RASH: A Dream Versus Reality Memoir by Lisa Kusel

Have you ever thought about what life would be like if you moved?  And, I don’t mean to move town or city, I mean really move, to a place far away from where you know no-one, where the language, food, culture, people will all be far removed from anything you have ever experienced before. 

Well, that is exactly what Lisa Kusel convinced her family to do. 

RASH: A Memoir About the Reality of Living in Bali

RASH, Lisa Kusel, Memoir, Bali, Writer, Book Review, Non-fiction, Travel, Travelling Book Junkie

RASH: A Memoir by Lisa Kusel

No longer feeling fulfilled with life in California, she felt that her family needed a new challenge; a new start.  She wanted to once again feel satisfied and content with life and understandably assured both herself and her husband Victor that a move to the glorious country of Bali with its pristine white beaches and crystal clear waters was exactly what they all needed.

As a teacher, Victor loved the idea of making history and becoming part of something truly exceptional, therefore when an opportunity appeared to become not just a teacher but an innovator and creator of a completely different kind of school, he jumped at the chance.  Jumping on a plane to meet with the founders of the Green School Project, Victor, very quickly, decided that this was the place for him and his family and was quick to Skype Lisa to confirm that he would be signing on the dotted line and they would need to pack up their lives in America for a new life in Indonesia.

Looking back perhaps this was a rash decision on both of their parts – with no school currently in place and living quarters still in the planning stages perhaps being part of a new venture so early on in its existence was a step too far for this western family.

Uprooting not just themselves but their six-year-old daughter, Loy, Lisa and Victor, however, did not seem fazed by this new stage in their lives and instead thought about all the wonderful adventures they would have on the other side of the world.  Even after landing, having checked themselves into a beautiful hotel right on the beachfront, with luxurious rooms, air conditioning, and pools they still did not think about the enormity of their choice.  That didn’t happen until much later.  Even after seeing the school for the first time and where they would be living as part of the wider Green School community, their positivity remained, which I have to say amazes me because if someone told me I would be living in the Balinese jungle with no real privacy and no complete walls on my house I think I may have run a mile.

However, as people say, the grass is not always greener on the other side.  Once the novelty of their new life wore off, and the fuzzy haze of excitement that people always have when they land in a new country for the first time had dissipated, reality set in and life didn’t look quite so rosy. 

The running of the school was dysfunctional and unruly whilst the living conditions only grew worse with time.  Who wants to return home at the end of a sweaty day in a classroom with no textbooks or computers to a place covered in mould that has no running water for a shower? 

Hoping to make the most of their experience, promising to at least see the first year out together as a family, they hire Seni to help prepare food and complete work around the house so that Lisa could work on what she hoped would be her next best-selling novel.  Each morning Victor and Loy would head off to the wall-less school building for a day of alternative schooling, Lisa would open up her laptop and attempt to write before failing miserably and heading off in order to try and find inspiration from somewhere else.  Perhaps that was the drive for Lisa – the desire to be in a place that would once again spark her creative streak so that she could once again do what she loved.  In reality however, all that happened was that Lisa became more withdrawn and unhappy with life.  She became more difficult to be around, complaining constantly about the path that she had pushed her family into taking.  Victor, on the other hand, was loathed to give up. Yes the school had teething problems but he could see its potential, he just didn’t know how long it would take for it to reach it and whether he had the stamina to help it get there.

Rash is a story that highlights the lows as well as the occasional high.  It is a memoir that shows the other side of travel. Yes, we all desire utopia; we all want to live somewhere beautiful that inspires us daily to be the best we can possibly be but what we fail to realise is that often that blissful world is all around us and that the real problem is that we ourselves have caused the rut in our lives either through chasing that promotion or bigger, better house and lifestyle.  If only we were able to take a step back from it all – to step outside of ourselves – and see that it is not the place that makes us happy but ourselves and our loved ones around us.  Perhaps people would then stop dreaming about tomorrow and live for today.

Our Final Thoughts on RASH…

When Lisa contacted me and asked me to review this particular book she described it as the opposite of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert which of course meant straight away that I wanted to read it.  It’s not that I do not like Elizabeth Gilbert’s story, far from it, but it is more that I wanted to read more about other peoples’ experiences of chasing that dream of living somewhere new and exciting; somewhere where personal possessions and wealth are no longer important but where making memories takes president. 

Don’t get me wrong, at times, when reading this even I wanted to give Lisa a kick and say surely things cannot be that bad, but who knows after all she was the one living it.  What I would say, however, is that there were times where I could relate to it all.  Having uprooted ourselves with a move to Italy (OK England to Italy is a bit different from California to Bali I get it!) there are times where we expect more, where we do question what we have done and maybe begin to realise that there are things we miss about home.  Life is what you make of it and whether you choose to take up a life in a foreign country or stay put at home; no-one should question it.  Likewise, for those of us that do decide to take that leap into the unknown, remember not to be so hard on yourself when things don’t go to plan.  Remember that you had the balls and determination to try something new.

For me, RASH gave me perspective.  Do I still want to visit Bali?  Without a doubt, but I also appreciate visiting and living are two very different things and the side I am likely to see is not the side that Lisa and her family experienced.

Interested in hearing more about Lisa, Victor and Loy’s Bali adventure?  Then check out Rash: A Memoir for yourself and don’t forget to let us know what you think.

Of course, I have not visited the Green School in Bali and therefore feel that I am unable to pass judgment on the project itself, feeling that it is important for everyone to make their own mind up.  Therefore, I have also included the TED talk by John Hardy, the founder of The Green School so that you too can hear about his own ideas on the project.

We did receive a free copy of RASH to review but as always all views and opinions are my own.  Some of the links within the article are affiliated with Amazon.

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