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Want To Be Happier? Live Like the Balinese

Life lessons learned while traveling.

I want to share a few tales from the field with you today. I have lived and traveled extensively around the world, and what sticks with me the most after I leave a place is The Human Factor: Who are the people, what can I learn from them, and what kind of person do I become in their presence?

At the moment, I'm in Bali. And while many people travel to Bali for the beaches and island lifestyle, the local people play a huge part in defining that experience—and teaching some valuable lessons.

But you don't have to fire up your passport to reap the benefits. Here are three things the Balinese can teach us about being happier, better people:

1. Everywhere Beauty

Even in this extremely poor country, beauty abounds and is prioritized. Sure, it's naturally very beautiful, with lush rice paddies and sunsets for days, but everything from food to architecture is crafted and presented in a way that says, "I care."

The Balinese are a deeply spiritual people and construct religious offerings from palm leaves, flowers, incense, and food, which are then placed throughout homes and public spaces. They labor over these, making new ones from scratch daily. Incense and flower offerings even make their way into public bathrooms and airport security. And even without knowing the symbolic significance of each offering, its beauty brightens my day.

Even the poorest of communities has elaborately beautiful temples, and no detail is spared on the top of roofs. Ornate expressions of devotion abound.

And in hip locations like Canggu, where I've been staying, every item is served in beautiful dishes with small little touches, like a frangipani flower. No occasion or moment is too mundane to make special.

Anna Akbari
Source: Anna Akbari

2. Finding Calm in Chaos

As in many countries in Southeast Asia, most people in Bali don't drive cars to get around and instead hop on motorized scooters. And since I don't trust myself to drive one, I hail a scooter to zip to and fro. The scooters co-mingle with the cars and trucks, sometimes three to a lane. This style of weaving through dusty roads is definitely not up to U.S. safety standards, but there is a serene calm amidst the noise and dirt. To the uninitiated, it might look like a maddening scene. But you don't see road rage or angry exchanges—everyone falls into a continuous flow, a way of creating some semblance of peaceful order amidst chaos.

This type of orderly chaos does not rely on law enforcement, but rather awareness, cooperation, and trust of those with whom they share the streets. "We're all in this together," they seem to be silently communicating as they drive around following local, unwritten codes of conduct. If that code is disrespected, everyone loses.

Anna Akbari
Source: Anna Akbari

3. The Art of Patience

The Balinese are notoriously friendly, and their resting face is often a smile. Even if you're distraught or irritated, they are highly unflappable. Regardless of your mood or disposition, they look at you with grace and ease, and greet you with kind, gentle patience. As far as I can tell, no Balinese person has ever been in a bad mood. I am in awe.

I recently went on the Creative Warriors podcast, and as a final question, the host asked me to name the "warrior" I most needed to channel. I called on the Warrior of Patience, and I'm pretty sure that warrior is Balinese.

So assuming you aren't ready to up and move to Bali (which, for the record, would not be a bad idea), how do you similarly cultivate everyday beauty, find calm in chaos, and emanate patience? Which small pockets of your day could use a little aesthetic upgrade? Where do you feel out of control and long for inner serenity to take over? When does anxiety and impatience get the best of you? Please tell us in the comments, and let these questions linger in your mind this holiday weekend.

Anna Akbari
Source: Anna Akbari