Nicole Fu in Ubud, Indonesia

March in Bali

Bali is the “Land of Gods”. It’s also the land of surfers, vegetarians, and yogis. And what’s the one thing they all have in common (besides an affinity for Bali)?

Tattoos.

Enter any cafe or bar, patron any beach club or beach, and everyone is tattooed.

Everyone is also foreign (ahem, white).

I was never particularly drawn to Bali. I’ve heard of its beauty, but also that it is to Aussies what Cancun or Cabo is to North Americans.

And though I started my digital nomad journey in Chiang Mai, I’ve never planned my travel around other “nomad hot spots” like Koh Lanta, Las Palmas de Granaria, or Medellin.

I was in nearby in Singapore in February, and a coliving client was opening a location in Bali in March, so it seemed like an opportune time to visit. I also had dreams of improving my surf and Bahasa, which I’ll get into in a little bit.

[If you’re interested in how I chose Canggu over Jimbaran, Seminyak, and Ubud, check out my Outsite blogpost]

Bali by the numbers

  • # of days stayed: 29
  • # of massages enjoyed: 4
  • # of wheelies seen: 3
  • # of attempts at surfing: 3
  • # of Aussies met: 3
  • # of times woken up by itching mosquito bites on face: 2
  • # of times pooped in embarrassing places: 2
  • # of pedicures: 1

I happened to be there for Nyepi, the Balinese new year. It’s a “Day of Silence” where you’re supposed to stay at home in quiet reflection of the year past. You’re not allowed to work, use electricity, or play games, and there are religious police patrolling the streets for violators. What’s more, the airport closes and cellphone providers cut service for 24 hours.

Most foreigners usually eat out for every meal in Bali (since it’s so cheap to), but we stocked up on groceries for Nyepi. Though none of us ending up having dinner as it was pitch black by dinner time and we couldn’t turn on the lights in the kitchen. 😅 Instead, we laid on the pool chairs and star gazed. And. It. Was. Incredible. With an island-wide lights out, the sky was illuminated with stars. It was so special, and an image that’s ingrained in my memory.

Note: “we” = my villa mates/fellow Outsite guests

At some point someone mentioned skinny dipping, and I said that I haven’t done it but it’s on my bucket list. Next thing I know everyone’s naked and in the pool. I didn’t feel an adrenaline rush the way I usually do when doing something scary or outside my comfort zone. I guess there was nothing to be shy of or afraid about since it was so dark that none of us could see each other (much less our naked bodies).

Accomplishments

Coffee Collectif has a logo and sales

After a graphic designer took my money & ran away last year, I put Coffee Collectif’s branding on the back burner. 1 year later I decided to give it another go. After meeting on Nomad List’s private Slack in January and meeting in person in February, we finally have a logo in March! Coffee Collectif also made its first sale last month 🙌🏼

Meatless Monday, every day

I successfully* gave up meat for Lent, and have kept going. Here’s why, via Peter Singer:

No single human practice causes as much suffering to nonhuman animals as factory farming. Right now, billions of animals are locked in small cages so that they can’t even stretch their limbs, or turn around, or are crowded into large sheds, tens of thousands of them in each shed, unable ever to go outside or enjoy fresh air and sunshine. Boycott this inhumane system of production. Don’t buy factory farmed meat, eggs or dairy products. Better still, go vegetarian or vegan. Here’s a great website for the information you need. And if you want to support a charity working for animals, check the recommendations at Animal Charity Evaluators.

*One day early on, I ordered a fish burger but a regular burger showed up instead. I contemplated sending it back but didn’t. 🙈 I’ve also only dreamt of steak once so far.

Conquering my fear of scootering

Saturday adventures in the sun 😊☀️

A post shared by Nicole Fu (@nicolejfu) on

In the summer of 2015 a friend and I rented 25cc scooters. You only needed a driver’s license to rent one (v.s. a motorcycle license), and it was so insubstantial that I could even “floor the pedal”.

I then rented actual scooters in Chiang Mai, Da Nang, and Hualien, and was pretty scared on those. Other reasons I’m opposed to scootering:

  • I don’t have a motorcycle license aka I’m not licensed or qualified.
  • Every single person I know who’s scootered has gotten into an accident, whether big or small. One even passed away at 19.
  • Proper stats:

When thinking about risk from transport, you can think directly in terms of minutes of life lost per hour of travel. Each time you travel, you face a slight risk of getting into a fatal accident, but the chance of getting into a fatal accident varies dramatically depending on the mode of transport. For example, the risk of a fatal car crash while driving for an hour is about one in ten million (so 0.1 micromorts). For a twenty-year-old, that’s a one-in-ten-million chance of losing sixty years. The expected life lost from driving for one hour is therefore three minutes. Looking at expected minutes lost shows just how great a discrepancy there is between risks from different sorts of transport. Whereas an hour on a train costs you only twenty expected seconds of life, an hour on a motorbike costs you an expected three hours and forty-five minutes. In addition to giving us a way to compare the risks of different activities, the concept of expected value helps us choose which risks are worth taking. Would you be willing to spend an hour on a motorbike if it was perfectly safe but caused you to be unconscious later for three hours and forty-five minutes? If your answer is no, but you’re otherwise happy to ride motorbikes in your day-to-day life, you’re probably not fully appreciating the risk of death.

– William MacAskill, Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Make a Difference

But Bali is very much a place where you need a scooter to get around. So, I took a lesson my first day there, and rented a bike for the month. Thankfully, Canggu is very easy to get around with 3 main, parallel streets. I also only scootered at 20-40km/hr, and avoided scootering at night.

Failures

Part of why I wanted to go to Bali was to work on my surfing and Bahasa. I snowboard pretty well, and always wanted to skateboard and surf (a la Rocket Power).

I’ve tried surfing here and there – I’ve taken lessons in Bali and Taiwan, and tried by myself in San Diego and Costa Rica. This time, I thought all I needed was practice, and my plan was to surf every other day in Bali.

I ended up surfing all of 3 times. Batu Bolong or “Old Man’s” Beach, a beginner beach, was always very crowded.

On my first attempt, the waves were often not strong enough to push you up (I also paddle very sadly). Many instructions were pushing their students up on a wave.

On my second attempt, I had a bit of a scare. I caught a wave (though I didn’t stand), and rode it out to the shore. When I got there, the waves kept enveloping me. I’d be taken underwater, not knowing if/when the board would come crashing into me, stand up for a brief second and pull my bikini bottom up, and be taken by a wave again. This happened 3 times in a row, and I was near a large rock, too. I’m grateful for the kind stranger that came to save me. He grabbed my board (that was much larger than I and could hardly fit under my arm), and led me to shore without a word.

On my third attempt, it was very windy so there were SO. MANY. WAVES. Terrified, I called it quits after an hour.

Bottom line: I suck at surfing.

In hindsight, I should have gotten a bunch of lessons. No where else would be as cheap 😭

Bisa bicara Bahasa Indonesia?

I picked up some Bahasa from Indonesian helpers when I was younger, and was looking forward to learning more. I found a podcast, “Learning Indonesian”, but only did 7 of the 48 lessons 🙈 I did enjoy speaking and practicing my little Bahasa. And, as the weeks went on and my skin colour got much darker, locals started to initiate conversations with me in Bahasa, thinking I’m Indonesian.

Travel the World in Art

There’s a side project I’ve been thinking about for awhile. Then last December, I attended TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin’s hackathon, thinking I’d hack it together in 24 hours. At the time I was adamant about using Google products: Google Apps Scripts, Google Docs for the database…

I told myself I’d continue working on it and launch it by Q3 this year. I didn’t. I did make some progress on it last month i.e. learned to build web scrapers with Python. Now, I have to figure out the database. I was using SQLite, but my sister recommended I switch to Pandas, and an old client (SaaS startup founder) recommended I use Postgre. Next, I have to figure out Django. I’m hoping to accomplish both this month, but I have no idea if that’s feasible or not. I now understand why dev timelines are often pushed back – it’s hard to estimate how long something will take you. Especially if you’re like me, and learning as you go.

Coliving

This was the longest amount of time I’ve spent in a coliving space. My first experience was 2 weeks in Taipei, where I met one of my favourite friends so far. We kept in touch, and have since met up in Dulan and New York. At Outsite Bali, I met some interesting people including Allie, who went on with me to Penang and Singapore, and who I know I’ll see in Canada soon. This trip, I also spent a weekend in Ubud with Roam, and hiked a volcano with 9 of their guests, many of whom I really liked.

Is this why coliving spaces charge a markup? For the curated community?

Some liken coliving spaces to hostels. Coliving spaces are more like boutique hotels – they have beautiful, private rooms. And the community is excellent. Everyone is working hard and playing hard – they are entrepreneurs and engineers, not backpackers and partiers.

Discoveries

I read no books and watched one movie: the highly recommended Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri. I laughed and cried, and love this quote from it: “through love comes calm, and through calm comes thought”.

I loved my time in Bali, and could totally have stayed longer. I now get the hype around Bali, and why it’s a nomad hub. This is what a typical day looked like for me:

  • ~8am: wake up naturally without an alarm, meditate
  • 9am: have a smoothie bowl, play HQ
  • 9am-12pm: work from Outsite
  • 12pm: scooter to a cafe for lunch + to work from there, or scooter to Dojo (coworking space) and grab lunch en route
  • 6pm: gym every other day, or go to a restaurant/bar with friends

It was a good, comfortable life and routine. I spent a bit over 1,000 USD without accommodation and flights, but it could easily be done with much less.

There’s no doubt I lived in a bubble, a bubble of Instagrammable cafes catered to Westerners, but it was inspiring seeing how others are making this lifestyle work. I felt the same way after my stint in Chiang Mai in April 2016, and I think visits to nomad hubs should be treated like conferences. Nice to go to once in awhile – for inspiration, for connecting – and ride that boost out.

I’m off to London next week. See you in April’s blogpost, or on my Now page.

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