I wrote this book while living in Bali. It was Spring 2018, and I was on a year-long sabbatical with my partner and love, Ben. Often I wrote poolside or perched on a sun lounger―yes, really. I also wrote at the beach, in our outdoor workspace, and at my favourite cafe.
The sabbatical was Ben’s idea. And after some cajoling and reassurance from him that it would be amazing, I put on my big-girl knickers and we quit our jobs, gave away a lot of our stuff, packed the rest into a storage cage, and bought a one-way ticket to the rest of the world, first stop Bali.
If it wasn’t for Ben’s bravery, support, and intrepid spirit I would not have gone on sabbatical and I wouldn’t have written this book or That Night in Paris. You see, while on sabbatical I gave myself “permission” to be an author, to throw myself into writing, editing, and querying, and to seek out writing as a career.
So, as my third book is published, and I have just sent across structural edits for my fourth book and am finishing the draft of my fifth, a huge thank you to Ben.
I hope you enjoy this latest instalment of The Holiday Romance series and the conclusion to Sarah’s story.
What other authors have to say about A Sunset in Sydney.
“Guaranteed to have you holding your breath to the very last page.” Julie Houston
“I’m such a fan of this series.” Ella Allbright
“Lose yourself in this perfect, escapist read.” Samantha Tonge
“Sandy Barker blends romance and travel to make the perfect summer read.” Lynne Shelby
Those of you who followed our sabbatical journey will know that we spent most of 2018 living (and often working) abroad. I blogged throughout the year, with posts specifically about the sabbatical at the half-way mark, and then again on the home stretch.
We’ve been back in Australia about six weeks now, and have just moved into our new home in Docklands. As I interview for fulltime work, as I’m about to sign a publishing contract for my first book, and as I unpack and find new homes for our belongings, it’s a good time to reflect on our year of sabbatical life.
The days are long and the weeks go by fast
A dear friend we made in Bali, where we lived for two months, reflected that when she looked back, the weeks seemed to be flying by, but that each day felt full and long.
I can honestly say that this is how I felt for most of the year.
When I am present, when I live the breadth and depth of each day, they seem longer, fuller. I want to carry that feeling with me, to bottle that secret sauce, because it makes life feel more purposeful and I’m more content.
Sunset in Minnesota by Ben Reierson
A sense of accomplishment
As well as consulting for clients (writing, editing, and review educational materials), I wrote and edited two books. TWO WHOLE BOOKS, each 100,000 words. I wrote 200,000 words – funny, heartfelt narratives set in beautiful locations. I made up people, their lives and their adventures. I created from nothing the things they said and did – well, I borrowed some anecdotes from loved ones, but for the most part, those fictional people came to life in my head.
I worked on building my author platform, engaging with readers and authors from around the world, learning from them, supporting them, befriending them. I’ve made some wonderful literary friends over the past year – people I can contact with questions and requests, people who can rely on me for support and help if they need it. I will champion them and their writing, and they will do the same for me.
I also queried publishers and agents, honing my messaging about me and my books. I am proud and excited to say that I recently got a big fat YES from a UK-based publisher, which I will announce officially once I’ve signed the contract. Because of this sabbatical, my first book is being traditionally published and I will get to hold my book in my hands. The others will hopefully follow (squee!).
Writing by the pool in Bali
With fellow author Lucy from Wales
With my favourite author Lindsey Kelk
Writing with a view of Amsterdam
Feeding my soul
We lived in and visited some beautiful, exciting, and vibrant places. Bali, Portugal, Scotland, Ireland, rural Minnesota, London, the British Midlands, Amsterdam, Seattle, LA, Wales, New Zealand and my home state of Western Australia. Natural beauty, architectural wonders, history, and wildlife in copious doses. Our everyday life was a wonderful cacophony of sights, sounds, smells and tastes that we happily steeped ourselves in.
Walking the streets of Ubud, the sun beating down, the humidity hanging heavy in the air, the heady scent of tropical flowers mixing with petrol fumes and Indonesian spices – this became my idea of heaven.
Spending time with loved ones also fed my soul. Catching up with family and friends in WA, LA, Seattle, Minnesota, the UK, Ireland, and Amsterdam was a highlight. Living with Ben’s family and mine for extended periods of time was something special. Cooking a mid-week meal for people I love is – and has long been – a great pleasure for me. Chatting over that meal, as we recount our days, our mini-triumphs and challenges, heightens that joy.
‘Quality time’ it’s called. We all need that type of time with our loved ones. Even though I’ve lived my adult life ‘away’ from most of my family, I long for those times when I can look across the dinner table and meet the eyes of someone I love dearly but don’t see in person very often. The thing about being a traveller, someone who lives ‘away’ – you always miss someone. It’s the curse of the ex-pat. I had a year of topping up my soul with quality loved-ones time.
Grandma Ellie (MN)
With my Dad (WA)
With my mum (WA)
With my nephew (UK)
With our dear friend, Sinead (Ireland)
And, wonderfully, we made some very dear new friends from across the world.
Ubud with Lyndall
Dinner out in Ubud
Chicago with Kelly
The things you miss
Things are just things, really. We attach meaning to them. As I unpack boxes and find places for our things in our new home, I know (deep down) they’re just things, but they make me feel at home. Books I’ve loved, souvenirs and artefacts from our travels, family photos, my good knives, my cannisters (yes, really) – these things ‘spark joy’ as Marie Kondo would say. It’s nice to rediscover these things. Do I need them? No, I don’t. I spent the year with my clothes, toiletries and a stack of rectangles (laptop, iPad, Kindle, phone). I can live without things. For now, though, I will especially enjoy them.
I did really missed drawers, though. Like, really, totally, absolutely, completely missed putting my clothes into drawers. Even when we stayed somewhere for weeks or months, we kept our clothes in our packing cubes. Drawers are luxurious. Next time you take an article of clothing out of a drawer, just savour that feeling.
The things you get used to
In Bali, we slathered ourselves in sunscreen and showered several times a day. It was hot and humid and 80% of our time was spent outdoors. My hair looked like wool. And even so, Bali was my favourite place we lived in. I’d live there again in a heartbeat.
I am a creative home cook. In Bali, I cooked with tempeh for the first time and it became a staple. At the lake cabin in Minnesota, I had an electric frying pan and a microwave – that’s it – and I cooked a variety of dishes. In Portugal, it was difficult to get good fresh food – produce, dairy and proteins – but I adapted. In the UK (before and after Portugal), I was cooking for five instead of two, and three of the adults were eating Keto. Spoiled for fresh produce, because you are in the UK, I made giant pots of Keto-friendly stews, red sauces and soups.
I can write anywhere – and did. A sunlounger, a beach, a cafe (many cafes), the kitchen table (in many different kitchens), on planes and trains, and even on a boat. The world was my writing room. I loved it.
My big takeaways
I love Australia. It’s home – Melbourne especially. It’s a terrific city and we have loved ones here. I was happy to come back and I am excited to start the next chapter here.
I would do a sabbatical year again – or create a life where we live abroad for several months every year. There was a time when that thought terrified me – now I think it will become essential to us.
Ben is an incredibly brave, wonderful, supportive, imaginative person. “Why don’t we trade a year of retirement for now,” he said a couple of years ago. I am so grateful he did, but even more so that he gently nudged me to make the commitment. He is my bestie, my partner-in-crime, my travel buddy, my champion, my love. Thank you, Ben, for being all those things and more.
We have now been on sabbatical for nine months, and during that time Ben and I have both worked for our respective clients and I’ve written, edited and published one novel and I’m about 1/4 of the way through writing the next.
While we’ve also made time to explore the different locations we’ve visited or lived in, our working life is a big part of the sabbatical. This is a test case: can we live and work abroad for extended periods of time? We never know, this could become our new normal.
The kind of work we both do – Ben developing software, and me writing and editing content – means we need to work at desks. But ‘desk’ can be any flat surface. Ben’s current stand-up desk set up is an ironing board and the box the vacuum cleaner came in – yes, really.
Most of the time, we either use the dining table of the place we’re staying at, or we go to coffee shops. The coffee shop thing is tricky. The seats have to comfortable enough to sit on for at least a couple of hours, the WiFi has to be good, the coffee can’t suck, and there needs to be a generally good ‘vibe’.
Our fave spot so far in Porto is the cafe at the Concert Hall, which has great seats, fast WiFi and a buzz of energy from the groups of people who gather there to catch up or to work. The coffee sucks, but 3 out of 4 isn’t bad. The other day, when it was still sunny and warm, we worked in the park at a picnic table for a couple of hours – divine.
At the lake cabin, I’d often sit on the porch in an Adirondack chair (I love these) and write, stealing glances at the lake view from time to time. In Bali, my favourite place to work was on the sunlounger next to the pool.
So here are some of my fave desks with a view from the year so far.
I have long subscribed to being a traveller over being a tourist.
When I ran tours in Europe in the 90s, I’d start each one with the First Day Spiel. It took a couple of hours and ate up the time it took the coach to get from London to Dover. Much of it was around logistics – these were the days before (most people had) mobile phones and the Internet and the Euro. Travel in Europe was tricky at best and tetchy at worst. We changed money, we crossed actual borders, we used fax machines and phone cards. It was HARD.
But, I’d still finish my FDS with a little pontification about the value of being a traveller over being a tourist.
Travellers embrace differences – cultural, culinary, climate, cash. They are patient, observant, engaged and interested. They’ll understand when the Greek ferry is late and when the only thing to eat is day-old bread and iffy cheese. They will try to learn some of the local language, and will be equally thrilled to see locals zipping about Rome on Vespas as the Colosseum.
Tourists, on the other hand, should just stay home and watch Netflix – or perhaps the Travel Channel. They complain, whine, whinge and generally make life miserable for everyone around them.
For the most part, I had travellers on my tours – I am still friends with some of my former clients – but there were the odd tourists.
So, what category do I fit into this year? I have lived like a local, I have travelled, and I have visited family and friends. I’ve been a digital nomad and for most of the year have had my traveller hat pulled firmly over my brow. BUT, there have been a few tourist moments, when I have devolved into an ugly version of my travelling self – when it has all gotten a bit too much and I’ve indulged in a bit of a whinge.
Beach and pool clubs in Bali will try to rip you off when it comes to Happy Hour. It’s 2 for 1 drinks, right? Well, that means you get 4 drinks every time you order 2. So, when Ben and I would each order a cocktail, thinking that they were half-price, WRONG! 4 cocktails would show up and we’d be expected to pay for two (not one). It happened so many times, we started clarifying with staff what we were ordering and how much we’d be expected to pay – and even then, they’d still try to dupe us. We’d just send the drinks back – all 4 of them.
I got sticker shock when I got to Ireland – and that was coming from England. Everything – and I mean everything – cost a lot more than what we’d typically pay in the US, the UK and Australia, especially public transport, food, drinks, coffee, groceries, accommodation and care hire – you know, basically everything.
I kept doing the conversions in my head – which travellers definitely don’t do – sending myself into the financial equivalent of a diabetic coma. A day-pass on public transit within the Dublin area capped out at 9 euros-something cents. The equivalent in London is 6 pounds-something pence – for London. By the way, that’s about 2 pounds cheaper to travel around London, one of the world’s largest and (I would argue) best cities.
Ahhh, the land of inconvenience. That’s what my dad calls it and he’s English, so he’s allowed. As a half-English, half-American Aussie, I am also (technically) allowed to disparage the sometimes ridiculous inconveniences of England.
Going to the supermarket, for example, is an exercise in futility. Filling the basket or the cart is fine – there are a lot of choices – LOTS – but checking out is AWFUL. At ALDI – yes, the same discount box chain found all over the world – they won’t start scanning the items until you are fully unloaded, because there is literally nowhere to put them once they’re scanned. You must unload, then dash past the cashier with your bags at the ready, so you can catch your groceries as they fly off the conveyor belt. It’s like something out of a Japanese game show.
If this doesn’t appeal to you, try Tesco or Sainsbury’s or Waitrose, where you could gestate a brand new human being while you wait for the seated cashiers to slothenly (I’ve made up this word especially for them) pick up each item, examine it carefully to determine the whereabouts of the bar code, wave it over the scanner and then place it down with far more care than could possibly be required for a box of dishwasher tablets. They should have free WiFi so you can do your taxes while you wait.
This probably won’t come as much of a surprise and I will risk getting slightly political, but entering trump’s America (note the on-purpose lack of proper noun capitalisation), is super NOT FUN for a non-American, especially one who is on sabbatical for a year, writes books, and doesn’t have a current employer.
I saw three immigration agents on the way into the US at LA. Three!
How long am I going to be here? 89 days (the visa waiver program allows 90 days and I am giving myself a day’s buffer). How did I get my employer to agree to let me travel for that long? I don’t have one. That’s when I was redirected to a supervisor.
So, how are you able to afford being here that long? I work for myself. Uh-oh. Back up the truck. Warning, Will Robinson. You’re working here???
That’s when I got to see the secure room where they take your phone off you.
Fortunately, the supervisor’s supervisor was a reasonable human being and he understood that a digital nomad is essentially self-funded, but may work for clients they have back home from time to time. I was released back into the wild that is LAX.
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.
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.
View of Mt Agung
Ubud Village – end of Campuhan Ridge Trail
Walking to Bintang supermarket
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.
Secret Beach Day Trip
Hiking Campuhan Ridge
Dinner at Elephant
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.
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.
Upstairs at ROAM
A.R.A.K. Coffee House
Poolside at ROAM
At Sunday’s Beach Club
At The Pond
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.
Pool and central ROAM
Would I come again?
In a heartbeat.
With thanks to Ben Reierson for additional photos, including ‘Sunset from ROAM’ above.
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!
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
uneven, patch-workpaths – including the (running) track along Campuhan Ridge and the pedestrian-only paths
So, here’s my photo series called: Don’t (not) look down!
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.
vitaminsand 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.
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.
shaving cream A little cheaper than home and readily available
bug spray Cheaper than at home and readily available
micellar water (makeup remover) It’s much cheaper than at home
nail polish remover Also, professional mani/pedis are inexpensive here
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.
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.
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.
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, however, looking 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…
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:
Walking to Bintang supermarket
View of Mt Agung
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.