My COVID story: How I got stuck in Indonesia

The Origional Plan

Travel time! Spend 2-3 months in South East Asia before moving to my permanent residence in the States.

In the states, I wanted to create an Artist Permaculture Community center on land in Oregon. I wanted to put down some roots and start building.

I wanted a travel break before I committed as I would be moving from Oakland, California to outside of Portland, Oregon. I thought why not create a couple of murals abroad and visit Southeast Asia for my first time before starting.

So I was off!

January 2020 I traveled through Shanghai, China to Bangkok Thailand. 

I spent a couple weeks in Thailand traveling and painting a mural for Shiralea in Kho Phangan.

Then I spent a couple of weeks in Myanmar (former Burma) traveling and meeting up with friends before returning back to Thailand where I would sit for a meditation retreat and maybe paint some more murals.

In Thailand, I completed a Thai massage course in Lahu village, a little hillside tribe community. There were about 10 of us in the course. We spent our time meditating, practicing yoga and practicing Thai massage, and learning more about the Lahu community.

This was all around the last couple of weeks of February and we didn’t have internet.

So, when we got out of the two-week course we were surprised about what we were hearing about the Pandemic.

March 2020.

What were you doing then? 

Do you recall or block it out? 

At this point, I had 3 meditation retreats in Thailand canceled because of COVID.

It is called Vipassana 10-day silent meditation retreat in the Goenka tradition. No talking, no writing, and no speaking (not even stretching) for 10 days. You just sit 12 hours a day. I was ready, signed up, and confirmed, and right before my flight to Nepal took off from Pai, Thailand it was canceled.

It felt like because the border of Thailand shared a border with China that I was in the thick of it. Like I should ‘get out of there fast or forever be doomed. 

I had a gut feeling. Wherever I was the next day or two. I was going to be stuck there. But I knew it would be okay. 

A LOT of people left during this time. You could feel the fear in everyone.  

My flight back to the states wasn’t for another month and the thought of going home never crossed my mind. 

“Okay, Molly”. I said to myself. 

“Where are we going to spend the next couple of weeks?”.

I was still determined to find a center that would lead the 10 days sitting. I found two courses in Nepal and India and decided on the same day to just ‘go for it’.

March 17, 2020, I boarded a flight from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. Then I was supposed to go from Bangkok to New Delhi.

Plans start to change…

While I was in Bangkok on my layover they told me I was not allowed into India because they closed the borders due to Covid.

Crap. Where do I go? I am stuck in Bangkok! 

Can I get another flight with this airline?

Do I get my money back?

Am I stuck?

What do I do?

Sure enough…with the same airlines, there was a flight to Bali, Indonesia.

It was only 2 hours away but it was a place I never expected to go or wanted to go to actually.

I judged Bali from the outside as touristy and overrun with people trying to find a ‘spiritual experience’. Thanks to Eat Pray Love! Oh, Julia Roberts. 

At this point, I had traveled off and on for almost 7 years, and, I just was not feeling Bali. 

However, I had a good girlfriend Sophie there, from London we had just completed a 2-week Thai massage course in a hillside tribe in Northern Thailand and she was in Bali. I wanted to be with her, I wanted to be with the closest thing to the family during that time. 

Sophie said it was relaxing, the borders were open and to COME!

So I took that flight to Bali, Indonesia, and boarded with my mask and all. 

No tests at that point just an empty plane. 

I spoke to others boarding the same flight and we all became friends instantly because we were scared. You could feel that we might not be able to get into Bali. 

This was when international rules and regulations were starting to show up at airports and there was a website you could go to that said which people were allowed and not allowed to enter Indonesia (among all the other countries). On the list of countries not allowed to get into Indonesia were France, Italy, and China. That was it. 

This was my chance!

Okay lets go to Bali!

We were scared we would not be allowed to enter and with good reason because the borders closed just two days after I arrived.

But sure enough, the plane landed, we had our temperatures checked and we were given a visa and told that we could enter! No problems!

I got lucky.

How did I get this lucky?

I started my journey in Canggu with some friends and it still felt like traveling. 

Then it got more serious. We talked a lot about going home and what it must be like there. Many of my friends did go home.

There were a lot of fears about being aboard during the pandemic. For some people, it was their first time away from home and wanted that comfort so they lasted maybe a month or two. 

But for me? I knew I was okay to be away from home for 1+ years so I didn’t feel that need for security. I knew I would be taken care of. Things started getting worse in the states. Remember? When the numbers started taking the lead in the world for cases? 

I spoke to my father he said, “Molly, stay in Bali. You don’t need to be here and it’s not for the best”. 

When your father tells you something and you already are feeling it, you just listen. 

I stayed 3 months in Canggu and Seminyak.

A little in Ubud as well and then something inside me started to worry about my house I had left in California.

Meanwhile back in California…

At this point, I still had my $700 a month room in a 6 bedroom house with 7-9 people (depends) in Oakland, California. I was subletting but my sweet sublet wanted her room (understandably) and she left. 

I didn’t want to continue to pay for an empty room. 

So…I bought a ticket in June 2020.

BUT, it was canceled just a week before. 

Okay. Thanks, Air Canada. 

So, I bought another ticket home on the sweet 4th of July 2020. 

I decided to explore some of Bali before leaving. Although most places were closed people still traveled around. 

I found a place called Amed. A small Fisherman town nestled next to active volcano Mt. Agung. and alongside the ocean. 

AMED! Bali, Indonesia. Home Sweet Home.

Crystal clear waters.

Warm healing saltwater.

Colorful fish playing and swimming.


Scuba Diving.

A community like nowhere else in Bali. 

Darn, I have to leave.

But guess what?

My flight was canceled and I got a second chance to stay. 


Third canceled flight!

At the same time, I found my sweet friend Lauren, who is the girlfriend of a roommate to stay in my room. 

And now?

I found my new home in Amed and I have been there ever since. 

I got over my fear of the ocean. That feeling when you are swimming and you don’t know what is beneath you and you can’t see! Well, when you dive down to 66 feet and feel the sandy bottom and only see little fish and beautiful coral you realize there is not anything to be afraid of and nothing of the ocean is like the movies.

The ocean is more of this world than land. It is our planet. It is meant to swim in and explored and loved. 

I always say that Amed is like a big hug from the ocean and that is what I have felt every day since I have been here. 

So thankful that I live in such a beautiful, affordable, and healing place that keeps teaching me more and more I never thought possible.

I’m getting stronger as an intuitive and believing in myself more and more. 

I have the most supportive friends in the world here that share space with me, sing, dance, build fires, dive, and play with me.

I am so lucky to be on an island in a pandemic with its borders closed, with low numbers of COVID cases so we can still have a bit of freedom. 

I feel lucky. I take full advantage and am living my life here for my friends whom I think about every day in California. I think there has to be a balance and I send love to them when I am in the ocean and think about how hard it must be. 

The takeaway.

One day I will go home. 

I will see my little nephew Oliver who is almost 2 now.

I will hug my sister, an incredible Mom.

I will hug my Dad and tell him I’m sorry his mother passed and spend time with him.

I will talk with my stepmom about my adventures with her asking away with questions.

I will give my twin brother a late birthday hug and a late congratulations hug for his engagement to beautiful to be sister in law margo. 

I will see my little sister, my biggest fan that has my artwork in her bedroom, a mini molly keen gallery. I will watch movies with her, laugh, and eat out with her as she tells me how her college experience online has been. I miss my little sister.

I will get to see my little brother James and learn more about whom he has grown into being. He is 16 now and since I left never knew how to drive. Now owns a car and is with his friends playing baseball all the time.

I will hug my Grandpa Da, my mother’s father. Tell him how proud I am to carry his name with me. To continue to legacy and end the lineage. 

I want to hug his wife Elaine and tell her how happy I am that she is with my Grandpa during this time. 

I want to see all of my aunts and uncles and cousins and tell them how much I love them. 

I want to drink a beer with my roommates and share my adventures as we exchange stories over the last year. 

I want to hug my best friend Lauren’s baby. 

I want to sing and bike with my sisters in Oakland. 

I want to visit my mother’s grave on Vashon Island and tend to the flowers there. I want to jump into the ocean where we grew up without any fear this time. 

I want to hug my friend Mohammad who took his life during the pandemic. I wish I could have been there. 

I have no idea how hard it’s been for so many of you but what I do know is how much love I have for my family and friends. How one day this will pass and we will be stronger because of it. I know it will get better. It will. It has to. 

I want to do so much more but for now, i have the Volcano. Starting at me with a force undeniable, Bali is hugging me and protecting me for now. I am grateful for her lover and fierceness. The people of Bali have devoted family members with intense intentional daily practices to their Bali spirits complete with a minimum of 6 ceremonies a month. 

I am lucky.

I am grateful.

I am strong. 

I am capable.

I am here.

I love you.


One response to “My COVID story: How I got stuck in Indonesia”

  1. And I cannot wait to see and hug you my Molly Monroe!! You are amazing!!

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