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Meet the Della Santa family living in Canggu Bali for the last six years

Profile: Skye, Marcus, Evie (7), Nahla (4) 
Originally from: Gold Coast, Australia
Arrived in Bali: 2014
Home in Bali: Canggu

What made you move to Bali?

To be honest we were just so over the 9 – 5 lifestyle (or in our case it was more like 4am – 7pm!). We had been working so hard for so many years – both of us always working a 6 day a week job. Marcus was in commercial construction at the time and all the work had moved from the Gold Coast to Brisbane which at the time was an awful commute. Some days it would be 3 to 4 hours to drive home in the traffic! We were both working, making decent money but feeling so unfulfilled. We would constantly be buying ourselves ‘things’ as rewards for working so hard, or we would book holidays that we would spend the entire year dreaming about and talking about – a whole years worth of dreaming for 2 weeks of freedom.  

Once we had our daughter Evie it really put things into perspective and we realised that none of this matters. Not the house, not the nice cars, not the clothes or the holidays. What mattered was spending time together as a family and living everyday with passion. These were the seeds that budded the idea that there HAD to be a different way of living. We knew at that point that we needed to make a change in our life and started exploring options of how we could do this from a different angle.

How long do you plan to stay? 

Originally only 12 months! Haha – you hear that from a lot of expats!
At the time our plan was for Marcus to take a year off work and I would continue working my job which was cloud based accounting. At the time we made the plan to move to Bali, my industry was only just starting to become more mobile and cloud based. So I spent for the first 6 months convincing every one of my clients to make the switch and then sought out new clients who would be open to this arrangement. 

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

Originally we decided to live in Berawa. We did ALOT of research prior and the Canggu area seemed to be the new place to be for expats. At the time it was much more quiet than Seminyak or Kuta and it was very chill. We have had a few villa moves in the last 6 years and we always seem to move a little further out, away from the hustle and bustle every time.  Currently we are in the beautiful area of Babakan which is very open, very green and has lots of rice fields.

Was it difficult to find a villa?

Not really. We did a lot of research prior and viewed a lot of villas before we found the right one. Also we learnt a lot each time we moved into a new villa. Our first villa was what looked to be the ‘Bali Dream’ – open plan joglo living, pool, open kitchen – it was heaven. Until we actually lived there, did a wet season there and had construction go up directly next to the house. For us now its all about closed living. 

Please share with us how you started your business Slab Interiors in Bali. How is it going? What projects are you working on?

We started Slab officially about 4 years ago. At the time we started it we had just moved into a new unfurnished villa. We didn’t have a lot of money to furnish the whole thing – but since plants were so cheap in Bali we thought it would be a really great and cheap way to fill the space and make the villa look beautiful. When I was looking for some planter pots I was searching high and low and could not find anything like what I had in mind. Everything in Bali was traditional style, terracotta, glazed and nothing modern or bright. Marcus’s background was in concrete construction so he knew the medium very well. He set off on the task to make them. They turned out so well, our house was full of beautiful plants. He enjoyed it so much that as a hobby he kinda kept making them. Soon enough we were becoming friends with cafe owners and they were asking for them in their cafes and everyone wanted one for their villa. What was a little hobby slowly grew from there. 

Business is going really well. It has obviously slowed a little since COVID19 which is to be expected but we are lucky enough to have an amazing team at our factory who we have been able to keep employed and we are still getting local work which is amazing. 

Currently we are just finishing up a very large contract for a hotel in Mauritius. Pre-Corona our main business has been working with larger scale commercial venues both within Indonesia and internationally. Since COVID that has all slowed up for obvious reasons however we have now had to adjust and focus on local retail customers which is helping us get through this quiet period in Bali. 

What was a typical day for you prior to COVID19?

Typical morning would start with Marcus going for a morning surf while I would prepare the children for school. Once in school, I would usually race to the gym for a quick workout and then get stuck into work for the day. Marcus leads the team in the factory so he mainly works onsite. For me, my days are mixed between working online at home, or at a cafe and then dropping into the factory as needed.
I take a lot of client meetings which I get to travel all around the island for as well. I love when we  get the chance to see new villa or hotel projects,  meet the architects and designers. It is such a passion. We are so lucky in Bali to have some many amazing inspiring designers creating unbelievable cool projects. 

Your gorgeous girls have grown up over the last six years in Bali! Can you share with us some of your experiences with their education. 

Our eldest daughter Evie attends a small home school which caters for 20 kids between the ages of 6 – 12. She studies the Canadian Curriculum and does ability-based learning which we love. We have found this style of schooling the best option for us as its a more relaxed style of learning. 

They both get to enjoy some Aussie culture in Bali and have lots of fun doing nippers with their mates on a Sunday morning at the Berawa beach organised by the Pantai Berawa Surf Club.

What visas are you on? How is it working for you?

We are all on KITAS. For us working in Bali it was the best option. We believe in doing things the correct way. Now we have been on KITAS for a few years, we no longer need to leave the country which removes so much pressure. Having to do constant visa runs sounds glamorous but in reality its pretty stressful and taxing. Especially with two young children. 

How is it being part of an expat community?

Absolutely amazing. I think its one of my favourite parts about living this lifestyle. As we are all living away from family and long term friends you find that everyone always connects a lot deeper and faster than you would in you own country. Its such a supportive group of people and the friends I have made really do feel like friends for life. We all celebrate the big milestones and special occasions together like family. 

What do you still miss back in Australia?

At the start of living here I missed a lot of things. Food, convenience items, how easy things were back home in the Gold Coast. However, now I am so used to this way of life that I dont miss anything other than being around family and my friends that I have had for years. However, with technology today I get to facetime and text with them daily which makes the divide a little easier. 

How have all you managed living in Bali during COVID19?

At the start of COVID it was very scary. No one really knew what was happening and a large portion of the expat community left. It was a really stressful time during this period as we were not sure if we should leave as well. However, after many many conversations, a few tears and then a whole lot of relief we decided to stay in Bali and it was the best decision we could of made. Bali is our home, our children are so settled here.
We have been following all social distancing guidelines which was very hard when Bali has closed all of the beaches. However, now that the beaches have reopened its much more manageable. We hope and pray that this is all over soon. Our island is really struggling without tourists. 

How are the Balinese coping?  Do you have any concerns for their welfare?

The resilience of the Balinese community is amazing. Everyone is really pulling together as a community and helping each other out however possible. However, the truth is this is an extremely hard time for the local community. So many people have lost their jobs and are really struggling. We have been working with an amazing organisation called Ocean Mimic who organises all the beach cleanups around the area. They have just started an amazing initiative where they are exchanging recyclable rubbish for rice. Each week the numbers of people are growing bringing in their trash to exchange for food. It is such an eye opener as the numbers increase to see how many people need help right now. Its a hard time and such a time to reflect on how lucky we are. 

What do you think will happen to Bali when COVID19 settles down?

Its really hard to say. There is a lot of talk about Bali changing the tourism model moving forward.  I feel like it will be a slow and gradual return but hopefully for everyone’s sake tourism increases again and people can start working. 

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

Do your research, save your money, dont ever expect it to be like your home country. Embrace all the differences, learn the language, learn and embrace the culture. Bali is such an amazing beautiful island and has so much to offer if you are willing to immerse yourself in it. 

All photos taken by Skye.

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