We’ve all seen idyllic photos of people working on laptops next to swimming pools in exotic locations and imagined how amazing it would be to live a life of travel and work….swimming, sunbathing and sipping smoothies while working on a laptop in-between. Bali is digital nomad heaven, but if you go there to work don’t fall into the trap of being on holiday too. If you’re considering working remotely in Bali then read on for a few tips.
Behind the perfect pictures, the reality can be very different from the facade. If you’re not simply on holiday then mixing travel and work requires planning and discipline. Two things I did not adhere to when I had a month in Bali travelling and ‘working’. While it was an amazing time, I spent most of my time there moving around, trying to fit too much in, being side-tracked and overshadowed with guilt for not working enough, with only brief moments of true presence and relaxation.
Bali is an amazing, lush tropical island with magical interiors, where handcrafted wooden furniture blur with beautiful exotic gardens. It’s a hub for digital nomads as it’s cheap to live but fairly western and well connected, especially in Ubud.
Ubud – tropical and cheap with great wifi = digital nomad heaven
Spiritual types flock to Ubud, the lush green capital in the middle of the island. There’s an abundance of yoga, meditation, spas and retreats. Liz Gilbert of “Eat Pray Love’ set up camp in a village just outside Ubud for the ‘Love’ part of the book, which seems to have put it on the map.
What better place to get established as a digital nomad for a few weeks?! Starting the day with yoga and meditation. Working away in a beautiful co-working space with lush rice-field views. Bouncing ideas around and collaborating with inspiring entrepreneurial free spirits. Sipping $1 green smoothies. Eating fresh Indonesian food in gorgeous restaurants for a fraction of what it would cost elsewhere. Visiting beautiful spas, making time for the odd trip in-between working, perhaps to the white sand and turquoise water of the Gili islands, hiking up a volcano, or visiting a temple.
I had a whole month in Bali to do what I pleased. I’d looked forward to it so much and imagined all the time I’d spend doing yoga, integrating into the interesting community there.
And while I saw and did some incredible things, I moved around too much, did too much, was at times wracked with indecision, moved around to avoid loud roosters, slept terribly, drank too much, got severe food poisoning, followed a hot surfer to an island…and only spent 10 minutes at Hubud where I necked a green smoothie & sent a tweet before whizzing off to a spa on a scooter.
I tried to cram in seeing and doing everything and got next to no work done, with only momentary moments of true presence and relaxation. In a nutshell: if you’re going to Bali (or anywhere) to work and want to see the sights as well, you need a LONG TIME.
Bali tips for aspiring digital nomads
- Ubud, Seminyak and Canggu are the best places in Bali for digital nomads, with widespread wifi, cafes and co-working spaces
- Have a plan and stick to it. It doesn’t work like travel where you can leave things open-ended and make fantastic synchronistic discoveries. Working remotely needs planning and structure
- Choose one place and stay there for a long period – I tried to move around too much and it was disruptive.
- Work out a structure for your days, eg working in the morning and early afternoon then doing yoga / activities the rest of the day. A digital nomad pattern that works for me is working in the morning til around lunch time, then going off to do stuff, then coming back late arvo / early evening and doing a few more hours
- If you want to travel as well as work there’s a lot to see in Bali, so you’ll need a long time – months, not weeks
- Ubud is the centre for nomads with heaps of cafes to work and a few co-working spaces
- If you’re a light sleeper, find a place without roosters (ask the locals), or start going to bed early and getting up early!!
- Don’t plan to meet an old friend from your partying days
- Don’t go on benders
- Don’t go on tinder!
Things to do in Ubud
- Yoga, mediation and many other spiritual classes and workshops
- Visit the nearby temples, they’re amazing (but watch out, I had my purse stolen at one)
- Eat delicious local food in the beautiful restaurants
- Visit Green Village – stunning houses made of bamboo in the jungle near Ubud
- Visit a spa and get a massage
- See the monkey temple