For years, the Indonesian island of Bali has been a haven for visitors from around the word. Some eventually return and make the island their home—to include a variety of black folk from the Americas, Caribbean and Africa. For all of them, living in Bali has undoubtedly presented challenges. Complaints of blatant staring, buying pulsa (phone credit), no sidewalks, the biasa attitude of never refusing or saying “no,” getting hustled by the police and being so far away from friends and family are all common. But despite the challenges that living in Bali presents, there are positives like feeding a family of four for US$5, the diverse culture in such a small place, the nature’s serenity, relaxation of class lines and no winters. Recently, we sat down with a few long term and newbie residents to get their take on transitioning to Bali from America and the realities of being a black expat.
Promoting hip-hop dance and culture in Bali has been nine year resident Ka Mau’s mission. Five year resident Solomon is a gourmet ice-cream maker and owner of the Eskimo restaurant. One year resident Thomas Andrews is the creator of the Lao Tzu Foundation that helps a small village in Canggu through fitness programs and English classes. And Scott and Keturah Taylor uprooted their family from Oakland last year on their journey as a nomadic family.
Take us back to that moment when it became clear that you wanted to live here.
Solomon: “[In 2008] the economy in America wasn’t doing so great. My wife got laid off and work was hard to come by. I looked at her said, ‘Don’t worry. Let’s go to Bali. Why stay in New York struggling?’ As a black man, I was hit with the realization that I was living in a society that didn’t have my best interest at heart. We moved here, found a home for less than $2000 for the year and we haven’t left.”
Ka Mau: “After arriving, this guy approached me and said he’d take me anywhere I wanted to go for free on his motorbike. He had a cool vibe so I went with it. He even took me to another hotel that had a cheaper rate than the current one I was in. The next day we were up in Kintamani and he said to me, ‘You know why I said I’ll take you around for free? Because I take around many people from Europe and I ask them, ‘Why are black people good at all the things that are fun to do? They [Europeans] said they’re no good. I wanted to see for myself.’ That’s one of the reasons I decided to stay here.”
Scott Taylor: “My wife. She had vacationed in Bali and after we met she told me she wanted to move to here. I wanted my kids to experience something ancient and not be subjected to ever changing American culture.”
Thomas Andrews: “Being here has changed my outlook on life to a more inwards. These people grabbed me up and took care of me. I’ve experienced nothing but love since my first day here. I wake up every morning and my life here is so surreal.”
Ka Mau: “The things that should be easy here, are. You don’t need to go bankrupt here. Getting food is easy, I can go into a restaurant here and tell them I don’t have any money and get food. Sharing is natural here. People don’t make you feel like shit when you’re on hard times. Imagine living in Oakland or Brooklyn and your landlord shows up with fresh fruit, just because. That shit just doesn’t happen.”
How did friends and family handle your decision to move?
Keturah Taylor: “There were mixed reactions. Some friends were truly happy for us and others just hated.”
Scott Taylor: “Yeah! For some it was like, ‘Oh that’s dope! But, you know you can’t drink the water!’ or “You’ll be the only black people there.”
Do you see yourselves as black ambassadors?
Solomon: “I feel like I am an ambassador for my culture. Culture has given me all that I’ve accomplished. I didn’t realize how important my culture was until I traveled. Folks were into me, hip-hop, jazz, blues and fashion. Folks know that there’s something special about us.”
Thomas Andrews: “When I look at myself in color, it’s limiting. I’ve learnt that in Bali. Sure, I’d love more black people to come here. If you’re ready for a different experience, your soul will move you to that experience.”
Any advice for folks back home, thinking about traveling term, but hesitate?
Ka Mau: “Don’t buy shoes for three months. That’s your ticket.”
Thomas Andrews: “I had my passport for six years before I traveled. It’s ok to hesitate. It’ll happen when it happens.
Loads of people come here for some kind of spirituality. What have you learned about that living here?
Keturah Taylor: “I like the instant manifestation energy in Bali. All I have to do I think about something that’s missing and somehow, I’ll get it.”
Thomas Andrews: “I thought being kind, self-less and loving was being a punk. I never thought I’d be talking about flowers and my garden. My life is beautiful.”
Are you currently living the expat life abroad? We’d love to hear about your experience. Hit us up at email@example.com with a little about your story!
Last 5 posts by Diana O'Gilvie
- Passport: Kingston's Warm Sandy Beaches and Wine Up Workouts - March 5th, 2015
- A Bougie Traveler Explains Herself, and You Might Agree - October 16th, 2013
- Bali On a Budget - August 19th, 2013