I have travelled across the world for races, travel and work, yet had never gone to Bali. I didn’t see Bali as a paradise. I saw it as an overseas destination over populated with Australians, with littered beaches and filled with people on their #eatpraylove journey (no offense intended).
My mate Locky set up an adventure business in Bali called Four Elements. He advocated that Bali was a destination that could be experienced in an ‘off the beaten track style’ with high adventure. After chatting to Locky on how I could adapt some of the adventure elements as I would be 12 weeks pregnant, it didn’t take much to convince Mark and I to try his multi-day adventure trip.
I had to gobble many of my past words on Bali. Whilst there are certainly areas that live up to my preconceptions of Bali, like so many destinations – there is much more if you are willing to go beyond the tourist traps. On our first day of mountain bike riding, hiking to waterfalls & sleeping overnight near some rice fields we encountered only a handful of people.
Not long after we returned from Bali I received an email from Tom Hickman, the founder of the Bali Hope Ultra, asking if I wanted to be the ambassador for their inaugural event. Considering we were expecting to have a 7-8 week old at the time of the event, I wondered if I was expecting too much of myself and our baby to travel to Bali. I dismissed those thoughts.
You see, I have always been a glass half full kind of person. I believe most things are possible if you prepare yourself and have the right attitude. However, I don’t blindly say yes to everything these days. I carefully decide which projects I want to pour my energy into, opting to do less but do it well.
The Bali Hope Ultra is more than an ultra marathon, it is an innovative life changing event. For the participants and it’s chosen beneficiaries. It brings together a small group of runners that genuinely want to use their ability to run long to affect sustainable change, in the area of providing children access to education. 15 runners signed up for the inaugural event and they each had to raise $5K. If all of the runners did this, they would enable Classroom of Hope & Bali Children Foundation to support 100 children in Bali through to year 12. Simple concept, powerful outcome! It was a no brainer. I wanted to be involved and take my new family along for the journey. More info on that race experience in my next post but for now here is an image of me helping US runner Vanessa Niemeyer at the half way point, she’s a star!!
Many would think taking an eight week old baby to Bali is a bad idea. In fact the internet is filled with articles or blogs about why it is such a bad idea. Some of the things I read included:
- the pavements are wonky – I presume this refers to the challenge of taking a pram.
- the flight will be a nightmare
- it won’t really be a holiday for the parents
- your child won’t be fully immunised & Bali is full of diseases
….& the list went on.
So what was our approach and why did it go so seamlessly? It started with booking a ticket. We booked our flight with Qantas from Melbourne to Denpasar via Sydney. Both Mark and I are Qantas members so we knew we could relax in the lounge before each of our flights, aka change Harry’s nappy. The layover in Sydney was annoying but the flight attendant told us that Qantas will be doing a direct Melbourne to Denpasar flight soon.
My Five Tips are
1. PREPARATION IS KEY
Work out what you need to do prior to your flight that will reduce any anxiety and allow you to enjoy your holiday!
I chatted through my travel intentions with my midwife to seek her advice. She said many people would chose not to travel so soon after having a baby. However, Harry’s heath or happiness would not be a concern.
She advised me to get Harry’s immunisations done a week before we travelled just on the chance he had a reaction. Which was good advice as he did get a reaction which ended us taking him to the hospital.
2. PACKING LIGHT BUT WISE
Probably the biggest stress people face! My answer, you don’t need as much as you think. Don’t fall in the trap of taking too much. Bali is not the end of the earth and there are stores that supply most of the baby goods you might need.
Here’s what I took:
- baby carrier NOT a pram
- nappy supply for 2 weeks – I then ordered the rest from Bali Baby & they were delivered to my villa. The Mamy Poko brand were recommended to me & Harry had no issues with them.
- portable breast pump (LIFESAVER as it allowed me to have Harry babysat for a few hours whilst I wrote during the day. I use the Spectra S1+ Hospital Grade Double Pump).
- mosquito net for his bassinet.
- moov insect repellent.
- 2XP groms body sunscreen
- SPF hat & sun protective top
- first aid kit
- limited clothing
- several lightweight wraps
NB: we have friends in Bali who lent us a bassinet & a bouncer. Most villas will have a cot that you can use, alternatively you can hire one from Bali Baby for a reasonable price.
What became helpful is how we chose to organise our gear. Mark and I had a MASSIVE appreciation for Kathmandu packing cells. Our packing process involves separating like gear (e.g. Harry’s clothes, my sports clothes, swimmers, casual clothes, batteries/charging devices) and packing them in colour appropriate packing cells. Having a baby makes you want to be even more organised to reduce stress. So does traveling to several locations, on this trip we went to Seminyak, Lovina, back to Seminyak and Canggu.
3. SAFETY IS ALWAYS CRITICAL
Your biggest risk is traveling in motor vehicles. The road rules are looser and there are more traffic related injuries. We pre-arranged a taxi with a baby car seat (details on the company we used is above). In Bali you don’t need to use a car seat but for most of our travel we did.
Many cars don’t have adequate air conditioning, it can get super hot and stuffy in Bali. Check out the temperature before you get in for any long drives.
It is a personal choice but as there aren’t infant helmets I wouldn’t put Harry on a motorcycle, even traveling a short distance and slowly. I took Harry for a walk every morning along the beach and then to meet friends for breakfast. I used the baby carrier and he loved to look around. The sidewalks are narrow and the ground is often uneven, I wouldn’t recommend taking a pram for these reasons.
The tap water in Bali is of an uncertain quality so make sure you boil water to clean any baby bottles.
4. HEALTHY MUM HEALTHY BUB
Bali has INCREDIBLE food for a great price. It isn’t hard to eat nutritiously and in abundance.
Whether you are breastfeeding or not, you want to make sure you the food you are consuming is safe. Places with a high turnover often indicate a solid reputation as do reviews. I carried hand sanitiser with me and used it before eating and after going to the bathroom and changing Harry’s nappy.
5. IT TAKES A VILLAGE
I was only going to be in Bali for the 5 days of the Bali Hope Ultra. Once the race finished I felt inspired to finish the draft of my book, which has been hanging over me for a long time. I looked at my calendar and realised I had flexibility to be in Bali for another 2.5 weeks, so I changed my flight and extended our accommodation. I ended up having the final 10 days of my trip with just Harry as Mark needed to return home for work.
I felt comfortable putting Harry in the care of a Balinese babysitter who was recommended by a friend from 11am – 4pm. She was AMAZING!!! Balinese babysitters cost between $5 – $8 USD and I had a fantastic experience. I was typically in the room and would feed Harry or express milk, but I would also go to the cafe downstairs for a change of scenery. There is no way I would have finished the draft of my book this year if it wasn’t for this time in Bali and for this babysitter.
I found the separation from Mark harder than I thought I would. We spend most of our days together and we very much co-parent Harry during the days and nights. I also observed how much Harry missed Mark and perhaps his male energy. I was very grateful to have friends in Canggu that cared for Harry – these are just three of them!!! Harry grew up so much in those few short weeks in Bali, he developed a personality and he is at ease in the hands of other people.
There is a big world out there, don’t be afraid to take yourself and your baby out into it. With considered preparation and safety precautions it can become an incredible experience for you and your baby.