In this interview, we sit down with Dr. Katie Stirling, a clinical psychologist and couples therapist, along with her husband Andy, a digital marketing professional. Originally from the Mornington Peninsula, Australia, they made a life-changing decision to move to Bali in February 2023. Trading the hustle of their busy psychology practice for the serene landscapes of Bali, the couple embarked on a journey to redefine their lives. In this candid conversation, they share their motivations, challenges, and the transformative impact Bali has had on their personal and professional pursuits. From adapting to local customs to creating evidence-based online wellness programs, the Stirlings provide insights into their daily life, the vibrant expat community, and the enriching experiences that come with embracing Bali as their new home.
When did you first arrive in Bali, and what brought you here?
February 2023. We closed our busy psychology practice and were ready for a change, we have travelled to Bali many times and felt like it was exactly what we needed (and spoiler alert- it was!!).
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and where are you originally from?
We’re from the Mornington Peninsula, a beautiful winery and beach region about an hour from Melbourne, Australia. We have 2 gorgeous kids (2 & 7 years old). I grew up in Queensland and Andy grew up overseas, including 6 years in Indonesia until his family settled in Melbourne when he was 10.
What motivated you to move to Bali, and how did you go about making the decision to do so?
Initially we came here with the mindset of we’ll stay a couple of months and see how we feel. Either way we needed a break. Then it was another couple of months and then we decided to start Couples Retreats here (I’m a clinical psychologist / couples therapist). It was an easy decision for us, Bali already felt like a second home. It was a culture shift and the change we were looking for, but at the same time felt familiar enough that it wasn’t overwhelming.
Where in Bali do you live, and what made you choose that location?
Kerobokan, we want to be close to the kids school. If you’re moving to Bali definitely think about where you’ll be spending the majority of your time and find a home near there. Traffic is real and you want to spend your time enjoying Bali, not commuting.
What has the schooling experience been like? How was it meeting other parents and the kids making friends?
We have had great experiences with both Matahari and the Bilingual Community School. It was important to us that our kids learn Bahasa. The expat community here is awesome, but we also wanted to connect with locals and experience Bali’s beautiful culture. BCS offers all of this and has a great community feel.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced when moving to Bali?
Our kids miss the open spaces and playgrounds we had access to at home. There are lots of cafes that have playgrounds but it’s not as readily available as Australia, we’d usually get up and go straight to a playground in the morning. So, we invested in a trampoline and basketball hoop and created our own playground at home. In Bali, you have to accept and embrace things and make your own work arounds.
What are the new hobbies or activities you are excited to try or looking forward to discovering in Bali?
Our kids are enjoying everything! We have loved trying lots of wellness focussed activities and I am obsessed with a good massage! Andy and I are going to start padel this year.
How have you adapted to the local customs and traditions in Bali, and what are your learning and enjoying from the experience?
We’ve loved the culture and traditions. We’re amazed at how well Bali blends and celebrates so many different cultures and religions- I think we can all learn a lot from Bali. Bali has made us slow down, reprioritise and celebrate the little things in life.
How has living in Bali influenced your personal and professional life, and what opportunities have you found here?
I’d have to say the biggest influence is having more mental space, increased focus on wellbeing and greater creativity. It’s led us to pursue opportunities we are most passionate about. As a clinical psychologist, I’m all about mental health prevention and as a couples therapist I’m passionate about ensuring couples set their relationships up to succeed. As a digital marketing professional, Andy is driven by opportunities to utilise online mediums to connect people to the support they need. Since being here we decided to combine our skills and have been creating a range of evidence-based online programs to help people create the lives and relationships they love. We’re just about to launch our first online holistic wellness bootcamp and our relationship reset bootcamp. This wouldn’t have happened without our life here. Bali has given us the space to do what we love.
Can you walk us through what a typical day looks like for you in Bali?
We get up around 6am, have breakfast together. Our kids leave for school about 7:45am. We walk to the gym, usually a quick swim after and then into the work day. On Mondays I take my daughter to a café for breakfast before school to ease the transition. We usually work from home or sometimes at a café. Then kids finish school at 2:30pm, a few days they have activities and then are home about 4pm. We finish work and usually go for a family swim and have an early dinner. After the kids go to bed we will sometimes do a little work or just relax. Weekends are all about exploring Bali. In Bali, life is to be lived outside!
When I have a retreat it looks a little different, I’ll take time off before and after so I can have quality time with the kids. We usually try and do a family weekend away before or after a retreat.
What would you say is the best thing about living in Bali?
The people! We had a pretty full on few years through Melbourne lockdowns, running a psychology practice. People here are so positive, happy, and helpful. We are so grateful to be immersed in such a beautiful culture! We also love the laid back lifestyle- life is simple. And, as for the expat community- I think we all moved here for a reason, there are so many kind and positive people. We are super appreciative for our life in Bali, we know how lucky we are!
What are some factors that families looking to live in Bali should consider?
Support is a lot more accessible here. Being able to have that help has been amazing! With our families living in different states, it was hard to find time for us in Australia. Here we have weekly dates and much more quality time as a couple and family. If you plan on getting a nanny spend the time to find someone you trust and who your kids love.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience living in Bali that we haven’t covered yet?
I would just say if you plan to live here – embrace it. At the start you can have ups and downs, especially as you’re trying to navigate how everything works. Try to accept the culture and way of doing things. It took us a little while to figure out the business side of things and set up couples retreats here. If you’re new to Bali get in touch with Simone. Honestly, it can be tricky to navigate things like schools and rentals- it will save you so much time, peace of mind (and probably money!).
Bali has so much to offer. Make friends! We made some beautiful friends early on and I am so grateful! Be open to meeting people and if you meet someone you click with don’t hesitate to ask for their whatsapp. You’ll be surprised how you can make new friends for yourself and your kids. Enjoy! Feel free to follow our journey on Instagram @drkatiestirling