How I Got to Bali

The other day I found a diary I was keeping from about four years ago. Like any notebook I own, there were lists and numbers and crazy notes in columns that looked more like chicken scratchings than handwriting. But there was also a lot of diary entries about moving to Bali, my expectations and dreams, and plans for what would be. Oh how wrong I was!

In my last few months in Perth and my early few months in Bali, I had a naivete that moving to Bali would be simple. The decision making process was certainly simple, it went something like this:

Me: I’m getting divorced, I have sold everything I own, I do not want to go back to corporate life and get back into the same routine I had years before.

Also Me: Move to Bali

Me again: But you need an income and you need security.

Final Me: Bali!!!!!

Initially moving to Bali was a hoot. I like to tell everyone that I sold up and came to Bali with two suitcases. Liar Liar Pants on Fire! It actually took a couple of trips back and forth, and several suitcases each time. I unpacked and set up my house and felt like this was so simple…why weren’t more people doing it?

Then reality hit. Rainy season in a house with open plan kitchen and no covered walk ways from said open kitchen to the main part of the house. That might seem like a crazy thing to be upset by, but trust me, anyone who has spent time living in a country that has a very serious wet season, will understand the frustration of finding your open plan kitchen flooded; being stuck in your house unable to get to the bathroom (also outside); or wading knee deep in water to get to the kitchen for coffee , Bintang or food!

Flying in and out on tourist visas or even working visas, is extremely expensive and ultimately annoying. Your 60 day exit never seems to coincide with significant or important family dates, and always seems to coincide with significant dates in Bali…try flying out around Nyepi. Then discovering you have overstayed and have fees to pay for every day you overstay.

And at some point, you need to earn an income. Bali is cheaper than Australia, I have become totally Bali-fied and am horrified at what things cost now when I go back for a visit. But unless you have a lot of money put aside, eventually you will need to work. Rent is paid upfront yearly in Bali, electricity bills are about the same as in Australia and regardless of which visa you are on, you have to pay for it.

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Initially I started on a working visa as I was still operating my Australian business and flying in and out to do so. Once I started blogging though, I had to change that. My blogs were picked up by companies wanting to promote Bali or their businesses and quickly my little writing hobby turned into a business.

I went through the process of making myself legal in Indonesia so I could earn an income. It took the better part of two years and money saved to get the company set up, kitas approved, trademarks done, and honestly a lot of that was making changes to the company as laws were changed along the way. Anyone in Bali will tell you, the country is fast catching up to those working illegally and being that I like to sleep at night, making sure everything I did was documented and legal was important. I have been paying taxes since I got to Bali. I engaged several lawyers, none of them cheap, one of them dodgy who since got fired. Everything I have been told, I run by the lawyer, the accountant and then I spend a day sitting in immigration just to make sure.

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You could be fortunate enough to come to Bali and find employment. You need to have skills or experience that a company needs, and expenses in hiring an expat are obviously more than hiring someone from Indonesia (kitas etc), so always wise to try make some connections with recruitment agents or businesses you are interested in, before you make the leap to move to Bali.

Retirees are in a similar position in that they need a retiree kitas that is paid for yearly and they cannot earn income in Indonesia. Retirement age is also different in Indonesia than in Australia for example, so check this before you decide to retire here. Check what entitlements you can have as a retiree in each country and make sure you don’t lose these entitlements if you really want them.

Insurance. This is a funny one for me because I worked in insurance for years for Westpac/BT. Every time I went to talk to an insurer, I could feel myself going into cold sweats as I talked ‘shop’. So I ignored the need to change from travel insurance to a health insurance in Bali. Then I had an accident…came off my bike, hit the road…hard. A lovely friend took me to hospital and while I was concerned about bleeding all over her car, she calmly chatted with me until the doctors and medication took over. Thankfully my travel insurance still covered me as I was still within the limits of how long I could be a visitor to Bali, but it did make me realise that insurance is not something to ignore. Whether you are thinking of living in Bali or just travelling anywhere, please check out the options available to you. I’ve since visited hospital here a few times, I’m accident prone and have a very Aussie ‘she’ll be right mate’ attitude to things… so insurance is on the top of my must-have list.

I also realised by reading my old diary, I haven’t done as much as I thought I would have done by now. I haven’t travelled as much, I’ve had a lot of adventures but not as many as I’d planned, and I haven’t learnt as much as I set out to do. You can expect a lot more travel in future blogs as I rectify this. The thing is, life in Bali may seem exotic and we certainly have more freedoms here, but once you are working, you fall into normal life – like anywhere in the world. I often get told I don’t work, I must be on permanent holiday and just be having cocktails by the pool all the time. That would be like saying to an Aussie ‘ Oh so you live in Australia? You must be in mining and be really really rich. Because everyone in Australia earns so much money and lives in huge houses.’

Someone asked me recently if I would do it all again. I’m writing this sitting on the plane on the way to Perth, and I asked myself this question. It took me an hour to get back to this blog…..the answer is yes. But this time, I know what questions to ask before moving to another country. I know what to expect. I know what life in another country would be like. And I’m back to the beginning of this blog, reading my old diary, laughing at myself for ‘knowing’ all this about moving to Bali…I was wrong back then and I’m still wrong now.

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