Meet Kelly and her family from Canggu, Bali
Profile: Kelly, Brad, Eamon (age:7), Evander (age: 5)
Originally from: Sydney, Australia
Arrived in Bali: 2015
Home in Bali: Canggu
What made you move to Bali?
We were living in Sydney and had two children under the age of two. We were just not happy living in a small house, constantly working and having little to no time for us or the kids. We were actually open to moving anywhere, we knew we just wanted a lifestyle change.
And then as if it was meant to be, a friend posted on her Instagram that her parents were looking for someone to house sit their house in Bali.
My husband had never been to Bali before, so we did a quick trip over to check out the house and the area and we knew right away that it was something we wanted to do. So we packed up our things into a container and moved within a couple of months. It all happened quite fast, but it felt right the whole time.
How long do you plan to stay?
We moved to Bali with the expectation of staying for six months. We were house sitting in a friends house and we honestly didn’t even think that we would make it to six months. We kept saying to each other if it’s one month that’s fine, if it’s six great. We just had no idea. So the fact that we are here five years later still shocks us daily, and we are still unsure exactly how long we will stay here. I guess until it feels right to leave and start something new somewhere else.
Where is home in Bali and why have you decided to live there?
We live in Canggu. It’s busy and chaotic in this area now, but when we first moved here it was a quiet little village with a real growing, creative and positive community vibe. We knew most of the people on our street and at the kids little school. It was also pretty safe riding around on scooters and walking around the local area. 5 years later it’s grown so much, there are now so many more people living and travelling through here.
There are new shops, cafes, pharmacies, money changers and tattoo shops popping up every week! Over the past year we have questioned still living here a little bit as we felt it has lost that small community vibe and the growth here feels almost unsustainable. But for us we try hard to find the quiet amongst the busy, and we still feel so good about the decision we made to originally move here and our life has been forever changed for the better from being in Bali.
Was it difficult to find a villa?
When our time in the villa we were housesitting finished, we actually leased the villa next door to it as it randomly became vacant at the perfect time. We lived there for 2 years, then we knew we needed a different villa with a more enclosed living space. Both the villas we had previously were open living, which does suit Bali style living, but we got a little sick of the rats and mosquitoes. So we searched for a closed living villa and we ended up finding something in a great location that just fits our life perfectly. So we never found it difficult finding a villa, you do have to be willing to search for something good for a good price, there is a lot of average out there.
What keeps you busy and financially assists your life in Bali?
My husband Brad is an artist, he travels back to Australia almost every month for different projects, and when he is in Bali he is usually either painting or surfing. I do freelance graphic design so I can just work from anywhere. We also run a few small businesses where we produce products made in Bali.
What was a typical day for you prior to COVID19?
Typical day was school drop off, I would go to the gym and Brad would surf, and then we would work until we picked the kids up from school. Afternoon’s is always running the kids between activities, our kids are super active little boys so it’s either surf, skatepark, soccer training, tennis, guitar lessons or motocross riding. We are pretty fortunate in Bali to have an amazing nanny to help us in the afternoon so she helps cook dinner for the kids and Brad and I are able to sneak off some nights after the kids are asleep to have dinner with friends. We usually then stay up later and do some painting and work.
On the weekends we pretty much live at our local skatepark, it has a cafe that serves coconuts and beers and has great wifi so it’s a win win for me as well as the kids, then we try to get as many sunsets on the beach as possible. We also love to explore the island, there are so many beautiful places to go in Bali or across to close by islands; waterfalls, snorkelling, mountain trips, beautiful beaches, so as much as we can we try to go away somewhere new or go back to our favourite little escapes.
Our youngest son was only 9 months old when we moved to Bali, so this is all he knows. And our eldest was 2 years old, so we have never been in the Australian school system and therefore we really don’t have anything to compare it to. We are really happy with both schools the boys go to in Bali, they are happy so we are happy. Both boys learn Bahasa at school and they have lots of opportunity to do all the things they love.
What visas are you on? How is it working for you?
I am on a social visa which means I can stay for 6 months at a time, my son is on a study visa for school, and my husband travels back and forth so much that he usually just does a visa on arrival depending on how long he is staying in Bali. Right now because of the COVID situation we are here on the emergency stay visas! So we don’t really know what’s happening or when we need to leave – it’s all up in the air which is quite frustrating.
How is it being part of an expat community?
Everyone here is so quite open to new friendships, and because most people don’t have extended family around they are really spontaneous and generous with their time. A whatsapp message on one of the many whatsapp Bali groups means you can have a whole crew of people at the beach for sunset within 15 minutes any day of the week, or organise a playdate for the kids with a few minutes notice or an early dinner.
That’s one of the best things we love about living here, if you need anything there is always someone willing to step in to help you out. People seem to just have more balance and freedom here with work and life, so there is more time to put into friendships and self care.
What do you still miss back in Australia?
At the start I missed all the things I couldn’t have or buy from the supermarket or shops, different foods I love, or products I prefer to use, but now I just miss my family and friends. My heart breaks sometimes thinking of moments and things we miss out on in their lives; birthdays, weddings, baby showers, friends babies being born etc.
Living in Bali during COVID19 must be stressful, how are you going with it all ?
There was a lot of pressure on people living in Bali to return to their home countries. There were announcements from the Australian government saying come home and there were also some people saying that foreigners shouldn’t be in Bali taking beds away from local people. We decided to stay for many personal reasons, but the one main reason being that this is our home here, we don’t have a home in Australia, and just couldn’t risk the financial situation associated with being in Australia and not able to return back to Bali for an unknown period of time. That decision was quite hard for us to make, and we struggled with the decision over and over, but really life has been hard for people all around the world at this time, we just had to make a decision that was right for us.
We have been self isolating in our villa, doing home learning with kids and just trying to make the most of spending this crazy time together. It’s been quite stressful with the kids at home at times, but really we have loved spending this time together, getting to see how the kids learn, and it’s been such an insight to our personal true strengths and weaknesses. That being said, it is going to be a good day when the kids go back to school! I am not the beautiful, patient teacher I imagined I would be!
How are the Balinese coping? Do you have any concerns for their welfare?
With no tourists left in Bali it’s become a sad situation for some Balinese people whose source of income completely relied on tourism. Some locals financially live week by week, and there is some government assistance for them but it’s not much at all. There are lots of community-led initiatives from both expats and local villages to help Bali’s most vulnerable groups withstand the pandemic, so if you are reading this I would encourage you to please donate if you are in a position to.
Feel free to reach out to me and I can point you in the right direction to give. But also the idea that Bali will die without tourists to me implies that local people need foreigners to rescue them, but I think Indonesian’s are capable and have shown much resilience in the past and at this time also. It’s a difficult situation for people all around the world and like everyone else, the Balinese are just working out how to survive this crisis.
What do you think will happen to Bali when COVID19 settles down?
It’s hard to see beyond the week that you are in right now, let alone make any plans for the future. We will need to leave Bali in the next month or two because we have work commitments back in Australia, so we have the 2 week hotel quarantine ahead of us, and then the possibility of not returning to Bali until the borders are open again and Indonesia will accept people back in. So we really don’t know what’s going to happen for us and what life will look like for everyone around the world with international flights and visas.
I wish I had that mirror ball! But through this whole situation we have got used to not being in control of it all, and just trying to enjoy the day that you are in and the fact that we are together and healthy.
What advice do you have for other families making the move to Bali?
Difficult to answer this one given the current situation, right now it’s hard to imagine life going back to normal so soon, and people being able to travel around the world in the same way. I also don’t like giving advice to people, if they ask questions I am always happy to help but sometimes it’s all about getting out and discovering things for yourself, that’s part of the whole journey.
Bali is all about self discovery, one day you will have one of the best days of your life, and the following day everything will go wrong and knock you down. I would say just be open to whatever comes your way here, and expect most things to be happening at a much slower pace than you might be used too.
All photos provided by Kelly and Brad.
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