My journey to Bali and first impressions

Check-in snafu

When I got to the Barcelona airport, Qatar Airways told me I couldn’t board my flight! I was required by the airline to have a ongoing ticket from Indonesia, because the Indonesian visa-on-arrival is only for 30 days. Even though Indonesian law doesn’t require you to have an ongoing ticket, the airline wasn’t willing to risk bringing a immigration violator! A helpful staff member suggested that I buy a cheap Air Asia ticket to Singapore for 30 days after my arrival date, so I used my phone to do that on the spot. (Sidenote: the Air Asia app claims there are no tickets available for sale if you set the currency to US dollars, set the currency to Indonesian Rupiah to see any flights.)

Once I had booked the ticket, I showed the confirmation email to the Qatar Airways staff member, he typed the flight info into his computer, and I was kosher. After he printed my boarding passes he looked at them, paused, and tore them up! Then he said, “you’re tall, how would you like to sit in the emergency exit row?”

So I spent my 20-hour journey with unlimited legroom. It was heaven. Best flight ever.

Doha airport

I spent a three hour layover at the Doha Airport, the nicest airport I’ve ever seen. It felt like a mix of Times Square and the most expensive shopping mall in Newport Beach, California (where they have valet parking for your Porsche). The ceilings must have been 50 feet high, there were huge video screens, giant works of art scattered around for you to admire, it has 70 high-end stores, and when I bought a newspaper (they had the New York Times!) the cash register screen showed me the price in four different currencies. You can and pay receive change in any of them. Despite the laws against alcohol, (Muslims in Qatar can be flogged for drinking alcohol) there were several restaurants in the airport serving beer and wine to non-Muslims.

First impressions of Bali after 24 hours

The ride from the airport to my homestay was insane. I will never drive here. There were cars and mopeds everywhere going in every direction! It took a while for me to decide whether people here are supposed to drive on the left or right side of the road. But my cab driver was such a pro he could use facebook on his iphone while driving and still not hit anyone!

I’m staying in Ubud, a very green village up in the hills of Bali. There are tons of good restaurants and cafes here, plenty of shopping, and everything is walkable and easy. Unlike some other parts of Bali, places like bars can’t stay open after 10:30pm, so the big partiers don’t stay here. It’s a place to go to get away from loud obnoxious people, eat healthy, do yoga, and meet other well-adjusted people who are chasing their dream, whatever that is for them! You see a lot of smiling faces here.

My homestay is very nice. I paid 17€/night for a private room with en suite bathroom, ceiling fan, big soft bed, desk, armoire, and my own patio with breakfast, coffee and tea served right on the patio. I walk half a mile (about 1km) to my coworking space down a nice scenic road. The homestay is located off of a main road, behind a few buildings so it’s quiet but centrally located.

This morning I walked down to my coworking space, found a seat outside (half of the space is outdoors) and fired up my laptop. I quickly discovered that reddit is blocked! When looking at the URL’s that Indonesia blocks, they all are porn sites so my guess is that some porn-related subreddits ran afoul of the Indonesian web censors and the whole reddit domain got blocked. Unfortunate, but after living in Germany I’m used to using a VPN to access Internet content. Also, Spotify isn’t out yet in Indonesia, so you need a VPN to use that as well.

I did not pack appropriately for a tropical island! It was so obvious at work that I was the new guy with my jeans and black t-shirt. I also wore socks and shoes instead of sandals, another dead giveaway. I’m going shopping for clothes that can handle the heat tomorrow, should be easy to do in this town.

People at Hubud (the coworking space) are very friendly and excited to be here. The vibe is similar to the Soundcloud office cafe, lots of chill people who know their shit and are happy to help you with whatever you’re working on. There is vegetarian and vegan food available, made-to-order salads and sandwiches, along with some chocolate and other treats. There’s unlimited coffee and tea, and of course the coffee is top-quality stuff from Java. Also reminiscent of Soundcloud: I met three German people today, just at Hubud! (I also sat next to two Germans on the flight here.) I didn’t expect to speak German today, or to learn a new word: ortsunabhängig. (It means location independent.) My streak is still alive of speaking German every day since I left the German-speaking world.

You make fast friends at Hubud. I wasn’t afraid to sit down with people who were just shooting the breeze and join in. I met so many interesting people and learned a ton about Bali, Indonesia, traveling in Asia, which language to study here (Indonesian, Balinese is not as widely spoken), dealing with visas and staying in Indonesia for extended periods of time, business models I’d never thought of, and generally about this version of expat life. And after work I ended up having an amazing (and properly spicy) Thai meal with some folks I met today, including an American from South Bend, IN! (Which is only 180 miles from my hometown.)

It turns out that I have more professional experience than a lot of people who are making this life work. That’s contrary to my expectations that I needed to have more experience before I could do something like this. I could have come here years ago! I’m glad I did things the way that I did, I wanted to live in New York and Europe so I’m glad I’ve done those things.

A few veterans of this lifestyle told me that Ubud isn’t the cheapest place in Asia to be an expat, since India is cheaper. But in their opinions the quality of life is higher here without being too much more expensive. You can live very well here for under $1000/month, and that’s having a place of your own, with a maid, never cooking your own food, and living in the center of a thriving town on the periphery of a major city, Denpasar. This island has a dormant volcano, world-class beaches, a tropical climate, hiking, a good vibe, English is widely spoken, and a place called “Monkey Forest”!

Why did I come to Ubud of all the places in the world? I take a lot of inspiration from Pieter Levels, who’s well-known in the digital nomad and entrepreneur community. The first place he went when he started his new nomadic life was Hubud is Bali, so that’s where I went too. The story is in a long blog post he wrote.

So that’s my last weekend and first day in Bali. Can’t wait for tomorrow!



  1. Nicolai · April 13, 2015

    Sounds very comfortable. Do you see yourself having a maid?


    • Dennis Cahillane · April 13, 2015

      Yes, definitely. The maids want the work, and I don’t want to do the work.


  2. Peter Minarik (@pietropizzi) · April 14, 2015

    That all sounds very lovely! Show some pictures so we can envy you some more 😉


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