What would you expect from life in Bali? In August 2019 I packed my laptop, Wacom tablet, my wife, her laptop, 30 kg of other important things and moved to Bali. It was the beginning of my digital nomad life. We sold everything we had – our apartment, car, all things that had some value (except my action figure collection, which is safely stocked in 24 IKEA boxes in the warehouse) and decided to travel full time.
Everyone we knew told us that we were crazy, that we were too old to do things like that. Our friends were convinced that we would come back to Slovakia in two months. But it didn’t happen. We have been traveling full time for more than a year now, and we are not planning to come back in the next few years, if ever.
But in August 2019 we didn’t know how it would all work. The only source of information about the digital nomad’s life were blogs and YouTube videos. No one from our close surroundings had ever done it. We didn’t know where to start and decided to go to the most famous place, which promised to be heaven for digital nomads – Bali. Did it fulfil our expectations? I’m happy to share my experience with you in this article.
Expectation No.1. I’ll meet travelers and digital nomads who will become my friends and tell me more about other countries.
This expectation was also connected with a fear of isolation. I couldn’t imagine how we would meet new people. Like sitting in a bar, would we start to chat with people at the next table? Those days it sounded ridiculous to me. Now it doesn’t; that’s exactly how it was in Athens. People were just starting to talk to us, listening to our travel stories and telling their own.
Living in Bali, it was even easier. I have to admit that during our first week we lived in a bungalow and didn’t talk with anyone except the staff in the hotel and restaurants. But moving to the guesthouse was a game changer. We worked in the shared kitchen, and every time someone came there it was enough to say: “Hi, how are you? Where are you from?”
In the guesthouse, we met a lot of wonderful people. Our first friend was a German programmer, Rey. He came to Bali with his friend to work on their project, but the second guy had a bad accident which forced him to return home. So Rey didn’t have company and we spent a lot of time together going for dinner or playing board games in the evenings. He doesn’t use social networks, so unfortunately we are not in touch anymore.
my friends I met in Bali
Then we met the Canadian couple, Julie and Frank. These guys are a real treasure! They were much more experienced in traveling and gave us a lot of helpful advice. We spent a wonderful time together in Bali and planned to meet again in August 2020 in Istanbul. Coronavirus canceled our plans, but good luck helped us to meet again in Athens! They became our close friends and I can’t wait to meet Frank and Julie again.
Thanks to life in Bali, I’m happy to be friends with: Rajiv, a French guy with a huge heart and the funniest stories ever; Martin from Italy, whose personality would need an entire book to describe; Ivana and Milos from Serbia, with whom we experienced our biggest adventures in Bali and celebrated Christmas; the sunniest people I ever met, Carola from Peru and a Venezuelan guy Armando who lives Australia; and many other cool people.
I’m glad that our first stop was Bali. It gave us friends we are still in touch with. And this expectation was fulfilled for me 100%.
Expectation No.2 Life in Bali will cost less than in Slovakia. We will be able to downshift life without feeling limited.
For me it was true. Of course, life in Bali offers a lot of entertainment as well as fancy places to eat and live. But it is not a problem to live in a nice place even when you’re on a budget. The only disappointing thing was that I imagined that I would live somewhere close to the beach with an ocean view. That has never happened because this is not cheap at all.
My wife and I started tracking our expenses, and I can see that even though we had to pay for visas and go to Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Bangkok, five months in Bali cost us less than five months in Slovakia. I know that the financial question is very important for everyone who wants to work and travel. That’s why I wrote a separate article about our expenses.
Expectation No.3. I will be able to do a lot of sports in Bali. Every morning I will go jogging and surfing at the beach.
This was not an expectation about life in Bali, but about myself. In Slovakia, I was always too busy to do regular sports (or at least I thought so). And I expected that the new surroundings would push me to become a sportier person.
The truth is that it is never about the external things. It is about priorities and habits, which are not so easy to change if you’re used to something different. My first two months in Bali, I was working ten hours a day, six days a week, same as at home. I didn’t find time even to try surfing. Our guesthouse was situated far from the beach on a very crowded street. Time lost in traffic discouraged me from even trying to go to the beach in the mornings.
But I wanted to change my physical condition, and step by step I did it. First, I started to do small exercises in the mornings near the swimming pool. Then I tried Thai boxing with my friend Rajiv, but it didn’t hold my interest. Later, my wife found Crossfit training which took place on the beach three times a week in the mornings. And this time, bad traffic or early waking up was not a problem for me.
Life in Bali: Surfing & jogging at the beach
I tried surfing, but it didn’t become my everyday activity, even though I loved it, although I didn’t love waking up at 5 a.m. Maybe it will be a surprise for you, but the ocean can be very crowded; that’s why it is important to come early. If to come to the beach later than 7 a.m., you risk sitting on your board waiting in the “queue” for a wave.
And everyday jogging on the beach we fulfilled only when we moved from Canggu to Sanur. There we lived 10 minutes by foot from the beach, and the road was very calm. We left the idea of morning training and went for jogging and exercises at sunset. And it was awesome! I have to say that at some points I liked Sanur more than Canggu. This place was not so social, but much more comfortable for me.
Expectation No.4. It will be easy to maintain healthy eating habits living in Bali. We will eat healthy vegetarian meals in nice places.
This is also an expectation more about myself than Bali. If it was fulfilled? Yes and no. Bali offers a lot of opportunities for cheap meals in local warungs. But the things they cook are far from healthy. And the meals are mainly meat-based. All the nice vegetarian places were quite pricey for us, and we visited them only one or two times a week.
One more thing that I’d like to mention is that Indonesian laws about food products are different from what we are used to in Europe. I’m used to checking the ingredients and macronutrients on the labels before I buy something. But most of the things in Bali were not properly marked. And according to the taste, even simple bread contains much more sugar than in Europe. Everything was super sweet.
To maintain healthy eating and weight loss, we had to cook our meals. We used to buy basic things like vegetables, eggs, tempeh and tofu at the local market, and then things like oils, olives and cheese in the Pepito Market. Thanks to that, my wife and I reached our goals in weight loss and saved a lot of money.
Expectation No.5. Life in Bali with new digital nomad friends will give me enough confidence to travel full time and explore new countries.
Yes, yes it did! Thanks to all the people I met in Bali, I realised that there is no such thing as a “normal lifestyle”. In my 30s, I’m not too old to travel or collect action figures. And I’m not the only one who lives life differently.
What I’d like to say is that if you want to change your life, but all your friends and family tell you that you’re insane, it’s just because they don’t have the route you want to follow on their mental map. Step on it, and you’ll meet people who’ve followed it already for a while and will support you.
That’s what I did. And now the only thing I regret is that I haven’t done this earlier. Even though corona canceled a lot of my plans (I got stuck for six months in Cambodia and now I’m in Greece instead of exploring Nepal and Tibet), I’m happy with the way I live. And I’m thankful to Bali for being such a good start to this chapter of my life.