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Canadian expat family from panama to working in bali

Meet: Lauren, Michael, Hawksley(4) and Juniper (10 months)

Originally from: Canada. My husband and I met in Canada 14 years ago and have since lived in Korea (2009-2010) and then spent 8 years in Panama before relocating to Bali in 2021. So we are Canadian at heart but travellers for life.

Arrived in BaliJuly 2019… and left during the pandemic to have baby Juniper closer to family. It was a tough last minute decision in March 2020. I was 28 weeks pregnant and as a result we decided that with so many unknowns and the airports closing, we should head back. Especially odd given that we haven’t spent more than a few weeks in Canada in almost a decade. 

Home in Bail is: Pererenan

What made you move to Bali? 

A job opportunity for my husband, the opportunity to get out of bustling Panama City, Panama, experience a new culture and grow our family in a new and vibrant place. 

How long do you plan to stay? 

2+ years. Panama was meant to be 2 years and it lasted 8… so who knows!

Where is home in Bali and why have you decided to live there? 

We live in Pererenan. This is for a few reasons. One, it is relatively convenient for my husband’s job. Secondly, our villa is a few minutes from the beach so my husband can do his 5:30am surf before work and we can enjoy regular sunsets at a local warung in the sand. Our son is a major water baby and also loves to surf and swim so being close to the ocean is important to us. We also like that Pererenan isn’t quite as busy as other areas and we have quick access to quieter beaches like Seseh and Kedungu. 

Was it difficult to find a villa? 

It was! Aside from Michael, the rest of us are mosquito magnets. We needed indoor living and in anticipation of another baby we wanted to make sure that the bedrooms didn’t all open right to a pool. We found the perfect spot, enclosed living space, three bedrooms (although we really just use two), nice pool, small garden and in a little community where we have lovely neighbours who have become great friends. 

Financially, how do you live in Bali?

Michael is a teacher and is thus given visas for our entire family. Some added expenses are also taken care of. I work for myself running a few small businesses, mostly based online. I am a maternal wellbeing practitioner, helping to empower parents in their motherhood journeys. I am also a project management and startup consultant for female entrepreneurs – mostly mamas – who are working to find that mom boss balance. 

What is a typical Bali day for you and your family?

During the week it isn’t the tropical vacation people think it might be. The kids are up by 6:30 and we have breakfast together before Hawksley and Michael head off to school. I work from home – albeit with a lovely tropical view. We have an incredible helper who comes and takes care of Juniper at home while I work. That way I am able to eat with her, breastfeed her, put her down for naps and take play breaks. Our helper’s husband is also our driver and together they also do cleaning for us. Honestly, living so far from family and in the middle of a pandemic, while we both work full time… we would be 100% lost without them. If nothing else I am SO grateful to have found the most thoughtful, kind, heart felt humans to help our family. 

At 2:00pm Hawksley gets home and Juniper is usually napping so we get some one on one time to play (lego lego lego) before his sister wakes up. We swim, ride bikes with the neighbourhood kids, fly a kite in the rice field or do some crafts. Michael tries to race home for 4pm to hang out. We make dinner at home 4-5 times a week. Dining out is SO inexpensive and incredibly delicious but we also have some early risers so eating at home is helpful for us to have early bedtime. 

Weekends are a different story. Saturdays are almost always beach days. We have fresh orange juice delivered every Saturday morning, make some mean smoothies and pancakes and start the day enjoying the pool or calling family back home. We generally head our around lunch time to grab some food and hit either a local beach, or one that is more kid-friendly for swimming. We don’t come back until we are all ready to crash and often order in. Sundays are relaxed, maybe a beach brunch and always a lot of swimming and hanging out with friends for sunset. 

How has COVID affected you and how is Bali currently living with it?

I have an autoimmune disease and am prone to respiratory infections so it is pretty scary to see the extent to which expats are ignoring it. We also have family in Canada working tirelessly in the ICU literally saving lives and caring for people of ALL ages on ventilators. 
Having witnessed it all from the Canadian perspective and then from within the bubble of Bali has been rather concerning. It is far too easy to disregard COVID in Bali because you simply don’t see it. We spent 7 months in Canada during the pandemic and were lucky enough to be there when things were not under strict isolation. People were, for the most part, cautious, mindful and respectful of expectations and other people’s boundaries. If you had never been to Bali and were dropped here tomorrow you would barely realize there is a Pandemic.

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? 

That was an easy one for us. My husband works at the Green School so our son is attending the Green School and one day perhaps Juniper will too!

What is it like being part of an expat community? 

It has been good and we have met a bunch of good people from all over the world, but at the same time we also miss having more contact with locals. Perhaps this is also our fault but in Bali we tend to go to places where there are mostly only expats and tourists. 

We have been a part of an expat community for so long. I think there are a few key frustrations and a billion amazing aspects to it.

The amazing? Meeting people from all over the world. Finding common connections, collaborations and opportunities to learn from one another. Having our children grow up in a global community.

The frustrations? As a mom it is hard to get out and meet people and Covid has only made it more challenging. 

What is the best kept secret/hidden gem in Bali you’ve discovered? 

If you whatsapp a hotel or airbnb directly rather than book online, they are usually keen to give you amazing deals.

The best coffee ever is out of Singaraja and is locally owned and can be delivered to your door – check them out here @kejapacoffee_

Also Kedungu beach and The Fat Hog for Saturday lunches!

What have you struggled with the most in Bali? 

When Covid was not an issue the congestion of traffic, people and tourism is insane. You can keep to yourselves and enjoy more chill, family friendly events and opportunities but the constant stream of partiers and loud obnoxious motorbikes gets tiresome quickly. 

What advice do you have for other families making the move to Bali? 

You can find the worst in any place in the world. Come to Bali and find the slice that fits best for you and your family. Explore, dive in deep with the local culture and make it an opportunity to grow, learn and see some of the most beautiful places on earth.

Thank you so much Lauren for sharing your Bali life with the Our Year in Bali community!

To follow Lauren and her family Instagram and her website.

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