We arrived in Ubud in March of 2013, which seems like almost a lifetime ago. We had been here once before and were skeptical, but open minded, about whether we fit in. When I initially wrote about the 5 things I learned about living in Bali, I had a hard time saying I even lived here.
This is what I learned from my first few months living in Bali: I needed to slow down, I needed to detox, I need access to a large city, I don’t know if I fit in here, and I don’t know if I could live in Ubud long term.
A wise woman I was in June 2013.
Our first few months in Ubud we met no new friends. We became friendly with some expats, but we ate dinner alone every night, and it was an isolating experience. We came with no friends, and really left with no friends.
We did return to Ubud, though, for me to attend my yoga teacher training, which was an amazing experience, and at the time I thought life changing. During this time living in Bali, we met some friends, and settled in more. After analyzing and analyzing where we wanted to settle down in Asia, in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Hanoi, or even Yangon, with loads of pros and cons lists, we went with our gut and settled in Ubud. It just felt right, and even after making the decision we kept telling each other coyly, “we should move to Ubud.”
After another few months, we were on the road again, with plans to return to Ubud “full time.” In my next episode of the 5 things I learned living in Bali, I was an entirely different person, filled with positivity and certainty. This is what I learned from my next few months living in Bali: I felt comfortable saying I lived in Ubud, I loved yoga, there were decent dining options in Ubud, maybe we did fit in, and we were moving full time to Ubud.
The October 2013 me was filled with so much hope, energy, and promise.
My Final 5 Things I Learned Living in Bali
So, how have things changed after the last 13 months living in Bali?
My recent reflections on the new year were perhaps a little dark, and offered a dreary view point of life in Ubud, but it was one hundred percent honest about how I feel. Things started to fall apart for us back in March or April, when we started to dig beneath the surface of the life here in Bali. Perhaps it is not so wise to learn how the sausage is made.
This is what I learned, ultimately, after a total of 19 months living in Bali:
1. Too Much House
I did love our house in Bali. I fell in love with it the first time I saw it, even before construction was complete. I knew it was where I wanted to call home, even though slightly above our budget. I did not care, I wanted it.
Over all, we have been happy living in Bali in the Big Orange House, even with a lot of the problems that we had. It was, in fact, the first HOUSE we have ever lived in. Before this, our adult life was limited to apartments and condos, for a reason.
This was too much house for us to take care of, particularly when we were on the road. It is not a good idea to learn about how a house works, in a foreign country, where you don’t speak the language, about things like sewer tanks and water pumps and leaky roofs. It was just all too much house for us. I can safely say we will never own or rent for long term in a house this big again, particularly in a tropical environment.
2. Too Little City
Our recent trip to Bangkok solidified how much we love big cities. The variety of food options, the public transportation, the sprawling distances forcing us to walk and explore, rather than zoom around town on a motorbike.
I want access to the conveniences, like being able to buy decent underwear if I need to – something I took for granted until I lived in Ubud, where underwear purchases can only be made at the supermarket. Ubud was just too small for us.
3. Too Much Stillness
One of the first things I learned when we started living in Ubud was that I needed to slow down, I need to be still, to not constantly be packing and unpacking the backpack. Well, guess what? This was too still.
With our social visa, we were able to stay living in Bali for six months without leaving the country, and we did. We stayed from late November 2013, for a full six months, leaving our house for only 3 nights. It was the most still we had been, pretty much ever. Even when living in the US, we were constantly traveling for work or vacation, on almost a weekly basis. This was too much stillness, and by May of 2014, it had affected our psyche. We were itching to leave. We had island fever.
It still means we need to find a happy medium between stillness and momentum, which we hope to find by staying longer in places, often at least 10 nights or 2 weeks, and hopefully a few month long stays along the way. I don’t want to get burnt out on the perpetual travel, but right now, I crave it, and don’t want to be still.
4. We Don’t Fit In Ubud
I should have gone with my gut, way back in June 2013, that we are too square for the hippie town of Ubud. I tried to explore the hippie side of things, but I realized I am too grounded in reality and logic. I am too analytical. I guess there was a reason why I was an attorney for 10 years.
I can’t wear flowing white clothing, feathers in my hair, or leather fanny packs. I can’t schedule around the full moons and ecstatic dance. I still like being on time to gatherings. I love pork.
Although there is a budding digital nomad community here, and there are some entrepreneurs, the hippies still rule, and it was a little to much hippie for me.
5. I am Disillusioned and More Guarded
This last one is probably the hardest for me to swallow. As much as I wrote before about how much I love yoga, I am disillusioned by the business of yoga. I expected more from the yoga community – to be welcoming, to be enlightened, to be more honest. Instead, I have realized that the yoga community and yoga teachers are still human, and just like everyone else: they are judgmental, hypocritical, insecure, and even deceitful.
A good friend recently told me that I expect too much of people, because I give so much of myself. She cautioned that I need to have more reasonable expectations of people. I think she is right.
Although I have a couple of close friends, who I do trust, we are leaving Ubud hurt, dejected, and saddened. I have spent too much time over the last several weeks crying, not because I am sad about leaving Ubud, but because I am disappointed in lost friendships. I am leaving disillusioned about the yoga community, and my place as a yoga teacher. I am leaving more guarded and less trusting of friends. And, that, is not something I want to be.
What’s Next After Living in Bali?
What is next? Out on the road. First a month in Thailand, and then a month in Vietnam, two of our favorite countries. After March, we have no idea.
We are torn between renting apartments for a month in a series of cities we love (Hong Kong, Lisbon, Barcelona, etc.) and exploring new destinations (Philippines, India, South Africa, Bhutan). We are struggling with our love for Southeast Asia and the draw to spend more time in Europe. I feel that the world is opening up to us, just like it did when we left the US in July 2012.
I am energized once again, and paralyzed by indecision. I want to see it all, I want to eat it all. I will take what I can from the time I spent living in Bali, as we start fresh in 2015, looking for more Adventures in Food.
For more about traveling Bali, check out this post about the gay Bali guide by our friends, the Nomadic Boys.