Fleming spends month in Bali, Indonesia, volunteering, sightseeing


Photo courtesy of Lily Fleming

Fleming poses with a monkey on her shoulders.

Riley Thompson, Print Editor in Chief

“I met people who I’m going to be friends with for life. The fact that all of us were there, proved just in itself no matter what else we have in common, we have like-minded goals and like expectations of life,” senior Lily Fleming said. 

Spending a month, halfway across the world, at age 17, away from everything you know, sounds like an extremely daunting task; however, to senior Lily Fleming it was more so exciting. She did the research, signed herself up and next thing she knew she was on a plane to Bali, Indonesia. By, herself.

“I originally wanted to do a volunteer trip abroad for a while, so I spent a long time researching different programs and there’s a lot of different programs out there,” Fleming said. “The International Volunteering Headquarters is the one I found that was the cheapest and the most reliable. It seemed like it was a cool location and I liked the program that was teaching with younger kids.”

Putting herself out there and following through with this trip came easily to Fleming. Once she put her mind to it, there was no way she wasn’t going. 

“I did too much preparation for me to be nervous because there was no way for me to back out after I booked the flights. It was kind of like, ‘this is it’ you have to do this now.’ It was actually way more exciting than anything,” Fleming said. “It was an opportunity that I never thought I would get to have. The prospect of being able to do this was just kind of crazy in my eyes and it was really exciting.”

Even though Fleming did her research and prepared before the trip, there were still a number of requirements she had to meet before stepping on the plane. 

“I had to make sure that I knew all the travel restrictions and got all my vaccines, as well as making sure that I had all of the details set for actually going to the certain volunteer place,” Fleming said. “I also had to get reference letters and make sure I was packing the right stuff. Travel insurance was also a big thing. You also have to get certain qualifications to actually enter Indonesia, so I just had to make sure that I knew all the details about traveling there. It was just a lot of research that went into making sure that I was good to travel.”

Fleming was one of three other Americans there, as her trip included people from all over the world. 

“There were about 70 people in my compound. It was people that I would have never in my life met otherwise,” Fleming said. “It was cool to meet a bunch of other people who were wanting to do the same kinds of things that I was doing because a lot of them were very like-minded.”

Aside from volunteering during her time in Bali, Fleming was able to experience the culture in many other ways. 

“I’d never been to a Southeast Asian country and it was such a different reality seeing how they lived and how their communities interact. It was really special to see how community based the towns are,” Fleming said. 

Sightseeing and checking some things off the bucket list were all built into the schedule during Fleming’s visit. 

“I had this mentality of ‘I’m not saying no to anything.’ I tried to do as many adventure based things as possible, like hiking a volcano or going on an ATV or going through rice fields, things that I never thought I’d be able to do,” Fleming said. “It was so exciting to be able to do it and the country itself was absolutely beautiful. Also, meeting people from around the world and that kind of environment was really appealing to me.”

Being in a place with a million things to do left Fleming with something to do everyday after volunteering. 

“I hiked Mount Batur which is an active volcano in Bali. I hiked through Hidden Canyon, which was pretty cool and they would have Tarzan swings in the middle of these canyons. I did kind of everything that I could imagine, like ATVs through jungles and caves. I ziplined through rice fields. I went hiking through waterfalls,” Fleming said. “You would wake up in the morning and someone would be like, ‘do you want to go ATVing’ and I’d be like, ‘yeah, sure one second let me put my shoes on.’ Then we’d come back, teach for three hours and they’d be like, ‘you want to go out into the town and walk through the art market?’ It was the most concentrated place of things to do.”

The people Fleming was able to create relationships with on the trip holds some of the most significance to her. 

“It was almost like we already bonded with everyone there. I made some really, really amazing friends and it was insane because I lived there for a month, but I feel like I’ve known these people for my whole life. The coolest part is now I have contacts all over the world. When I go to travel Europe next year, I have friends in Berlin and I have friends in Milan and I have friends in Paris and different areas of Europe and New Zealand and Australia. They were companions who were just so excited to experience the same kinds of things as me and I’ve never met so many people that I had so much in common with. It was very refreshing to feel like I fit in,” Fleming said. 

Going from the U.S. to Bali, and back to the U.S. was an adjustment for Fleming. 

“The culture shock coming back to the U.S. was way worse than the culture shock going there. It put into perspective how little I knew about the world before I went. It made me put into perspective things that I complained about as a kid or my goals and how I have these ideologies that don’t really align with different aspects in the world,” Fleming said. “Things are different that I didn’t even realize. It opened this world of possibilities in my eyes.”

Being all by herself in Bali helped Fleming prepare for some of her goals after high school. 

“Bali was a really good starting point for me as well because I want to travel right after high school and I learned how to be independent. I think that was one of the biggest things, traveling on my own, handling all my health insurance on my own, handling all my money on my own. I think that was another good lesson that I learned as well as creating my own sense of self in a world like that,” Fleming said. 

Lily’s father, Dany Fleming, was reluctant at first about her being so far away and handling everything on her own.

“I was excited for her to have the adventure and the challenge she was putting herself through. I had confidence in her to be resourceful. Of course, she was 12 time zones away and the things that were outside of our control certainly made us anxious, so it was a learning experience for us too,” Dany Fleming said.

Fleming’s main job while volunteering was to teach English to young kids at an elementary school.

“The language barrier was hard because I was teaching English to kids who knew absolutely no English and I didn’t know any Bahasa. I had to spend a lot of time preparing lessons to make sure that I could make the translation as simple as possible because it was hard to get them to understand what I wanted them to do. The kids were amazing and we made it work,” Fleming said. 

Prioritizing her health and staying safe was an unexpected challenge for Fleming. 

“I think another big challenge was the food because you had to be really careful with what you ate. I’ve never put so much thought into what water am I drinking? What food am I eating? How long has this food been sitting out? Where’s this from? I had to pay serious attention to detail. I didn’t have lights in my bathroom. I didn’t have good running water and I was in a bunk living with three other girls. It was just a challenge learning how to live communally,” Fleming said. “Also, just accepting their culture, especially things that they did that I didn’t think were moral. But, am I allowed to judge? That kind of mentality was kind of hard to handle.”

Besides making sure she was eating and drinking safely, Fleming had to make all of her health decisions and other things her parents usually help with, alone. 

“It was definitely something I had to adjust too, especially making it on my own. I had to think about what I could afford and make sure that I was handling my own schedule for everything. Also, making sure that I was taking care of my health. A lot of people got sick while I was there, I got put in the hospital at one point. I was in the hospital to handle all of the insurance by myself,” Fleming said. “I was surrounded by a lot of people who were in their early 20s, so it was nice to have guidance from people who had done this before. So in that aspect, I wasn’t completely alone.”

Actually following through with this long thought out trip was easier than Fleming anticipated. 

“I think that this is an experience that everyone should get to have. People think it’s a lot harder than it is, it was really relatively cheap, what I did,” Fleming said. “Getting yourself out there in the world like that is insane. You don’t even realize what you’re missing until you do it. I’d definitely do it again.”