The search for a distinctive and productive way to use some of my Overland VU Short Story Prize money, other than just for paying the rent and bills, has brought me to Ubud in Bali for a few weeks. While I’m here, I’ll be working on my short-fiction collection. I’ve visited Ubud several times for its writers festival, and wanted to experience its mood at a different time of year. There’s a tradition of artistic activity, and a number of creative workers are based here, so it’s not unusual to arrive looking for escape and a workspace. Importantly, it’s an inexpensive destination, and so I’m able to visit for a significant period of time.
I’m staying in a room overlooking the rice fields of Jalan Bisma. The main streets of Ubud are a short walk away. My stay includes breakfast and unlimited Indonesian tea and coffee, and there’s a swimming pool in the grounds. I spent the first few days shaping a daily routine, and shaking off a faint anxiety around doing visitor activities. But the pressure’s off. A huge relief. No tours required. No need to try different venues for food or coffee. I’ve had dinner in the same Padang restaurant for the last five nights, followed by consistently good espresso-based coffee from a nearby bakery. There’s no need to visit the sights; I did it on a previous visit. The guidebook’s in the bin. It’s liberating to explore without an agenda. Gradually, the commercial spruikers of Jalan Raya Ubud are realising they’re barking up the wrong tree with me. Or at least the chants of “taxi” and “transport” are sounding fainter in my ears. My main requirement is that my keyboard clacks and my pencil scratches for a few hours each day.