For frequent travellers there is nothing more special than finding a place that makes you feel at home. Destinations like this may be different for everyone but like home they should all be places where you feel welcome, relaxed and comfortable. No matter how many times you visit, your 'home away from home' should be a place that replenishes, rejuvenates and brings happiness to your life. For one such Australian couple this place is Bali - a magical island that draws many Australians every year; and for good reason.
While attending a work conference in Bali recently I had the pleasure of meeting retirees Frank and Karen Meek of Darch, near Perth, Western Australia. Coming from north east England, Frank and Karen have lived in Australia for the past 32 years. The chance to live in the sun burnt country was an opportunity they could not refuse; and it was from this proximity that they discovered their dream destination.
Having now been to Bali 14 times in just 5 years, this adventurous couple are seasoned Bali travellers. I just had to talk with them to get a sense of Bali as seen through their eyes, from a couple who have come to love this idyllic place and who have made Bali part of their lives.
For many Aussies, Bali is all about the night life the surf and the shopping. For this social and with-it couple this is a place to become immersed in the culture, to meet interesting people both local and from around the world and to of course enjoy the relaxation that comes with an exotic setting in a tropical climate.
After a cool dip in the pool we were lounging poolside in our inviting resort and Frank told me about his background and how they came to discover Bali.
"It's all about the people, culture and service we receive. For many years I drove the City Beach bus route in Perth and watched people take the bus to school and work and I've even seen some grow up and get married. Now that I'm retired we wanted to find a place that we can enjoy together, so we tried Bali and never looked back!" said Frank, a retired bus driver.
Karen added that they have become regulars at The Aston Bali Resort in Nusa Dua and have enjoyed the past 12 visits there.
"What's brought you back so many times?" I asked.
"At our age it's about relaxing, somewhere that is easily navigated, clean and safe," she added with a big smile. "Oh and with an ocean view of course!"
This was a couple who had obviously found their slice of heaven. While listening to Frank and Karen, I took in the ocean setting, the beautiful pool and waterfall and could see why they chose this place.
"The Aston is a wonderful resort. It's very private and the pool is just fantastic, it's our favourite feature of the resort. We love the accessibility the pool offers us and the surrounds and views are just beautiful, very relaxing and thoroughly enjoyable," said Karen.
One other feature that the Meeks have come to love of Bali is the value - a draw card for tourists from around the world.
"As retirees, short inexpensive trips are preferred and Bali seemed the obvious choice for us," Frank said.
"We soon fell in love with the culture and everything is available right from the resort and all at great prices when compared to other destinations."
When asked what hot tips they can offer to other travellers both Frank and Karen agreed that for value and convenience, resort accommodation was their preference.
Most resorts offer airport transfers as well as transportation to popular areas such as Kuta for shopping and Ubud for spectacular views of rice paddy fields, working farms, temples and mountain scenery. A private car tour of Bali is also a must do, "simply tell them what you want to see and they organise the day for you" Karen said. "The driver will take you on one of their many recommended sightseeing tours created personally by the guides. It's the perfect way to see the beauty of the island and experience a personalised tour without the crowds."
I could see that Frank and Karen were sold on Bali and the Aston Bali resort and I must say I was too. I thanked Frank and Karen and wished them many more happy trips. As we said our goodbyes I thought to myself, this is just what a "home away from home" should be like - a relaxed and happy setting being enjoyed with friends both old and new. With that we parted company as I turned to the swim up bar. Here's a cheers to new friends and to new adventures in paradise.