Coming from a small, rural town in the mountains of Montana, I had always dreamed of clear turquoise waters and a sex on the beach- on the beach. When I graduated high school having no idea what my next move was, I knew traveling was the only option. I decided on exploring the paradise of Bali, Indonesia and wherever else, nearby, that the winds would take me. I told my brand new flame that he could come- or stay and endure the pains of mundane schedules. As any smart man would do, he joined in. We left during the brutal winter of December and flew completely across the world to my tropical dream.
After flying for 2 days, enduring grueling layovers and bad airport food, we arrived. Stepping out of the airport at 1 a.m. in Denpasar, Bali, I could smell the salty, warm breeze from the surrounding ocean. I felt so anxious and alive to finally be in a place that contained no familiarity to me. A place so opposite of what I had always known. And with such an optimistic, adventurous babe! It truly was a dream come true. We hopped on a motorbike and drove the the city of Kuta, where we crashed in a sketchy hotel that sold us on their cheap rooms and close location to the beach.
I woke about midday flooded with excitement. I roused Willie (the babe) and told him to throw on his shorts, we were heading to the beach. As soon as we arrived, a Balinese man offered to park and keep watch of our bike for a mere 2 cents. We obliged and went through the big archway leading to the crashing waves. I was overwhelmed by all the people. There were Balinese people offering hair braiding, bracelets, surf lessons and ice cold bintang; and tourists galore. This was it! I was here! I raced my way through the crowd and placed my new Bintang towel, that just screamed tourist, on the hot sand.
I looked out at the deep blue water and felt happy- until I woke up to a very rude reality. Covering the beach near the water, was not only people, but trash. It lasted for miles, all the way around the ocean. I walked around it, disappointed and proceeded to the water. Willie and I swam out and as I was wading, attempting to see past the ugly, I felt a peice of what had to be seaweed wrap around my leg. I reached down and picked it out of the water, only revealing it to be a plastic bag. The water I was swimming in, contained no beautufil wildlife that I could see; only pieces of mans wastefulness. I was disheartened to say the least. Straws and other remnants floated by me in the water and stuck onto the beach.
Willie and I clambered out and tried to find some sort of explanation as to why all of this was here, destroying the beauty of this paradise. We found a local beach boy (as the locals call them) who spoke English well enough to have a conversation. After inquiring about why the trash was here, he explained that during this season, the trash would float through to ocean coming from Jakarta (Indonesia’s major city). Some of the locals would come by every few days and collect the trash, trying to preserve the beauty of their home. I felt sad for them. I felt sad for all of man kind. It was hard coming to terms with how much trash is used and discarded, destroying our lands. The hardest part, knowing that people, myself included, were the cause of our own demise.
We eventually left Kuta and proceeded exploring the rest of the places Bali had to offer. We eventually came to a wonderful little town called Ubud. It was beautiful. More tourist-like than other villages, but it had many accommodations and most people spoke English, making it easier to get around. There was a lovely little home stay, near the heart of Ubud, that we stayed at. It was called Karma house. Looking off the front porch, there was a jungle ravine with a stream below. It was so green and filled with tropical flora. Sadly, there were still many pieces of trash that lined the hill. We both pondered how it had gotten there, but let the thought drift away.
It wasn’t until nearly two weeks had passed that I was out on the porch, early one morning, having my Bali Copi (coffee) that I noticed the man of the house, Wayan, carrying a large garbage can to the edge of the ravine. I watched him as he lifted it up and emptied it over the brick barrier. I was shocked. I had never encountered someone doing that while we had been here. The most alarming thing was that Wayan did not seem to acknowledge that what he was doing was so wrong and taboo. I did not confront him about it, because he did not know enough English, nor I, Balinese, to have a conversation about what he was doing. I found Willie and told him about what I had just seen. He was as shocked as I was. We then both realized that we cannot judge the way these people were taking care of their waste. They did not have anything set up like most countries did to dispose of their trash. This was their solution. This was the only way they knew to rid themselves of their garbage.
Not all of Bali and the surrounding islands, seemed to have this issue. Many other places that we went did deliver on the tropical paradise dream I had in mind. We saw many wonderful things, places and people. But a memory that holds fast to me, is the day I realized that garbage is slowly taking over all the beauty this planet has to offer. Better systems should be in place and people educated on the best ways to dispose of the waste we create. We should be striving towards making our planet better, rather than decimating it. I think twice about the straw I’m about to throw away now. It could end up swimming in the ocean with you.