Part 2 of “The Traveler’s Journey: Growing Through Experiences” Series. If you haven’t already, check out the introductory post in this series here! Or, check out the latest story in the series on the importance of Leaving Your Expectations At The Gate.
Uncertainty in travel isn’t a bad thing; it gives you the freedom to let your curiosity fly, the ability to be open to new experiences, and the willingness to embrace new things. Being uncertain is natural. When you travel you’re in a completely new place, experiencing new things every single day, and in many ways, you’re like a toddler… you know what you want but aren’t entirely sure how to get it or how to communicate in the foreign language that’s buzzing around in your ears.
You have a choice. You either step into that uncertainty, maybe one toe at a time until you’re fully immersed in it, or you run away. Stepping in (or diving in head first), however, is the most rewarding part of travel. Take the uncertainty and the new experiences and see what you can make of them: where do you go, what do you do, what do you learn and experience? When you allow yourself to be willing to embrace the unknown you will find yourself learning and growing every step of the way. So, let yourself be curious, be open to new things, and embrace the uncertainty in front of you. The opportunities that come your way will be worth every step that you take.
What We Learned From Embracing Uncertainty And How It Led To Stumbling Into A Cock Fight
When we arrive in a new place we love checking out what our new home is like and exploring our surroundings. As you turn off the main drag to get to Candidasa Backpackers (great place to stay in Bali for the record!) you are immediately greeted by school children playing on a concrete volleyball court and a Y-intersection on the road. Our place was down the road to the right but we decided to venture to the left as we hadn’t explored down that way yet, and well… exploring is just in our nature 😉
We scootered along passing local homes, palm and coconut tree jungles, and cows tied up under the canopy of the trees. Suddenly, we noticed the peculiar site (at least in this neighborhood) of dozens of motorbikes parked along the roadside. As we got closer we began to hear what sounded like chanting and yelling, so we slowed a bit to see what was going on. As we crept by the sound, a local who happened to be driving by us yelled out “Cock Fight!”. Not quite sure if we heard him correctly, we ventured to the end of the road to look at the beach before turning around. As we drove back toward the crowd we decided to stop in and check it out. We came for culture and new experiences, so why not?
We parked, gave each other curious (and slightly nervous) smiles, and headed toward the path leading to the unknown noise. As we walked closer we quickly noticed a giant stadium-like structure filled entirely with men. The man at the gate chuckled and waved us along into the stadium as the rest of the locals who noticed us gave curious, yet, encouraging smiles as we entered. What did we find…? Two roosters going head-to-head… Blood, feathers, squawking… The whole nine yards.
Instinctively, there are thoughts that enter your head when you’re not used to encountering the brutality that an event like this provides “how awful… how inhumane… how can this be pleasurable”. We don’t condone animal fights, and in some ways, being there felt a bit like we were agreeing that this is ok, but we had to put all that aside. When traveling abroad sometimes you must put your beliefs in check, step outside your comfort zone, and understand that you come from a completely different place. To learn about local culture, it is important to acknowledge that certain things are not black and white. To us, it’s an inhumane act, absolutely… but here it’s tradition. In the US we glorify violent sports like Football, Boxing, and MMA without batting an eye, so why should this sport be viewed differently? Especially when you consider the fact that these are animals we raise to kill and eat.
Would I want to see a testosterone-filled fight between two roosters with tadji (razor blades attached to one of their feet) fight to the death again? Absolutely not. But at the same time, I’m glad we decided to venture down this path and get a glimpse into a totally different world. It’s not about agreeing with what’s happening, but more so about attempting to understand.
These fights don’t happen all the time (nor are they legal unless for a religious ceremony) and we entered at the perfect moment to be able to see this fascinating, and brutal, tradition. However, the main lesson that this moment taught us was about embracing uncertainty, stretching our comfort zones, and acting with confidence. If we’d stumbled across this a few months ago, when we first arrived in SE Asia, I would have been too nervous to get off the bike and head towards a bunch of yelling locals in a village where there were likely to be no other foreigners. Moreover, once we entered and stood in the stands I realized that I was the only woman, and that probably would have been enough to send me scurrying the other direction. Cock Fights are predominantly enjoyed by men and are huge betting fests. There may be women from time to time, but often they are the ones selling food and drinks on the sidelines. We surprised many people when we walked in, and a few greeted us with smiles asking where we were from and how on earth we ended up in their bleachers. It was a surprise for them to see us standing side-by-side with all of the local men as they placed wagers on the cock they believed was going to be the champion and which was going to be the winning family’s dinner.
Cock Fights weren’t well known to us before this encounter but we stepped right in (after some slight hesitation). Embracing uncertainty, in this case, allowed us to let our curiosity flourish and witness a time-honored tradition in Balinese culture.
Be sure to check out the next post in this series where we explore the value giving people the time of day in your travels and how it will impact the experiences you have.
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