About a year ago, my husband and I started plotting a mini-sabbatical. This is my un-trademarked term for a scouting trip that is longer than a typical vacation but short of pulling up stakes and moving. When we take mini-sabbaticals, they are typically about a month long. A month is a great length of time – long enough to truly develop a sense of a place without everything going to pieces without you back at home.
We crafted a pandemic-pending plan. So long as the world was deemed safe to travel again, we figured, we would fling ourselves somewhere far away and new to us. Somewhere that exposed our kids (ages 6 and 8) to a new culture. Somewhere that had both developed and undiscovered gap year opportunities for my students. Somewhere warm to combat the dark and cold of a Vermont November. Indonesia generally and Bali specifically sifted to the top of the pile rather quickly.
Over a decade ago, droves of travelers added Bali to their bucket lists after the immense popularity of Eat, Pray, Love. The success of that book fundamentally changed tourism on the island – for better and worse. Now there are areas of the island that are dangerously over-touristed – choked with traffic, aspiring influencers and visitors who may or may not respect the local culture.
But for those who seek it, Bali is an endless treasure trove of breath-taking natural beauty, culturally rich traditions and welcoming people.
Over the course of my month in Bali, I had the fortunate opportunity to visit nearly two dozen projects or programs that gap year students or adult travelers could partake in. This includes yoga retreats, English teaching programs, farmstays, a maternal health center, marine conservation programs, study abroad programs, co-working spaces and much more.
These site visits are crucial to my advising process, since they allow me to vet locations while also creating a personal connection with my partner sites across the world. Working with my students is a very personal process, but I also seek these relationships with the programs I work with as well! I am continually inspired by the people I meet on these scouting trips – dedicated and humble global citizens who are making the world a better place in their sphere of influence.