"Jackie" Kerouac's Unplanned Plan
"Where your husband?"
"Where your children?"
"You want taxi ride, pretty lady?" Although I was flattered by the offers, I didn't want a ride. Of any kind.
Traveling alone as a woman can be a real pain in the ass. If opportunistic men aren't pestering you, the mosquitoes are. And those mosquitoes don't take no for an answer. Neither do infected unmentionables, which usually show up after a few days of peeing while squatting roadside or worse, peeing while squatting roadside after you've run out of toilet paper.
Of course, this wasn't at all the case with my accommodations in Bali, where I faced a different kind of problem, one of my own making. Before embarking upon my trip, I'd decided that, for the first time since my twenties, I'd be a "real" backpacker, the kind that just shows up to a place with a dog-eared copy of something Kerouac, and walks into the nearest hostel to rest for the night. Of course, that's best done when you've snuck a glance at hostels.com to find that there is actually some availability for the dates you're traveling.
Late one evening, after a long drive, I arrived in the Kuta region of Bali, which should have been completely fine for my unplanned plan, considering Kuta is about the most developed, backpacker-friendly beach town on the entire island. I had one goal in mind: to stay somewhere a little bit terrible, the kind of place that offered no hedonistic distractions of any kind. As it would turn out, I shouldn't have been so choosy. Absolutely everything was booked. I had two options: stay in an empty old mansion which was going for $45 a night, or soldier on. If you're a woman traveler, you know you don't dare stay anywhere empty, even if it's a mansion, and especially if it's suspiciously cheap.
So I soldiered on, slightly ashamed of my idealistic and entirely self-inflicted temporary homelessness. After all, it was late, dark, and I was alone (save for the friendly offers of company from men I passed on the streets). A chance encounter at an inn offering the unique chance for "home stay" was exactly what I thought I was looking for. After all, how often do you get a glimpse into the life of true local by staying in his house? But my intrigue was quickly tempered with the sudden realization that I was surrounded by men, quite a few of them. There were no women - anywhere. Maybe I was just being paranoid, but I didn't stick around to find out.
Finally, I found the little-bit-terrible I'd been looking for. For $32 a night, I shared an otherwise perfectly decent, albeit somewhat moldy, room with a dozen or so mosquitoes. Noting their presence as I unpacked, I made sure to liberally cover myself in bug repellent. Which leads me to the explanation for the above photo. Although I'd liberally covered my body in bug repellent, I hadn't thought to cover my face. The next morning, I could only squint in the mirror to peer at the swollen welts around my eyes. It was no wonder that the mosquitoes had gone by then; they were full and happy, enjoying something of a post-coital nap on my dime. And as luck would have it, it wasn't just the mosquitoes that left me alone...