As the title suggests, this post is about being a digital nomad in Bali, and will become an expanding post on that subject.
I was this close (imagine me gesturing a tiny space using my thumb and index finger) from working for “Google”. Why the quote marks? That’s me referring to the difference between being a Google’s employee and working as a part of independent contractor that work directly under Google’s supervision.
Putting aside the difference, that’s the closest thing I–a non tech guy with only average command of design and sub-zero coding skills–from working with the search engine giant. This is a technicality that I was always eager to overlook every time I repeated the story to my friends. Most of them are even more non-techie than me, so they’re none the wiser to my *cough* lie.
Of course the closest here excluded the years I spent as an independent blogger whose sole blogging motivation was to get as many clicks as possible in my AdSense campaign. Don’t ask me how it turned out to be in the end. (Hints: It turned out badly for my health). But this is another story for another time.
The project that we supposed to work on was Google Business View for Bali area. It’s an expansion of Google’s Street View. Whereas the latter mapped the streets and presented them in interactive image feeds, the Business View mapped all the places along any given street. It’s a virtual tour if you will, to every building or business, hence the name, that you can use interactively. Go to Google Business View for more info on this.
The contractor was a US citizen, some mid-westerner dude if I recalled right. We were at Deus in Echo Beach when we talked about it. As you can guess, I didn’t get the job. Some fellow had beat me into it. However, that’s an eye-opening experience. I could feel all the cogs inside my head were twisting and turning. He made money doing this. Far from home, unrestrained from the cubicle his former high school friends were unable to escape from even just for a quick lunch. He’s making money out of this while sipping his happy-hour Bintang just 5 minutes away from the nearest beach and surf spots. And the weekend was still far away.
This is what comes to mind when you hear about digital nomad
That’s the moment I realized, I wanted this kind of a slice of pie in the sky. And if I wanted it, I needed to learn how.
Story like that guy is becoming more common nowadays. There’s even a report on this. Bali, which is famous for its cultural and natural beauty has started to rise to the challenge by opening itself to digital nomads worldwide.
Although at this moment a Silicon Bali would be nothing more than an exaggeration, nothing short of my white lie above, many believe that that’s the direction we are heading.
The new economic model, you know, the sharing, caring, outsourcing economic type, makes this kind of shift possible. In fact, you can earn more by working as a freelancer or a digital self-employed than as a full-time worker these days. More and more people jumped the ship to embrace this new exciting development.
The biggest perk of being a freelancer is that you can work whenever you want and wherever you want it by leveraging information technology to work remotely.
Meanwhile, since basically what a digital self-employed needs to work is just his/her laptop (or MacBook in this matter) and decent wi-fi, it’s also possible to maximize profits by reducing costs needed to rent an office and pay overheads.
If you can do it in some tropical island, there’s no reason why you should do it in a place that represents all the things that made you yearn for that tropical island in the first place. That’s the pretext of the so called digital workers diaspora. And Bali happens to be one of the destination they’re heading to.
Although it could be awesome, in truth however, a Silicon Bali is just a marketing gimmick by media that probably were so impressed that they found co-working places and startups in a place they thought was a backwater region with unreliable internet connection; a wordplay and nothing more. At least at the moment. Although here, skills are abundant, the actual output aren’t comparable to Silicon Valley by any standard….yet.
“Native” Bali apps and startups are still scarce. By native, I mean everything that was conceptualized, constructed, executed and launched on Bali soil. Almost all the freelancers only “use” Bali as a temporary “work place” for some projects abroad. To rest my case, Jakarta has better stats in terms of producing something (apps and startups, or startups that produced apps…some even with crazy revenues and funds), and yet it never earns the gimmick “silicon”.
On the other hand, it signals something else. The increasing number of digital nomads coming to Bali can and will bring positive impact to the place. Bali is in dire need to offer something more than its cultural and natural beauties. Why not presenting it as a place, a creative haven if you like, where entrepreneurs, coders, influencers, designers of all sorts can stay to create, collaborate and innovate? In turn, this can inspire others to do the same, and so on and so forth.
So if you’re one of the above, or everything all at once, namely a really kick-ass solopreneur, by any means, come and please do your best here.
As a solopreneur, sure you can work alone in your rented house. Bedforest has many properties in Bali that can serve as inspiring working environments. However, working all alone can be depressing. Following the tenet that creativity is contagious, maybe co-working spaces can tackle this problem for you. You don’t even have to mingle or socialize. Just be there, do your things and you’ll see the difference.
A typical “working hours” in Hubud. Image courtesy of Tech.co
Don’t stop at that though. A like-minded person is hard to come by. Who knows, your future collaborator, coder or designer who you need to launch that awesome startup of yours are just sitting next to you in that place. You’ll never know. So, by any means, do socialize. And by socialize I mean get in touch, not holding hands together till your palms sweat. There’s a possibility that they aren’t who you looking for either.
Although this is not a “List of …” type of post, I’ll mention all places worth mentioning for your information that you can check later; places that can help you living your life as a digital nomad in Bali.
Anytime someone mentions about co-working space in Bali, these names always come up.
Hubud brags about it being a community more than anything else. They have interesting programs/events that are not only related to working but also about living in Bali in particular and Indonesia in general. That’s a big bonus. You can learn while you do your thing here.
Rumah Sanur/Kumpul co-working space is the newest guy in town I think. Not only offers a nice place to work from in East Coast Bali, it brags about providing the best coffee in the island too!
Livit. This place is more a combination of co-spacing and co-living. Often used as weekend gather round for startupers, Liv.it is a birthplace for Mailbird.
VNVE. (Read: Venue). Coming soon. Embracing the eco-living culture, this co-working space will be built entirely using all-bamboo structures. Not only offering a co-working space, VNVE will be dedicated for contemporary arts space and virtual office too.
Bedforest Co-Working Place. Coming soon. We’ll offer a chance for people to visit our office to experience work from where Bedforest operates.
It goes without saying that in this matter, to leave an everlasting impact, you have to start involving locals in your endeavor. All achievements will be futile without a prevalent knowledge distribution. Empowering the locals is the least you can do while you pursue your ultimate dream of working remotely.
In line with recent development of post-tourism, going local is the ultimate purpose of traveling. What defines your achievement will come back to what you give in return. This can explain the phenomena of Jakarta vis-à-vis Bali above. It’s simply a matter of the involvement of the locals in the startup scenes in Bali. Almost all CEOs of Jakarta-based startups were employed first by “foreign” firm before they started their own company. The same thing can be true for Bali, especially with the burgeoning numbers of startups headquartered here.
With the combination of low cost, acceptable infrastructures in terms of connectivity (arguable, but can’t be denied the quality keeps improving) and easy access to everything synonymous with good time (surfing, partying, yoga-ing etc), we can see why the nomadic tribes will keep pouring to Bali in the coming years.
Following the footstep of Mailbird (a “native” Bali app), Maptia (which is conceptualized abroad but was perfected here) and, yours truly, Bedforest, companies will soon realize that place as perfect as Bali (regarding the above qualities) is crucial for bootstraping their startup company. Do mention all the Bali startups that you know in the comment section below.
It’s also predicted that in 2035, 20 years from now, there will be 1 billion digital nomads in the world. Some of them for sure will be bootstrapping in Bali. So, we see nothing yet.
It seems that the nomadic lifestyle of remote workers are here to stay. For better or worse, working culture and lifestyle have changed and will keep changing. Now, more than ever, anyone can leverage the internet by using portable technology to sustain their living and lifestyle. No more working suits, no more commuting, no more 9-to-5 cubicle-bound working hours. And honestly, if there’s such a place when you don’t need all that in order to fly solo or bootstrap your startup, it’s definitely Bali.