Bali: The Constant Gardener


It was 5:30 am and already I heard the sound. The whoosh-whoosh of the gardener’s broom told me he was nearby, capturing errant leaves that dared to fall overnight.

We were staying in a former family-compound-turned-guesthouse in Ubud, Bali. The grounds were lush – truly the definition of a tropical paradise – thanks to this talented young man. He spent his days among stunning heliconias and ginger. I was totally jealous!


His day had an enviable rhythm. He was constantly in motion – not stopping until the sun set. First order of the day was to tidy up from whatever happened overnight. And since we’d had another monsoon storm last evening, he was going to be busy.


Next, he moved on to harvesting the red hibiscus flowers that would be used to adorn the guardian statues by the front gate …

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… and creamy white frangipani blossoms (from the tip-top of the tree) to decorate guest porches and beds. I loved the simplicity of it all.



And as any gardener knows, each day adds new tasks: prune the iris leaves, transplant the allamanda, clean the fountain, pull the weeds … and the list goes on and on. Much to a gardener’s joy … or chagrin.

When dusk fell I heard the final whoosh-whoosh of his broom as he put the garden to bed.

As a gardener who’d been on the road for 5 months, I delighted in this paradise he’d created. I missed my little garden in the States,  … and had to stop myself from deadheading the occasional plant he’d missed. But I didn’t miss pulling weeds!


Our good friends Kelly at Compass & Camera and Jeff at Planet Bell really know how to capture the true essence of Bali. Kelly first went to Bali for her honeymoon, and they returned over 10 years later. You’ll enjoy her post Scenes From Bali as she takes you off the beaten path. And Jeff is the king of capturing photos and impressions of the people at the destinations he visits. I know you’ll smile when you see his People of Bali.

Peace and No Weeds,

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We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

35 thoughts

      1. Mukul, It’s on our list to revisit, too. You know they say, “Third time’s a charm!” Do you have certain parts of the island that you recommend? ~Terri

    1. Bea, I must admit that I really loved the monsoons while we were traveling in Southeast Asia. As you said – “so refreshing!” Especially for us after living in Khartoum, Sudan for two years and never seeing a single drop of rain in that time! 🙂 ~Terri

      1. Oh yes, even more so if you lived in Khartoum! I remember the welcome downpours in Manila, but just because they were a relief from the muggy heat 🙂

      2. Bea, we were so starved for weather that we learned to love haboobs (sandstorms). It was so exciting to watch one roll in off the desert. 🙂 ~Terri

      3. Interesting use and concept of “weather” ! It is indeed trying when the sky’s the same day after day after day – whatever the latitude and continent 🙂

  1. Terri! Excellent post! I associate the sound of a morning broom with traveling — it seems to be a ritual (almost a meditation) in so many cultures we’ve experienced. I love the sound. Your thoughts brought back memories of Singapore, Vietnam… Bali! Thanks so much for the link to my post. Hope you and James are well. ~Kelly

    1. Thank you so much, Kelly. And I love your point about the brooms – you’re so right! I always marvel at the preferred brooms of each culture – their shapes, materials, and the techniques required to use them. They make the good ol’ American broom look pretty mundane! 🙂 James and I love your Bali posts – full of keen insights and gorgeous photos. Are you traveling this summer or staying cool up north? ~Terri

    1. Dirt Therapy! I love that, Laura! And oh so true. I noticed that you used the term “used to.” Does that mean you’re over it and ready to hit the road? 🙂 ~Terri

      1. Pretty close. The business is up for sale and we’re ready to put the house on the market as soon as we get a solid bite on the business.

      2. That’s great news, Laura. You must be so excited. I’m thrilled for you and hope your sale goes quickly and smoothly. Do you know where you’ll head first? ~T

      3. Depending on the timing of everything, 3 months in Alaska, then on to NM for the balloon festival. Beyond that – wherever the wind blows warmly!

      4. Wow, that sounds fantastic! We love Alaska. I know that Curt (commenter below) has made that drive in his RV and truly enjoyed it. And I’ve always wanted to see that balloon festival. Think of the great photos you’re going to get! ~T

  2. No question about it Terry, the gate guardians with their Hibiscus flowers definitely spelled Bali for me! I really enjoyed the focus on the gardener. –Curt

    1. Thank you, Curt. That gardener was a wonder. And when he shinnied up that tree I was amazed! Like you, I was fascinated by the guardian statues – so individualized for each property. I’m sure you got some great photos of them. ~Terri

      1. I’d lost my camera by the time I got to Bali, Terri. And didn’t have my present enthusiasm for photography. Bali would probably be worth several thousand digital photos now. 🙂 –Curt

  3. Terri wonderful to ‘see’ you here. How are things going?
    I had to chuckle at the leaves that dared to fall overnight. In our travels we have found it most interesting how some countries are so meticulous with clean up and others a more laid back approach. In Slovenia we joked that it must be law that every building in the country have flower boxes in the windows.

    1. Thanks so much, Sue. Things are going much better than they were a month ago! 🙂 Thanks for asking. And how’s life with a wonderful new grandbaby? Sweet, I’m sure.

      Great point about the differing levels of tidiness from culture to culture – you’re so right. I love your Slovenia observations … and I would add Germany and Estonia to the list of gorgeous window boxes.

      I’m in the process of catching up with you and Dave – I’ve been remiss during my recovery. Are you getting ready for your next adventure? ~Terri

  4. Terri – isn’t that rain glorious? Since our gardens in Central Cal are so dry – even without the drought we have now – the Bali rain looks wonderfully cleansing. Hope you are getting up and around comfortably. Susan

    1. We loved the rain, Susan. Especially after living in Khartoum, Sudan for a couple of years where we never saw a single drop of rain. Just sandstorms.

      I am doing much better than I was a few weeks ago. Lots of walking and physical therapy are helping me get my new knee in shape. As James says, “Soon you’ll be able to kick butt again!” Thanks so much for asking. ~Terri

  5. I am in the process of planning a trip to Bali in 2017 for 2 – 3 weeks, so the timing of this post is perfect. I really appreciate the additional links to check out in this post.

    1. Hi Ray, I’m so glad that you enjoyed it. You should be able to see and do so much in 2-3 weeks in Bali. And as we learned, a crucial part of the experience is giving yourself time to relax, observe, and soak it all in. I’d love to hear where you’re planning to go. All the best, Terri

  6. Bali is a pretty special place, an oasis in Indonesia in many ways. I would love to go back one day. I hope it is still as affordable as 15 years ago. 🙂 Yes, the gardens and the lushness of the island’s accommodations… so nice. You make me miss being on the road!

    1. Liesbet, what a fabulous life you and Mark are living – I definitely believe we’re kindred spirits – wanderers and adventures. Our first trip to Bali was an early stop on our first RTW 15 years ago. Maybe we were there at the same time! We were gobsmacked! Although we’d lived and worked abroad for years, we’d never encountered such an exotic location. Maybe you could get a housesitting position there. I’m so glad that you stopped by. Where are you housesitting now? All the best, Terri

      1. Terri, when I stopped by your blog and saw that you are full-time travelers, it made me so happy, that I found you and that you are living life to its fullest! I was in Bali during a backpacking trip in SE Asia, Australia and NZ. It must have been in the fall of 2000 actually. A long time ago. I sure wouldn’t mind finding a house sitting job in Bali, whenever we are ready to get out of the US again. I think my husband would like it as well. We have been talking about renting a place in Bali for a while in the past as well. We are currently in Western Massachusetts until September with a great dog, in the middle of the woods (very quiet and peaceful), happy that summer has started. There is so much to see and do everywhere. Our weekends are packed with hikes and excursions. I’m glad I started exploring at a young age. 🙂

      2. Liesbet, you found the perfect place to be for the summer because Massachusetts is gorgeous this time of year, and being in the woods is even better. I’ve always thought that renting a place in Bali would be great – our friends Steve and Leslie (Twenty First Century Nomad mentioned in today’s post) love Seminyak, but we haven’t been … yet. I’m so glad to have discovered your blog, too. It’s wonderful to meet fellow travelers. Enjoy your summer. ~Terri

    1. Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog. One thing that it does a lot in Bali is rain. The thunderstorms can be severe, but they’re great fun to watch. ~James

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