We love many things about Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. We love the inspiring scenery and near-perfect weather, healthy and affordable food of almost any cuisine, an earth-conscious community of entrepreneurs and activists, affordable household help, amazing massages for $6-15/hour, and the genuine smiles of laid-back locals. It’s a relaxed and thoughtful way of life that we’ve come to appreciate. But there are a few things we miss.
While our girls have made a few friends, it’s been difficult for them to connect with the local children because of language and cultural barriers. The homeschooling community in Ubud is quite limited. Art, dance, and yoga classes are easy to find, but there isn’t much targeted toward older children or teenagers. They’ve loved their drama class, and we plan to continue it. But sometimes, we want more.
Ubud has no parks or playgrounds (well, there is one small one now, which I helped fund). There are no bowling alleys, miniature golf courses, skating rinks, movie theaters, symphony orchestras, musical theater companies, or Western performing arts (although over sixty people attended the piano concert I held last year in my home — that was fun!). There are plenty of Balinese cultural performances — the Kecak dance is my favorite — but as a foreigner, it’s difficult to understand what’s going on. Museums are limited mostly to Balinese art. There are almost no hiking trails, walking or biking paths, unless you count the narrow dirt strips between private rice fields. There is one bar with pool tables, ping pong, and foosball, which I’ve taken the girls to on afternoon dates, and enjoyed on a few guys’ nights out. Options for family activities in Ubud are limited. If we drive an hour or two, we can visit some lovely beaches, shopping malls, and a few other activities near Denpasar or Sanur, which we’ve done several times.
The traffic is another big problem in Ubud. It’s becoming more and more crowded, and the center of town has frequent traffic jams with big busses blocking the narrow one-way roads, causing the people on scooters (me) to breathe in the fumes and wait in the hot sun. It can take a long time to drive a short distance.
Shopping is usually inconvenient, and it’s not easy to know which stores carry which items, or if they’re in stock that day. Online shopping is almost non-existent, and options are quite limited in almost every type of product you would want to buy. This isn’t a big deal most of the time, but occasionally we miss the variety of choices (and sometimes cheaper prices) available in more developed countries.
Visas also make it expensive and inconvenient to live in Indonesia. It costs around $25/month for a 30-day tourist visa on arrival, and $50 to renew it for another month, after which we need to leave the country. With five of us, this adds up quickly. Other visas are available, but they can be even more costly and carry other restrictions.
With all that said, we still love Ubud. But we don’t want to spend all year here. We realize no place is perfect, and there are things we like and don’t like about living in the U.S. and more developed countries as well. But the longer we’re in a place, the easier it seems for the endearing quirks to turn into irritating annoyances, and it can lead to taking the entire place for granted. Fortunately, with an extended break (either physical or mental), some quirks can become endearing upon the return. Travel for us has become a way to remind ourselves to be grateful of all the differences that exist in our experience and our world, even the seemingly mundane and challenging. And we often need that reminder.
So, this summer, we’re heading out. Not permanently — we still have a 13 year lease on a house we’re renovating here! But we’ll spend the next three months or so exploring some more developed, English speaking countries, to see where else we might want to set up a home base for part of the year. We’ll also be visiting and staying with many family and friends along the way. If you live around any of the places we’ll be passing through, let us know, and maybe we can share a meal together or more. We’re particularly interested in meeting other families with kids similar ages to our girls (10, 8, and 3).
We start out in Salt Lake City, Utah for a few days to renew our drivers’ licenses and visit family. Then it’s off to San Francisco, where we’ll start a drive up the West coast through Redwood National Park. We’ll stop in Grants Pass and Portland Oregon, then Seattle Washington where my mom lives. After that, we’ll check out Vancouver, BC, Canada for a couple weeks. We’d especially love to meet more contacts in this area, and see what the homeschooling community is like.
A pleasant interlude to our trip will then be my sister’s wedding in Pocatello, Idaho, after which we’ll drive up to Missoula, Montana to check out my electrical engineer’s progress on the Groove Piano! Then a family reunion at Bear Lake on Jen’s side, and it’s off to the British Isles, where we plan to spend around one month exploring Ireland and the UK. We have friends in Dublin, London, and Brighton, and it will be interesting to see how we feel about those places. Depending on how things go with finishing our house in Bali, we may also check out New Zealand in December or January.
It sounds a little exhausting, actually, but we’re looking forward to connecting with so many friends and family and seeing what things are like in other parts of the world. Most of these places have winters, which we’re not a fan of, although our kids often crave the cold and snow. It might be fun to have an occasional cold winter, but the plan is if we find a place we like with winters, to stay mainly during the warmer months.
With all of the unique and beautiful places to live in the world, where would you choose?