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A Norwegian Family’s Journey of Memories, Culture, and Culinary Delights in a Dreamy Gap Year Bali Adventure!

It was wonderful to finally meet up with clients Bjørnar and Rikke from Norway, also known as @familyonaroll where they document their wonderful gap year that they planned for the last two years. We had our first Zoom call back in October 2021, where we discussed their exciting plans for a 2023 gap year. This was their first time visiting Bali, so naturally, they had plenty of questions.

Fast forward to the present, and here we are, enjoying a meal in Umalas, the very neighborhood they now call home. It’s also where they’ve enrolled their two children, Emil and Casper, in the school @proedbali.

In this enlightening interview, Rikke shares from initial plans, to settling in Umalas to insights on school, activities, and adapting to Bali’s unique charm.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and where are you originally from?

We are a family of 4, with teenage boys, from a small place 30 minutes outside Oslo. I work in advertising and my husband is a social worker. Currently on a gap year in Bali! Though the kids may not agree in that term, as they still have school.

When did you first arrive in Bali, and what brought you here? What motivated you to move to Bali, and how did you go about making the decision to do so?

We arrived at the beginning of July (2023).We started dreaming about creating memories and showing the kids more of the world during Covid when everything felt meaningless. We did some research on different places, and had an open mind on where to travel to.

Norwegain family playing soccer on the beach in Bali

How did you hear about Our Year in Bali, and what was your experience like with Simone’s assistance?

When we landed on Bali – “Our Year in Bali” was one of the first sites to come up in the process. And by reading all the interviews for a start, made it even easier to choose Bali as our destination. We thereafter reached out to Simone who gave us so valuable information about the daily life, school, where to settle, contacts and much more, which we wouldn’t have learned or known about otherwise. Priceless!

Where in Bali do you live, and what made you choose that location?

It wasn’t until 2 month in – that we settled where we are now, which is Umalas. We absolutely love this area, it is quiet compared to Canggu and Berawa – but still very central, all within a short scooter ride. It is only 5 minutes away from the school and the arena where the boys play football – which was the most important thing for us. Even the beach is close! We had a pretty strickt budget, but we made a good long term deal on a villa we found on AirBnB. We listened to Simone and others, so a closed villa with aircon in each room was our main priorities. Very happy with that choice.

What has the schooling experience been like?

Being from Norway, we are probably a bit more used to order and systems. It applies in all aspects compared to Bali. As far as the school was concerned, we did quite a lot of research in advance – and wanted to have a clarification in place quite quickly, as it was important to us that both children got a place at the same school. But things took a long time, there were a number of reminders from our side, so that was a bit difficult to deal with. However, once it was in order, we were very happy with the choice. The school is in lovely surroundings, just the right size and they have a good teacher-to-student ratio. The pace on things is just something we had do learn to embrace. The curriculum is not the same as back home of course, but they learn so much more about life we think.

Surf lessons in Bali

How was it meeting other parents and the kids making friends?

Our children are having the best time, even if the children at school are not necessarily the ones they hang out with in their free time. It’s a good environment there, with a good mix of differences that we really appreciate. And the school often organizes morning coffees etc., which is a good initiative to meet other parents. But of course you have to maken an effort your self as well. We were very lucky that we got into the Bali Bulldogs early, where there is a fantastic community between players, teachers and parents. We had already been in contact with them before we came down, so we were welcomed with open arms. So that is the group of people we´ve become closest to. I really recommend getting involved with activities outside of school.

Expat family playing soccer with Bali boys

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced when moving to Bali?

We haven’t really had any major challenges. There have of course been some bumps in the road, but nothing we haven’t been able to handle. You just have to expect that unforeseen things can happen when you choose this type of journey. But almost anyone we meet are extremely helpful, so we´ve always found someone to give us a good advice or helped us if needed. And any experience we have will at least make a good story 😉

Family in Norway in Waterfall in Ubud

What are the new hobbies or activities you are excited to try or looking forward to discovering in Bali?

Activities are generally surprisingly expensive based on our expectations. Of course football take up most of the time. Besides that I try to enjoy yoga, which is of course a must here. And Bjørnar has started padel. There’s a lot we haven’t seen and done yet, so we’re glad we have plenty of time to do just that. There are quite a few holidays at school, so we try to use them to travel around. We look forward to exploring more of the island, more of the people and culture that exist here. There is so much you can do here!

Snorkeling in Amed

How have you adapted to the local customs and traditions in Bali, and what are your learning and enjoying from the experience?

One thing you quickly learn is that you just have to adapt to life here. But that is also the reason why we came. First of all, Bali really live up to the nickname “The Island of the Gods” In addition to the offerings and incnets you see everyday, there are beautiful ceremonies all the time that can come quite suddenly, which can block the road or delay an appointment. Little you can do with that, but it’s also the relaxed attitude everyone has about it.  Another thing is that “yes” can just as easily mean “no”, and in traffic, no cops equals no rules.

Overall, the whole mentality is making us take a step back in all situations. I don´t get as easily upset anymore.

What are your thoughts on healthcare in Bali, and did you feel safe living there?

If I start thinking about what can happen, I can get a bit anxious. We are in fact “stuck” on an island, and if something serious were to happen – we would be in trouble. No doubt about that. But accidents can happen everywhere anytime, so best thing is just not to think about it, take precautions, be careful – especially in traffic. But for small things, healthcare has not been a problem at all. We´ve used doctors a couple of time, and we got easy and quick help, as expats we do have some advantages.

Can you walk us through what a typical day looks like for you in Bali?

We all get up at 7 in the morning, except Bjørnar and Emil who gets up at 6 am 3 times a week to go to the gym. We do have a chill start, and eat breakfast togheter before we take the kids to school with scooters. They start at 8:45. Most of the time we go to the gym or yoga after that, and then have a lunch – either just the two of us, or with friends. Not seldom there are chores to do, like shopping at the local market etc. Since we only drive scooters everywhere, it is limited much you can bring with us on one trip. We pick up the kids at 15:15, grab some food and head to football training or match. If not that, we hang out at the beach and catch the sunset – which is the most beautiful sunset you´ll ever see! Then dinner, and we go quite early to bed. I am looking forward to start my study in December. But I will admit,  we live a pretty chill life at the moment.

What would you say is the best thing about living in Bali?

So much. First and foremost the people, both the locals and the expats. The pace, the landscape, the sunset and the beaches. And the food!

Smoothie bowl Bali

What are some factors that families looking to live in Bali should consider?

Of course the financial aspect of it. It is much more expensive than you will think. It is very easy to spend money here! And a lot have to be paid upfront, like rent for a year. I highly recommend finding school first, and then a place to live. The traffic can make it hard some places. In that sense, get on a scooter as quick as possible! Take a lesson if you feel unsafe, but is absolutely necessary to be able to drive I think. I would feel I have no independence without that option. In the end, theres is only so much you can prepare, some things you just have to find out while your are here.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience living in Bali that we haven’t covered yet?

Every day life with ups and downs is inevitable anywhere you´ll go in the world. Don’t escape something by coming here, I don’t think that would be the answer. Come to explore, take the good with the bad. Have an open mind and take a chance.

Boy in the waves in Bali beach

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