There was a time when Mondays meant returning to a workplace I despised. Never-ending phone calls, meetings, and workdays that began at 6 a.m. and ended 12 hours later. Fast-forward just over two years, and along with my husband, Rob, I’m living the dream in Bali. We sold our house, our two cars, and most of our belongings to run away from home.
At 51, we were too young to live on a retirement visa. So we decided we still needed an income, and on vacation, we came across a waterfront restaurant in Sanur that interested us. Now our days are a stark contrast to the routine we once had: We wake at a reasonable hour, walk or ride our bikes to our restaurant, and enjoy a leisurely breakfast. Our “office” looks out to the Bali Sea’s ever-changing tides and turquoise waters. While we have commitments in Bali, it’s still a very easy life.
There are quite a few expat hotspots across Bali, but for us, Sanur has always been a favorite. Situated on the island’s eastern side, it’s an idyllic haven, where we live among locals and enjoy everyday Bali life. Our home is close to watermelon farms and rice paddies. It’s a great balance; we have just the right amount of familiar Western comforts amid the Balinese culture. The scent of incense, as the Balinese locals make their morning offerings, always greets me on my morning walks.
The expat community is strong, and we have many new friends. We can choose to be social and enjoy lunch on the beach, or have a lazy afternoon at home by the pool, instead. We’ve made local friends, too, and have been invited to three traditional weddings during our time here. Our home is a modest two-bedroom villa in western Sanur. We rent it for around $780 a month. Our electricity costs around $140 a quarter, and water bills are practically non-existent.
The weather is my favorite part of living here. Only eight degrees south of the equator, Bali is a mix of lush tropical forest, a diverse mountain landscape, and sandy beaches. The island doesn’t have many different ranges in temperature, and it has just two distinctive seasons. Dry season typically runs from April to September, with brilliant blue skies, and southeast trade winds make temperatures comfortable. The wet season runs from late October to early March. It’s warm and humid during this time, but the rains never deter us from any outings.
Fellow expats Joanne and Robert Dempster say one of the nicest things about retiring to Bali is that now they can spend more time together. Five years before their move, they sat with their financial advisor and planned their Bali retirement. Now they’re living a dream life, traveling around Bali and the surrounding islands. They rent their home in the coastal town of Tuban, near Kuta, for $8,000 a year. They’re within walking distance of some great local restaurants and rarely cook at home.
“For breakfast I can buy a watermelon, papaya, pineapple, and dragon fruit for no more than $3. That’s the extent of my cooking,” Joanne says. “One of our favorite places for dinner is Koto Buki. For just $10 we can both enjoy a black pepper chicken and a honey chicken, two beers, a ginger tea, and a coffee.”
Life in Bali is as cheap and cheerful as you want it to be. If you choose to enjoy the finer things, you can do that, too. Some of the world’s best chefs have opened restaurants in the south of Bali, and there are 5-star hotels all over. Even then, you’ll be paying a fraction of what you would at home. We often enjoy a Sunday brunch at the Mulia Hotel in Nusa Dua. For $70 a person we can feast on a huge buffet and unlimited drinks for four hours. The seafood is superb.
I could never have indulged in weekly massages back home, while here I can relax for around $10. We spend time discovering Bali as often as we can, and we often head over to nearby Lembongan Island for a quick getaway. We’re planning to explore more of Southeast Asia, too. We can fly to Vietnam for around $200 round-trip, and a one-way flight to Singapore is less than $145, so it’s a no-brainer.
Now we’re making time for the little things we never had the chance to do before. We read, we talk, we relax… Running away from home was the best decision we ever made.