Your Story: Preserving Balinese Handicrafts

Many years ago, I was in New York City attending a lecture presented by the Dali Lama. He spoke about the importance of language and tradition to preserve culture and the identity of its people. It compelled a desire within me to open a store and sell art and crafts from around the world. I imagined a store with a worldly vibe providing each visitor a global journey experience with each site and smell while browsing. I was a young woman with big dreams.

Shortly afterwards, life had its twists and turns and I found myself working in Corporate America selling highly scientific products with a scripted sale. Most days, I felt like a UPS driver or a robot.

The next 10 years of my life was filled with a daily work routine, each day taking me further away form my authentic self. My soul was yearning to connect with the ancient world and travel to far away places. One day, I remembered that lecture back in New York many years ago. I began plotting an escape form my career and suddenly the idea of selling handicrafts seemed the perfect solution. It would be a way to travel, reconnect with the myself and the earth while buying items that I could resell back in the US with purpose and meaning.

With the universe and fate supporting my journey, I was connected with a experienced and successful exporter. I had no idea where to start and she suggested that I travel to Bali, Indonesia.

The Balinese people have a history stretching centuries long creating beautiful pieces of artwork to decorate temples and palaces. These skills have been inherited and passed down with family traditions. Each village has craftspeople with specific talents using wood or stone or other raw materials. Besides beautiful rice fields, friendly faces and monkeys – Bali is filled with wholesale manufacturers, craftspeople and suppliers.

I traveled alone to Bali. It was my first big sole female backpack trip. Bali is the farthest destination in the world away from the East Coast of the United States. My driver was prearranged and took me to each village that specialized in these different crafts. If you are looking for a trusted, friendly, English speaking driver in Bali, my friend Made Budiarta , tell him Melissa sent you.

While traveling from village to village, I found it quite interesting how some of the stores were organized. Upon entering a store, the final products are displayed. In the back of the store there is a  “hidden” back door leading to an large open outdoor work-space. This is where the magic is happening.

I expressed interest in learning every step involved in the creation of the final product. The man that owned this store welcomed me.  He said that I could watch, learn and participate in the creation of the crafts. There were many people from different families in this outdoor work area, each had a adjoining storefront. I stumbled upon a hard working Balinese woman. She was washing pieces of wood in a bucket. With the help of a interpreter she invited me to sit down and assist her. I did.  After washing many pieces of wood, I had splinters and my skin began to wrinkle. I began to appreciate the hard work involved and wear and tear on the body when machines are not involved.

Being involved with the intimate creation of a product, watching its progression and the story about it, is the evolution of pride. My purchase of 30 wooden Buddhas would provide enough money to feed the this woman and her family for one month.


I had been in sales for many years selling products that lacked depth and meaning. This was an opportunity to buy incredible handmade pieces of decor, clothing and jewelry and sell something that spoke to my soul.

When someone is shopping for the perfect gift there is many reasons to choose handicrafts.

One of my favorite reasons to buy handicrafts is quality, thought, uniqueness and creativity put into each piece. When you give someone a gift with love, you can be sure that your gift was also made with love. Giving handmade is the true essence of gift giving.

Many people will not embark on a journey to the other side of the world to purchase hand made goods but I don’t believe the solution is buying mass produced factory products. Visiting a local fair trade store is the way to make a purchase that you feel good about.

Handicrafts create a personal connection between the seller, buyer, the product, product creator and the country of origin. The gift itself is a journey inside the mind.

One day while in Bali, I rented a bicycle and decided to ride from village to village. I whizzed by a man sitting on the side of road that I found intriguing. Quickly, I turned my bike around and rode back to him. He was sitting on the side of the road with tools and a old portable radio beside him. A Mariah Carey song from the 90’s was playing, while sat there intensely focused on sculpturing a piece of wood.

It was a sight and sound that I will never forget the rest of the life. I peddled away feeling emotional and envious of his life. Back in the United States, I had just walked away from a busy lifestyle and corporate job that nearly destroyed me. It was in this moment that I remembered who I was again.

These are the beautiful human moments, similar to this, captured when a buyer like myself personally travels to an exotic location. Our fast paced technology world must never forget the importance of the ancient world. It demonstrates how everything is connected to nature and humans place within history and the planet.  It is a return to the soul and a return to ourselves.

About Melissa Rondeau:

 Melissa Rondeau is the founder of Wanderess Bleu. She was working as a professional in emotional wellness and a corporate job when she experienced major loss. Nothing in her traditional toolbag was working to overcome daily struggles and finding her authentic self. She decided to trade in a briefcase for a backpack.

Melissa became a Wanderess, a woman searching for meaning, traveling to over 25 countries. Her mission was to discover ancient wisdom and powerful insights that anyone could use in everyday life to transform the self and relationships to transcend life struggles and rediscover joyful living. Melissa’s insights and methods have helped men and women to reclaim their power, manifest dreams, find clarity and learn how to choose happiness. Visit Melissa at her website to schedule a free 15 minute empowerment session to ask anything. Melissa is also available for regular private phone empowerment sessions.

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