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Meet: Emily O’Neill

Originally from: Australia

Arrived in Bali: 2007

Home in Bail is:  Now our home is in Umalas, but we have lived in Petitenget, and Berewa as well over the years.

What made you move to Bali? 

We decided to move to Bali for a year or two before ‘settling down’ when our first born was still a bub. Before long we were starting our own business and were expecting our second baby, and we knew for sure we did not want to leave. We initially moved for fun basically, and stayed because we loved the freedom and opportunity island life gave us. At the moment we live in the Byron Bay Hinterland most of the year, commuting to Bali for our business (before COVID hit)!

How long did you plan to stay? 

There wasn’t really a plan, but after working for other companies for the first year or two we soon decided we needed the flexibility of our own business to balance family life and travel. Four years into Bali our business was growing steadily and we welcomed our third boy, by then it had become our home. With three young kids in school and the pull of family and new cousins back in Oz we decided to spend some time in Australia and change the company set up to an Australian Business structure. This was a game-changer for Bali Family Villas. We have a great team of long term staff in Bali who run the on Island operations year round, allowing us to work from anywhere and come and go from Bali.

Was it difficult to find a villa? 

Over the years we have watched the prices for long term Villas go up and up. It did not used to be so hard. We found our Villa by riding around on the bike looking at rice paddy signs. In our Bali homes, we have taken on older open air Villas and enclosed the living spaces and done small renovations to make them more suited for our family. When the boys were little we put in pool fences and liked to have everyone sleeping under the same roof.

You started a business in Bali! Please share with us the journey of setting up Bali Family Villas. Tell us all about your successful business.
The journey of starting a business in Bali has been full on but rewarding, with lots of learning curves across many years. We rode the bumps of volcanoes, visa changes, terrorism threats and the ups and downs of the Australian Dollar…. now with Covid it will take every bit of resilience to survive! But we very much plan to hang on, and be part of the Bali recovery. We can’t wait to welcome our clients back to Bali again when travel restrictions lift. We will also be back as a family as soon as possible to rebuild our teams and business. In the last two years we also built up Bali Soul Retreats focusing on corporate and wellness groups, so it has been a tough year with two arms of our business on hold. We are itching to have things up and running again. I have not been to Bali for 8 months, the longest stretch in 15 years.

What was a typical Bali day for you and your family? 
I guess the thing is there is no ‘typical day’ as such. Bali is so full of surprises. But the usual hustle of getting kids up and out the door, work and play, sunsets.

What have you decided to do for education in Bali?
We decided to give our boys a taste of being schooled in Australia for the last few years, but when we are in Bali they go to Pro-education. We love the small size, personalised learning and inclusive nature. It is a great school and they can walk there from our place. When we were in Bali full time the boys went to The Garden Early Learning and Canggu School.

How was it being part of an expat community?
We have so many amazing memories from when Canggu was a Village and life-long friendships with people from all over the world. Many of our friends have moved on, and some still live in Bali. The expat community is open-minded and creative, it’s a great mix of people and the bonds you make last forever.

What have you struggled with the most in Bali? 

You only really struggle with your own expectations in Bali, the rest takes care of itself! You just have to be in the flow and all is well, easier said than done sometimes. Anyone who has spent time, knows what I mean.

What advice do you have for other families making the move to Bali? 
I think moving to Bali these days is so different from before. I would advise to do your homework on upfront costs, it is not cheap to live in Bali especially with International school fees. But my overall advice would be, go for it, you will love it.


To follow Emily’s business visit Bali Family Villas and

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