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What My Pretend Honeymoon in Bali Taught Me About Life

By Margaret Manning June 18, 2016 Travel

I never had a real honeymoon. You know how these things go. My ex-husband and I didn’t have the money and we couldn’t justify the time.

So it was that, as a 60-something-year-old divorced woman, I received an intriguing offer on my trip to Bali. I was asked to test drive a honeymoon experience with the luxury hotel group Alila.

Without hesitation, I said “I do” and set off on a wonderful adventure with my friend Alex.

They Wanted to Create an Entirely New Kind of Luxury Travel Experience

The target for the “Magical Mystery Tour” of Bali is honeymooners of all ages. It is also perfect for celebrating milestone events like a divorce, retirement or anniversary.

Older adults are getting remarried in record numbers, so, I agreed to tag along and give them my experience.

If you are lucky enough to find love in your 60s, 70s or better, I highly recommend you getting in touch with them. It was an absolutely amazing adventure and can’t think of a better way to start your new life with someone!

It’s a Brilliant Idea – But Will It Work?

First, a little background information. The definition of luxury travel is evolving. Hotels know that people are looking for “wow” experiences and rich stories instead of just enjoying exquisite accommodation and flawless service.

Alila’s innovative idea was to deliver an all-inclusive tour of Bali, visiting their five spectacular sustainable properties in a kind of “Great Escape” adventure.

The plan went something like this. My pretend husband and I would be picked up at Denpasar Airport and the next 5 days would be a magical mystery. The itinerary would be built around our personal preferences, gathered in a pre-trip interview.

The journey itself was going to unfold day by day. It would be a perfect example of organized spontaneity, travelling by car from Ubud to Manggis, Soori, Seminyak and Uluwatu.

Meeting My Pretend Husband Alex

It was time to meet my “husband” for the week. Alex, a 39-year-old man from France was to be my 5-day temporary life partner.

The creative genius behind this trip idea, Alex is also the Chief Experience Officer of Bali-based BookGreener. His talents include writing about sustainable hotel properties and organizing magical mystery tours in Bali. Alila by the way is one of the most sustainable hotel groups in the world.

Alex was wonderful! He was so much fun to be with! People in general – and women in particular – fell in love with him everywhere we went. He was thoughtful, intelligent, funny, attractive, playful and sexy. Ok, have I overdone the adjectives?

Book Greener Alex

As it turns out, he also became a good friend on my transformation journey and one of the best travel partners I’d ever had in my life.

Now, before you get too excited, I need to make it clear that the relationship was wonderfully platonic and professional! So, sorry, no romance novel here! But, please keep reading anyway.

Alex and I are both experienced travellers and had been guests in many 5-star hotels. So we had our luxury antennae well-tuned. We wanted to push Alila and their staff to the extreme. We wanted to test their new idea and, more than anything, we wanted to have a lot of fun!

Establishing Our Roles for the Trip

I was going to play a sophisticated, mature and confident woman. Alex’s one desire was to make our “honeymoon” experience memorable and fun. His mission was to organize a trip that would stay in my heart and mind forever.

Alex worked with Alila to understand our goals, just like a potential client. He gave them a detailed profile of our preferences. When Alistair, General Manager of Alila, Ubud, asked me for my favorite music, I answered “Motown, Bollywood and Jazz.” I didn’t want to make it too easy for them!

By the time we started our adventure, they knew everything about me. My favorite spa treatments, drinks and foods were all documented.

The idea was that my favorite things would just appear spontaneously as the trip unfolded. My neatly folded luggage would follow me and arrive at each hotel like magic. My personal desires would be met spontaneously and effortlessly. I’ll break the suspense and tell you that it all worked beautifully. Even my passion for salted caramels was fulfilled at every single location!

Here’s what happened on my wonderful pretend honeymoon adventure.

Day 1 – Ubud: Healing, Swimming and Salted Caramels

Just like a participant in the amazing race, I woke up feeling nervous. I had been told to dress casually for a 90-minute drive from Denpasar Airport to Alila Ubud. It was just on the outskirts of the city.

The car was fully equipped with Alila amenities. There was insect repellent, facial oil, body lotion and facial spray, along with snacks and water. So far so good!

After a spectacular lunch and swim in the amazing infinity pool at Ubud, I enjoyed real handmade salted caramels. Delicious!

Alila Ubud

Then, we visited one of the most respected healers in Ubud and drank delicious passion fruit vodka at an evening healthy mixology course.

The next morning, a private yoga class with a local Balinese teacher was organized. It was more than an adventure – I was beginning to relax and let floods of emotion and self-awareness sink in.

I must admit I was still feeling a little nervous.

Day 2 – Manggis: Elegance, Sunrise and Facing My Fears

The drive to Alila Manggis was spectacular! Winding along remote bumpy roads, I started to sink into the magic of Bali and experience its depth of beauty and history. The property was exquisite and the grounds were magical.

Alila Manggis

Alex played volleyball and swam. Then, we enjoyed a fabulous candlelight dinner by the sea. To my delight, it ended with salted caramel ice-cream.

Finally, I started to move from just having fun to exploring my emotions and thoughts. I started to feel that I was worth the pampering and attention. I was good enough. I know that this doesn’t seem like a big step, but, like many women, I sometimes struggle with my self-esteem. It was wonderful to feel special.

The highlight in Manggis was a 5am “Chasing the Sun” boat tour. Going out to sea in intense darkness helped me to confront my fears. Eventually, I started to believe I was not quite as fragile as I thought.

Alex and the boat crew started to understand what a “wow” experience looked and felt like. Things were changing – for all of us.

Day 3 – Soori: Sustainability, Yoga and Cooking Bali Style

Each one of the Alila properties had a different personality. They were shaped by incredibly interesting General Managers, not to mention the surrounding ecology and culture.

The rice paddies, as we approached Alila Soori, were breathtaking! I felt like I had been transported into the very heart and soul of Bali.

Soori rice paddies

One common thread that wove its way through the entire tour was that the staff got involved in the experience. In some ways, they had as much fun as Alex and I did!

At Alila Soori, I took a cooking class and did some yoga. Alex opted for a Segway tour. My “husband” and I clearly had wonderfully diverse interests!

This part of our trip ended with a wonderful surprise – a 1980 VW Combi bus. It took me straight back to my bohemian past – I am over 60 after all.

VW bus

I even let go of my inhibitions and did a little karaoke. Maybe, one day, I’ll even have the confidence to share it with all of you!

Day 4 – Seminyak: Sea, Sun and Spirit

Alila Seminyak is the newest of the properties that we visited. The town in which is it located is emerging as one of the new trendy places in Bali.

The ocean crashed with dramatic energy as we enjoyed a candlelit dinner near the beach. A modern band played jazz as colored lights were projected into the sky.

For me, one of the most beautiful features of this property was a Hindu temple that had been on the beach for hundreds of years. With beautiful and dramatic respect, it had been left as a key feature of a stunning new hotel property.

Alila Seminyak temple

Food, fun and music on the beach showed me a different side of Bali… and myself. The wind blew in my hair and I felt beautifully connected to nature and the sea. I felt ageless.

Day 5 – Uluwatu: Elegance, Enchantment and Blessings

There is only one word to describe Alila Uluwatu – “gorgeous.” The view from the restaurant is just unreal and the architecture out of this world. I don’t use these words lightly. You really have to see it to believe it.

Alila Uluwatu

Breakfast was an endless stream of healthy organic foods, fresh coffee and smiles. Lots of smiles.

An exquisite spa treatment left me relaxed and rejuvenated. As a special treat, the hotel staff taught us how to prepare traditional Balinese offerings.

In the evening, we were taken to the sacred temple at Uluwatu, where we made our wishes for the future and asked for protection and blessings.

As the week came to an end, I realized how much I had been personally transformed by this trip. By stepping out of my comfort zone, I really immersed myself in a situation where every day allowed new experiences to unfold.

As older women, it’s easy to feel like reinvention is something that only happens to other people. This trip taught me that we are the only ones holding ourselves back.

My pretend honeymoon was the start of a beautiful love affair – with myself!

If you find yourself looking for the perfect place to celebrate a new love or your 40-year anniversary, I encourage you to consider Alila Hotels. You won’t regret it for a second!

Would you go to Bali to celebrate your anniversary or a honeymoon? If so, what would you want to do on your trip? Please join the conversation.

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The Author

Margaret Manning is the founder of Sixty and Me. She is an entrepreneur, author and speaker. Margaret is passionate about building dynamic and engaged communities that improve lives and change perceptions. Margaret can be contacted at

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