Like me, Zanzan has spent his career in the hospitality industry. As manager of ARMA in Ubud, Bali for eight years, he ran one of the most beautiful and successful hotels in the city. He met Desmond Tutu and other luminaries when he helped my friend Carole Angermeir plan a major conference in 2006. By many measures, Zanzan was a big success.
On other levels, his heart cried out. His oldest son Rama would cry when Zanzan left the village for work. And while Zanzan was respected and well compensated by his employer, he felt off-purpose and longed to make more a difference in the lives of his family and village.
Torn between his loyalty to his employer and his inner desires, Zanzan went on spiritual retreat to pray for direction. By the time he returned home, he had envisioned Omunity, a retreat center in his home village of Sudaji.
Ubud, where ARMA is located, is a tourist mecca—it’s a cultural and healing arts center that draws people from all over the world. Not so Sudaji. Zanzan’s village is a small collection of banjars—closely linked communities whose members rely on each other for social, family and economic support—with no inherent tourist attraction. It’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by beautiful jungle and spectacular waterfalls.
Zanzan had the vision to create something from his dream. In addition to the draw of being closer to his wife Putu and his three children, he felt a tug to help his village prosper. So while he was in his temple retreat for 33 days, he envisioned every detail of Omunity—the name, the layout, the design, and (I assume) the tagline, “Love in Action.”
He has created a spiritual center that draws people for individual retreat, yoga workshops or exploration of the traditional Balinese way of life. He built a central thatch-covered hall for yoga, meditation and ceremony, four small sleeping rooms, a pool and dining area.
Putu and others help with the management and meals. They engage the villagers to make traditional crafts to sell. And, with his experience in the hotel business, Zanzan counseled families on how to design home-stay (he calls them “Om-Stay”) facilities that Westerners would enjoy.
Our little group of 20 stayed on site and in various compounds in the village—I was lucky to stay in his family’s Om-Stay next door.
Zanzan and Putu are on the way to achieving their dream. Omunity is a beautiful oasis of calm and spirituality that allows its visitors to experience the Balinese way of life in the traditional setting—away from the bustle of Ubud.
More importantly, Omunity is a way to help the community while providing for their family.
In some ways, Zanzan’s story echoes the challenge many of us have in America—how to balance society’s measure of success with the desire of our hearts. Zanzan could have stayed in the safety of his Ubud career, which required little risk and provided many rewards.
But something called that was bigger than that, bigger than him. And now, he’s building a dream, out of nothing but love.