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Changing Places: Flora Bowley on Bali

Red Flower Statue


I’m not actually sure how my obsession with a tiny island in Indonesia started, but somehow I got it in my head that there was a place in the world where everyone was an artist, flower offerings were a daily activity and magic was in the air. This place was Bali.

My obsession with Bali started in 1998. I was 24 years old, and I had only left the United States a couple of times at that point, but my heart was already living far beyond the borders of my country. I longed to go, to see and to experience something other than my usual existence.

So, with visions of flowers, temples and villages of artists in my head, I scoured study abroad programs until I found my golden ticket---a chance to spend two months learning folk art in Bali. I signed up immediately.

You can imagine my disappointment when the whole dream was suddenly cancelled due to governmental unrest, but my obsession never went away. For years, I held onto visions of this magical place, and finally, twelve years after my original trip was planned, I found myself stepping off the plane into the thick incense-filled air of Denpasar. I had arrived.

I have returned to Bali for the past three years to paint and soak up the culture of this place that now takes up a large portion of my heart. I keep surprising myself by returning to a place I have already been (not my usual way), but there is something about Bali that keeps pulling me back.

My idealized Bali, the one with throngs of artists and flowers everywhere is actually pretty darn accurate. In fact, there is no word for “artist” in Bali because it is assumed that everyone is an artist in one way or another. And the flowers, well, they are everywhere, thoughtfully incorporated into everyday life as offerings and decorations. Even the sculptures have flowers placed behinds their ears on a daily basis.

So, yes, Bali has definitely changed me. Its gentle yet hectic culture has taught me to slow down, create more ceremony out of everyday life and flow gracefully through chaos. I’ve also learned about simple beauty, warm smiles, ancient mossy temples, balancing things on your head, the ins and outs of monkey behaviour and warm tropical rain. In this place, my paintings flow freely, my body feels amazing and my soul is nourished to the brim.

The question now is not, “Will I return to Bali?” but “How long can I spend there next year?” Hoping for a few months, at least.


Bali Lady

‘Bali Lady’ – painting by Flora



Flora is an internationally celebrated painter, teacher, author and inspirationalist.  When she’s not travelling the world, she lives in Portland, Oregon.  Check out her paintings here….her workshops, e-course and book here….and don’t forget her blog!

Changing Places is a guest post series about the power of place to change us.  You can find more stories in the series here.  If you’d like to share your own story, please contact me for submission details.

Reader Comments (2)

I love your post. I started dreaming of Bali after reading part of your journey through your blog. I got tell you, it's been on my mind ever since. I see myself and my art flowing and growing in a place where "Even the sculptures have flowers placed behinds their ears on a daily basis" and "it is assumed that everyone is an artist in one way or another". Sigh.
You're most definitely an inspirationalist for me. Maybe we'll see each other in Bali sometime ;)

July 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarolina

Flora expresses her heart-connect to a land so well... I'm taking Flora's painting course at the moment, and it's been a transformative experience. She knows how to inspire! Fun you got Flora here to share with us, Helen :o) Happy Days ((HUGS))

July 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTracy

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