Digital Strategy Insights Marie Poulin

Settling into Ubud, the arts & culture centre of Bali

Well, my first month of exploring a work-travel lifestyle has already flown by! It’s been a really interesting ride so far. I spent my first couple of weeks exploring Bali, decompressing, and getting adjusted to everything from the bug bites, to the food and everything in between.

Life is slower here, and I will admit, it is difficult to feel “stressed.” I am currently living in a little bungalow in the Rice Fields not far from the center of Ubud, a small town in the center of Bali, well known for its arts and culture (as well as its spectacular postcard-worthy rice field views). There are dingy bungalows and 5 star resorts, backpackers and wealthy travellers alike.

It is a sleepy artist town with a lot of magic tucked away just beyond what you see at first glance. It is not near the beaches, and the nightlife is minimal, so it is a far cry from the drunken touristy scene you’ll find in Kuta.

I chose Ubud for several reasons, mostly though because it continued to come up in conversation with anyone who I talked to about Bali. It seemed to me like it might be a bit further away from the hustle and bustle of the more touristy cities, and provide a good atmosphere for me to be able to focus on work, but also be able to relax and enjoy my stay here.

I can’t exactly say that I have a routine mastered by any means, but a typical “work” day looks something like this:

I wake up sometime between 8:30am-10am. I get dressed and bring my Macbook Air out onto my patio area which has a few chairs, a coffee table, and a working desk that I brought out onto the patio from my room.

I make myself a Bali Kopi (Bali style coffee). Every morning there is a fresh thermos of hot water, a jar of coffee grinds, and a jar of sugar sitting on the coffee table. I walk a few minutes to the local convenience store and buy a small box of milk. Usually once I’ve picked up the milk, I often walk over to my friend Patric’s bungalow a few doors down, and see if he’s awake and ready to join me for a coffee.

my office in the morning

As we drink our coffee on the patio, the family that run the bungalows brings us each a big plate of fresh fruit (papaya, pineapple, banana and watermelon) and breakfast– usually a banana jaffle, an egg sandwich, or a banana pancake. I should mention that the breakfast is included in the cost of the bungalow… I am paying approx 100k rupia, roughly the equivalent of $10 CAD. There is also high-speed internet, which I have to say has so far been very reliable (though Skype has proven to be a challenge at certain times in the day).

view from my patio

I ADORE this breakfast. I feel so relaxed first thing in the morning, and feel like easing into the day has a really positive effect on my frame of mind. There is nothing but rice fields, trees, flowers, and a few other bungalows in the view from the patio; it’s very calming.

view from beyond the patio

Interesting tidbit: 3 times each day, a Balinese woman comes by and brings a fresh “offering” (a small handmade basket with rice and flowers) onto the steps, and blesses the offering. This is not exclusive to my bungalow – you will find these offerings literally EVERYWHERE along the streets, sidewalks, and entry ways of each and every store and temple. They are offerings for the Hindu Gods; they appease the spirits and bring good health and prosperity.

Balinese offering

Then it’s time to get to work! Patric works on his photography portfolio, and I work on my own client work. (I will admit, there have been a few days where work has taken a back seat to unlimited coffees and fantastic conversation… I try to just go with the flow, as long as I meet my deadlines…) These days I have been generally working on only 1 major project at a time, with several other smaller projects ongoing. This is a huge shift from my previous habits, where I had way too many projects on the go at one time, to the point where I was working most days, evenings, and weekends, which is a recipe for disaster on so many levels as you can imagine.

Clear Cafe, my favourite restaurant in Ubud

Soon it is time for lunch. I try to balance my time between the slightly more expensive “westernized” cafes, and the more traditional local “warungs,” where you can pay a dollar for a full meal, and less than that for the most amazing juice you will ever taste: fresh mint lemon juice. One of my favourite cafes is Clear Cafe, where meals are closer to $4-5, and you can find incredibly delicious cashew-milk-based smoothies and other tasty drinks and concoctions. It’s “pricier,” but the food is absolutely outstanding, and would cost 4 times that amount back in Vancouver. Depending on where I eat, I will bring my laptop with me, and take advantage of the free wifi.

Tutmak Cafe, with my wheatgrass shot

Then I often head to my favourite work spot, Tutmak Cafe, which has a quiet upstairs area, a fast internet connection, and delicious coffee, food and snacks (I always order a wheatgrass shot). It is one of the few places I have had success with skype video chats. I tend to work the rest of the day at Tutmak, sometimes well into the evening. In the evenings, I will often coordinate to meet up with other Couchsurfers. It has been such a fantastic way to meet a wide range of people: local, expats, and other travellers. The last couchsurfing meetup had 3 other Canadians, 2 from Montreal and one from Victoria! It has also been a great way to meet up with some local Indonesians (one actually recognized me in person from my couchsurfing profile and came over and said hello!)

I tend to meet a lot of travellers who are NOT here to work the way I am, and they remind me how lucky I am to be able to live here and earn a living. Every day here I count my blessings.

I cannot say enough good things about the food here. I feel like I am basically eating my way through this town! It took me a few weeks to “adjust” to the food, if you know what I mean… cough. I consume a lot of coconut, fresh fruit, Gado Gado, Mie Goreng, Mexican (I can’t stay away), and Mediterranean style food. I will write a separate post about the food, because I could get carried away quite easily…

There is so much to say about Bali and its culture, Ubud, travelling, working, personal development, etc. etc., but I’ll try to keep this post from getting too long.

I get a lot of questions from people (Am I actually productive? What am I working on? How much $ do I need to make a living here? Am I able to balance work with travel and sightseeing?), and I am starting to feel like I could fill a book with my thoughts about this experience. If there is anything you are dying to know, please just ask me below. I have a few topics in my head that I want to elaborate on with their own post, but I also want to hear from you. What do you want to know? I am an open book, and I am happy to share my experience with you!

And if you miss me, please don’t be afraid to let me know, because chances are I miss you too. Sometimes being so far away from everything familiar, it’s nice to have a friend remind you that they think about you from time to time, and wonder how you are 🙂


Check out the Ubud set on flickr:
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