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Why I Was Scared to Travel in Bali

You think flying to the island is scary? Try walking down the street.

Bali, Indonesia; full of beaches, palm trees, smoothie bowls, surfing and good times. A dream destination for many, especially me. When I realized how accessible Bali was going to be to me whilst in Thailand this fall, I decided to book a ticket from BKK to DPS and explore the island. I wasn't nervous, of course. I had travelled both Vietnam and Thailand by myself, and knew that Bali was going to be a walk in the park. The only thing I was nervous about was that it was going to be absolutely packed with tourists, which let's just say isn't my favourite. As per usual, I was right. Tourists everywhere! (Mainly Aussies) But to be quite honest, it wasn't horrible. The tourists were usually friendly, understanding, and not intimidating. I talked to many people that said they felt bad for vacationing in Bali because they felt as though they were using the Indonesians and bragging about their wealth to them. When you are in Indonesia, it does feel like the locals are catering to your every need. The whole island is a part of this massive tourism industry and I'm sure not one local is not affected by it somehow. In my opinion, I think that it's great; Bali is somewhat of a poverty-stricken island, with many people living in either concrete or bamboo shacks if outside of a city centre. When you are in Bali, you do get hit with this wave of realization that you are vacationing in what you see as heaven, but what locals may see as hell. That is why there are a lot of escorts in Bali; the women want to meet white men with money that can get them off of the island. Now, other than escorting, most people feed into the tourism industry by owning souvenir shops, restaurants, hotels, or transport services. It's great that they have a way of making ends meet and that they are allowing more tourists to visit Bali, but the effect of the poverty-stricken island follows them and the tourists no matter what.

It follows in Balinese people yelling "taxi!" or "transport!" into your ear as you're walking by, or constantly hearing "massage!" whilst walking through the street. It quickly upgrades to "hello darling!" "buy something darling!" "take a look, boss" in the markets, and could even spiral to the point of getting grabbed or getting your hair pulled for your attention. This may sound horrible, but this isn't even the worst that I faced during my two weeks in Bali. Almost every woman that I talked to had experienced the harassment that happens on the streets in Bali, and men were absolutely shocked to find out that women were treated this way. Whilst walking past men that were offering taxi services I would get the basic whistle which you hear everywhere, but I may also hear a "hello gorgeous!" "you are beautiful!" "I love you!" or even a "please have sex with me!" It usually escalated quite quickly. Some men just stare, some just make you extremely uncomfortable without saying a word, and some won't even take a second glance. But not every city in Bali was like this—Ubud and Canggu were fine, I never felt uncomfortable there, but in Kuta, I didn't even want to leave my room. Kuta is where every woman experiences problems and for me, I couldn't walk down the street without an Indonesian man following behind me saying that he loved me or wanted to know where I was going, where I came from, or my age. To some people, it's funny, and it was at first to me. But then the more men that did it and the more often it happened, the more upset I got about being treated this way. I'm not walking down the street to display myself, I'm actually walking down the street to look at these men's displays, but felt like I was being sold instead. What also really upset me is that I could be having a friendly conversation with my waiter or surfing instructor, and the next thing I know I'm being asked on a date, or asked if I would go out clubbing with them that night. That's okay, I'm all for shooting your shot, but when you are rejected, don't insist. That's exactly what these men did. They would start guilting me, make me feel bad for saying no, and sometimes even get in my way of leaving their presence. Again, many other women that travel to Bali experience this. It is a huge shock coming from a country where instances like this never seem to happen, or at least not to this extreme. And knowing that this country may not have equal rights for both men and women is one thing, but being thrown into that statistic head first is another. 

To people that travelled Bali, this article may seem so extra and over-dramatic because really, it's not absolutely horrible, and of course, it depends on the people you run into much like any other place in the world. But I had never felt so uncomfortable and anxious to walk down the street, and I am an 18-year-old travelling south east Asia, and that is the first time I ever felt that way! It amazes me that out of all three places that I visited in my 10 week trip, Bali was the one that scared me the most. If you are a female thinking of travelling solo to Bali, or maybe with other females, just expect some light harassment. Be sure to stand your ground, no means no, and don't feel afraid to get up and leave if a situation makes you uncomfortable. I heard several women yelling at Indonesian men to treat them better, so if you're into not only defending yourself but stopping future harassment, that's also an option. I hate excusing this behaviour, but there's not much else to do when you are a traveller in someone else country. Travelling to Bali is a daunting venture in itself, but travelling in Bali is even more daunting. Be strong, be defensive, and you'll be just fine. 

Instagram: @bekahboudreau

Youtube: Bekah Boudreau

Blog: Short Travels Blog

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