Rachel: How to Escape
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Bali, etc.
I’m Rachel, I’m 32 and from Newcastle upon Tyne in the UK. I left my job and life in the UK in 2008 to go travelling and I backpacked around Asia for several months. Bali was meant to be my last stop in Asia before moving onto Australia and New Zealand but life had other plans and I’m still here 4 years later!
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started my blog soon after I married my husband, who I met here. I wanted an easy way for my friends and family to keep up to date with my life here and see photos of all the beautiful places around Bali and the ceremonies and culture that is part of our daily life.
Later after my children were born, the focus shifted onto them and my parents just love seeing their grandchildren on the blog every day even though they’re 8,000 miles away. Now I write a lot about the Balinese attitudes to parenting and raising a child as well as what it’s like in general to live here.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
- Not For Sale - I contemplate Bali’s disappearing rice fields.
- Sakura Bloom Sling Diaries – I explore a local waterfall with my baby boy.
- Fire - When you’re in trouble in Bali, the whole village rushes to help.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Bali differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
My life in Bali is very different from back in the UK. Before, I worked an office job during the week, lived alone and spent my free time socialising with my friends and going on holiday as much as I could.
Here I spend most of my day taking care of my children and I work on my websites and freelance work when I have a spare couple of hours. I live with my husband’s family and help take care of the home and put out the daily offerings whenever I can. I wasn’t at all religious in the UK but I converted to Balinese Hinduism when we were married and a big part of life here is the religious ceremonies and visiting the village temples. My day-to-day life is not very exciting but we have gorgeous beaches, jungle, rice fields and even a volcano on our doorstep for the most amazing days out which have just become normal to me now.
As I’d been travelling for quite a while before I came to Bali, I was already over the culture shock. I gradually learned about Bali life and sort of eased into it. It was more of a shock taking a two-week trip to Australia to renew my visa!
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Bali? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I wasn’t prepared at all! I wasn’t in any hurry to return to the UK but I really had no idea I would end up living in Bali. I don’t think I’d change anything, though it would have been useful to have learned some Indonesian before I came here. It’s been fun just working everything out as I go along.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
My Indonesian is not the greatest and although I get by fine day to day and I’m conversational, I’m certainly not fluent. Quite a while back I was chatting to someone in a doctor’s waiting room who asked where I was from and where I lived. He then said something that I didn’t understand so I just did my usual trick of smiling and nodding. Later when I asked my husband what he’d said, I realized I’d been smiling and agreeing that I was very rich. Ha! I wish! And then there’s the classic Indonesian mistake of saying “kelapa” (coconut) instead of “kepala” (head).
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Bali?
- Make Balinese friends – don’t just live in an expat bubble. Bali would be nothing without its people and learning firsthand about the culture and religion should be top priority for anyone living here.
- Know and accept that corruption is rife here. Don’t be surprised when the police pull you over for no reason and don’t expect to get your visa back any time soon unless you speed up the process with money. Bribes make the world go round here.
- Learn to get up early. I rarely get up much later than 6am these days and yet I’m usually the last one in the household up. The Balinese get as much done in the mornings when it’s cool as they can and it’s wise to follow them.
How is the expat community in Bali? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
There is a large and thriving expat community here. Different groups of people tend to congregate in different areas. Here in Ubud it’s all about yoga, natural living and spiritual enlightenment. I don’t actually have many expat friends here but I’m starting to meet more people with children the same age as mine. There are also some good facebook communities for expats in Bali.
How would you summarize your expat life in Bali in a single, catchy sentence?
Everyday adventures in parenting, culture and life on the Island of Gods.