Why my first famil ruined travelling for me

In October last year, I was lucky enough to go on my first overseas media famil. Hosted by the Indonesian Tourism Board, I was set to spend a week exploring Bali and Lombok with an eclectic mix of travel writers, influencers and editors. I was the youngest by at least 10 years, completely out of my depth and convinced that everyone thought I was just an extraordinarily lucky person who had somehow stumbled into it. Which was a fair assessment.

I’ve generally found the star rating system to be fairly generous in Asia. ‘5-Star’ tends to carry a flexible meaning. So to put a numerical star value on the Four Seasons would be to do it a disservice.

Before this trip, the only kind of luxury I knew was occasionally discovering 2 ply toilet paper in the shared hostel bathroom. I didn’t even know what a ‘turn down service’ was until I returned to my villa after dinner one night to find incense burning, silk pyjamas laid out on the bed and my tampons neatly lined up on a plush hand towel, next to my toothbrush and floss.

I arrived at the Jimbaran Bay resort in the sweltering mid-afternoon heat and was immediately greeted with a cool towel, cocktail and personal concierge. Five minutes later, I was whisked into a golf buggy and began cruising through the lush gardens, that I later discovered take 200 workers to maintain every day.

We came to a stop outside a pair of ornate wooden gates. The driver jumped out and grabbed my bags while I clambered out of the buggy in a less than graceful fashion. He pushed through the doors, revealing another an impeccably maintained garden with a path leading past a cabana and toward a sparkling plunge pool. At this point, I was sure I was in the wrong place.

The grand tour revealed a tropical outdoor shower, a bathroom half the size of my entire house and the most magnificent bed I’d ever seen. I managed to scrape my jaw off the floor in time for my driver to ask if I would be needing anything else. I thanked him humbly and waited from the front gate to latched before losing my marbles. I tried to contain myself but I’m pretty sure he still heard me squeal, even over the hum of the golf buggy.

It took me all of about 7 seconds to strip off and make a bee line for the pool. Wading out toward the infinity edge, water cascading over the lip, carrying with it a few fallen petals from the frangipani tree above. In front of me, the waves lapped the shore of Jimbaran Bay and I thought to myself “THIS is living, Barry”.

I’d never stayed anywhere like this, and chances are, I wasn’t going to ever again. I delighted in the attention to detail. USB ports and charging sockets in the bed head, a selection of oils and body scrubs at the foot of the enormous bath, and a hand-written welcome note directing me to the mini bar; decked out exclusively with vegan goodies.

At breakfast, I was spoiled with exotic fruit platters and bespoke vegan fry ups. And at dinner, my meal was presented by the chef himself, wanting to make sure he’d marinated the tofu enough.

Being the sticky beak that I am, I checked out the nightly rates to see how many months it would take for a plebeian like me to pay off this stay. I had to squint just to make sure I was in fact seeing a comma, not a decimal point.

While I was happy not to be footing the bill, I can understand why people shell out the money to stay here. It’s not just a resort. It’s an entire experience. The exorbitant price tag reflects truly personalised hospitality, hours upon hours of landscaping, carefully crafted menus, borderline-neurotic cleanliness and a sense of luxury that cannot be replicated at a lower price point.

Even though I’m back to creaky bunk beds in windowless dorm rooms, I’m fuelled by a dream to make it back to that plunge pool someday, stare out over the ocean and think to myself, “I finally made it”.