Right from the moment I started travelling back in October, I knew that I wanted to be as far away from a normal, traditional Christmas as I could possibly be this year. Bali seemed like the perfect place for anyone wanting to escape the holidays and so my plan had always been to spend both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day on the island, preferably lying on a beach or by a pool with a cocktail in hand.
I’d booked a flight to Darwin on the 27th of December, after my Australian Working Holiday Visa had been granted and, knowing that I would probably need to start looking for work pretty quickly after I arrived in Oz, I was keen to treat my last few days in Bali as a complete holiday.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit worried in the run up to Christmas Day…I’d originally thought I would still be at the Workaway in Balian for the holidays (where there would be other people around) but when that situation didn’t work out and I moved on to Kuta, I was actually so excited at the idea of spending the perfect solo Christmas Day in the city.
I’d promised my family I’d FaceTime when I woke up, which for them (back home in Scotland) was around midnight on Christmas Eve. We have a family tradition of opening one present at midnight and we’d agreed to try and keep it, despite me being 7000 miles away. After a really lovely catch up and promising to FaceTime them again later on, I got up and lazed around the deserted hotel pool for a while, and began figuring out how I wanted to spend the rest of the day.
After a couple of hours in the sun, I went out in search of food and stumbled upon a great little Italian restaurant, serving real Italian coffee. I wandered along Legian Street, which is usually packed with people, cars and scooters, but found that almost every shop was empty. I picked up a few bargain dresses and essentials that I needed for heading to Australia and then walked down towards the beach.
I picked a bean bag outside one of the beach bars and had just ordered a drink when the weather completely changed. After being in Balian for a few weeks, I was used to rainy season afternoon storms but this one was particularly bad. The staff ushered me inside and sat me at a table with a couple of local Balinese women, who turned out to be hilariously good company for the duration of the torrential rain. They offered to take me out dancing later that night and after saying I’d think about it, I headed back in the direction of the main shopping mall.
There were a couple of restaurants and bars that, after reading about and seeing some incredible images on Instagram and Pinterest, I really wanted to try out for myself. One of these was Velvet on the top floor of Beachwalk Shopping Centre, which has seriously impressive views of the beach below. I grabbed a table and ordered a very different Christmas dinner – which included one of the most delicious cheesecakes I’ve ever tasted! I took a leisurely stroll back to my hotel, had another dip in the pool and then got dressed up for going out later on.
I called my family again and spent a couple of hours on FaceTime watching them unwrap their presents at home. By the time I came off the phone, it was 10pm but I decided to head out anyway, thinking that a Christmas cocktail would be the perfect way to finish the day.
I walked along the road to the recently opened Four Points Hotel and ordered a drink but after a quick look at their menu (and prices) I decided to try somewhere else. I wandered past a lively reggae bar and was briefly serenaded by the band (there was a lot of “I am an English-woman in Bali”) I decided to check out the (in)famous Sky Garden for a quick beer and then head home.
I paid the entry to get in and got my two free beer tokens, grabbing my drinks and heading into the first level of the club. It was still fairly early by club terms and aside from a group of very drunk Aussie guys, everyone seemed pretty chilled out. After a while, I decided to explore upstairs and see if I could find somewhere to sit and finish my drink. The top level was completely different to downstairs, like an awful Australian version of Coyote Ugly, with half – naked girls dancing on the bar and the type of music that only the very drunk can appreciate. I propped myself up at the bar, chatted to the bartenders for a while and finished my second beer…at which point I vaguely remember feeling a bit off and then…everything went blank.
The next thing I can remember is being at my hotel (I have no idea how that happened but I am so happy I made it back) and desperately trying to explain the reception staff (who spoke barely any English) that my purse with my all of my money, credit cards, ID and my hotel room key had been stolen…and that I needed to go to the police…and potentially the hospital.
I’d FaceTimed my poor sister back home in Scotland, who managed to tell the staff that I had been spiked and that I wasn’t just drunk. They gave me another room key and I passed out, waking up to a million missed calls and worried messaged from my family on Boxing Day.
As whatever I had been spiked with wore off and the realisation of what had happened sunk in, I started to properly panic. I was stuck in Bali, with no cash, bank card or credit card and I was due to fly to Australia the next day. I dragged myself out of bed and round to reception, where the hotel manager (after realising what has actually happened) couldn’t have been more helpful. He explained to me that, if I really wanted him to take me to the police he would, but that bribes are common in Bali law enforcement and, as I had no cash, he didn’t think they would be particularly helpful. Instead, he instructed the staff to let me use the phone to call and cancel all my cards and arrange an emergency cash withdrawal with Western Union. I realised just how bad the situation was when my credit card company informed me that there had been hundreds of pounds’ worth of charges put on my account overnight and that the thieves were still attempting to use it as we spoke.
As I was speaking to people on the phone, it was becoming clearer by the minute that this was going to seriously affect my plans to fly to Australia the next day. To be able to get through immigrations on my Working Holiday Visa, I had to be able to prove I could support myself for at least the first three months of my stay and have a minimum amount of around £2500 in my bank account…which had been fine before…but now, I not only had no access to my accounts (and would have wait at least three weeks for my new cards to arrive from the UK), I also had to withdraw a fairly large amount of cash in the emergency transaction. Visa and Western Union only let you do this once and with no real guarantee as to how long I would be without my cards for, they had advised me to withdraw £1000…meaning if immigrations checked, my account would be under the required minimum amount.
After a fairly horrific day, what felt like the worst hangover in the world and having exhausted every possible way I could think of to get through Australian immigrations, I FaceTimed my family and made a decision…to fly home to Scotland. It felt completely awful and amazing at the same time.
My sister had to book the flight for me (I had no card I could use) and before I knew it, I was throwing my things back into my backpack and heading for a midnight flight from Denpasar Airport. I’ve never felt so disappointed at the same time as feeling so unbelievably relieved. After a quick stop in Dubai, I was home in freezing cold Scotland…
I managed to get all of the credit card charges refunded and my cards replaced fairly quickly, but after the first week back at home I began thinking about what would be best to do next. I could go to Australia quickly, with not much left in the way of savings and hope to pick up work as soon as I arrived…or I could get a job in the UK and save up as much as possible before the end of year and travel for longer, without the worry and stress of finding a job right away…
I chose the latter. After thinking through my options at home, I decided to apply for live-in positions all over the UK and, as I (finally!) finish writing this post in the departures lounge of Glasgow International Airport, I’m headed to a new job in the Channel Islands.
This definitely wasn’t what I had planned for the start of the new year but, as disappointing as not being in Australia right now is, I’m excited to be off on another adventure…and saving towards even bigger travel plans later this year…