Best of Both Worlds Bali / Family / Indonesia / Personal / Travel

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.


Rice fields in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

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.


Kids drama class in Ubud, Bali

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.


Beach in Nusa Dua, Bali

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.

Heading Out

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?

Brandon is a location independent entrepreneur, musician, worldschooling father, and the principal author of this blog. He's all about reaching his potential and enjoying life to the fullest in each moment.


  1. Jennifer Pearce Says: May 29, 2014 at 10:31 pm

    I look forward to our upcoming travels! I’m also enjoying life here in Ubud, so comfortable in our little routines. It’s nice to change things up every once in a while though, that’s for sure. :) We always gain so much from experiencing new things. I think it’s the getting from here to there part that wears us out so much.

    • Bali is so wonderful- but I can definitely see how the commuting would get a bit frustrating. I am so excited to hear about more of your travels and adventures! (And to see you next week!!!)

  2. Hope we get to connect when you are in BC! Sounds like a great trip!

  3. This post couldn’t have come at a better time. Over the last 6 months, my family and I have explored Chiang Mai & Penang as a place to put down roots for a year. We settled on Penang, but it always nagged me that we didn’t explore Bali as an option. We *love* Ubud, and I had begun to feel something akin to buyer’s remorse (renter’s remorse?) here in Penang, but this post reminded me that there is no perfect place. In fact, Penang and Ubud seem to be different sides of the same coin: Penang has first-class cinemas and plenty of learning/social options for kids of all ages. It also has super-convenient shopping, but at the expense of the city’s cultural integrity IMO. Food is good, but nowhere near as healthy as what you’d find in Ubud restaurants. Alas, every place has good & bad. After reading this I saw myself, after a year in Ubud, muttering the exact same complaints. Thanks for helping me keep my head in check.

    • It’s really true Jason: each place has sweet and sour points to it. I liken it to peeling back the layers of an onion. You either find a sweet center in the middle or a pungent one.

      We’ve been living here for 2 years now and are renovating our villa here as well, yet find ourselves in the same boat as the Pearce’s. We still like it here, but we don’t LOVE it as much as we did when our children were younger .

      I crave hiking and what I call “organized nature”: trails, lovely parks and rec areas for a picnic.

      Here’s what would drive me out of Ubud: The burning plastic and the exhaust fumes (although the air outside of Ubud is clean, in the center of town behind a truck or terrible motorscooter of which there are several, is like smoking several packs of cigarettes on your lungs.

      All the clean eating, raw food and detoxes in Ubud do not compensate for constantly breathing in toxins.

      • Ah, the fragrant aroma of “plastique brûlé.” Hard to avoid garbage fires in this part of the world, isn’t it? Same with exhaust. Although I loathe Penang’s car culture — and my role in it — I’m stuck behind the occasional tailpipe you speak of, and am quickly grateful for our climate-controlled confines…something that probably wouldn’t be a viable day-to-day option on Ubud’s narrow steets.

        Yes, our SEA experience can be like an onion: sweet or bitter (or both), depending on how you cook it. Great to hear from you, Sabina. Like the Pearce’s, the King family’s writing and online advice helped guide our family to where we are now, as well. Pleased to make your acquaintance.

      • Yeah, the burning garbage is another one. It tends to seep into the house even with the doors closed. Hoping the house we’re remodeling will be a bit more removed from burning, being by the river.

        We thought we’d settle in Penang as well, but found ourselves ready to leave after a couple months, mostly due to the heat, dirtiness, and lack of nature in the town itself. The shopping malls were great, though, and the food delicious yet unhealthy. While no place is perfect, I guess certain drawbacks hit each of us stronger, and it probably changes over time.

  4. How wonderful that you’re able to do so much traveling and explore so many different places. I am excited that you are looking for a potential second home (maybe a little closer???). It will be fun to see where you decide. Thank you for taking a pleasant interlude to attend my wedding. It wouldn’t be the same without you guys :)
    Love you all!!

  5. Brandie Lewis Says: May 30, 2014 at 12:46 am

    We would love to connect with you (we have 5 & 7 year old girls) but I’m not sure if our timing will work out. We are leaving our home on Vancouver Island this Sunday for 6 weeks in SEA!! We plan to be in Bali towards the end of June beginning of July (would love suggestions for places to stay in Ubud in the Penestanan area). Sounds like you will already be on your trip by this time. We will be back home the middle of July and if this works with your travels we would love to meet up and show you around the beautiful place we call home. Homeschooling is very popular here and there are tons of resources and a strong community of homeschoolers. Safe travels and hoping our paths cross over the next few months:)

    • We’ll be in Vancouver from around July 1-16, so if you’re back before the 16th there’s a chance we’ll overlap. If so, please let us know!

      As for Bali, there are plenty of options on airbnb, but you might find better prices once you get here by looking on the bulletin board outside of Bintang supermarket. Penestanan is nice, but a bit far if you want to walk to town. Many houses in Penestanan also lack road access (you must walk or motorbike a ways to get to the house), so if you’re planning on renting a car, do consider that. (We no longer have a car here. I drive a motorbike, but if we want to go somewhere as a family, we just call a taxi.) Feel free to send me an email if you have other questions.

  6. I appreciate you sharing the downsides. I follow a number of travel and minimalist blogs, and they share much of the positives but rarely do they share the negatives. It makes it hard to make good plans for future travels if you don’t get the full picture. So, thanks for sharing both sides.

    • My pleasure, Eric. Some people may also see downsides that I don’t, or not be bothered by some of the things I wrote about, but it’s a snapshot into what we’re feeling at the moment. :) Thanks for the comment.

  7. It sounds wonderful and exhausting. Even planning a 3 hour car ride to Tahoe wears me out. Most every place you mentioned that you are planning on going to are places I would love to see. I’ll wait for the pictures. Can’t wait to see you guys.

  8. This was a really refreshing post! As Eric said, blogs tend to focus only on the positive, and not mention any downsides – it’s nice to get both pros and cons! :)

    We’re spending 2 months in Bali starting this summer – we can’t wait! :)

    • Exciting! Wish our place were available for you to stay at. Hope you have a great time.

      • Thanks Brandon! :) We booked a place in Sanur via Airbnb – it looks good on paper, hopefully it’s everything we expect when we check in!

        The biggest thing I’m wondering about is how bad the mosquitoes will be lol I’m hoping that since it’s not the rainy season, the mosquitoes won’t be too bad!

  9. I think you know where we would choose, and we can’t wait to show you Grants Pass!! We have felt all of these emotions and had all of those desires and questions, and it is such a relief to find a place that is a fit for us. I’m sure you will find your fit, as well…and it will be a beautiful thing! The balance of living internationally and still getting the chance to enjoy Western culture makes it easy to appreciate both in their own time, without getting over exhausted with either. See you soon!!

    • It inspires me that you’ve found a place that fits so well for you. We’re so excited to spend some time with you guys, and to see how you’ve set things up for yourselves there. It sounds wonderful. :)

  10. I recall my two visits to Bali with such fondness – and yet after 2 weeks was really ready to return to my first world comforts. The crazy traffic, the bugs and the heat just do me in. But I sure love the delicious, inexpensive organic food and massages!

    I’m hoping you fall in love with Vancouver, or one of the islands off the coast in BC…. I would so love to have you nearby for part of each year. Soooo looking forward to your visit!

    • I’ve actually gotten used to the bugs, the heat, and the craziness of the traffic (only the increasing crowdedness of it bothers me), so those aren’t deterrents for me. But if we all liked the same things, we’d all be living in the same place. :) I have high hopes for Vancouver also. The biggest downsides seem to be the price and the weather. But we’ll see how it goes when we get there. Can’t wait to see you, Mom!

  11. Great post! I have felt similarly here in Hawaii, opposite things though I suppose. Everyone say how could you want to leave Hawaii but with the whole world open it seems we are always looking for the perfect spot. WE also have realized it is basically not out there! Instead we are planning to move on while staying present and grateful for our time here now, soaking in the things we will surely miss when we are gone.

    I found that I was missing being here all together when I was constantly looking for a way out to the perfect place. Best of both worlds is the goal…now to narrow it down to 2 places…hmm..

  12. Those sound like awesome plans! It’s been fun reading about all your adventures. Best of luck in the coming year!

  13. Always appreciate the honesty. This is getting more difficult to find as people are drawn to create inflated images of themselves and the “amazing” lives they are leading. I’m more interested in people who are confident enough to be real.

    If you find yourself in the Coeur d Alene, ID area we would love to host your family. My wife and I used to run an online retail store but we sold it last year so she could focus more time on homeschooling our 4 children. Hunter (10), Ashlyn (8), Quinten (5), and Tanner (3). We are in the process of minimizing our life and increasing passive income so we can spend more time doing the things we love.

  14. As with many of the commentaries above, I also appreciate the honesty. I initially found you from Tim Ferris blog and have been seriously inspired by your lifestyle and prompted me to start my own SaaS website. However, its great to hear the good and not-so-great aspects which helps me appreciate what I already have. Still inspiring nonetheless!

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