Stuck In Paradise? When a 3-Day Trip To A Remote Indonesian Island Becomes 3 Months…

By: Bia Carminati, world traveler, advertising executive, & Unsettled: Baja Sailing alum

If, last year, anyone had told me that by June 2020 I would be living on a tiny island in Indonesia… to be honest, I might have believed her. Though, perhaps not in the way it happened.

What was supposed to be a three-day trip has turned into a full three months as a result of COVID travel bans and lockdowns. Yet by now, Gili Meno (population: 200), already feels like home.

So what happened?

Bali was just one more Southeast Asia destination I was visiting before heading out to Africa to do volunteer work.

My original intention was to spend a month exploring Ubud with my boyfriend, and traveling around nearby islands to discover all that Bali had to offer. One day, we decided to go for a quick weekend trip to the Gili Islands. 

That’s when Coronavirus lockdowns struck everywhere.

Our flights got canceled, and the borders of all neighboring countries closed.

Since I came with my boyfriend, and leaving Indonesia would mean that we would have to separate — going back “home” would mean USA for him and Brazil for me — we decided to stay so we could be together.

And it was the safest decision, in the end. We have been self-isolating since March — we had rented a bungalow for 3 days initially, but when lockdown happened and all tourists left the island, we were able to negotiate a monthly fee for a fraction of the price.

We have some interaction with the property owners — a very nice British couple who helps us in ordering groceries from the main island of Lombok every week. There is no transit allowed between the islands and no tourists coming or going — Gili Meno Island is pretty much sealed from the outside world.

This kind of unexpected adventure is part of what I set out to do when I paused my career in advertising to travel and contribute my skills into humanitarian action. The plan was to work on educational projects in Africa, but as the pandemic put a hold on everyone’s plans, the projects have been paused and there is nothing to do but wait.

Out of fear, I thought about just going back to my old life, maybe trying again in a couple of years. But I’ve decided not to quit. I will not give up the better that lies ahead for the safety of what I already have — and surely not when I’ve already caught a glance, an undeniable glance, of something beyond.

I recognize how incredibly lucky I am for having this happen in the way that it has. For that reason, I feel it’s my duty to make the most of it, one day at a time, in order to leave this situation as a better person than when I entered it.

I’m using this time to move past the idea that I have to be constantly grinding in order to be successful. I’m embracing the concept that rest, recovery and reflection are essential parts of the progress toward an expanding and ultimately happy life.

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