I feel is one of the most important and least talked about considerations of traveling well: How to be a more conscious traveler.

Consciousness: (noun) ˈkɒnʃəsnɪs/:

  1. The state of being aware and responsive to one’s surroundings.
  2. A person’s awareness by the mind of itself and the world.

Applied to traveling, a conscious traveler is aware of: 1. The language, culture and history of the people of their destination, 2. Their own energy and presence 3. How their presence, as a visitor, interacts with the local people, their culture and the Earth.

The following travel tips can help new travelers and seasoned globetrotters alike be more conscious on their next journeys, whether backpacking, sightseeing, jet-setting or seeking adventure.
Here are my travel tips that we can all integrate for more conscious travel:


We begin with language because it is the gateway of understanding between cultures. Everywhere I travel, I notice locals’ faces light up with joy when they see me trying, often blundering, to communicate in their native tongue.

As Nelson Mandela said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

Why learn at least the basics of the language? At the most basic level, language is essential to take care of yourself while you are traveling. Through language, you can both express yourself and understand others. Wherever you travel, remember you are the visitor, it is not on the local people to cater to you. You’ll be welcomed more warmly along your journey and your entire experience will be upgraded because you try to speak the native language.

There are so many free resources at your fingertips – apps, games, podcasts and more – that there is no excuse not to learn the basics. Each of my travel guide posts will feature language essentials. Why limit yourself?

It is also for your benefit that you take time to learn a little about the rich history and culture of your destinations. This knowledge will give depth to your entire experience. Once you understand the roots of the culture you are visiting, you will be able to better understand the differences. From this understanding, you can show respect for the local culture.


As more destinations are shared on social media and online, local cultures are quickly evolving in response to the increases in tourism. On one hand, the increase in tourism stimulates the local economy and on the other, it is often the expats and elitists who set up shop (or Airbnb) and benefit most from the increased revenue as they capitalize on the tourist market – especially in developing countries. Let’s remember that we still have more than half of the global wealth in the hands of the top 1% richest elites while the remaining 99% share the rest. The World Economic Forum ranked global income inequality among the top three of 2017’s Global Risks.

As more travelers become aware of their own impact, we can utilize our personal purchasing power to help.

So, when planning your next trip, invest your money in the local mom-and-pop shops, restaurants and bed & breakfasts as much as you can. You might be pleased to find the more authentic experience you were looking for, rather than the homogenous, trend-oriented version that caters to tourists. Find out where to buy gifts, souvenirs and other goods directly from the artists themselves and support co-operatives which give an equal share of profits to its workers. It will often cost you less and all your investment goes straight to the local economy.


With the rapid interconnectedness of the planet and a world fueled by capitalism, so comes the increase in waste. Some of the most beautiful destinations have become ridden with plastic, trash and cigarette buts. There are now entire mountains of trash the size of islands. The trash makes its way into the water and our sea life is dwindling in some of the most sought-after spots, like where I’m based, on the Mediterranean Sea. C02 emissions are at an all-time high, see these graphs from NASA – all while worldwide travel is booming.

We must individually commit to recycling, packing our trash and the trash we see and lower our carbon footprint. If we all commit to protecting the Earth every day, no matter where we are, together we can help bring it back to stability.


Packing tip: When visiting cultures that are very different from your own, remember the saying, when in Rome, do as the Romans do, and apply this to general rule to outfit choices as well. Why is this important? Your choice in presentation introduces you before you even say a word.

One of the most helpful ways to approach what to wear on your trip is to research the culture and notice how people dress in that specific area. I have blog posts coming that are full of tips for how to dress in each of the destinations I’ve traveled to – stay tuned!


  • OF PEOPLE: Remember that you are implanting yourself into someone else’s daily life – they are not there for your amusement. So if you want to snap a candid shot of someone, ask their permission with a smile (use gestures to ask, if you must). You might find that many locals are happy to take a photo for you, it’s a personal choice. If you get a landscape shot and someone happens to be in the frame who is not directly facing you, and if you are discreet, this is generally ok.
  • IN PLACES OF WORSHIP: Some of the most beautifully designed spaces are temples, cathedrals and mosques. They are built to usher in a sense of the divine, and that can be an overwhelming feeling that many visitors may want to capture. Again, these are not made for upping your Instagram game. If you’re in inappropriae attire or are about to strike a bold pose, better to find another location. Inside, many places of worship have strict no photography rules and some allow it without flash. Be sure to check with each specific site you enter.
  • SELFIES: I am not here to tell you when and how to capture that beautiful face of yours. I am here, however, to remind you to keep the selfie-ing balanced. Overdoing it can give a sense of arrogance and bring in a sense of unwelcome from the people around you. Also, when you are taking a selfie in front of a monument or sunset, be sure to limit your time so other folks can see it.


Whether you are in full vacay mode or getting down exploring the roads less traveled, one of the best travel tips is to make your self-care a priority. Consistent self-care while on your journey can be challenging, which is why I’ll have maaaany posts dedicated to self-care while traveling. It is the foundation upon which our finite travel experience builds. When we take care of ourself, we enter the world from a better place – we are more intentional with the energy we bring into the world. When we make the time to take care of ourselves, we are giving the world a better version of ourselves and we will be better at navigating all the challenges the journey will inevitably bring.


There is no one-size-fits-all formula for the best way to give back when you are traveling. It can be done in so many ways. Perhaps you’ll be struck by an issue while abroad and find an NGO that is working on that cause to donate and raise money and awareness for. Whether volunteering for a short or long duration, tipping generously, recommending places you stayed and encouraging friends to visit… find a way to give back in a way that makes sense to you. The only wrong way to give back, is not to.

Thank you for reading!

Do you have any tips to add for how to be a more conscious traveler?

Leave a comment below!