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Living in a Balinese compound 15 mins South of Ubud

Living in a Balinese compound 15 mins South of Ubud

Meet: Saskia , Renon and Olive
Originally from: Australia + The Netherlands (+ technically Bali)
Arrived in Bali: October 2019

What made you move to Bali?

Renon is Balinese and was born here. When he was small his parents split up and his mother remarried a Dutchman, so at age 4 he and his mother moved to The Netherlands. Since the day I met Renon, he has always said “one day I am going to move back to Bali”. In 2019 that was that one day.

Where is Home in Bali and Why did you Decide to live there?

Home in Bali is in Renon’s family compound, in a small local village about 15 minutes south of Ubud. Initially, we lived in a modern villa by the beach, close to Canggu, but we felt like we were living in a resort-esque bubble and detached from the real Bali. From day one Renon’s family had asked us to come live in their compound, but being a Westerner I didn’t jump at the chance to move in with my in-laws. But after 8 months of living in tourist town, we welcomed the change of pace.

Please tell us about your villa and neighbourhood.

As we live in a traditional compound we don’t have a villa. We do have our own house, completely independent from the rest of the family. The house itself had been vacant for almost 20 years, so we had to renovate it before moving in and while we were at it, “Westified” the kitchen and bathrooms.

As we live in a compound we live within a small community. The compound is “run” by the matriarch – Renon’s aunt. She lives here together with her children, their children and their children children – so 4 generations under one roof. Including us, there are 15 people in our compound.

The main question we get asked is, “what about privacy?” As our compound is pretty large, the other houses are actually further away than our neighbours when we lived in our old villa in Canggu.

The village we live in is a local village, and as I am one of only 2 foreigners living on our side of town, so I get plenty of looks and asked a lot of questions – both very friendly and out of curiosity.

As Renon’s mother comes from this village, many of the older folks here remember him from when he was a kid and spot him straight away. Although he looks Balinese, he moves and talks like a European.

How long do you plan to stay in BALI?

As someone who has emigrated a number of times, I have learnt that the answer to this question changes depending on when you ask it. Had you asked me when I got here, I would have said temporarily, but now I see us staying here indefinitely.

Unlike a lot of the people who choose to come to Bali, who feel called here, I initially came only because Renon wanted to; not necessarily because I wanted to. I saw it as a stepping stone on our way back to my home country, Australia.

But the longer I am here, the more it grows on me. We always felt restricted by a lot of the rigid systems in the countries we grew up in, and have really enjoyed the freedom we found here.

We dream of one day buying some land in the mountains with friends, to create our own little self-sufficient community, our own compound of sorts.

Please share more about what it is like to work in Bali and The Business Minimalist.

My business has always been location independent since the get-go, so just like back in The Netherlands, I work in co-working offices here – except here they have a better view 🙂

I am a Business Minimalist Strategist + Organiser, or as my clients refer to me, “the Marie Kondo of business”. I help busy business owners, who are doing well in their business, but are totally overwhelmed  or ready to level up, by helping them to minimise, systemise and organise their business and their life. So that they can create space and have room to breath.

Before running my own business, I ran the backend of businesses, from start ups to multinationals. Initially when I started my business I was working as a virtual assistant and I would see my clients sending me so many tasks to do that could have been simplified, automated or ditched all together, or that they were wasting so much time and money unnecessarily but not using their time efficiently.

Pretty soon it became clear I was bringing my clients more value with these things, than simply helping them tick off their to-do list, so I moves from executing tasks to minimising and organising them.

What is IT like being a mum in Bali and raising your daughter olive?

In one word – freedom.

Bali is such a kid friendly place as everybody loves kids here.

We can jump on our scooter and head off anywhere – the beach, the jungle, the mountains, a cafe, a pool or whatever else you feel like. The only thing I miss here are parks and playgrounds.

Personally we don’t have a nanny, but if you wish to hire one, I believe they are very affordable.

What have you decided to do for school in bali?

At first Olive was part of a wonderful school in Canggu, The Garden. But as we moved to our new house mid-pandemic when the schools were closed, we just had Olive at home with us.

Although schools started to open up, we didn’t like the new regulations, so choose to keep Olive home a little longer.

While reading into homeschooling, I discovered unschooling and realised that is what we had been doing for the past year and found it really worked for us. Unschooling is essentially throwing everything you have ever learnt about education out the window, and following your child’s innate desire to learn. There are no structured lessons or lesson plans, no curriculum, no class rooms, no teacher. It is a form of child-led learning, in which you simply follow the interests and questions of your child and see life as school.

When Olive said she wanted to learn about the planets, we followed her interest – we bought books about planets to learn all about them, listened to songs about planets and made up dances to go with it, learnt how to write their names, count their moons and made a paper cache solar system.

Next Olive asked questions about why (as far as we know) there are only people and animals on Earth, so we started learning about our atmosphere, the weather, the water cycle and how plants grow. And so on.

We have found this really works for us, now. If this will always be the route we choose – who knows.

How is life in Bali during COVID? What would you say to families who are keen to move but are hesitant considering the unknowns.

We are so happy that during this time, we found ourselves in Bali. Just like pretty much everywhere else in the world, there are certain regulations or restrictions in place that you have to be mindful of, but considering that we still feel very free in Bali. In saying that – we entered Bali pre quarantine and vaccination requirements, so that is something you have to take into consideration.

As for daily life in Bali, for people who are not dependant on tourism for an income, our life didn’t change that much. It’s been a special time to experience Bali without tourism, and the traffic that comes with it.

In the foreigner community here, it can be pretty transient as people usually only come to Bali for a few weeks or months at most. But now that only the “long haul” foreigners remained, it’s been easier to find each other and in this past year we have found so many special friendships.

In saying that, COVID has been devastating for the local economy and in turn community. We do what we can to help, but it feels so infinitesimal. So if you have ever enjoyed your time here in Bali, please do consider reaching out to any local contacts here or local charities to see how you can help. 

What advice can you give to Families making the move to bali?

Bali is a wonderful place to live, but do keep in mind a holiday here is not the same as living here – just like it is in any place.

I have had to learn to adjust certain expectations here. It is not as structured as Western countries, which is both a blessing and a curse. And things move here in island time – and it will not rush to meet you, you need to slow to it’s tempo.

Depending on where you choose to live, life in Bali is not as cheap as it may first appear so make sure you have some savings. When we add up our (old villas) rent, living expenses, international school and visa costs, we are not much better off that our expenses in Europe. In saying that – we can afford a much better life. (2 story villa with a pool close to the beach, costs about the same as our small apartment in Holland).

Is there anything else you would like to share that I haven’t asked?

When you come to Bali – be sure not just to enjoy the touristy beach clubs or shopping precincts. Get out into nature, eat at a warung, make some local friends, learn some Balinese or Indonesia and if you get invited to experience a ceremony, say yes! And please, please, please, if you don’t know how to drive a scooter – don’t get on one until you have had some lessons.

Thank you Saskia for sharing your life with the Our Year in Bali community. Saskia is an entrepreneur who is “the Marie Kondo of business”.
As a Business Minimalist Strategist she helps busy entrepreneurs avoid overwhelm + level up.

To find out more about Saskia please visit her website and follow her on Instagram.


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