Bali: Low-Cost Living on ‘the Island of the Gods’

A dozen types of fish are stacked glistening on the stall beside me. Next to it are piles of fresh greens. Other stalls around are laden with pungent fruits, strange vegetables and mounds of colourful spices.

This is one of the local markets in Sringraja where I can shop for fresh produce. The costs are super low and you can try out your bargaining skills, too.

You’ll find expats living all over Bali. The southern coast is especially popular. It’s close to the airport at Denpasar, and you’ll find lots of Aussies in beach neighbourhoods there like Seminyak and Kuta. About an hour north in the hills around Ubud, the climate is cooler and there’s more of a European flavour to the expat community.

But I made my home in Lovina, on the north coast of Bali facing the Bali Sea. This is more of a “secret” locale than other parts of Bali. It’s much quieter and laidback than the south, and the overall cost of living is much cheaper. Property prices are more affordable, too.

I was 37 before I set out on the journey that would take me to Bali. I was working for a film company and I had a good salary. But I felt there must be more to life than working 12 hours a day.

I decided to learn how to create my own website and, with some training and practice, I was then able to earn from anywhere in the world. Not only that but it meant I could be my own boss.

I had already made a few short trips to Southeast Asia, so I knew that was the place where I wanted to start a new, stress-free life. Plus, the low costs of living meant it was easy to work less and explore more. I travelled to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and finally Indonesia. Along the way I met my wife in Sumatra and we moved to Bali.

We didn’t know if the move was going to be permanent but, after renting a house for six and then 12 months, we decided to look for a place we could call ‘home’. We finally came across a property in Lovina that had a house, pool, restaurant and four guest rooms. While we weren’t specifically looking to run our own hotel, it did sound like a good opportunity to make some extra income. And we got it at a good price.

We get fantastic sunsets here, with views across to the mountains of Java. The ocean is calmer than the southern surfing beaches, and dotted with colourful fishing boats called ‘perahu’. The long stretches of beach are of black, volcanic sand. Diving on the coral reef and dolphin-watching are common activities. If you want to explore the lush hinterland and paddy fields, then renting a bicycle is easy and cheap.

Mainly though, life is all about relaxing, having a cold beer, and enjoying the weather and ocean breezes.

For me, Bali offers a good mix of Western comforts with a unique culture. Even though Bali is modern, the people have stayed true to their culture and Hindu religion. Almost every day, different ceremonies are held across the island. The Balinese are very welcoming to ‘tamu’ or outside guests, and it is not uncommon to be invited to a ceremony even by people you have just met.

At the beginning, our hotel had no guests. It is down a small laneway, so not easy for people to find. But I put my skills to good use, developed our website and advertised on an online hotel booking website. It didn’t take too long before we built up a good reputation. The hotel now has solid bookings throughout the year and gets completely booked out during the high season.

A guest said to me the other day, “You have really created a great lifestyle for yourself.” I couldn’t help but smile and think, yes—a million miles away from my former life.

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