When in ROAM…

We’ve spent the last two months living in Ubud, Bali at ROAM. And while we have explored Bali during our stay and done some short side trips, the majority of our time has been living and working in a co-living space that’s perfect for the digital nomad lifestyle.


The ‘hood

We’ve enjoyed getting to know our neighbourhood of Penestanan, with it’s winding, busy roads and its pathways between the rice fields. We found our local coffee houses, A.R.A.K. (close to ROAM) and Dharma (close to Bintang), our spot for Happy Hour, Element (2 for 1 cocktails and they’re ridiculously tasty!), and some cheap and cheerful places to eat, such as Bayu’s kitchen, Ibu Putu’s Warung, Sri Ratih, Cafe Vespa, and Bamboo Spirit.

We found the ‘back way’ to Bintang supermarket via the pathways, as well as the ATMs that give out 2.5M rupiah (some max out at 1M or 1.5M). We’ve enjoyed some nicer meals at Pacha Mama, Bridges, Elephant, and Roots. We’ve frequently popped across the street to a little convenience store for snacks, Cokes, and cold Bintang. There is a yoga place 5 min away and a gym 15 min away, which is small but affordable and has enough equipment to get the job done. There is also a fantastic running trail, the Campuhan Ridge – the start of the trail is closer to Ubud, but it’s still part of our ‘hood.

The people

ROAM is about people. Since we’ve been here quite a while, we’ve met and said goodbye to many people who have become dear friends – people from all over the world – Greece, Austria, The Netherlands, Ireland, the US, Australia, the UK, Germany, Russia, Canada…and many more places around the world.

We’ve broken bread – both here at ROAM and at various restaurants around Ubud – we’ve taken day trips, sat by the beach, held workshops, done yoga together, hung out, shared drinks and stories, played Cards Against Humanity, and helped each other professionally and personally. We’ve been a family – and just like any family there are those you love, those that you find intriguing, those you learn from, and those who get on your last nerve. 😉 Think of a group of colleagues who work and live together. That’s the ROAMILY.

There also is an incredible team of locals who literally keep ROAM running, including a Community Manager who brings us together, handles any issues, and creates community events.

And last, but definitely not least, there is Lu (Princess Lu, LuLu, Miss Lu), our dog.


She is not technically people, but please don’t tell her that. Unfortunately, there are those that want her gone. This is maddening and upsetting to many of us, as she is as much a part of this family as we are, but there is a plan to re-home her in California with a former ROAMIE. If you’re so inclined, you can donate to help get her there.

The work

While we’ve been here, Ben’s been building an app for a client – which just launched on iOS (Congrats!) and is soon to launch on Android, and I have been both writing and doing some contracted editing work. The writing is going extremely well and I have added nearly 70,000 words to my manuscript, which is the sequel to the book I published last year. It will be ready for a July publication!

There’s a shared work-space on the upper deck, a conference room for quiet and air conditioning, and it’s been fun to work from our little deck or poolside. I’ve also popped out to the coffee house for a few hours at a time for a change of scene. And, we have often taken our work with us when we’ve had day trips, which is a really lovely way to work.

The day-to-day

Certain domestic concerns have been taken off our hands here at ROAM. We don’t wash our towels and sheets, we don’t take out the rubbish and nor do we clean our rooms, which are serviced weekly. The pool, the grounds, the common areas and the plants are all taken care of. Alleviating these tasks frees up an enormous amount of time – at least for me.

We do wash our clothes, shop for and cook our own meals (if we want to eat in) and we clean up after ourselves in the kitchen. ROAM supplies bottled water, but the water in the rooms and kitchen is filtered, so we can brush our teeth with it and wash our fruit and veggies with it.

We share all the common areas – not just the work spaces – so try to be respectful of other people. Laundry is only done on a 20-min cycle, for instance. We each have our own shelves in the fridge and in the pantry, and we share some community food, such as fresh eggs daily, milk and fruit.

There are also weekly events organised by the Community Manager to ensure the community meets new arrivals, gets to see Ubud and other parts of Bali, and gets to experience the community feel that makes ROAM unique.

Would I come again?

In a heartbeat.

Sunset from ROAM

With thanks to Ben Reierson for additional photos, including ‘Sunset from ROAM’ above.


How to write a sequel


I originally posted this while writing the follow up to One Summer in Santorini. It is 14 months on, and I have edited this post accordingly.

I begin this post by planting my tongue firmly in my cheek. I would love to say that I’ve unlocked the secret, that I’ve discovered the Holy Grail of writing, that I’ve figured it out! In truth, I have discovered a kind of secret sauce for myself. Other writers may benefit from my ‘process’, so if anything I say resonates, have it – it’s yours.

Reflect on book one

I wrote book one, One Summer in Santorini, for several reasons:

  • My previous agent told me that the book I was writing at the time was my 5th book, not my 1st – too many characters and a multi-narrative. “You’re not Liane Moriarty,” he said. “Yet,” he added. He then challenged me to write a simple, linear narrative. Which I did.
  • It was a love letter to my partner, Ben. We met in Greece and I borrowed (rather heavily) from our story for the book  – the first half anyway. When I introduced a love triangle I was well into the realm of fiction.
  • It was a love letter to Greece. Greece is a place where you go to fall back in love with yourself – and with being alive. It challenges you to participate in your own life. If you haven’t been, go.
  • I had some demons to exorcise. I was single for half my twenties and most of my thirties. And by ‘single’ I mean I dated awful men who I changed or hid myself to be with. I wanted to write about a woman who calls an end to that, who won’t compromise herself again to be with someone.

Make time

I wrote book one on weekends and on evenings after working at a full-time job where I spent the bulk of my time writing. It was often hard to come home (usually post gym or errands) and sit down and write for myself. I did it, but it took a couple of years.

For the sequel, I had time. In 2018, we were on a year-long sabbatical. I had contract work, but I could dedicate significant chunks of time to writing. I started writing the sequel in February while we were still in Australia and I hit 10,000 words. I was reasonably happy with that progress, but my goal in Bali was to up the pace. After 8 weeks there, I finished the book at about 95000 words.

Celebrate the milestones

Every writer gets to decide what each milestone is. I celebrated when I got through an emotional part (if the writing left me sobbing or laughing out loud – milestone!), or I finished a chapter. The sequel is written in parts – and finishing each one was a milestone. Celebrating, by the way, included sharing on social media, pedicures, cocktails, massages, and congratulatory hugs from Ben.

The secret sauce

With book one, I had to knuckle down. I had to carve out time, and often had to force myself to sit down and write or edit or proofread. I had to self-impose deadlines and get others to hold me to account.

Being in Bali, with the luxury of time, the portability of a laptop, and being inspired by my surroundings, I had an absolute ball writing the sequel. And I worked faster, which meant there was continuity in the writing – the style, the voice, the narrative, character development. I had to work laboriously at that in the editing process of One Summer in Santorini, because I wrote it over such a long period of time. With the sequel, I’ve made the editing process easier on myself, just by writing over such a concentrated amount of time.

Most importantly, though, I let the story come to me.

This is the hardest part to explain, and is still my process. I start with only a rough outline, and I have no idea how many chapters it will take to tell the story. For the sequel, I didn’t even know how it ended when I started writing it.

When I got stuck, or I didn’t know what would come, I stepped away – sometimes for a few hours, sometimes days, and when I was doing something else – running, cooking, dodging scooters on the road – it came, the next part of the story. Then I would sit and write.

I’m so grateful that we made this decision to pack up our lives, sell up our stuff, leave our jobs and to live around the world. It was my special not-so-secret-anymore sauce.

While on sabbatical, I also wrote another follow up to One Summer in Santorini about Sarah’s sister, Cat. This book will be out early next year with the sequel to follow.

Don’t (not) look down: walking in Bali

We’ve been living in Ubud for 7 weeks now (one week to go before we move to the US). We opted not to get a scooter for the duration of our stay and walking most places has been transport, sight-seeing and exercise. For longer journeys, we’ve grabbed taxis, but according to my FitBit, we’ve clocked up hundreds of thousands of steps in the last two months.

The trickiest thing, though, is that walking here is a precarious endeavour. Obstacles include:

  • no footpath – you’re essentially walking on the road a lot of the time
  • stray dogs and dog excrement – even the dogs with owners wander here
  • offerings to the gods – to be respectful, we must avoid stepping on these
  • scooters and motorcycles – MANY of them, both driving and parked
  • giant tour buses, trucks, cars, and taxis – all driving within inches of you as you make your way down the road that doesn’t have a footpath – eeek!
  • broken footpaths – giant holes, missing tiles, broken bricks, and cracked pavement
  • streams of unidentifiable water – hopefully it is just water, but you never know 😉
  • stalls and shops that spill out onto the street
  • rooster in baskets – they’re fighting roosters 😦 – and random roaming chickens
  • giant piles of dirt/gravel/bricks used for building – when people are building a home or business or even a wall, often the materials will be dumped by the truckload on the road and footpath – everyone just has to go around it until it’s all used up
  • random debris/detritus/rubbish
  • uneven, patch-work paths – including the (running) track along Campuhan Ridge and the pedestrian-only paths

So, here’s my photo series called: Don’t (not) look down!


Bali: what to bring, what to buy here


When we decided to spend two months in Bali as the first leg in our year-long sabbatical, I read as much as I could find about what to bring and what to buy when I got to Bali. The information was scarce, scattered and often dated. Hmmm.

I did my best, but over-packed some items which are abundant and ‘cheap as chips’ in Bali, and didn’t bring enough of some others.

Here are my suggestions for long-term visits to Bali.


  • sunscreen We did well here. We each brought a two-month supply of aerosols, pump-packs and tubes of sunscreen. It is extremely expensive in Bali (it starts at around 200000R or $20AUD per bottle).
  • liquor We bought liquor duty free and were allowed to bring in 1L each. Mixers are cheap here, so it is an inexpensive way to have a drink at your accommodation.
  • salon hair products I didn’t bring enough. And my hair is paying the price. Pantene and other supermarket hair products – shampoo, conditioner, styling – which are full of sulfates, silicon and other hair no-nos are readily available and are cheap. The good stuff is hard to find, and is comparably expensive.
  • vitamins and supplements These are (pretty much) cost-prohibitive in Bali. They are 2-4 times the price in Australia, and 4-6 times the price in the US/UK/Canada, etc. We ran out of zinc and it was 4 times the price as in Australia.
  • ziplock bags We brought a stash of these in different sizes and have used them – a lot. They’re great for using your Kindle on the beach or next to the pool and for keeping snack foods fresh. They don’t weigh a lot and they pack small.
  • re-usable water bottles We brought our own. Many places, including accommodations, restaurants, and gyms, have bottled water coolers or provide filtered water so you can top up your water bottle. Bottled water is readily available, but recycling in Bali is not as prolific or as effective as it is in other places. If you can avoid buying small plastic bottles of water, please do.
  • Mid- to high-end skin care It will be hard to find these products – I haven’t seen them – so I recommend bringing your own.

Buy here

Things that are very cheap – or quite a lot cheaper – in Bali and that you will be able to find in the nearest supermarket:

  • ‘drug-store’ (US/CA), ‘Priceline’ (AU) or ‘Boots’ (UK) skincare products If it is an inexpensive range of skincare at home, you can buy it here – and often much cheaper than at home.
  • toothpaste/mouthwash
  • deodorant
  • shaving cream A little cheaper than home and readily available
  • bug spray Cheaper than at home and readily available
  • body/hand moisturiser
  • body wash
  • micellar water (makeup remover) It’s much cheaper than at home
  • tissues/wipes/cotton pads/buds
  • nail polish remover Also, professional mani/pedis are inexpensive here
  • tampons/pads
  • Yakult It is a LOT cheaper than acidophilus tablets and is readily available – it’s a great way to keep your gut healthy – and a lot cheaper here than in Western countries
  • coffee beans If you’re a coffee fiend and travel with your own grinder/press, the coffee beans grown and roasted in Bali are very good and around the same price as home.
  • beer Not that you’d bring a two-month supply of beer, but Bintang (Bali’s national brand) is drinkable beer and is super cheap, and you can get San Miguel (and SM Light – low calorie, full alcohol), which is a lot like Corona and is also cheap here.
  • snacks You’ll be spoiled for choice (see the pic)
  • hats sunhats are cheap here and readily available. They’re also hard to pack without squashing them, so just buy them here.

Buy ‘in a pinch’

  • electrical adapters These are much cheaper than at home if you forget yours, but may not work as expected – or at all.
  • Nuts/granola/protein powder/protein bars These are expensive here or may not be available, so if they are very important to you and your daily routine – and you have the weight in your luggage – bring them instead of buying them.
  • Clothes for sun-cover I needed a high-neck T-shirt for sun-cover, and it took me 2 hours to find what I needed, after going in and out of around 15 shops. The sun is intense here. Bring clothes that cover you when you’re out and about; buying them here is a little time-consuming and you will pay close to what you pay at home.
  • Swimsuits Ben lost his in a taxi after a group trip to the beach. The usual surf brands have stores here and you can spend $80+ AUD on a swimsuit (for men or women). We managed to find one on sale for $30 AUD.

Live without it

  • Wine The taxes imposed on imported wine make it 3-5 times the cost of what you’d pay back home. They do make wine here, Two Islands, which is made from South Australian grapes and is okay but pricey for what it is, and Balinese wine, which is made from grapes they grow here and harvest 3 times a year. It’s not cheap for what it is, and not really drinkable. I recommend that you just don’t bother drinking wine.

The new normal

When you’re living abroad, there are things that were initially obvious to you – or even jarring – that over time become your new normal.

Here are some from living in Bali over the past couple of weeks.

Where there’s a wool…

I have turned into a sheep. I have naturally curly hair; it’s fine and I have a lot of it. In Bali, where the humidity creeps down to 80% but typically sits in the 90s, my hair has turned into what I can only describe as ‘wool’. I can slick it back, pin it back, put a shot-glass full of product on it, and half-way through the day, I look like a sheep. Yesterday, I decided not to fight it. I loaded up the hair product and let it dry naturally. The result: thick spiral curls. I was okay with the curls until I went for a massage and she massaged my head. Goodbye curls, hello wool. When I sat up I looked like Shirley Temple after she’d been electrocuted. It’s my new normal.



That’s rubbish

Quite simply, in Bali, there is garbage nearly everywhere. While visiting friends on the north coast over the weekend, we were admiring the water views and watched a local woman simply sweep a pile of garbage – mostly plastic – into the ocean. In fact, there is so much garbage in the water off Singaraja and Lovina Beach, no one but the locals swim there. Every dot in the water in this photo is a piece of plastic and there are hundreds of pieces in amongst the rocks. It’s sad to see in this otherwise idyllic scene.


And here are some local kids playing amongst the detritus, oblivious.


Kamikaze drivers

Apparently, the speed limit across most of Bali is 40km/hr. From our road experiences to date, there will often be long stretches of driving where we won’t crack 20 and then suddenly, we’ll be flying down the road on the wrong side doing 80 and overtaking a scooter piled high with reeds or baskets.

There seem to be no road rules, and even a red light is merely a suggestion. Overtaking is the only way to get anywhere and there are no roads with more than one lane in either direction. On many occasions, I’ve had to place a lot of trust in the driver that they don’t want to die either, and that we will not have a head-on collision with that huge bus coming straight at us. My new normal is to take these journeys in stride (Valium sold separately).


I’ve also stopped being baffled by the westerners who wear helmets while riding a scooter, and strap their helmet-less baby to their front, or let their helmet-less toddler ride standing up between their arms. No, your parental powers will not prevent your child from getting a serious head injury if you have a collision.


The last time I was in Bali in 2015 and the time before that in 2003, the cry from vendors as you walked down the street was, ‘You buy? You buy?’ In 2018, I have yet to hear ‘You buy?’, but even a short walk will elicit cries of ‘Taxi?’ from all directions. Men – I have yet to hear this from a woman – watch for tourists who look lost, hot or tired – or all three –  and ask if they want a taxi ride.  They will then ‘phone a friend’ who shows up in a car to whisk you away to wherever you want to go.

Taxis here are reasonably cheap, most are newer model cars, and as the Balinese take pride in their vehicles, they are immaculate. That said, we’re more than happy to walk – especially when it’s for exercise – so our new normal is to say, ‘no thank you’ a dozen times any time we decide to walk somewhere.

(Not) wining and dining

Wine is expensive in Bali – even the bad stuff, like Yellow Tail. Sorry, Yellow Tail, but even though I miss wine, I will not pay $30 Australian for you. There are some Balinese wines, but as they pick 3 vintages a year here, the grapes – and the wine – are apparently flavourless. Our new normal is to drink Bintang beer (that is, Ben drinks Bintang) and spirits. Spirits are not cost prohibitive, and it’s nice to have a gin and tonic with fresh lime (Mmm, lime) as a sun-downer. I am, howeverlooking forward to our stint in Seattle in May when we can hit some of our fave Washington wineries!


Also, my new normal is co-living, but that’s another blog post…

Living La Vida Local

Part of being a digital nomad, rather than being on a year-long vacation, is actually living in the places we are visiting.

We are currently based in Ubud, Bali, staying at ROAM, a co-living space where we have our own room and bathroom and share all living and working spaces with other digital nomads.

When people ask us where we live, we say, “For now, we live here.”

ROAM is about 2kms from central Ubud and the pace here is both peaceful and frantic, depending on what we’re doing and where exactly we are. Last week, on day one, we made the 15 minute walk to the supermarket to stock up our pantry and fridge. Most of the walk looked like this:

And the last part looked more like this:


Both have their merits – the scenery and many of the Balinese structures are just beautiful – and we are becoming very agile having to side-step precarious footpath hazards, stray dogs, scooters, and chickens as we make our way around the town and its surrounds.

The trip to the supermarket was fantastic. Yes, it is a large store with a good selection, but I am one of those people who finds it fascinating to trawl around a supermarket in a new place, particularly a new country. We spent well over an hour walking the aisles figuring out how to feed ourselves up to three meals a day in a (reasonably) healthy, affordable, somewhat local way.

Living here also means working here.

And this year, ‘work’ means both writing (like this blog post) and working for clients. I am currently mid-project for a US-based client, which will wrap up by the end of the week. Then I will return to writing Book 2 of the Someone series – Chapter 5 awaits!

There are quite a few options for working at ROAM, as the robust WiFi is accessible everywhere. There is an undercover rooftop work space, but for editing work I prefer the quiet and coolness of the little conference room tucked at the back of the property. (Ben likes it too.)


It’s still early days yet for me to figure out my favourite place for writing. Perhaps on our little front porch, on a sun lounger by the pool, in the little conference room, or maybe on the rooftop with the other digital nomads.

Living here also means getting out to see what there is to see.

We started today with a stunning walk along the Campuchan Ridge with two of our fellow Roamies, Yuliana from Ukraine and Nana from Denmark. The walk rises away from a riverside temple and meanders along a ridge with views on either side.


It leads to a little village where there are several resorts and even a little coffee shop, where the coffee was excellent – and cheap!

Living here also means the day-to-day stuff of life, like doing laundry and cooking meals.

But it also means that I can have my morning cup of tea and read my emails with this aspect on our little porch.


We have plans to keep getting out and about – both here in Ubud and further afield in Bali – so we can soak up as much of Bali life as possible. But for now, I feel right at home, and am loving living la vida local.


Wherever I lay my head…

The expression, ‘wherever I lay my hat, that’s my home’ has never been as relevant for me as it is now. As I only wear a hat on occasion, however, I think of it more in terms of wherever I lay my head.

Since we handed over the keys to our apartment on Feb 2nd, Ben and I have been on the go – first to New Zealand and currently in Western Australia where we’ve been visiting family and friends. We have stayed in 13 different places in the last 6 weeks, and in each one we’ve found a way to think of it as home – even if it’s only been for a night.


I am a nester. I am being told by spellcheck that ‘nester’ is not a word, but I have been a nester for as long as I can remember so I will respectfully disagree, spellcheck, thank you very much.

As a nester, I will always unpack certain things from my luggage even if we’re only there overnight. These things help the location to feel like home. I plug in my electronics, I unpack my toiletries, I pop something familiar on my bedside table. Instant ‘home’.


If we’re somewhere for a few nights or more, my nesting goes to a whole new level. I put things in drawers! Imagine that!!

I am especially looking forward to Bali (our next stop) because we will be in one location long enough to unpack completely and put our luggage away. Since Feb 2nd, we’ve been travelling with packing cubes. They are excellent for keeping things organised and mean that I don’t have to go rifling through my whole suitcase every time I look for something –  they’re kind of like drawers for your luggage.

But this morning, after the seventieth time one of us opened or closed a zip, I realised that I was done with the sound of zippers for now. Drawers! I am ready for actual drawers.

Tahoe and Squirt

We’ve been travelling with Tahoe (he’s the bear) and Squirt (he’s the turtle) for over a decade. They’ve been everywhere we’ve been. Even when we’ve travelled alone (for work or play), Tahoe and Squirt have gone along. They’ve been to places I’ve never been, like Ireland and Argentina. Having them with us makes wherever we are feel like home – and they’re very adventurous travel companions.

Ready for a massage in Mexico
Looking out the window in Vietnam
Twin beds in Italy


Ben and I have lived together since December 2008 in four apartments in two cities. No matter where we are in the world, he is now my strongest connection to feeling like I’m home. He is my home.

So, until 2019, until we sign a new lease and get a set of keys again, wherever Ben lays his head, that’s my home.

Bali 2015






A Toast to…

We are currently in Western Australia, visiting family and friends for a month before we head to Bali, our first international stop on our year-long sabbatical. Although we’re still in Australia, we are getting into sabbatical mode, which means that each day we work a little (I write, Ben works for a client), we play and little, and we do both while soaking up as much of our location as possible.

Essentially, we’re aiming to treat each new location as our home for the time that we’re there.

This week, we are staying at my aunt and uncle’s avocado farm, which is also where my mum lives. Living at the farm means that the office is the back veranda of my mum’s house, with a kangaroo and the cat keeping us company.

Ben - Patio.jpg

It means picking figs off the tree and stewing them in a large pot with brown sugar and cinnamon to pour over ice-cream. It means helping mum reorganise the fruit shop, including trips to Bunnings and Spotlight for supplies.

It means spending time with my family doing what they normally do, day to day. And I’m loving it.

mum and me Feb 2018
With my mum

Last night, my uncle invited us up to the big house, for an Italian feast! I talked it up a lot to Ben, because my uncle is Sicilian and he and my aunt learned to cook from his mother. I grew up eating this incredible food, and was super excited about the promised spaghetti bolognese and veal cutlet. Yum.


Cooking cutlet

We were not disappointed. In fact, the meal was superb, and not just because the food was incredible and the wine was delicious. It was the company that made it so special. There’s something wonderful about spending time with family, hearing some of the old stories again and somehow there are always new ones to hear.



As the coffee and liqueur were poured, my uncle offered this toast – both in English and on request, in Italian:

“Good wine. Good food. Good friends. And the time to enjoy them all.”

This toast perfectly sums up the most important part of our year-long sabbatical. It’s about enjoying time with the people in our lives – old friends, new friends, and family.

Additional photos by Ben Reierson.





Beautiful Chaos

Last time it was about details, drowning in them, to be more specific. While I am still up to my chin in the minutiae of departing the country for a year, I have found myself in another not-particularly-comfortable predicament: I’m surrounded by chaos.

Our usually orderly home is a study in disarray.

There are boxes – flat; assembled, but half-filled; filled and taped shut – both tucked into corners and boldly sitting in the middle of rooms. There are crates dotted about the apartment filled with random collections of things, like electrical tape, climbing gear, extension cords, and unframed posters. I have piles of things that I move from one location to another as we consolidate, pack, use up and slough off. Post-its flutter in the air conditioning with messages like ‘take to work’, ‘give to [insert friend’s name here]’, and ‘donate’.

We’ve done countless trips downstairs to give strangers our things, sometimes for cash and other times for free. Who knew someone could get so excited about a bedside table? We gifted our mattress to a friend and are now sleeping on side-by-side single mattresses on the floor. We have filled the clothing donation bin on the ground floor and have contributed several times to ‘hard rubbish’.

Every day we move the chaos about in an attempt to make it smaller, and to give it order, shape and purpose.

My inner perfectionist is either on high alert, causing me to appease her with increasingly advanced lists, or she’s slacking off, beginning to ignore the chaos, at times embracing it.

And, maybe she’s right.

Maybe the chaos is a beautiful part of this journey, there to juxtapose against the simplicity of living a year aboard with a suitcase and a laptop.