On my first day volunteering at the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival I spent 30 minutes walking to the office, 10 minutes cooling down in an Indomaret (a supermarket) opposite and five minutes boosting my ego enough to enter. It may be because I’m only 18 or because I am all alone in Ubud or, most probably, because I am Maleeha Malik and this is what I do, but I was freaking out – massively.
So why? Why am I here, in the middle of Bali, all by myself, volunteering for a literary festival?
Blame it on ‘The Gap Year’. For my whole life, I’ve dreamed of my year off – stumbling across adventure, travelling all over the place, meeting a gorgeous guy and falling in love…
The reality: it’s absolutely TERRIFYING!
So yes, this week I’ve sat in cute hippy cafes, stared wistfully at couples and families around me, spoken to strangers for a total of two seconds before hiding away in my journal and walked endless streets all by myself. And I still haven’t found myself living that dream of a gap year.
Instead I’m working 9-5 every day.
The Ubud Writers and Readers Festival is an annual festival held in Ubud, Bali. Every year, writers from all around the world come to give talks, workshops and more on their work and other issues. There are poets, battling it away in slam poetry competitions; rebels, hiding away on stages talking to hundreds about their experiences; Reverends chatting hope, joy and forgiveness over lunch. It is, without a doubt, one of the biggest cultural events Asia has to offer. And I’m right in the centre of it!
Ask me a week ago and my closest brush with a literary festival was visiting Hay in Wales (Hay Festival) on my 16th birthday. We were a month early and I spent the whole time throwing up my breakfast. Not the best experience.
This, however, is completely different. For one, I am actually working! In the last week I’ve prepared endless twitter reminders for events during the festival, set up events on Eventbrite (the most evil website in the world) and written blog posts which were actually posted on the website!!! Cool, right?
But I’ve also sat at my desk wondering what to do next and felt bad about asking, looked around shiftily before whipping out my phone to send a couple of texts and practically run out the door come 5pm. Work is not all glamour and meeting famous authors…
But if work isn’t always fun, sitting around in cute cafes sipping cold lattes and staring at the people around me is. Just check out some of these pics – this is my life!
And I’m even making some friends to share it with – finally! Slowly but surely, being alone in Ubud is looking up – independence, new friends and looking cool and traveller-y definitely sounds more like the gap year of my dreams.
And then I ate something bad.
Friday night, just home from scooting around Ubud Market and about to go out to dinner and my stomach started cramping – not good.
Feeling ill is never fun, feeling ill in a new place is worse, feeling ill and being alone in a new place – absolutely awful. Tears, a lot of WhatsApp calls and multiple episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and I’m feeling a bit more myself – enough to sit in a cool café writing this blog and watching X Factor! (And I’ve even got plans for later!). But any sympathy you want to give? Send it in – being alone is harder than anyone admits! (That being said, comfort TV and a good book do work miracles).
See you next time for more on literary festivals, Ubud and trying to be cool.