Working lots of hours, sleeping very few, and generally going through the motions of life without much thought (or joy). That was my life. If you could call it a life. Originally from Montreal, Canada, I moved to New York City in the 1990s to attend law school. Graduated, and then employed, by the mid-2000s, I was firmly enslaved in the lawyer-life of the city.
I always had a buried desire for more— to travel the world, to experience different cultures, to get out there. Even on the occasions that I managed to notice the beauty of Central Park in spring, or those Manhattan sunsets in fall, there was always that voice telling me to go traveling. But aside from a few quick trips as my vacation time would allow, I did nothing in pursuit of that dream.
Today, my days in Bali resemble my life in Manhattan…not in the least. A commute that once involved the congestion and delays of the subway now often involves a walk through a rice field.
My days in New York had been spent in a small office strewn with documents under fluorescent lights. Now they’re spent in the vast Bali Sea, surrounded by mesmerizing coral under schools of dazzling fish.
In Bali, my morning coffee is taken on the terrace, looking at the tropical flowers in the garden. In New York, a terrace? Ha!
But I knew none of this when I purchased that first plane ticket in 2013. All I knew of Bali back then was that it was an island known for its lovely people and lush greenery—and that it had a well-regarded certified Ashtanga Yoga teacher. As a devoted practitioner at the time, I would choose my travel destinations based on the location of such teachers. I figured that if I ended up not liking the destination, at least I would have people to practice with and a good teacher from whom to learn. It was with that mindset that I set out on what was originally intended to be a three-week trip to Bali.
Activities and cultural pastimes for everyone.
I learned a lot on that first trip. I explored the lush, greenery-rich town of Ubud and learned that the Balinese people are lovely, and that breathtaking rice fields can hide behind modest-looking storefronts or sketchy-looking parking lots. I learned to request sambal (an Indonesian chili sauce) with every meal, that gado-gado (a meal of steamed vegetables, hard-boiled egg, boiled potato, fried tofu and tempeh, served with peanut sauce) is good-good, and that high-quality air conditioning is essential It was also on that first trip that I went on a weekend visit to Amed, a village on the northeast coast of the island. While there, I tried freediving for the first time, a watersport I had never even heard of before. (Diving without an air tank.) I was instantly hooked. The Bali Sea, its coral and fish, just drew me in.
I returned to Amed several more times in what eventually turned into a four-and-ahalf month trip (extending your departure date is common practice here. I’ve met many expats who are still here, having originally come on a two-week holiday…25 years ago). Amed was also where I settled when I returned to Bali a year later, and where I am now based.
Living in Bali is easy. What might be complicated and expensive elsewhere is often simple and affordable here. Housing is plentiful, varied, and suits every budget. I’ve seen jaw-dropping four-bedroom luxury villas (with air conditioning, swimming pool, staff, etc.) for $3,000 a month, as well as modest one-bedroom houses in the middle of serene rice fields for $200 a month. Those are at the extreme ends of the scale, but there’s everything in between. The longer the lease term, the lower the monthly price can be.
The differences between Bali and New York continue to astound: Here, a monthly motor-scooter rental is $60. For that amount in New York, you can barely rent a bicycle for a day. A three-hour taxi from Ngurah Rai International Airport to Amed costs about $50, which is less expensive than the 20-minute taxi from LaGuardia airport to my New York City apartment.
Restaurants, groceries, housekeeping, are all budget-friendly—certainly a fraction of what they would cost in a North American or European city.
In addition to freediving and every type of yoga you can imagine, Bali has activities and cultural pastimes for everyone. Any exercise you do, diet you follow, or interest that you might have, you can find here. A world-class literary festival, a vibrant digital-nomad scene, courses and workshops on almost anything, surfing… Bali really has it all. I would never have believed this lovely special island could be a part of my life and I’m so grateful that it is.
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