A Digital Nomads Story

A personal look at the life of a Digital Nomad

A little party town in Bali remains home to a distinct kind of traveler after suffering a tourism blow due to the virus.

Lombok is what Bali used to be. During my time in Bali, I heard this statement a lot. There are no motorbikes, congestion, or traffic on Gili Trawangan (Gili T), an island about 2.5 hours by boat from Bali. Only the sound of breaking seas and distant horses galloping can be heard. Gili T is a welcome respite from Bali

Bali, sometimes known as the “Island of the Gods,” is a famous destination on the Southeast Asia circuit. Spiritualists, occultists, and yogis that follow it are recognized for “Eating, Praying, and Loving” away from the usual. Hippies were instrumental in exporting Balinese art and culture to the west in the 1970s, resulting in a surge in demand for Balinese artefacts among individuals with esoteric tastes. In the decades that followed, more temples and statues were created than ever before.

As Bali’s popularity expanded, it earned a reputation for falling short of visitors’ expectations. Travelers claimed they were catfished after arriving on the small Indonesian island after being attracted by altered Instagram photos. When it comes to overrated destinations to visit, Bali is always a contender in any travel discussion thread on Facebook. The problem with Bali is often the swarms of tourists, traffic, and suffocating pollution.

Bali’s hotspots—Kuta, Ubud, Seminyak, and Canggu—had been over-tourismed prior to COVID. Kuta had become a popular retirement location, while Ubud drew yogis, Seminyak drew the wealthy, and Canggu had become a party hotspot. When the epidemic struck, these cities, which had formerly been bustling with visitors, turned them into ghost towns.

“If I compare Bali now to how it was before COVID, it’s a very different place, especially in Kuta,” says Vic, a Bali resident. “Kuta used to be bursting at the seams, but now it’s deserted.” Even with the restrictions, Canggu is still very busy.” Canggu appears to be thriving thanks to a new kind of traveler.

In Bali, What It’s Like to Be a Digital Nomad

A digital nomad is someone who works remotely while traveling and stays in different locations for longer periods of time than the ordinary tourist. Digital nomads come from all over the world and are frequently confused with influencers. For the past four years, I’ve been one. I’ve shared stories with Indian nomads, collaborated with Kenyans and Catalans, and had meals with Russians and Americans. We offer recommendations, comfort each other in times of need, and warn each other of risks in the digital nomad community.

When old hubs expire, digital nomads frequently develop new ones. Wherever we go, more coffee shops and co-working spaces appear, as well as more pubs, restaurants, and beach clubs. Chiang Mai, a prominent digital nomad hub, is a key influx point for nomads from Bali, bringing in those who couldn’t take the searing season or those on visa runs. With its inexpensive cost of living, plenty of beaches, and Instagrammable beauty, Bali fits all of the criteria.

Canggu, once known as an empty area of the island, is becoming a favorite destination for digital nomads. Nomads in Canggu worked at co-working spaces such as Dojo, ate lunch at Crate, and partied at La Brisa and The Lawn. Work hard and play hard was the theme, with business in the morning and hedonism in the evening. This does not bother digital nomads in Bali.

There are advantages to being a digital nomad. Because I could do more than the usual tourist, I was able to observe Bali beyond the allegations leveled against it. When I wasn’t working on my laptop, I took time to get to know my surroundings by visiting less-frequented coffee estates, rice paddies, and waterfalls. I didn’t see the ever-popular monkey forest in Ubud at all.

I became a regular at Warungs, which are food stalls that sell traditional Balinese cuisine, and I spoke with the people frequently. I attended language exchanges, cookery workshops, and religious events. I bartered in markets and drank heavily. That isn’t to say I haven’t experienced problems. After a few run-ins with the local Banjar (Bali police), I learned to always wear my helmet, take the gojek only in approved places, and never carry more than 500K rupiah in cash.

I ended myself in Gili T because I didn’t want to leave but also wanted a break. Gili T was noticeably quieter. Each evening, I went snorkeling and rode my bicycle into the pink skies, reflecting on the life I was living at the time.

Digital Nomads’ Perspectives Are Shifting

On social media and in online travel communities, the digital nomad lifestyle has been criticized. News stories sparked a backlash against our unique style of travel, accusing us of gentrifying the locations we visited. Synonyms for digital nomads evolved from “remote worker” to “colonizer” over time. As a result, most digital nomads prefer to avoid using the word completely, instead of using terminology like “high-end homeless” or “digital hobo.”

A growing awareness of how nomads interacted with their locations arose. Some nomads try to blend in with the locals, causing as little disruption as possible, while others choose to take advantage of the increased comforts afforded by lower costs.
In recent headlines, a digital nomad was accused of misleadingly marketing Indonesia as an LGBTQ+ friendly destination by pushing her audience to visit Bali. This digital nomad flaunted her newfound perks, which she couldn’t afford in her hometown, generating a social media outrage both locally and internationally, and eventually getting her expelled off the island. These criticisms, along with the epidemic, made me worry if Bali’s digital nomad lifestyle was doomed.

The pandemic had only just begun when I returned to Bali. Borders were set to close as fear spread through online travel forums about greater hawkishness toward foreign visitors. Some passengers said they were turned down for service in eateries and laundromats.
There seems to be an increase in criminality as well. After his villa was robbed twice, a prominent YouTuber decided to call it quits. Many people, including me, questioned their role in the outbreak in Bali. There was, of course, a great exodus of travelers. Suddenly, a destination that formerly received millions of visitors a year was reduced to just 7,000.

The COVID Pandemic and Bali’s Digital Nomad

Despite the outbreak, Canggu maintains its personality, with locals and nomads working together to see the plague through. In Canggu, I met a couple of people who were eager to tell their stories.

Vic, a fitness trainer and consultant originally from Jakarta, carved out a niche for herself online while based in Bali. Her profession has brought her into contact with a number of digital nomads and influencers.
“During this time, influencers and nomads have been quite helpful since they promote local products and restaurants by posting about them on Instagram,” Vic explains. “Locals and visitors have become closer than ever before.” They are now paying greater attention to one another.”

Vic advises travelers to be wary of their surroundings while partying in Canggu. “Unfortunately, some people must rely on stealing to exist, thus knowledge is essential.” I would advise folks not to stay out too late. “However, I feel safer here than I did in Jakarta,” she explains.

Christina, a travel blogger, and online English teacher, moved to Bali with her husband after visa issues in Vietnam left many foreigners trapped, including herself. They arrived in Bali during the island’s brief reopening in May.
“We looked into a reputable agency and took a chance when we were given permission to join,” Christina adds. “When we initially arrived, most restaurants were closed and only took take-out orders. We spent $900 on groceries unintentionally!” Southeast Asia has a much greater food budget than the rest of the world, where nomads often spend less than $200 per month.

Mikey, a digital currency trader from the United States, chose to stay rather than leave because it was the best option. “Since the pandemic began, a lot has changed,” Mikey explains. “There was a party vibe before the pandemic, but now it’s pretty chill.”
Mikey hasn’t been able to escape the Island’s positive sentiments while becoming a target of crime.

“In Bali, I had to replace my helmet three times.” “Like everyone else, I’d leave my helmet on my bike and come back to find it missing,” he laughs. “I’ve heard that nice-looking helmets are stolen and resold. That’s the only time I’ve had to deal with criminality in Bali.”
While foreigners are permitted to travel throughout the main island, COVID-19 regulations prevent uninfected foreigners from jumping islands. “I’m only permitted to come to America as a foreigner, but I’d much rather be here than back home,” Mikey continues. “There’s been a lot of love and kindness in the air.”

As tourists anticipate Bali’s reopening, it’s a good time to consider our impact on other communities. Some of us aren’t the most enthusiastic visitors. For one thing, I have work to do, but keeping an open mind and extending grace to the places I visit has never failed me as a strategy. Bali is a lovely destination, and everybody should be able to enjoy it, regardless of where they come from. Bali will respect you if you respect it.

Fodors Travel

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