Bali is an extremely popular destination, but it feels like a lot of people don't truly know what it has to offer. It's branded very well and you could say they have mastered tourism. However, people won't actually know how magical it is until they go.
In this episode, Lauren Smith helps us understand the hype around the so-called, jaw-dropping Indonesian island that goes by the name, Bali.
But first, a little about our guest. Lauren Smith is the founder of Modern Collective, and event and travel agency. They help entrepreneurs host retreats, events, and conferences worldwide. Modern Collective also helps with partnership and sponsorship opportunities.
Monte & Coe: When did you decide to start your own business?
Lauren: I officially started Modern Collective about a year ago. I had bought the domain and had the idea probably five or six years ago.
Before that, I was working corporate. I was in the financial industry doing all the events and incentives for some of Canada's largest financial institutions. Which was so fun and such a great experience. However, being the entrepreneurial person that I am, I felt as if I wasn't living up to what I wanted to do and kind of the life that I wanted.
So I just one day literally quit my job and told myself, I think I can make this work. And it's been the craziest and incredible year and a half. I don't think I'll ever look back.
M: Seeing that you in the travel industry now, how have you been navigating your business through the pandemic?
L: We've obviously pivoted as much as we can online. A lot of my clients are actually booking for 2020 and beyond. The great part is that it gives them time to really plan out a dream event instead of being rushed to make something happen.
One of my clients, Meg, who is currently on the IG live, is booking for Costa Rica in 2022!M: What has been one of your most memorable experiences as an event or planner?
L: One of my favourite experiences ever was in Anguilla, and if you don't know where Anguilla is, it's like the tiniest island off St. Martin. I fell in love with the culture, the food, and just the visuals. It's actually where a lot of the Victoria's Secret fashion shows were filmed. Which just shows the level of experience you’re gonna get on the island.
They also have this smaller island, and it's literally like a sandbar in the middle of the ocean. It's called Sandy Island and the boat can't dock on the island so you have to get out and swim. I had one of the most incredible meals of my entire life. It was a seafood bake, but just unbelievable. I've never seen so much seafood, so fresh and so flavorful in my life. I still dream about it. And that was probably about seven years ago that I was there.
Another experience would have been in Puerto Vallarta. This one, I was actually the planner on-site and our tour company surprised me. We took a catamaran over to… a place I forgot what it's called, but it's where Bachelor in Paradise was filmed. The ocean was so choppy everyone was head over the boat. It was a bad experience, but they pulled us into this little cove and they stopped the boat and we were all like, what the heck is happening? All of a sudden a sea lion jumps onto the boat and everyone just like starts freaking out.
We've got our pictures taken. We did tricks with it like it was once one of those once in a lifetime opportunities that you're like, wow, OK, I'd come back to Port Viada because of that for sure.M: How long is the flight to Bali?
L: So we flew into Hong Kong; which the Toronto to Hong Kong flight is painful. I was expecting it to be a terrible experience, and initially, I was thinking this will probably be one of those trips where I would never do it again because it's about 16 hours. Looking back, it actually wasn't terrible. We had fun with it. We stayed awake. There were three of us that travelled together and we laughed and had fun the entire time.
There was never a moment where I was like, OK, is this flight done? It was the flight from Hong Kong to Bali that was like, "OK, just get me to the island."
M: How long was the fight from Hong Kong to Bali?
L: I think it's a five, maybe five and a half hour flight. So it wasn't horrible. But coming off of a sixteen-hour flight, you're ready to get there.
Also, I think in hindsight I probably would have broken the trip up, and wouldn't have done the flights directly. Maybe take time to travel to Tokyo or stay in Hong Kong longer because on our way home we had a 24-hour layover. It was also at the beginning of the COVID breakout (January 17th), so we literally didn’t leave our hotel room. The hotel was at the airport as well.
[See 11:00 in the video to hear about Lauren’s experience travelling during the start of COVID]M: Do you any long flight tips?
We travelled with a couple of friends, so we just chatted the whole time, but you should look at Flight Fud! It's a Canadian company, founded by a flight attendant who created this powder that you put in your water. It helps combat everything that happens to your body in the air. such as dehydration and all the crappy stuff that happens to your body that honestly, we don't really think about until you start to do the research.
It's part of the reason why we get crazy jet lag and we're tired and our skin gets dry. She made this drink that you consume, obviously, and it gets rid of all that stuff.
So we were religious on taking that every four hours during our flights and we felt phenomenal. We did not have jet lag and we weren't dehydrated at all. So flight food is a must if you're going to travel.
M: How long were you in Bali?
L: I was in Uluwatu for 8 days, and in Bali for a total of 18 days. I was there for a client retreat. We stayed at Sal's secret spot for two or three nights. then we rented that private villa for a whole week. And we had eight women and seven women in the villa. Private chef, like, we just kind of went balls to the wall and just made it epic. From there, we went to Ubud for the rest of the trip. We saw more of the true Bali culture in Ubud as well.
Getting to see like the backstreets and how people live and learning about that culture team was just like so cool and so obviously different from what we're used to. It was just it was one of those experiences where if I could tell anyone to experience anywhere in the world, it would be Bali because it's so magical.M: Where do you recommend staying in Bali?
L: It depends on what you're looking for. I think there are so many different areas that you can go to that are very touristy.
When we flew in, we went to Uluwatu. It was a little beach town. No tourism really, like very, very few tourists. No markets or anything; at least where we were staying. I think if you're going to go to Bali, you should 100 percent go to Uluwatu, even for a day or two. While we were there, we stayed in this little villa that we rented out, and it was like one of those experiences where we were in a private villa with three pools and multiple rooms. It was just an unbelievable experience.
There is a resort there called Sal’s Secret Spot. All white architecture, outdoor showers, and super dreamy. If you can make it happen, you need to stay inside a secret spot for like a couple of nights.
Uluwatu was definitely a travel place I would not have gone if someone didn’t tell me about it.
I would also suggest looking at Airbnb’s. I was very hotel focused when we were booking, but my friend said no, we have to do a villa. It was surreal. When we were in the villa, we found this company called, the Kitchen House Bali. They literally came in and cooked breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks a day for our group for 5 days. The amazing thing was that they made food for every type of diet (vegan, gluten-free, paleo, pescatarian). There was never a time when someone was hungry or someone wasn't accommodated. It was the most incredible food experience I’ve ever had. It was a five-day incredible experience where everyone could eat anything they wanted. So, if you are a foodie, Bali will blow your mind.M: Things to do in Ubud, Bali - Any attractions you would recommend?
L: There's so much to see and do in Ubud. The Monkey forest is definitely a top choice. When we got there, there were signs that said you're not allowed to feed or touch the monkeys. Surprisingly, it was a different experience than friends of ours that had. So it was kind of disappointing. Either way, Monkey Forest is a great experience and everyone needs to do it.
There’s also a restaurant in downtown Ubud called the Ubudian Café, and the food there was unbelievable and very inexpensive. There are also markets in the area that are great.
M: What's your next travel destination?
L: Well, first, probably Vancouver. I used to live out west, and it's one of my happy places. I also have a client out there, so it's the smart decision as well. Then there is a huge part of me that is obsessed with California and Hawaii. So I might have to plan something there!
We are gonna work together for sure very soon. Thanks, Lauren. I appreciate the time. And let's keep in touch. - Monte & Coe