How to not hate Bali

The first week we spent in Bali I hated the place. We were fresh from a month in cool, clean New Zealand, and Bali was by contrast a chaotic, choked struggle. We’d been warned that Bali had evolved from the quiet paradise surfing hippies lauded back in the 80’s, but still, the place took us by surprise.

With millions of visitors each year, big hotels, frantic traffic and too many instagram swings, Bali is not making any “hidden gem” lists. It’s easy to go to Bali and have a dismal time, searching for zen while stuck in traffic or sandwiched at a bar packed with drinky Ozzies and influencers from Singapore.

So what happened? What is it that keeps drawing us, and families like us, back to the island? 

As usual, things changed when we started to meet people. We slipped easily into a community of transplants, families from all over who’d made the island their permanent home. “Bali’s a tough place to visit,” one new friend told me, “but an incredible place to live.” And the longer we stayed the more this made sense. Bali has layers.

Many of the families we met revolved around the Green School, a legendary place in the world of alternative education. While the kids enjoyed their days in this inspiring environment, the adults were finding their own path. All of your practical needs in Bali can be met by a text on WhatsApp and a guy who shows up at your house on a scooter. Dinner? Surfboard? Toilet paper? Be there in 15 🙏 🙏 🙏. There’s an ease of life that frees you to explore your own needs, your own ideas in a new way. 

Ideas! Bali has an oversized concentration of dynamic, creative people living far beyond the patterns that kept them rooted back at home. We found so much inspiration in random conversations with fascinating people working on wild and new ideas. For people like us, forging our own path and building a business that is unlike any other in the world, it’s easy to feel at home in a place like this.

And the Balinese. Kind. Generous. There’s a sense of care and craft for each object, each moment. Their calendar is thick with holidays; everyone participates. This is their island, but they would say it belongs to the gods. I watched a stately older woman, straight-backed and eyes smiling, float through traffic as she carried a small handwoven bowl holding a bit of rice, some fruit and a stick of burning incense. She wound through the taxis, the motorcycles carrying whole families, the trucks piled with crates of chickens, and placed her offering on the ground at the nexus of a busy intersection. The woman disappeared. The traffic light changed. Within minutes the offering was a smudge, ground into the tarmac by passing tires. The Balinese have an acceptance of impermanence and an ability to focus on what good each of us can bring to the world, instead of what bad already exists in it. Populate an island with people like that and you have a place that feels peaceful and magical, no matter the challenge.

We left Bali in March of 2020, as the entire world went inside and locked the doors. Emerging from the pandemic there is a swell of families looking to reprioritize, to reconnect with each other, to gain experiences instead of things. We can think of no better place to gather these families than Bali, and we are so excited to return this February and March for our Pop Up Life events. Perhaps we’ll see you there!