In April 2015 the ten-month advertising campaign I’d been planning for months was cancelled after three weeks. With no plans, no income but a wide-open calendar ahead of me, I went to an airport, bought a ticket to Bali and began #OutofOffice, a spontaneous journey around the world, seeing if I could use my skills as I travelled to make my way around the world.
After a brilliant first job as a videographer at Rapture Surfcamp in southern Bali (See OutofOffice Part 1) I headed north to Ubud in the very centre of this Indonesian island. Three days earlier a friend had put me in touch with a hotel in Ubud named Bambu Indah, and to my joy they accepted my offer of accommodation in exchange for a cool film about their property. ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ were the words to my welcome, the staff neat in colourful, light cotton uniform. Bambu Indah’s main reception and dining area is a two-storey bamboo-construction that sent shivers of originality down my spine. I was led through the hotel gardens (everything functional, this wasn’t a garden for flowers but for food) to my room, the Padi House, which overlooked a jungle valley and a natural lava stone pool. Later that day I was told I was sleeping in the very space that Cameron Diaz had recently holidayed. I proceeded to lick every surface.
Four Germans occupied sun loungers at the far end of the pool, which resembled an inviting pond. At the same end a huge palm tree sprouted skywards and from it dangled a thick, treasuresome rope. Yes, this luxury hotel had a rope swing. The four-year old in me gasped with potential, quickly changed, and bounded over to the swing. A handy bamboo ladder allowed me some height, I leapt to the rope, Tarzan’d expertly, flew through the air and slightly miscalculated the dismount. Tom Daley would not have been proud. I struck on the surface of the water with my full length splayed. A tidal wave exploded over the Germans and their newspapers and I swam away underwater, gently hoping that they wouldn’t notice.
Welcome to Ubud.
The next morning I had extra curricular responsibilities, at a school. Life is backwards in many ways. In 2012 the Green School had been voted the most environmentally friendly and forward-thinking school in the world, and their director of entrepreneurship, Aaron Eden, had invited me to present to their sixth formers. The school is miraculous in system, philosophy and architecture. Built almost entirely from bamboo, the school is inclusive and boasts a project-based education, which means that unlike most education systems the students graduate having some moderate clue about what happens in the real world. Parents work from laptops beneath a thatch roof and their children, all dressed in their own clothes, run and chat happily. There are shining, progressive eyes here: what a place to learn and grow.
We started the day by assembling the students on the sports field (complete with bamboo goalposts, of course) and creating the word YES with their bodies while my drone cam filmed from 200ft above. The buzz amongst the kids was palpable, although I got the sense that they were well adapted to random, spontaneous activities.
I shared my adventures and lifestyle choices for an hour before rushing to a taxi, for another speaking engagement was booked in central Ubud, 45 minutes away. There is a magic to this part of the world and it has attracted professional itinerants and dromomatic laptop-bearers who have opted for climate, surf and sun over air con and cubicles. A small crowd of thirty digital nomads, all of them gorgeously tanned and smiling widely with their flip flops in a pile outside, crammed into a room as I bustled in a few minutes late and took to the front. The humidity in Ubud is much higher than on the coast and I hadn’t yet adapted, so I sweated through the session and lost several pounds in the process. A diet-plan equal only to swimming 1001 miles down the Missouri.
Travel for travel’s sake is a loss of potential. Move purposefully with a project, a journey, a theme or a focus to guide decisions and direction and the experience becomes rich, laden with memories and encounters encouraged by having an ice-breaker. Having a reason to be somewhere and to act turns a basic photo album into an ongoing story, and it’s a beautiful way to make friends. I spent hours at Hubud following my talk, discussing new business relationships, receiving invites to parties, yoga barns and podcast interviews.
Each morning at 7am a group leaves Bambu Indah led by John Hardy, the founder of the hotel and the Green School. Spearing Garbage Talking Trash is John’s concept, bringing together that ancient art of walking and talking and incorporating a very modern phenomenon, the picking up of waste and litter which now has a value. An up cycling centre in Bali is leading efforts to take different types of trash in return for payment, which means everything collected is worth money. As our group moves through town and the nearby jungle, filling sacks with discarded juice pots, plastic containers and aluminium cans, locals are fast made aware that the habit of throwing waste to the ground is effectively a lost income, so instead they begin collecting. It’s systems like these which will reduce trash running downstream into our oceans, poisoning the one ecosystem that gives us life and food.
Although Bali has become overpopulated and is now almost a clichéd version of its former self, it is still a beautiful island which has a huge effect on many who visit it. I couldn’t fault that instinct to buy a last-minute ticket to Denpasar from Kuala Lumpur and continued to trust my gut.
My next stop was Perth, Australia, the place where my first big adventure began back in 2006. That time, I had pushed off on my longboard and skated due east, ultimately crossing that big, empty country in five months. This time, a searching email to the owners of the Indian Pacific railroad had come good, and I now had the chance to cross Australia in a much easier fashion, on a four-day train journey between Perth and Sydney.
Track my ongoing #OutofOffice progress on www.facebook.com/expedition1000 and www.youtube.com/davecornthwaite