16 Nov How I Made the Move to Indo
How are you? My name is Kira and I am first and foremost a beauty blogger for many years but am now slowly transitioning into lifestyle and travel. Before I ask some questions, let me give you a quick background first. I used to be really prissy and fair, but last March I was invited by The Circle Hostel to surf in La Union. I love the beach but had never surfed, and have never been in a hostel! That was quite a shock to me– having to walk barefoot and eat with your hands.
But surprisingly, I met so many nice people and got hooked on surfing. So much so that I go to Baler every month (sometimes even twice a month) just to mingle with the locals and surf. And I’ve never looked back since! I still work in Manila but in my mind, I would like to retire and live by the beach forever. Living simply and purposefully, is what I call it.
So anyway, I just got back from Bali a couple of days ago and was really mesmerized by the place. I loved it that I began thinking of how to relocate (or work remotely) there. I messaged Aileen and since she has not been to Indonesia, she lovingly referred me to your blog. Being new at this, admittedly I don’t know how to start! I handle social media for a brand in the PH and also work as a Financial Advisor. Both give me the flexibility and opportunity to travel but I’d like to take it a step further by actually living in a place for more than a month (or a year even, if that is possible).
So my question is, how do you do it? A lot of people have been telling me it’s difficult to find local work in Bali and I wanted to get your take on it, having lived in Indo for so long. I would love to read about your story.
My past life in Manila
I wrote “8 Ways to Pay For a Year (or a Life) of Travel” and “6 Reasons Why You Should Volunteer“, both of which you may find useful. You did specifically ask though, how I moved to Bali. Just like you and I, so many young people want move there for the laid back lifestyle. The surf and yoga scene has exploded in the last decade. This tiny little island now attracts over 3 million of tourists yearly. We are mesmerized by the culture and drawn to that inexplicable magic that lingers in the air.
First, let me give you a brief background on what I call my past life. To simplify things, let’s just say that I was a privileged spoiled brat. I’m the youngest child, sheltered and overprotected from the real world. I studied in international schools all my life and at the naive age of 16, I got to pick a culinary school in the UK for college in the midst of the great Asian economic crisis. Then the worst happened. My parents separated and that changed everything.
As always, I studied hard and finished two degrees. I worked office jobs in Manila, then tried my luck in real estate. It reinforced what I had already learned from my mother, who sold houses in her free time. I learned about selecting and acquiring properties that appreciate over time and how one can earn passive income from them.
As my father approached his 80s, he wanted to secure a place for me to live. For months we searched for an apartment close to my work in Makati. At that time, Fort Bonifacio had just opened to the public. We bought a tiny pre-selling condo that offered affordable payment terms. In less than 3 years, the property value almost doubled. It also became such a cool place to live in as luxury brands, the hippest bars and cafés thrived around it. I enjoyed living there for 5 years shopping, partying and sampling the newest restaurants until I desperately thought, there should be more to life than that.
Surfing what eventually I would call my homebreak, Baler
Bored from the same old Manila scene, I started joining Flow retreats and surf trips with Philippine Surfing Academy as they explored different out-of-town destinations. My entire perspective on life changed quickly. I fell in love with surfing, something I was never allowed to do. I sank deeper into my yoga practice, reaping not just the physical but also the mental benefits it brings. I naturally gravitated towards a more active, healthy new lifestyle. I was so much happier.
With friends in Siargao Island, Philippines
In the Philippines, your social status pretty much dictates who you hang out with. So you’re stuck with people from the same village, or the same school or company. But surfing allowed me become friends with people of all ages, from all walks of life, from different rural towns all over the country. It opened my eyes to a bigger world out there. As we explored a lot of the spots in the Philippines, my curiosity pushed me to further destinations. Bali was first on my list.
Mesmerized by the panoramic views at Uluwatu Temple, Bali
With 4 of my girlfriends, I jam-packed our itinerary just like a typical tourist would. We stayed in posh villas and had a chauffeured van during our trip. We immersed ourselves in the surf lifestyle, savory local cuisine and Balinese culture as we went everywhere from Ubud to the southwest Bukit Peninsula. I jokingly told them, “Girls, you can just leave me here“. Sarah and I went on to explore other islands nearby, one of which I now call home.
I spent the rest of the year flying back and forth Indonesia and the Philippines, trying to figure out ways on how I could survive living there without a corporate job. But everything just fell into place. I decided if I wanted to move, I needed to make drastic changes which was exactly what I wanted to do anyway. I finished a yoga teacher training course and quickly found a stint in the only yoga shala in town at that time.
My first family in Indo, surfers/business partners from Spain
Bali, on the other hand is over saturated with yoga teachers, probably because of the fame that the movie Eat.Pray.Love brought. Expats have begun settling there since the 1970s operating businesses. Finding a job as a foreigner, first and foremost is definitely a challenge as there are visa restrictions. To legally work in Indonesia, you will need a company to sponsor your KITAS or working visa and it doesn’t come cheap, almost $2,000 per year, no matter what job you hold. Regulations in visas, immigration, work and business are also constantly changing in this country. You never know what will be implemented and how it will affect you.
So I advertised my Manila condo on websites like AirBnb, Roomorama and OLX to rent out. Also to avoid further depreciation, I sold my gas guzzling SUV and secured the proceeds in various investment funds. Most months, my condo is occupied, some months I get nothing at all. Investment funds are very unpredictable as well so proceed with much caution. Like one year I earned 20%, the past year I lost 10%.
Sharing my practice at my favorite spot on earth
I applied for a visa valid for 6 months to avoid constant visa runs. I quickly formed bonds with the few expats and locals that live on the island. They offered me various work and business opportunities to earn, but I was just happy doing yoga an hour a day and playing tour guide to the travelers I meet.
A yoga place I taught at gave me free meals, another recent one gave me free accommodation. So yes, what I get is enough to cover my living expenses. How? Because I live simply. No more shopping sprees, spa or salon treatments, I gave away all my make-up and most of my clothes and shoes. I have literally one pair of flip-flops, a few bikinis, coverups and yoga clothes and these are all I need. I walk or drive a bicycle around town and hitch rides around the island. I’ve learned to live with just about $15 a day or less.
My bestfriend Tierza and I at a yoga shala
My daily expenses in the island:
Food: $7 (A warung or restaurant meal costs anywhere from $1 – $4, cheaper if I cook at home)
House rental or homestay: $8 (Includes breakfast, coffee/tea, electricity, water and wi-fi)
Word of advice, as I mentioned on my blog “How to Move to Indo“, don’t limit yourself to Bali. Indonesia has over 18,000 islands but the world only knows Bali. Start from there but do yourself a favor and explore Nusa Lembongan, Sumatra, the Mentawais, Java, the Gilis, Sumbawa, Flores, Raja Ampat and so on. Move from place to place until you find somewhere that truly feels like home.
Don’t look for accommodation on Airbnb, that is for tourists! Instead, walk around town and talk to the locals. You should be able to find a suitable local house to live in from $100 per month, maybe $250 or more for Western style accommodation. Homestays range from IND 60,000 to 200,000 per day. Remember that bargaining is quite expected.
Opportunities are endless if you are a yoga teacher, certified in body work or healing therapies, a dive instructor, English teacher or if your industry allows you the freedom to work online. Mingle with the locals, learn the language. Don’t be scared of the culture and religion, some of them are the kindest and happiest people I know. Those who have less, always tend to give more.
But most importantly, you should be willing to make drastic changes in your life. I do hope you find a way to move to Indonesia and maybe see you there when I come back from my travels next year!
Good luck on “Finding Home“.
Living a life I love: No shoes, no shirt, no honey, no money, no worries!