In 2014, I “moved” to Bali with my partner and a naive notion of being a digital nomad. What exactly we were going to do was yet to be determined. In retrospect, the only knowns were: 1) How long our visas permitted us to stay in Bali, and 2) The dates of our round-trip flight.
Long story short, that trip was a beautiful mess.
The beautiful part:
- We settled into a private villa overlooking rice fields about 10-minutes north of Ubud.
- Met bonafide “digital nomads” that were inspirational in how they architected their lives.
- Discovered that Bali might secretly be the healthy eating capital of the world.
The messy part:
- We had no idea what unique product or service to build.
- Felt isolated and lacked community.
- Personally speaking, I was running out of money.
After four months on the island, we packed up and returned to California.
Fast forward five years and my situation is a bit different and, fortunately, there are fewer unknowns. I knew I wanted to come back to Bali for the aforementioned “beautiful” reasons, but also to right the wrongs of the “messy” part.
Hence my motivation to experience Bali again, with a few changes. Namely, by joining the WiFi Tribe. The following is an account of my first impressions, with a few experienced views peppered in as well.
As a holiday destination, Bali is awesome! There’s so much to do, see, and explore. As a place to live and work, it’s incredible! The number of beautiful cafes, restaurants, and co-working spaces alone is enough to keep you inspired day-in and day-out. Villages, such as Canggu and Ubud, seemingly have the spirit of remote work built into their cores. Walk into any good cafe in either location and you’ll see dozens of laptops flipped open. To say the least, the remote work community here is thriving!
So, what’s different? After all, I could walk into “any good cafe” back home and see something similar. Well, I can only describe it as the actioning of work/life balance. Simply put, the “9 to 5” doesn’t exist and life just happens; sleep-in, get a midday massage, snooze under the respite of an umbrella on the beach. There’s an element of self-care and wellness that Bali awakens the moment you arrive (and have recovered from jet-lag).
That’s not to say that Bali makes one lackadaisical about work. It’s quite the contrary. While my working hours are consistently inconsistent, I feel focused and energized whenever I open my laptop. That’s the difference between intentional work versus grinding through 8 – 9 hours straight, where up to 40% of the workday is utterly unproductive.
Though, when the sun begins to set, the laptops begin to vanish. The beach population swells and the restaurants liven. Perhaps that’s what you get when you marry an awesome holiday destination with an incredible place to live and work.
While there are a lot of positives about Bali, there are negatives to tout. For example, traffic. These are my rough estimates, but “traffic” consists of 80% scooters, 15% cars, and 5% dogs. On the main roads, the stream of traffic can appear unrelenting and non-sensical. For example, scooters, in my observations, have their own rules of the road. What those “rules” are, I have no idea…
Furthermore, while the distance between Canggu and the airport is a mere 20 km, it can take up to 2-hours to make that journey (by car). Overall, in towns, like Canggu, getting around is generally swift. Though, the Canggu “shortcut” (to Berawa) can be a proper mess. It’s worth looking up on Instagram for a few laughs.
There’s also Bali’s popularity to consider. In 2018, 6,511,610 people flew through Ngurah Rai International Airport. Most of those people likely stayed in the south (near the airport), as that’s where the majority of the big resorts are. So, those areas can feel a bit crowded. While Canggu isn’t far from Seminyak or Kuta as the crow flies, it is “far enough” away in a uniquely Balinese sense. Also, the town vibes are quite different.
If you really want to “get away” in Bali, head inland or basically anywhere to the north! The mountains will take you by surprise, the jungles are exactly what you’d expect them to be, and terraced rice fields are truly something to behold. Though, the wifi won’t be as strong.
Without a doubt, Bali caters to tourism and the accommodations are evidence of that everywhere you look. Price points aside, rice paddy views, manicured gardens, and plunge pools are common features. The WiFi Tribe villa is no different. Set back from one of the quieter roads in Canggu, it’s truly its own paradise!
The villa has a rice paddy view, manicured garden, and a central plunge pool. It feels private and intimate, yet communal and welcoming. It’s a place where you can have your privacy but also have your social time. It’s a hard-to-describe juxtaposition, but one I’m ecstatic to call “home” for several weeks.
One thing to note is the kitchens, in general. They’re… interesting. Often comprised of a large, two-burner camp stove, small refrigerator (compared to U.S. standards), and often completely absent of drawers and cupboards, they’re best described as “basic.” However, it has everything you need and, like so many of Bali’s experiences, it makes you question the accumulation of “things.”
Overall, Bali is beautiful simplicity in nearly all ways, shapes, and forms.
In my short time with the WiFi Tribe – this is my first chapter – the value add, without question, is the community! While there are a lot of commonalities, for example, fondness of travel, remote work, and the desire for new experiences, we’re a diverse group at heart. In total, there are 14 of us from 9 countries. It’s not every day that you can sit-down for breakfast/lunch/dinner and have that many perspectives at one table.
Our backgrounds vary widely, too. We’re a mix of consultants, contractors, employees, and entrepreneurs. Oddly enough, it’s usually our differences that bring us together. For example, we do weekly skillshares and encourage one another to try something new or different, like a dance class, self-defense class, snorkeling, and so on. Basically, one of us acts as a bridge to something that’s unknown to another. It’s fun, engaging, and builds our feeling of community.
From what I’ve gathered, WiFi Tribe Chapters are an ongoing ‘coming-and-going’ of people. Some people stick around for several months, while others just take things one month at a time. Given that mix, it feels like there’s always one or more resident experts. I can’t express how great it is to have that resource! In a matter of a few introductory conversations, I knew what cafes have the best wifi, what restaurants have the best food, and what the can’t miss weekend trips are. All without having to go online.
Oddly enough, I’m spending less time on my phone/laptop than I would if I were stateside. That feels amazing! I cannot express how great it feels to truly disconnect from what doesn’t matter and reconnect in more meaningful ways. This is only the start of my journey with the WiFi Tribe and I cannot wait to see what’s to come personally and professionally.