Bali: the story behind the smiles
Updated: Feb 7
Bali is known to be one of the most hospitable and welcoming destination in the world. The soul of Bali is truly its amazing people. But since Covid 19 there has been a silent struggle behind almost every wide Balinese smile.
“As long as we have some rice, my family will be okay.”
When asked about how things have been going in Bali, this is what our driver and new friend, Ketut had to say.
The shores were familiar. The faces were familiar. The culture was true and dear just as we had come to love. But one thing was very different, "where are all the tourists?" The well known 24/7 bustling streets of Kata and Seminyak would be best described as a ghost town. It was a shocking and saddening sight and it was obvious that it had everything to do with the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns that took place.
It was a completely different Bali. All that remained as a remnant of the Bali we had come to love, were small pockets of communities found in Canggu, Ubud, and Sanur. What we failed to realize is that with the fall of tourism, came the underemployment and unemployment of over 70% of Bali's local residents. Our friends that we had met just two years prior had since relocated to other islands or moved into agriculture. Overnight, life had become incredibly difficult and people were simply unprepared to say the least.
As we met our new friend, Ketut, who took us around this piece of paradise and shared his knowledge, culture, and love for his land, he also began to share the struggles that they had been facing. It had been over a year without any form of steady business with the lack of tourism. We, like the few other foreigners only made it to Bali by means of lengthy and costly visa applications followed by a mandated quarantine in Jakarta. The borders had been shut tight for over a year, and work was scarce.
Ketut explained, that had it not been for his parents still working the rice fields, he and his family would have been left with absolutely nothing. "As long as we have some rice, my family will be okay," he reported. And with that he further explained that food drives sprung up around Bali from locals and expats alike to support the community in a time of hardship.
The world has gotten much smaller. Tourism is more accessible than ever before in history. And as a result, certain communities respond to the economic calling and can become almost exclusively dependent on tourism which sadly in a time of crisis leaves them more vulnerable than ever before. Though I would not be as bold as to suggest that I have any answer towards this dilemma, I would encourage those who read this through independent research of your own to search for food drives in the most needy communities and support them in any way you feel fit. Dollars that go far as tourists in certain destinations, go even further in support of those in need in those same destinations.