Here I am, sitting in my home office in the southernmost tip of Germany, looking out the window at the snow falling. It is April. I cannot be farther removed from my happy days on the Gilis, a place I came to love, a place where I met friends that are still good friends today. A place also where I unfortunately lost some good friends… A place where I met and fell in love with my partner in crime, the mother of my children, my wife.
The place to which I am now, finally, also returning. This time with a family. A wild, two-year- old son and a newborn daughter, who I still need to meet as she’s currently rather unwilling to leave the cozy confines of her mother’s womb. Returning to a place I loved, sometimes hated, but most importantly, a place that has never left my heart since I first jumped off a boat and felt the Gili sand between my toes.
What makes the Gilis so special?
Ok, first and foremost, before you can understand the Gilis, you need to know one thing. It’s not one place. There are three islands and they’re different. They each march to the sound of their own drum but still there is that distinct vibe on all three of them. The only way I can explain it is, they’re like siblings. Each an individual with their own specific traits, their own character but still they all come from the same genetic makeup and they do all share the same DNA. Not so strange if you consider the local population, they actually do all have a shared ancestry. Maybe that is what’s at the root of the vibe this island group radiates.
To get a feel for the islands don’t make the mistake to just hop over from Bali for a few days. Take your time, rather spend a few weeks if you can. Get to know the locals, get to know the expats, who came and never left. Figure out which island fits your character the best.
Are you the party animal, looking for action, maybe hop off the speedboat in Trawangan. Want to chill, hang out at a beach bar and maybe, just maybe go party when you feel like it, check out Gili Air. Feel more like chilling, enjoying the sunset, maybe dive or snorkel a little bit and still not miss out on beach bars, try Gili Meno.
The Gilis and I
The funny thing is, there’s a shift, it’s been going on for a long time. All three islands evolve over time. I first set foot on Gili Air, 25 years ago. There were 4 bars, 3 dive centres and every now and then, electricity. In the evenings we chilled, if we wanted to meet people for drinks all we had to do was jump on our bikes and check at which one of the 4 bars everyone was. The other 3 would be closed. The way back would be more adventurous as there were no lights to light the non-existing roads through the island but we always found our way. And picked up some lumps and bruises every now and then…
Trawangan was, already then, the party island, which we would occasionally visit for a night if we felt like ‘really going out’. This was usually good fun and always ended with a sore head and a rather unpleasant boat ride back to Gili Air the next morning.
Meno then, was always the rather quiet, mysterious one where as legend went, nothing really happened and apparently honeymooners sat under a palmtree and declared their undying love for eachother. However, the few nights I spent there were surprisingly pleasant and also ended with sore heads and an unpleasant boat ride back to Air. We discovered there was life on Meno.
Over the years though, coming back to the shift, the islands seem to morph into each other a bit. Gili Air seems to resemble Gili Trawangan more, Gil Meno looks more like Gili Air twenty years ago and Trawangan, well Gili T is Gili T, just more of it. The thing is, even though this may seem the case it’s not exactly what is happening here. They are still the same islands evolving at their own pace while keeping their own distinct character. Not one turning into the other.
Altogether, I’ve lived on the Gili’s twice with seven years in between for a total of five years. Mostly on Gili Air where I’ve left a big chunk of my heart, but also on Gili T, where I left a big chunk of my liver, and now, I’m going to Meno. With a family of my own. This time after a nine year break. I can’t wait to see how the islands have evolved, how the feel is. What the vibe is these days. How they’ve evolved.
The biggest question is, what’s going on with the Gili Vibe, is it still there, has it changed…?
So what's this Gili Vibe then?
Your big question though still is, what on earth is this Gili Vibe? This may not have been satisfactorily explained by yours truly in this writing. With a reason though, come find out for yourself. Spend some time there, have a few sore heads, sit on a beach for no reason, look at the stars, go dive, fall in love, live….
And come to Meno if you want to meet me. I will be there for a while.