Profile: Jules Thomson
Originally from: Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia
Arrived in Bali: December, 2019
Where is home in Bali and why?
Sanur on Bali’s east coast. I have always enjoyed the laid back & casual lifestyle of Sanur. It is a wonderful community bordered on one side by the beach & lush green rice fields with Mt Agung in the distance on the other.
It is only about 20 minutes from the airport & 30 minutes depending on traffic by car or scooter to Seminyak & the busier more touristy areas. There are quite a large number of expats that also call Sanur home, many that have become close friends over the years. There is a real sense of community here in Sanur not only among the expats but also among the locals families. I have been welcomed into Sanur & my new neighbourhood like an old friend & I am truly grateful to be a part of the Sanur community.
How long do you plan to stay?
How long is a piece of string! I don’t really have a timeline, so for now I will say indefinitely.
What made you move to Bali?
With its close proximity to Australia, Bali has been my second home now for a few years with multiple trips a year for both business & pleasure.
From the very first trip, I was in love. The beautiful people, the indelibly ingrained culture & traditions along with the relaxed lifestyle captured my heart right from the start so when the opportunity to relocate & run my womens’ tour business remotely, the decision was easy.
It’s only a 6.5hour flight from Brisbane where my adult children live so I can always get on a flight & be back there within a day if need be.
The cost of living is considerably lower here compared to Australia for example. You can live quite comfortably & in relative luxury, if that’s your thing for a lot less in Bali than in the western world.
Is it hard to find a villa?
It’s not hard to find a villa at all. There are a number of reputable agents who have a continuous turn over of villas for rent both yearly & holiday lets on their books.
There is a huge choice available from high end luxury to the more modest & practical villas. It all depends on your budget & location choice but you can find villas just outside of the main tourist areas for a lot less.
In my case I was directed to my villa via a friend who had inquired on my behalf on a local community Facebook page. I only looked at one villa & decided it was perfect for me & located in the neighbourhood I preferred, so I took it straight away.
My tip, start by setting your budget at your maximum & working backwards from there. Make a list of what you can’t live without such as a pool, closed in or open living, whole house air conditioned or just the bedrooms, furnished or unfurnished etc.
Consider renting a short term/holiday let in the area/community of choice & really get to know the people & the neighbourhood before committing to a year long or longer lease.
What is a typical day for you in Bali?
When I moved to Bali I was determined to keep my life simple & not be ruled by the almighty busy status of the western world & my previous life. I try not to focus too much on any set routine preferring instead to keep my day to day options fairly open to be able to take advantage of each new day as it comes.
Prior to Covid19 a typical day would have me up early where I would head to the beach for a walk/run in time to capture & enjoy the beautiful sunrises Sanur is so well known for. Other days I might do a crossFit class. I have a leisurely breakfast by my pool every morning & then spend time working online & catching up on emails etc. I run a boutique travel company & you can often find me out and about researching & checking out venues & locations.
Other days I meet friends for coffee or lunch dates & some days I just chill by the pool. Everyday here is different & that’s just how I like it.
What are you enjoying most whilst living here?
Before COVID19 & it’s effects on daily life here, I would have to say that what I was enjoying the most about living in Bali is the calm, relaxed and slow pace of living.
Slowing down has given me time to reflect on what really matters to me & I am learning to not sweat the small stuff. That can mean accepting an 11 o’clock appointment that might turn up at 12, or someone isn’t available & has to have the day off because of a ceremony and you just have to roll with it. It’s called “Bali time”. I am trying to embrace & accept this as a normal part of life here.
The health benefits that naturally come with a relaxed & stress free lifestyle are also an added bonus and did I mention the fabulous “summer all year round” weather!
The seen and unseen elements of daily life that successfully blend the modern world & traditional Balinese culture continue to captivate me. From the daily rituals to ceremonies & processions that stop traffic, I love it all. I don’t think I will ever tire of suddenly finding myself caught up close & personal, sometimes right in the middle of the action.
What visa are you on?
I am here in Bali currently on a 6 month social visa while I sort out my Kitas (working visa) Of course, COVID19 has thrown the visa situation into a bit of a tailspin with the closure of the borders & immigration so that is an ongoing situation.
I use the services of an immigration lawyer as the rules here change often & this eliminates any confusion.
Describe your expat community experience.
I mentioned earlier that there is a large expat contingent here in Bali and in particular Sanur. Some have business interests, others are retired. Some have lived here for a long time, others not so long. But something that stands out for me is friendship and the willingness to accept others into their community. They are quick to share information & to help each other out, include you and take you on face value no matter where you are from.
If you had to describe Bali in three words, what would it be?
1. Unhurried 2. Spiritual 3. Community
What do you miss back in Australia?
Besides the obvious, being my family & friends that I do miss terribly, I have to be honest & say that right now there is not a lot that I crave or miss from home. I am under no illusions that I am still in the honeymoon period & under the spell of a new & intoxicating life here, so perhaps ask me this question again in a year or two!
Living in a foreign country during COVID19 would have challenges. How have you managed it? Did you ever think to go back to Australia during this time?
This can’t be answered in a short version.
To be quite honest there was only a brief moment where I did consider going back to Australia. I was continually receiving the Australian Government Smart Traveller emails stating “the situation is worsening, if you are an Australian in Indonesia, now is the time to consider returning to Australia” it was only then did I start to feel anxious about my decision to stay.
But for me & many other expats, we have chosen Bali as our home. We have homes, businesses & pets here. Many now don’t have family homes to go back to & would rely on family or friends to house them or pay for expensive accommodation if they were to return.
At that point in time my only option was a flight to Perth where I would have been required to quarantine for 2 weeks in a hotel & then what? The borders between states are closed so I would not have been able to get back to Qld & if I did I would be required to quarantine for another 2 weeks. A month in quarantine may be necessary but it was certainly not appealing!! So there were many things to consider, and one thing I feel is important for others to understand is that not everyone is in the same situation & it’s not always as easy as just getting on a plane & “going home”.
Indonesia may have been a little slow on the uptake with regard to COVID19 protocol implementation but to put that into perspective there are many other countries around the world that were also put into a tailspin when this disaster was thrown instantly upon the world & a situation where the goal posts were moved continually.
I as most others have now been in self isolation since Nyepi back in late March only going out for essentials that can’t be delivered directly to home. I am vigilant about hand washing & social distancing. It is now also illegal to go out in public without a face mask.
Keeping in touch with family & friends via video calling has extremely important & for my mental health I only read specific reports, sticking with the experts & their opinions rather than be sucked into the vortex of reading anything & everything that so called armchair experts are writing on the subject.
So how am I managing? Self isolation in a foreign country could be disastrous for some, luckily for me I am someone who does not mind my own company & can generally find something to keep me busy so to date it has not been a huge issue for me but, we have no crystal ball that will tell the world when this will all end & could go on for an indefinite period of time so this perhaps is another question you could ask me again at a later date.
How are the Balinese living during COVID19? Do you have any concerns for their welfare?
Communities all over Bali are standing together as they do so well when faced with adversity. In an economy that lives hand to mouth they are looking after each other, and making every effort to ensure no one falls into the gaping cracks that sudden & indefinite unemployment has brought upon them. For those outside of the local community helping hands there are many outside organisations that have sprung into action doing wonderful work supporting people with food supplies & meals.
There have been many businesses that have diversified & cottage industries have sprung up in response to the situation. So I applaud their tenacity to make the most of a bad situation.
They are a community that is standing together & as a westerner here I may question their methods at times, but I believe Bali will overcome this. The Balinese have this incredible sense of family & community that I don’t think I have witnessed anywhere else in the world. They are standing strong & quietly accepting without complaint what has been thrown at them. This resilience & resolve is something that should be admired by the western world.
What do you think will happen to Bali when life goes back to normal after COVID19?
I am the eternal optimist. However, even I know that Bali is facing a very long road to economic recovery for a country that relies so heavily on tourism. It will not be as easy as opening up the borders & rolling out the welcome mat for tourists, because the tourists have to come from somewhere & dependent upon their country of origin they may still have travel restrictions placed upon them for some time. Time is the only measure we have to determine how quickly the tourism industry & the economy will bounce back here.
My only hope is that everyone that loves Bali and refers to it as their second home will return & return in droves and maybe not barter & beat down local businesses with so much gusto as they perhaps once did. $2 is nothing to us but could be a meal for a local.
Do you have any advice for other families or retirees making the move to Bali?
Holidaying here & living here are two very different things.
Do your research. Spend time in different areas & get to know the locals & the area before making a decision on where to settle.
Remember first and foremost that you are a guest here.
Accept that this is not a western society despite the obvious westernisation. There will be many things that will frustrate you & may not always be to your liking or understanding. Patience will be required.
Embrace the cultural differences. If you can accept these differences & immerse yourself into the community you choose here you will be welcomed with open arms.
All photos provided by Jules.
If you live in Bali and would like to join our interview collection feel free to reach out to me anytime.