Travel

Why I Moved to Ubud to become a Digital Nomad

9th February 2018

A little over a week ago I moved to Bali, Indonesia. There are several reasons why I decided to move alone to a country I had never been before, which I am sharing in this post. I also recorded a video / vlog about my first week here: settling down in Ubud, finding a house, learning how to ride a motorbike, tasting Indonesian cuisine, going to yoga classes and joining the local co-working spaces.

 

Moving to Bali

I moved to Bali because I wanted needed a break from my fast-paced lifestyle and from the constant distractions I have in London: press trips, events, restaurant reviews, meet ups and so on…They were taking time away from my creative work. I felt stuck in an endless cycle of doing the same things over and over without ever growing or reaping any success from my hard work.

I needed a physical and mental space to think about the next steps for my personal and professional life. You can call it an exercise of self-awareness to bring the focus back on what is important and meaningful to me. To re-frame my experience.

I moved to Ubud and I will be here for two months, officially joining the growing tribe of global digital nomads.

Outpost Co-working Office in Ubud | Moving to Bali, Indonesia: My First Week in Ubud

Digital nomads are a growing demographic of people who travel the world while working remotely over the internet [The New York Times]

Why Ubud?

Ubud is a country town of around 30,000 people surrounded by hills, lush jungles and rice fields. It’s home of the Balinese Royal family and known as the cultural and religious heart of Bali. It’s also a popular hub for artists and yogis for years.

Recently it’s become more of a destination for mass tourisms from East Asia, Europe and Australia, making long time expats declare that Ubud “is not what it used to be anymore”.

The Royal Palace in Ubud | Moving to Bali, Indonesia: My First Week in Ubud

Before I continue with my story, let me clarify that moving to Ubud has got nothing to do with Eat, Pray, Love. I read the book, I loved it and it certainly made me aware of Ubud, but I never would have moved to the other side of the world and leave my husband behind because of a book.

In truth, I was inspired by people I know who have lived here for a while (and eventually went back to UK). As I watched their photos and listened to their passionate stories of life in Ubud, an idea was planted in my mind. Ubud seemed like a relaxed, safe, cheap town to live with good internet, good food and a good infrastructure. Wouldn’t it be amazing to live there?

Nasi Campur at Warung Semesta in Ubud | Moving to Bali: My First Week in Ubud

Why Leaving London?

I went through a stressful time at work last summer and felt a little bit disheartened about my job as a result. The idea of getting away became more and more appealing. I knew I couldn’t stay in London any longer, doing the same things over and over, without having the time (and guts) to try something new.

I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to be in a new environment surrounded by creative people who maybe have been through the same challenges I am going through – and so they can offer support and perhaps mentorship.

Moving to Bali was just a crazy idea in my mind, but I cautiously began to tell my idea to my husband and a few friends to hear their thoughts.

No one told me I was going mad. On the contrary, everyone I spoke to told me to just go for it.

Street food in Ubud Market | Moving to Bali, Indonesia: My First Week in Ubud

I didn’t know if I could take time off from my work commitments or how I would support myself financially for 2+ months.

After doing some research on the cost of living in Bali, I realised it was doable. All I needed to live in Bali for two months was a few thousand pounds. Over the course of the summer I was able to save enough money from working on a lot of different projects and renting my spare bedroom on Airbnb.

Still, moving to Bali was just an idea.

Taking The Leap!

Last November, I felt completely drained after many weeks (months, really) of on-and-off travelling abroad. Travel had become exhausting and I dreaded the idea of going away on yet another trip. There are many ups and downs of travel blogging and I was struggling to find a balance.

What I loved doing the most – travelling – had become a chore. Working with PR’s and brands to support my blog had become unbearable.

After listening to my complains and worries about my work, my husband remarked that I hadn’t been so unhappy since the days of working full time for an advertising agency (a job I hated). I wasn’t feeling rewarded or proud by the work I was creating. I knew I had to make some changes then.

There is absolutely no point of being self-employed in a highly competitive, hectic and expensive city like London, going through financial struggles and the loneliness of working from home UNLESS you absolutely love your job and feel rewarded by it daily.

My first step was booking return flights to Bali and a hotel room (at Desak Putu Putera Cottages) for the first five nights. I didn’t tell anyone except my husband, who thankfully supported me and told me to make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

As D-day loomed close, I had to come to terms with the reality of it. I began to tell friends, but I was wary of making a public announcements on my social media channels or on my blog. I simply wasn’t ready to explain to the world why I had decided to move to Bali.

Waterfalls near Goa Gajah Temple in Ubud | Moving to Bali, Indonesia: My First Week in Ubud

Arriving in Ubud

Arriving in Ubud for the first time was over-whelming and intimidating. I was expecting a small village in the Balinese hill country surrounded by lush jungle and rice fields, but instead I found a congested town cluttered with endless hotels, restaurants, tourist shops, cafes, spas and supermarkets. Tour coaches drop hundreds of Asian tourists by the Sacred Monkey Forest, Ubud Market or the Royal Palace every day.

Tourists are everywhere: roaming the streets, riding scooters, crossing the road, sipping on coconut water, shopping for sarongs and rattan bags.

Riding a scooter through Ubud’s peak hour traffic in not only challenging; it’s unpleasant. But I had to learn because there is not other easy way of getting around and I just can’t live taking taxis all the time. Every single time I am riding the bike and I get stuck in traffic, under the hot sun or torrential rain, I ask myself what the hell am I doing here.

Woman selling Sarongs in Ubud Market | Moving to Bali, Indonesia: My First Week in Ubud

I have my ups and downs, but at the end of the day I am very happy to be here. The friendliness, generosity and warmth of the Balinese people have taken me by surprise. I am careful especially when it comes to bank card scams, but I generally find Ubud a very safe place to be.

Ubud: A Digital Nomad’s Dream

There is a large community of expats and digital nomads: artists, creators, designers, etc. from Australia, US, UK, Netherlands and Italy (the ones I have met so far…). They come here for a few months and maybe stay years, attracted (like me) by the tropical weather, cheap cost of living and fairly easy visa requirements.

Ubud is a desirable place for digital nomads thanks to an abundance of co-working spaces or cafés with free wifi. There are great yoga studios, lots of events going on every day, an inspiring vibe and attractive crowd of creative people. The tropical beaches of Canggu, Padang Bay, Seminyak are just an hour or two away.

Ubud also benefits from a lively restaurant and coffee scene: a huge appeal to me at the time I was planning my trip.

I can spend two months living alone in Asia, but I cannot spend two months without drinking a good flat white.

I could have moved to the popular seaside city of Canggu (also home to a thriving digital nomad community), but I’d rather stay away from the distraction of the beach. I think the views of rice fields I get in Ubud is stunning and also very calming.

A view of the rice fields from my home in Ubud | Moving to Bali, Indonesia: My First Week in Ubud

A view I could never get tired of from my home in small village outside Ubud

Ubud: My Personal Retreat

Moving to Ubud was like going on a personal retreat. I am not here on holiday (even though the temptation to hop around the Indonesias islands or to fly over to Vietnam, Laos or Hong Kong is high).

I am in Ubud to work on personal projects and to reflect on the next steps I want to take in my professional career. Right from day one, I have been going to a co-working space (I am member of Hubud and Outpost) or a café every day to write, edit photos and videos, or attend events.

I definitely came to Ubud for the community and I hope to meet a lot of interesting, creative people I can share my experience with and be inspired from. Without forgetting that I also have plenty of learning and growing opportunities from being on my own and becoming more self-aware. I have started to write down my thoughts in a journal every morning and I am finding it very useful.

I have established goals for the next two months, but I am not going to beat myself up if I don’t achieve them. In two months’ time, I will be back in London. Looking back at my time in Bali, will I wish I had spent more time inside an office or rather, will I wish I had spent more time exploring the island, immersing myself in the local culture and making the most of this opportunity?

Balinese coffee and Nasi Goreng for breakfast in Ubud | Moving to Bali, Indonesia: My First Week in Ubud

You know the answer to that question. :)

Do I Want to Be a Digital Nomad?

No, I am not seeking a full time nomadic life. I like structure, routine and having a place to call home. I LOVE MY KITCHEN! I am settled in at home in England with my husband. I treasure the network of friends and like-minded people I have built in London more than anything else. I value these meaningful connections and I want to keep them in my life.

I also have two exciting projects to look forward to: Creating for Good‘s Creative Conference on 21st April and the next CFG Extraordinary Journey workshop with Taylors of Harrogate.

Even if I wanted to be a digital nomad, right now I couldn’t because my job is location-dependant. My main income comes from collaborations with UK brands, so I need to be in London (or at least, closer than a 24-hour flight away) to work and earn money. I can certainly change that in the future if I wanted to pursue a more nomadic life — by seeking global clients and creating sources of passive income (eg. book sale revenues, online courses, e-shop, affiliate links, etc.).

Right now I am in Bali to challenge myself. Learn new skills. Get re-motivated. Recharge my batteries. Grow. Find a balance.

Moving to Bali, Indonesia: My First Week in Ubud

It’s not going to be easy… so I want to end this post with the words I shared on Instagram one week after moving to Ubud. They summon perfectly what I feel about my experience.

Today was a good day. I am very grateful to be here. I am proud of myself too because I am the one who made it possible. Living in Bali may seem like a dream come true to many of you, but it is not so easy to leave the comforts and security of your home and the care of your family and friends. It’s a beautiful experience, but also a challenge. I am ready for it.

This is probably going to be the only post I write about Bali while I am here. I have many other topics I want to write about next. I will keep taking photos and videos of this amazing experience and share them on the blog after I return to London in April.

Until then, you can follow my Ubud stories on my Instagram page.

Are you a digital nomad or dream of becoming one? Have you ever taken a leap and thought it was the best / worst decision? Share your experience with me in the comments or in an email. I’d love to hear from you!

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