I have lived in many places, different countries and cities and yet, I found happiness on a little island that you can walk around in an hour. I rely on sunshine to keep me happy; money doesn’t provide vitamin D!
Gili Meno off the coast of Lombok, Indonesia has been my home for almost two years now and my life here is defined by simplicity, something I had been looking for a long time. It’s the least developed of the three Gilis. Time slows down here, I always recognise the tourist who has just arrived by the pace of their stride, they have yet to discover there is nothing to rush for here. After a couple of days on the island you slow your pace and a calm settles over you.
The most common words are ‘besok’ which is’ tomorrow’ and ‘adeng adeng’ which in local dialect means ‘slowly’. There are no cars or bikes, the background hum of everyday here is birdsong. Crystal clear turquoise waters attract divers and pristine beaches welcome those that like to chill under palm trees. I am surrounded by the island’s charm every day and I am still amazed by the beauty of each sunset and sunrise.
Without internet and a washing machine
My reality is island life in a small community. The population of Gili Meno is only about 300 people.
We gave up some comforts that used to be so seemingly integral for life and now they are simply a complicated luxury that we don’t need. For the first six months we lived happily without a fridge or washing machine. Internet works so slowly that we use it less and less and we are used to power cuts during rainy season. Our shower is salt water that comes from the hose and local coconut oil has taken the place of cosmetics. Life for us is not always easy or perfect but we have learnt to adapt.
Ocean instead of an office
What does life in paradise look like? It’s the most common question asked by tourists. I reply: It’s beautiful to live at a slow pace and appreciate the surrounding environment but I also add that we are not on a never-ending holiday. We still have everyday life challenges and work-home routine. The difference is, we work on a beautiful beach and we have a simple bungalow as our home. Everything precious that we own we can pack in one suitcase. We produce very little waste, we buy our fruit and veggies in one of few local shops and anything left over is cleaned up by chickens. I am happy with no TV or Internet, it means we are no longer bombarded with negative images and messages via the media. It’s liberating and grounding.
Often we hear, ” It’s easy for you to travel or live like this, you don’t have children, you are not tied up by bank loans”. Well, I think that each of us walks the path that we choose ourselves. We swapped city smog, traffic and suits for sunshine, beach and bare feet. Recently our son was born and it doesn’t change the fact that we still continue to live from one day to another, pursue our dreams and realise our projects. We are building our own dream house from bamboo. We want Ari to spend his first years in a hot climate, close to nature, free spirited running naked in the garden. We want him to play hide and seek, have a tree house, play with toys made of sticks and nurture a vivid imagination rather than immersing him in a world of computer games and television. We have had to make sacrifices are difficult to cope with, one being that Ari is far away from his extended family, however, we plan to visit and catch up whenever possible. We want him to be a citizen of the world, going through life with an open heart, who believes that anything in life is possible if you really want it. In today’s fast paced, media swamped society, we believe it is vitally important to impress upon our child the truth: We don’t need ‘things’ to be happy. Food, water, love and sunshine suit us just fine.
By Livia Sybal