Living in the Land of Love

Guest Post by Mike Henry

Terraced rice paddy fields Bali, Indonesia

Photo by Rudy Herman on flickr

As I write this, the movie Eat, Pray, Love is hitting the cinemas in the United States. I am sure most people are already familiar with the story.

The book’s author, Elizabeth Gilbert, is frustrated with her life in the United States and decides to take a year off traveling, spending time in Italy to eat, India to pray and Bali to find love.

I have been living in Bali for the past year and it is not surprising to come across many people (mostly women) who have come to Bali after reading the book. I haven’t had a chance to see the movie yet, but I am sure even more people will be drawn to Bali either for a short or extended stay.
Bali often has that effect on many people. People come only expecting to stay for a short holiday and then they find that they don’t want to leave!

I myself was looking for somewhere to live abroad and after spending some time traveling to Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia and some other parts of Indonesia, I finally decided I wanted to stay in Bali.

What’s So Special About Bali?

So what wanted me to live in Bali? Bali is a small island and you can travel from the south to the north in 2-3 hours. Bali lies just 8 degrees south of the equator ensuring warm weather throughout the year and is a mecca for surfers and fans of marine sports.

Bali has many picture postcard perfect scenes, from the beautiful sunsets to the magnificent rice field terraces carved out of the mountains.

Even though I have been here a year, I never get tired of the beautiful scenery.

Another thing which leaves a strong impression on people visiting Bali is the people. Balinese are mostly Hindu and preparing for and attending the many ceremonies is an important part of their lives. Religion, community and family are all important to Balinese and the strong community aspect of Balinese life, makes it an interesting and rewarding place to live.

In most western countries we have lost the community aspect to our lives and often people don’t even know who their neighbors are. This is one aspect of living in Bali that was unexpected for me, but it is one that I really enjoy. People seem to have more time for each other, even if it is just sitting outside chatting.

Different Timing

The whole concept of time is also completely different. Not only do Balinese use a different calendar, there never seems to be a rush to do things. This of course can be frustrating for many expats and it does take some time to get used to, especially if you are trying to run a business or build a house.

I think in western countries from a young age, we are taught to always make the best use of our time, whether it is going to school or at work or even in our social lives. It leads to people forever rushing around going from one appointment to the next. ‘Doing nothing’ is usually seen as wasting time and after moving to Bali it can take some time to adjust to a life where you don’t always have to be doing ‘something’.

Working in Bali

Other than a few English schools that employ a few language teachers and some five star hotels that have foreign executives, there are few jobs for foreigners in Bali. This means to live in Bali on a permanent basis you either need an outside income source like a pension or investments, or you need to run your own business.

Some foreigners have successful businesses exporting furniture and Balinese handicrafts. Many foreigners also have businesses catering to Bali’s tourism trade, which is the islands main source of foreign income. I run a few websites making money from Google Adsense and affiliate programs.

Since it’s not easy to find work in Bali, I wrote a free guide to how people might be able to earn a living. It is aimed for expats wanting to live in Bali, but much of the information could also be applied to any other country. It can be downloaded here:

Fortunately the cost of living is fairly low in Bali, if you move outside of the main tourist areas. Indonesia is a developing country, so internet is not that fast and it’s relatively expensive, but it is adequate for most people’s needs.

Some people move to Bali thinking it will be one long holiday and it will be just like living in ‘paradise’ and they are usually the expats who don’t end up staying long. I think Bali is a fantastic place to live, but like anywhere in the world, it’s not always a bed of roses.

As long as people realize that there will be problems along the way, you don’t constantly compare everything to back home and you have to adjust to a new culture and way of doing things, you can have a great life in Bali.

Mike Henry has lived in Bali for the past year, and loves it. He’s expecting a lot more interest in expatriating to his island now that Eat, Pray, Love has been released. Mike gives advice about living in Bali here.

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