“The faster you go, the easier it is to balance,” he explained from his own motorbike.
I was really wanting to drive this thing Flintstones style, though. Actually sitting on the bike, I no longer had the desire to turn the motor on, to take this risk.
We had decided to make a very quick trip to the island for adventure’s sake. This new friend of mine heard about areas where we could snorkel with manta rays and this sounded equally terrifying and exhilarating to me — a combination of emotions I knew meant go. Even though when I mentioned it to friends and family, they’d respond with “Don’t get stung.” Comforting. (Note to curious reader: Not true and not possible.)
After a much quicker fastboat ride than the one to and from Gili Air — one with no overbooking issues — we arrived around 5 p.m. and began exploring. My friend knew I both wanted and didn’t want motorbike lessons and so he suggested we each rent one.
But the challenge was upon me and I’d already rented the bike. The owner watched me, waiting for me to pull away. So, reluctantly, I rotated the throttle forward with a wrist nearly limp with fear and off I went.
We planned to just wing it once we got to the island — not book anything ahead — and so we had work to do. Weaving in and out of the maze of tiny concrete and dirt paths between the shore and the main road, we managed to find an available villa for the night, snorkeling gear for the morning, and a recommendation for a captain and his boat for tomorrow’s adventure.
My friend followed just behind me as I negotiated what little traffic was on the roads, wanting to slow down or pull over for every vehicle that came within 20 feet of me.
But he was right about the significance of accelerating more for more control. And I think it’s important to consider instructions like these — those for learning a new skill or improving upon one — in the light of my own life, whenever they apply.
I was really at odds with the notion that increasing the risk (by increasing the speed) while riding a motorbike would somehow make things easier, safer even. Imagine that.
Perhaps, in the same way, retreating from all of life — shifting entirely to the internal — isn’t the only path to come back into balance with one’s self; maybe it’s not even the best path. After all, my trip to Bali this time is very different, much more outward, and yet I’m learning just as much about myself and the world as last time, maybe even more.
Without much thought, we took a side road up along a cliff, and landed at a restaurant that overlooked the ocean and the entire village. The food was pretty good, the cocktails were alright, but the menu — for a couple of people with backgrounds in things like English and linguistics — that was definitely the best part. Items were fantastically named, such as the Sunrice Cocktail, Confused Chicken, and the Laceration Cocktail. Bottoms up.
“Lean into your turns, don’t just steer with your arms,” he continued once we found a secluded area in which to practice by making figure eights.
But what if I tipped the bike over and landed beneath it? Better, I thought, to do it my way so I could stay upright. Of course that didn’t pan out for me. Every single time I tried to make a turn “my way”— as if simply pointing the bike’s handlebars in the direction I wanted it to go would do the trick — I’d end up losing my balance and having to catch myself with my foot on the ground.
After a couple hours with our perfect view, we headed back to the village to see whether there were others out at this hour. Following rejection by a few closed establishments, we found a popular spot only on the verge of closing, made a few connections, and managed to bat our eyelashes for a couple of Bintangs to enjoy on the beach after hours.
But to lean would have meant to really commit. Like when I made this decision to venture out into the world. I remember the last two months leading up to my departure: I put my house on the market, 10 days later a couple viewed it, two days later they made an offer, 30 days later it was being pried from my hands, and two weeks later I was turning in my equipment on my last day of work.
I resisted in every way I could, trying to turn my front wheel away from the direction this vehicle propelling me toward my next step was heading.
I tried to create small dramas for myself, tried to make lasting connections with people who were fixtures in my hometown and who had no business in my life, tried to avoid getting rid of my material belongings. But through this, I only made things harder for myself, collecting a few scratches and bruises along the way in the form of stress and heartache.
These days, I’m working on leaning into life and on trusting that it will catch me if I can just let go for a moment.
So, we leaned into midnight on the shore of Lembongan, after a long afternoon led by whim and caught breaks. We cracked each other up, told our best secrets, and sometimes just breathed in tandem with the ocean.
We didn’t need to be anything for each other, and we didn’t need each other to be anything. We were just riding the waves of the evening, reclined between ripples in the sand, beneath a cloudy night sky with just enough moonlight for us to still feel welcomed there, even as the rest of the island slept.
We were but observers then, using the moment to read some of the depths of one another and of ourselves, as we would the sea the next morning, wide open to beckon the unexpected.