As a writer, one of the great luxuries of my job is the freedom to move and remold my office towards whichever location tickles my creative muscles. When I say ‘office’, I mean a place of quiet and calm in which I can easily tune into my writing. Beyond this, I hunt for inspiration where I can, but from my attic room office in the North of England, I can only find so much. I read about exotic lands and beautiful vistas. I daydream about the places I have already been and those I’m yet to see, and I often find myself being whisked back to beautiful Bali. Ultimately, however, I am still daydreaming in my attic room.
In a few weeks I will be moving to Bali to live in the daydream. All day. Everyday.
Moving my life abroad is a bold decision that has not been easily made. For those considering a similar move, here are some of the factors that have swayed and seduced me.
Why Move to Bali?
Lets start with the obvious appeal to a Brit: The weather. As a nation, we are famous for our moaning, blaming our ills on the grayness of our days, and sniffing out sunshine wherever we can find it. Yes, twelve hour days with bankable sunshine helps to top up that vital vitamin D, but it is so much more than that for a lot of people. Equatorial days offer a year-round balance that settles the soul. In Bali, you can rise naturally with the sun and later sip a Bintang while it melts into the evening. Sunrises and sunsets should never be taken for granted. They bookend the day with a richness that is wholly celebrated in Bali, be it through dawn Yoga classes or surfing the last few barrels in the blinking glint of twilight.
Hand in hand with the weather is the scenery. I come from a beautiful part of England and I certainly don’t feel burdened with the ‘grass is always greener’ curse, but what we have here is rolling hills and valleys and little else. Bali is a paradise in the strictest sense of the word. Well groomed white sands stretch the coastline and volcanic mountains peak above endless jungle. The towering stepped rice paddies never fail to infuse you with the quintessential feeling of rural Asia.
I am a foodie. Like many before me who have explored the Island of the Gods, I follow my belly as often as my brain. Bali’s eclectic range of traditional and hybridized, Western-influenced recipes will forever keep you coming back for seconds. Where else in the world can you blast out the morning cobwebs with a vegan superfood shake, fill your face with all you can eat Padang for lunch and settle in for the evening with a sweet suckling pig dish, all for the price of a fish supper back in the UK?
Indonesian food is rich, varied and delicious. The thought of limitless spicy beef rendang washed down with an iced Bintang often makes me a little bit emotional.
While we are on the subject of good value, the cost of living in Bali can be ridiculously cheap without having to sacrifice the little luxuries in life. Fitness and wellbeing spas, daily massages, fuel and amenities, entertainment and even accommodation are all affordable at worst, and a downright steal at best.
Escaping the rat race
Don’t get me wrong, Bali isn’t an absolute heaven, untouched by the daily grind. Commutes can be a study in how quickly chaos can take control and how many road rules can be completely ignored in favor of blaring horns and high risk maneuvers. Outside of the cities there is relatively little affluence and most people work long hours, but life in Bali is still low tempo.
The daily grind for many who live in Bali only happens in the coffee machines.
At home I roll out of bed into a cold room, bleary eyed and crying out for a double shot of sludge. Sound familiar? How about starting your day with a morning swim in deep blue waters followed by some fresh Balinese coffee, as earthy as if brewed in Mount Agung itself.
The rat race in Bali is a fun run. Friendly locals and expats alike seem to be constantly working towards a strong community, with a focus on living. Life on the Island of the Gods asks you to slow down a beat or two, breathe a little easier and take a step back to find the time to read, write, make jewelry, surf or pursue your hobby of doing absolutely nothing.
Ultimately, Bali appeals for its lifestyle. Balinese Hinduism is markedly unique. It celebrates beauty in the mundane and is seamlessly interwoven into Balinese life. Food, art and dance are created as pleasures to impress the Gods, and if they can impress a few mortals along the way then who is going to complain? The sense of community and the daily, life-affirming positivity that exudes from the locals has drip-fed into their surroundings and manifested physically, in stunning architecture and gardens, endless festivities, God-pleasing food and spectacular art and dance that has been borne of years of tradition. That the Balinese have been able to embrace Western culture but not allow themselves to be saturated by it, moulding it around their own tradition rather than allowing it to steamroll through, is inspiring. Which leads me to the final positive on this list…
All of the above join together to draw the eye and treat the senses. Whether I am marveling at another sunset from a Gili beach, chowing down in Canggu or trekking through jungles to one of the many stunning waterfalls on the island, Bali makes me want to write.
There is a beautiful plurality to life in Bali.
Should you wish to immerse yourself completely in the deep, rich culture you simply have to hop on a moped and drive. It won’t take long to find a Hindu celebration or a traditional rice paddy farm, eschewing modern life in favor of the simple flavors. You may even find it within an hours drive of one of the hubs, like Kuta, which has embraced Western culture to an incredible degree, and has a beating heart that pumps neon and noise all night long. Where you place yourself on the sliding scale is entirely up to you and, importantly, it is a sliding scale. I usually sit myself just left of centre, favoring lush paddies, clean mountain air or the gentle fizz of an evening tide on my toes, but the occasional appeal of McDonalds’ golden arches, Bintang by the barrel and an all night boogie, sends me to the other end of the scale. This loving balance of East meets West is what appeals to me. And many, many others.
Moving to Bali might seem like a no-brainer considering the list of love you have just read, but it does come with its own set of anxiety inducing obstacles. First and foremost, despite my attempts, I cannot bring my entire catalogue of friends and family with me. I have settled on bringing just the lady in my life which has doubled our anxiety, as for each stipulation I have, my partner has one to match. Making the move as a couple may soften a few worries but it brings its fair share of extra baggage, both metaphorically and literally.
My family and friends think they might never see me again. This is not true, of course, but leaving people behind can be terrifying. I’m sure anyone considering a similar move is already aware of this, but until you are faced with the reality, with bags packed and flights booked, it is easy to push this little problem to the back of your mind.
I am also leaving behind some aspects of my work. Moving to Bali does not mean I stop being a filmmaker but, in a freelance market, time away from a developed network can be a dent in your career. This is something everyone must consider: Unless you are lucky enough to have a job that can be conducted remotely, there is a huge hurdle between your comfort zone and the life you could lead in Bali. Finding work can be very difficult. Indonesian law rightfully favors locals for most work positions and unless you have a specifically desired skill, working in Bali may not be an option.
These speed-bumps breed anxiety and an endless stream of hesitations:
What if things go wrong? What if the savings run dry and I find myself with nothing and no-one to fall back on? What if something happens while I am away? What if I can’t cope with the hot season or the monsoon? What if I crash my moped? What if I get bitten by a monkey? What if I get really fat on my Bintang and Rendang diet?
There are natural ‘what if’s’ for everyone who may be considering moving to Bali. They will grab at your ankles and try to hold your feet firmly down on safe ground. But…
What if it all works out perfectly?