At first glance, Becky Wicks‘ latest book Balilicious seems just like another travel memoir, but soon enough you will change your mind as it becomes clear that Becky Wicks is not your ordinary travel writer. If you’ve read her previous work, you’ll be familiar with her dry style, which admittedly I found a little wearing after a while. However she does present a very different perspective on the current fashion for “finding oneself” in some tropical locale.
In Balilicious, Becky is running from a relationship (it is not quite clear whether it failed, he failed, or she did) and intending to spend six months in Bali to regroup, renew and reveal her true self. While there are plenty of “touristy” locations, she ends up settling in Ubud – which it seems is home to expats from many countries seeking a simpler, more spiritual lifestyle – some permanent, and some, like Becky, just temporarily. What it does present is a central location to all manner of assistance in “finding yourself”.
Becky explores and gets to attend and take part in some of the most beautiful and fundamental rituals of Bali life. The Balinese are deeply connected to their land and their life revolves around keeping the spirits at ease, on several levels. Becky gets to witness blessing ceremonies, exorcisms, spiritual healing and plenty of yoga, which are what you would call mainstream in Bali. As well as that there are some less mainstream experiences that she delves into like the shaking ashram, where tobacco is taken nasally, trance dance sessions, talking with the dead and some very intimate purification rituals. All this is told with Becky’s signature delivery, never quite taking herself seriously and also, it seems, never quite letting go enough to really “find herself” out there.
As well as the spiritual renewal Becky also shares some truly delightful experiences that are just part of daily life in Bali, from the locals she sees on the streets of town with their cocks (and a cockfight), to remote villages where just bringing a shopping bag full of coloured pencils and paper is a treat beyond imagining. She visits schools, supermarkets, and sanctuaries. There is even a visit to the silversmiths of Kerobokan Prison, as well as terrific motorbike rides up and down the countryside.
All this, amidst the beauty of the tropical landscape – rainforests, rice paddies, and rural hillsides. This book is for you if you have ever dreamed of going to Bali, or if you have been and dream of going back.
Available now: HarperCollins RRP$29.99