In 2011 I took the brave step to leave my home country and pursue a different life in Bali, Indonesia. As much as this was an exciting challenge it was full of uncertainty as I was leaving a comfortable life to a very rough idea of a plan and no reassurance.
At the very start, it was, of course, all very exciting to be here on a tropical island with all the new sights and sounds. I had visited Indonesia a number of times since 2005 but had only been to Bali once. However, travelling to a place for a short period of time and living somewhere is a totally different experience and learning journey.
My wife and I had left the UK with some savings and this is what we would live on until we could generate an income. I had booked myself into an Indonesian language school for the first month for some intense language learning and stayed at a guesthouse nearby. This was really helpful and started to give me the basics to get by. Next, we were trying to find a place to live. At first, this was not easy, we did not know anyone here and some of the early people we met were not genuine and were looking to scam us. In the UK we were active with an online group called Couch Surfing. This is a site that allows people to connect with others around the world and arrange to stay at each other’s places for free. In Cardiff where we were living, we would have monthly meetings for local hosts and travellers that were passing by. In Bali, there was also a group and they met once a week. We connected with this group and met a whole bunch of great people who were, and are really genuine and who we have maintained close friendships with to this day. No matter how wonderful and great a place is if you don’t have good connections it is incredibly isolating and lonely.
Eventually, we found a place, it was a bit of a nightmare to find a place, but we got somewhere. There are tricky rules and regulations about home ownership in Indonesia, so our best option was a long-term rental. We took a small little home and decided to rent it for 10 years, bold, but why not. It needed a lot of work and renovation and we spent a great deal of our savings on this. Also in true Bali style, this took ages and at one point we ended up living in this building site in the hope it would hurry things along, which it did not. After about 4 months the house was finished and we could start making it into a home. Also after 4 months reality set in, the romance faze was over and we started to question what the hell we had done. We really had no idea how to create our business idea and very quickly our money was running out, so I needed to find a job. I started working as an English teacher in a local school, as this is the easiest thing to do as a native speaker. To be honest, I hated it, my romantic idea of children in Indonesia wanting to learn and improve themselves was killed.
I learned that the children had little discipline in there lives so once they came to school it was like a zoo and all I was doing was trying to keep things in order. There was no structure in the classes and it was totally unclear if there was a curricular or not. Then I was asked to go an teach in the kindergarten. I asked what am I meant to do here? I was advised to sing songs or something like this. I ask, what you want me to sing, the Beatles? No nursery rhymes was the reply. Do you ever have those experiences when you feel like you are out of your body and watching yourself? Well, this was a moment for me. I was looking at myself trying to sing nursery rhymes and looking at myself and saying, what happened to your dignity bro? Don’t get me wrong this is a very noble profession, but I sucked at this and just had to stop. This gave me the motivation to get this business idea off the ground my wife and I started working really hard to make this a reality after this.
The first project we delivered was a disaster and cost us money to deliver leaving us very much out of pocket. But by the next year, we had turned this around and things started to get better. We were not making lots of money, and for sure financially I would have been better off staying in the UK, but I can say that the quality of day to day life is much nicer in Bali. Things are much cheaper (if you live more local) the weather is always warm, and there is lots of nature to visit. I really love just jumping on my scooter and finding some little beaches, waterfalls are driving past all the rice fields. The culture here is also so rich with temples everywhere and ceremonies happening all the time. Also once you get to know people they are very excepting and kind and I can’t count the number of event and ceremonies I have been invited too. In the UK I was waiting and hoping for an international posting and had really put myself in this victim mentality. It was an incredibly hard choice to make and the early struggles were not easy, but I would not change them for the world. I have experienced so much and the work I have created has literally taken me around the world. I know that despite having all I needed in the UK I was deeply unhappy and always wanted this type of experience. Of course like everyone I worry about the future and stability and I do also want to plan for the future. But I am also glad that I choose to live my life while I am young (ish) and able because this promise of working hard and enjoying your retirement has no guarantees, we could become sick or even die before we get there. So balance your choices and every choice comes with one form of sacrifice or another, but try to regret nothing whatever you choose.