Australian family living in Canggu with high school children
Meet: Jade, Bruce, Evan and Rani
Originally from: Perth, Western Australia
Arrived in Bali: December 2019
Home in Bail is: Berawa, Canggu
What made you move to Bali?
My husband is a geologist. We were living on a mine site in Ghana for 3 years prior. The kids had been attending school through distance education back in Australia, our daughter was in year 6, and our son was heading into year 9. We did not feel that we could provide quality education for our son through the distance education system as he went into high school, and also felt that he was missing out on the social aspects of attending a “real school”. We had looked into the options of boarding schools, but this didn’t seem to be a good fit for our son. We have always loved Bali, my husband and I were married here in Legian 17 years ago, and we still come here most years regardless of where in the globe we happen to be living at the time. We were entertaining the idea of moving somewhere to get the kids into a good school and nice community where they can thrive. We were over here on a trip, and decided to check out the school and area in Canggu. We loved both the area and the school, and the community feel, so we decided to stay.
How long do you plan to stay?
Both the kids are thriving here so far, with the school and the community, even through these tough and crazy Covid-19 times, and we are loving the active healthy lifestyle here as well. We want to stay here to see our son through high school, at least another three years. Then we will need to decide whether we want to stay to keep our daughter here until the end of her high school, or to move somewhere where she can attend as well as our son to head to a university.
Where is home in Bali and why have you decided to live there?
We are living in Berawa. We chose the area mainly due to the school our children go to Canggu Community School, and we love it. We live walking distance from school and also from a great beach. Our road is relatively quiet and we feel safe. There are lots of lovely coffee shops and restaurants close by, and a great sense of community.
Was it difficult to find a villa?
This year it was very easy to find villas, due to the Covid-19 situation. We had a pick of quite a few and the owners were quite flexible on rates.
Financially, how do you live in Bali?
My husband works abroad, and flies home after 6 weeks away, and spends 3 weeks here, before heading out to work again.
What is a typical Bali day for you and your family?
This year hasn’t been a typical year due to covid protocols and home schooling etc, but it has been fairly easy to maintain a good balance here. The kids get up quite early with the sun, have some breakfast and head for a walk on the beach before school. I take this time to have a quiet coffee with my husband, listen to the birds and waves, and watch the squirrels in the trees in our yard. We do some laps in the pool most mornings before it gets too hot. The kids have school from around 8 till 3:30. We usually have to pop to the shops for something or other, prepare meals and head out for the occasional coffee with friends or something. Days are as busy or relaxed as you make them.
How has COVID affected you and how is Bali currently living with it?
The effects haven’t been huge for us personally. The big one was the kids schooling from home. The biggest issue that we found with this, was how being the teacher and also the parent changes the dynamic of the family relationships. This took a lot of adjustments, compassion and kindness from both sides, but we got there in the end. My husband got stuck here for the year with the shutdown of global travel which was a positive for us, as we all managed to stay together and provide support through this year. My husband did lose his job due to the difficulties in travel, but we had sufficient savings to sustain us here with a fairly modest life this year, and we are confident that he will find more work in the near future to keep our dream here alive.
The hard this has been seeing the impact of Covid-19 on the local economy, seeing so many locals out of work and struggling has been tough.
Frustratingly I think that there is a huge sense of entitlement among expats that is prolonging the closure of the island. And for locals, who have been economically decimated by the lack of tourism, this is incredibly difficult. Add to it the financial barriers to health services and sadly, the lack of respect for the laws and regulations in Bali are massively harming the Balinese people while the expats get away with relative freedom to do whatever they please.
My perspective is that regardless of your beliefs, being respectful of the country you are living in and the people around you is central to being a global citizen (or just a good person). So if that means wearing a mask or not having parties of 50 people, I don’t think it is too much to ask.
What have you decided to do for education in Bali?
Our kids go to Canggu community school. We have really liked it and they are both really thriving there. It is not too big, so the kids do not get lost in the system, they have some great relationships with their teachers, and a real sense of community. We have been really impressed with how they have approached and adjusted to the Covid-19 protocols, and kept all the students engaged, learning and safe.
What is it like being part of an expat community?
We love being part of the expat community. You straddle cultures, you get to live in new places and learn so much about the people and the different perspectives on life around the world, and hopefully pick up some of the good and drop off some of the baggage that you had accumulated from your home culture. It is amazing, but it is definitely not all roses. You get the best of both cultures in some ways, but you also have to deal with a lot of the parts you would rather do without, of each culture. The poverty, the corruption, the crime and safety issues, trust issues between cultures, and always having to be on the lookout for being ripped off. Infrastructure issues and logistics problems, visa issues and changing rules are always in your life. You have to deal with other expats’ attitudes and at times face and work through your own prejudices often that you thought or hoped were not there. You are never quite integrate into your host community, (even if that is mostly our own doing through wanting our home luxuries and people around), but also when you return to your native country, we find that we no longer feel the same “home” feelings of belonging and being a part of this community any more. A good part of those shared experiences that made you part of the community have now been replaced or added to by the new ones you have experienced with your new expat community. This bonds you strongly with the expat community, but you no longer have the same viewpoint and perspectives that you did on leaving your native country.
What is the best kept secret/hidden gem in Bali you’ve discovered?
That would be telling, and secrets are often best when kept that way. No, one thing that we have found is that Bali has so many diverse experiences to offer spread out all over the beautiful island. The big thing we try to remember is to get out of our little comfort zone as often as possible. Take a ride into the rural areas, take a hike/treck. Go hunting for waterfalls, (this is a favourite for the whole family). Diving or snorkelling in east Bali or up in Menjingan is a great trip. Check out a new beach, ride through some rice terraces, go up north over the mountains or west or east and experience the different climates and ecosystems and cultures in various parts of the island, and what they have to offer. We find that whenever we go looking, hidden gems are always there to be found, and a lot of that comes from opening ourselves up to the experiences.
What have you struggled with the most in Bali?
The areas that I struggle with the most is seeing people in need everywhere and not being able to help them all, seeing beautiful and loving dogs needing help everywhere and not being able to help them, also confronting the privilege that we do live with on a regular basis and the internal turmoil that that produces.
What advice do you have for other families making the move to Bali?
Firstly, don’t expect living here to be like holidaying here. Holidaying is care free and indulgent and it would not be healthy to live like this 24/7. Your real life needs to have responsibilities, healthy habits, goals and boundaries. You need to work on yourself, your relationships, your parenting and your career just like anywhere else, and life doesn’t magically become easy like it does when you go on holiday.
You cannot use a move like this to run away from issues in your old life. Deal with problems before you come, reach out to people and mend relationships, and start your new life with good intention and a clean slate. The last thing you will need in your new life is a shadow lying over you from your old life, doubt and anxiety on what you should have, could have done differently before you left.
Make sure that you stay strong as a family unit. Where you had a lot of support systems back in your native country, at least to start with, you will be each other’s support when you are living expat. Jump in with both feet. Try to get involved in the community as much as you can. Try not to go back to your native country in the first year, find the things that you are longing for from your home in your new home. Friends, connection, a sense of belonging, a sense of community and of responsibility to make a positive impact. Try to give back whenever you can. Whether big or small, giving back is a good way to keep grounded, and the respect and gratitude that it shows is always appreciated by your hosts. Enjoy the amazing parts of living here and try not to feel guilty, especially when talking to people “back home” there are plenty of challenges to balance these amazing parts, and they will never quite understand unless they have lived here.
Thank you so much Jade for sharing your Bali life with the Our Year in Bali community!