Last summer I had the chance to visit Bali and had an unbelievable experience.
My last day there my friend Joel and I woke up around 2 AM to drive to Mount Batur for a hike that promised the best view of the island. Our driver dropped us off at the bottom of the mountain around 3:30 AM and we met our tour guide who was accompanied by a nine-year old girl named Bella, who was wearing what appeared to be a school backpack.
It was very cold and dark when we began the hike and we carried as little as possible so that we could make better time; the goal was to arrive at the summit — 1700 meters up — before sunrise. Although it was not a crazy height to climb, the conditions and terrain were challenging and not for the faint of heart. I think I called a 30-second time-out a couple times; no big deal, I’m not an avid hiker. Bella, however, followed us up the mountain without any need for pause and just smiled softly when Joel and I were gassed. We reached the top with about 30 minutes to spare before the sun came up. This wasn’t one of those “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey” experiences. This was solely about the destination.
At the summit while it was still pitch black out, Bella took off her backpack and opened it to reveal bottles of soda and water, which she offered us for purchase. Bella could have charged us $100 a bottle and we would have gladly paid — we were very thirsty and she had the summit market cornered. After selling us the drinks, she quickly turned around to head back down the mountain. When we asked why she wouldn’t stay for the sunrise, she said she had to get back for the start of the school day. She hikes the mountain a couple times a week and sells those drinks just to cover the cost of her school.
That was impactful. I know I took for granted as a kid that I received my education for free. This little fourth grade girl was up at 3 AM hiking up mountains to give herself the opportunity to learn. That’s inspiring.