So you want to go to Canggu?

In the last year and a half I spent about 5 months off and on living in Canggu, Bali. It’s now the unofficial #1 digital nomad destination in the world and a few people have asked me for tips so I thought it would be worthwhile to put together my own little guide to living short term in Canggu.

I’ve never been a backpacker in the traditional sense. Whenever I go away for a chunk of time I tend to find one place I really like and settle down there till it’s time to go home (and then I usually go back a few times). Example:

  • Ios, Greece: A tiny party island in the Cyclades, near Santorini. I went for a week, stayed for a month and returned the next summer for four months. This was when internet was dial up and you had to pay $/minute(!). I worked as a waitress at a breakfast restaurant on the mountainside overlooking the ocean and made 20 euro/day, my room was 6 euro/day and that was all I needed.
  • Jaco, Costa Rica: A touristy beach town, an hour and a half from San Jose. I went for a week, came back for a month, stayed for three months, came back for another three months and then some more. I was already working as a freelance web designer in Canada and just continued working full-time in Jaco. 9-5 (give or take), Mon-Fri on my laptop, outdoors at beachside cafes, sweating like crazy and stopping when the mosquitos started to come out.
  • Canggu, Bali: A touristy beach town (they seem to be my fave), close to the well-known Seminyak and Kuta areas. I visited for three days during a girls trip, came back for three weeks, then later a month, then later three months. I tried not to do the full-time thing like I did in Costa Rica, but did do a few small freelance projects while there (a little $ goes a long way in Indonesia).

I still love all three places and basically left a piece of my heart in each one. It’s crazy to see how fast they’ve grown though. In the last few years Canggu has really exploded – so much development and SO MANY digital nomads. Even if I’ve only been away for a month, Canggu is different every time I go back. This guide is very specific to my experience and my little pocket of life on the island of the gods. There is so much to do and see in Bali that I just can’t cover here, so for now…

Canggu

There are definitely some misconceptions about Canggu. It’s not jungles and waterfalls and endless rice fields (although there are a few beauts left!). And on the main streets it’s crowded and loud and dusty. The beaches are not white sand and they come with their fair share of garbage (although there are lovely groups coming together to clean it). The sea is not turquoise tropic – you can go to the Gilis for that. But it IS beautiful in all its messy glory. There is peace amongst the chaos. And once you start to understand its rhythms you’ll find so much joy bubbling up from the surface and understand why it’s becoming (if it’s not already) the most popular place to live in Bali.

The beauty of Canggu

Why did I go?

The first time I went for an extended period, I had a yoga retreat in Keramas to go to and decided to come early (three weeks early) and give myself the first proper break I’d had in a few years. After that I went back each time with different projects in mind, like finishing my portfolio, starting up Tnfld, and doing two different yoga teacher trainings at The Practice.

Living in Australia, Bali is a quick five hour plane ride away. You can get a return flight for under $400 AUD if you’re lucky. My favourite reasons to go: Surfing, yoga, food, people and the Hindu-Balinese culture.

The thing is…Bali is cheap. Like so cheap it makes Costa Rica seem like a high flyer trip in comparison. The low cost of living, combined with a ridiculous high quality of life is why so many people end up coming and staying. The beauty of this dynamic is that if you’re trying to get an online business off the ground, study long distance, write that book, etc. it buys you time. It gives you space. All of which give you the biggest luxury of all: creative freedom.

 

Recommendations

(Culture / Work / Sleep / Eat / Play / Getting around / Money / Visa)

Culture

Beach ceremonies at the temple

My friend, who had never been to Bali, recently went and texted me from the airport –  “Alex…I love Bali already…it smells AMAZING!”. It’s true. The island of the gods is full of dreamy incense, beautiful flowers and 3x (or more) daily offerings to the deities. There’s always music in the air, ceremonies to be performed, special holidays shutting down the streets. The ‘ishvara pranidhana’ (yoga term for ‘devotion to god’) is everywhere. The thickest thread tying together the cultural fabric.

Day out with the Five Pillar Foundation – a must do!

The Balinese are some of the most kind, friendly, funny, and easy going people. Family is everything and you see that everywhere. The support system is so strong. The Hindu Balinese religion is one based on karmic beliefs, which makes it the most special community I’ve ever seen.

I highly recommend doing a day trip with the Five Pillar Foundation. I can’t recommend it enough and I’m NOT regularly a day-trip, tour type of person. It’s amazing and will start you off on the right foot in terms of beginning to understand the roots of where you’re living. Check out my “Learn/Bali” highlights on insta of my day with them (not sponsored!).

It’s really easy in a Westernised place like Canggu to skim over the Balinese culture, but if you want the full Bali experience, do yourself a favour and open up. There’s legit magic in the air there – let it in!

 

Work

Good little worker bee (at Alter Ego cafe)

Don’t go to Bali expecting to find paid work. To legally work you need a KITAS permit. The government is very strict about this (especially in more populated places like Canggu) and has been known to look at social media, etc. so always be careful. Even if you’re teaching a one-off yoga class and want to advertise it online, it’s something to be mindful of.

I went with money saved and a few freelance clients and that was all I needed to get by. I’ve met people doing everything from everywhere:

  • Marketers/developers/designers…and one lawyer (shout out Bibi xx) working full-time remotely for companies abroad (https://remotive.io/)
  • Startups: lots of drop & ship, apps, fashion (baby wraps, bikinis, etc.)
  • Online English teachers for Chinese students
  • Freelance writers
  • Yoga teachers working exchange for room and meals
  • Bitcoin adventurers
  • Online health coaches, yoga teachers, fitness gurus, life coaches, etc.
  • And a lot of expats opening their own businesses in Canggu (restaurants, salons, fitness studios, luxe villas, etc.). 

Co-working: There are a ton of co-working spaces now in Canggu, but I only have experience with the original: Dojo. It’s expensive, but it can’t be beat for an introduction to Canggu. Such a great, welcoming staff, awesome community, events, talks, Friday drinks (Beach & beers). So many inspiring people – you’re always learning something new. The Facebook group is one of the best resources and ex-Dojoers are still active (including me) from all over the world.

I usually get a smaller package of hours and spend most of my time working from laptop friendly cafes.

 

Sleep

My #1 office

Guesthouse or villa? If you’re staying for a little while this is definitely something you’ll need to consider.

For me location is most important. To make sure I would go surfing early mornings, get to yoga on time, be able to walk home safely if I went out at night…I needed to be close to the beach and pretty much on Batu Bolong (the main street).

Check the map when you’re looking for a place, Canggu is actually quite large, long and wide. If you’re not riding a scooter you want to make sure you’re near the places you want to be. I’d also recommend booking a place for a few nights and then seeing how you feel about it once you’re there. It’s way easier to walk around and find a place you like (not to mention negotiate a better long-term deal) if you’re there in person.

It’s hard to find a villa that matched my location needs (they’re usually a lot further out), so I chose guesthouse. I loved my big room, my balcony overlooking a field, within earshot of my yoga studio (and all the “oms”).

If I was staying longer than a few months I would look into a villa, but for me (and for most of my friends) guesthouses were the way to go.

Price: I paid $22/night and stayed at D’Canggu (you can pay a lot more or a lot less, there’s something for everyone in Canggu).

Guesthouse: booking.com, airbnb, all the usuals, Villas: Facebook groups are the way to go. Try Canggu Community, Canggu Community Housing, etc.

 

Eat

The summer salad at Cafe Vida, topped with Barramundi. It’s one of the tastiest things I’ve ever eaten.

Eating is a huge part of my day when I’m in Bali. I tend to pick spots I can stay at for a while and get some work done, so they end up doubling as an office for me. If you aren’t living in a villa you really won’t have much, if any opportunity to cook. It’s usually cheaper to eat out anyways. It’s really interesting to see how much extra time you have when you take grocery shopping, food prep and cooking out of your day.

The food in Canggu is just…wow. Like you will dream about it for the rest of your life. It’s like living in a real life Instagram foodie account and finding out there are no filters. There is nothing sweeter than sitting on the porch at The Shady Shack for a whole morning, getting your work/study/relaxing done and enjoying every minute of it.

You can get Balinese, Australian, American, Vietnamese, Mexican, Japanese, Greek or search by vegan, paleo, refined sugar free, gluten free, avocado based (seriously) – whatever your preference.

You can eat for as little as $3/meal at a local warung or go as big as you want at one of the more ‘fine dining’ restaurants. It’s all up to you and your budget.

As for drinking…I don’t really drink when I’m in Bali. The odd cider here or there, but I’m not there for the Bintangs and spirits are almost the same price they’d be in Australia. Sparse drinking helps keep my spending in check the most. It also helps me stay on track with everything else I love to do…like waking up early to surf, go to yoga, etc.

And not seriously, but also actually very seriously: coconuts. I drink at least one a day (avg. $3/coconut). Nothing better than getting a coconut, sitting on the beach, watching the sunset and listening to some live reggae.

Tory comes to visit. We drink coconuts.

My absolute fave places to eat in Canggu: (honestly even though a new restaurant pops up every week, these have all stood the test of time so far)

For doing (a lot) of work:

For some variety:

Food: I spent $15-30/day on avg. Check out my “Eat/Bali” highlights on my insta.

Cafe Vida strikes again. Fish tacos – art on a plate.

 

Play

Surfing

Living my best life

Yes, I live in Australia. Yes, I live a few minutes from the beach. But seriously, the surf in Canggu is my favourite. If you seem to be an eternal beginner like me, this is the place to be. On good days (and there are a lot of them) the waves are big enough to get on, but soft enough to not hurt, they break far back from the shore, and the water’s deep and gentle…it’s the most forgiving surf playground I’ve ever been to. It’s usually pretty easy to paddle out. Standing up is…dare I say…kind of easy. You get to focus on practicing your turns, your speed, etc. Just like everything else in Bali…the waves give you time and space. Also the social aspect is phenomenal, people are friendly and open, you can sit on your board and chat between waves. It’s something really special. Go early, it gets way too crowded later in the day and watch out for beginner-beginners, their boards are heavy, big and all over the place!

I’ve thought about buying a board while there before or bringing one from Aus, but in the end I always chose to rent ($5/day). Here are my reasons why:

  1. It’s cheaper. If it gets damaged, you pay a nominal fee and that’s it. You don’t have to spend the big $ to fix it or replace your own and there’s no downtime waiting for it to be fixed or finding a new one.
  2. You can change it up. Big waves = smaller board, small waves = bigger board…the waves are your canvas to paint with whatever brush you feel like.
  3. It’s social. You always meet other people renting, the surf hut locals, etc. Always a laugh.
Yoga

My happy place. Ginger tea, bean bag chair, & the garden. Cue sounds of birds chirping and the pond flowing.

You can’t come to Bali and not do some yoga.

The Practice: And if you’re going to do some yoga…you can’t go past The Practice. It’s the heart and soul of “my” Canggu. Grab a ginger tea, cozy up on a bean bag facing the garden, look out for Jamu prowling through the grass and bliss out. And then maybe get to a class or two…

This is probably my most luxe purchase. It’s more expensive than a month at a Sydney studio, but it’s 1000x worth it. This is the real deal. Get to one of Octavio’s class if you can and let me know your thoughts!

Serenity: I sometimes get a 10 pack of classes, my favourite thing to do is check out the different treehouse feeling yoga shalas and have tempe curry in their cafe. All their teachers are Balinese too, which can be a nice change of pace.

Getting around

To scooter or not to scooter?

So…I don’t know ANYONE who rode a scooter and didn’t get into an accident. It definitely freaks me out. A friend’s brother was in a life-changing accident and over a year later he’s still recovering. I’ve seen more than a handful of crashes and injuries happen right in front of me. People don’t wear helmets, they don’t wear proper shoes, and they drive drunk (a lot).

That being said. It’s hard NOT to have a scooter and really experience Canggu. I was limited with where I could live and what I would do because of it, but I didn’t have a proper driver’s license at the time and I didn’t have insurance to cover any scooter injuries (***your insurance DOES NOT cover scooter accidents unless you have a scooter license back home – check into this!***). So even though I’ve seen so much firsthand I will probably drive a scooter the next time I go back (but get my license first, like my friend Ruth is doing atm).

So my advice for scooter riding is:

  1. Just wear the helmet. And make sure it fits.
  2. Wear your Supergas/Converse/runners. Don’t wear flip flops. The first thing people do in an accident is put their feet down…and it’s not pretty. I had to pull a scooter off a girl who had fallen over while driving slowly down the street in the late afternoon. The kickstand had gone straight through her foot and dollar store flip flop. It was awful 🙁 Shoes people, shoes!
  3. Don’t drive at night. Or at least please don’t drive drunk. You may think “I would never”, but that’s what they all say…before they do it! Things feel different when you’re in the moment.

Pretty much anything goes with scooter driving, for better or worse…

Money

Atms are everywhere, but be smart about which ones you use – there’s a lot of skimming going on. Just stick to the highly visible, high traffic ones…I’ve never had a problem.

If you have to exchange money, get a recommendation – I’ve heard so many stories about people getting conned.

They accept card almost everywhere – the positives of living in a highly developed piece of Bali.

Sid comes to visit. We sunset.

 

Visa

This is super basic advice, based on a Canadian passport experience. As always, do your research, they don’t mess around with this stuff, so get yourself in order before you go!:

  1. Make sure you have more than six months left on your passport otherwise they will turn you around at the airport.
  2. You have two easy options (there are more long term choices available, like a social visa, but I haven’t pursued them). The first one is an automatic you get 30-days as a tourist to enjoy. If you overstay your 30 days you have to pay by the day (I think it’s about $30/day atm). The second option is to do a visa extension which gives you 60 days, but you need to make sure you buy the ‘visa on arrival’ that allows you to extend it with a visa agent past the initial 30 days. I think all-in-all the whole thing cost around $100, but I could be wrong (did not keep track). Doing a visa run is really common and pretty much essential if you want to stay longer. There are cheap flights to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, etc. some people just do a quick run around and don’t even leave the airport, but I was lucky enough to have a good friend in Singapore, so I tried to make the most of my visa run when I was there for three months.

Sunsets. Worth every visa run.

My basic daily budget in AUD (not skimping, living THE LIFE):

Accomodation: $22/night (I made a long-term deal. You can do a lot cheaper than this, but I loved where I stayed – so much that I stayed there twice!)

Food: $15-30/day (At first I thought…wow, is that actually a lot? Then I realised I don’t buy groceries. In Sydney my weekly groceries, combined with going out for food with friends adds up – a lot! In Canggu I eat exactly how I want to, my dream day on a plate basically. It’s the greatest luxury.)

Surfing: $5/day

Yoga: TBD / You can buy class passes or unlimited per month

Co-working: TBD / Hour-based packages

Sim card: $20 every so often (they have great data packages, I always buy one as soon as I land and then top up at the convenience store. I think in three months I had to top up twice.)

My basic daily schedule:

Surf, fruit stand brekkie, yoga, brekkie/lunch & work for a few hours. Then nap or beach or popsicle or massage or all of those things together if I’m lucky. More work. Maybe some yin yoga. Sunset on the beach with friends and then dinner. Maybe some dancing. Bed. Repeat as much as needed.

 

Questions to ask before you go

  1. How long will you stay? (visas)
  2. Will you scooter? (insurance)
  3. Guest house or villa? (lifestyle)
  4. What do you want to focus on? Surfing? Yoga? Crossfit? Jujitsu? Work?

Best apps

Go Jek: it does everything for you. It’s your Uber, your Deliveroo, your grocery shopper, your Dial a bottle, you name it.

Gu Guide: Best advice on everything in Canggu from an Aussie girl who fell in love with an Indo boy and is raising their beautiful baby in the Gu. Her insta stories are my favourite.

What have I gotten from my times in Canggu, Bali?

I’ve made some of my best friends in Canggu. Real kindred spirits. People I can’t believe I haven’t known my whole life.

I’ve found so much inspiration, as well as confirmation that success is yours to build and hold. It seems like anything is possible in Canggu and I think that’s because you get a great spattering of entrepreneurs from all over the globe, it’s hard not to pursue your dreams with that kind of influence around you.

The first time I went on my own, I was coming off of a real hard period in my life. My health was haywire, I didn’t really know which way was up. But I went surfing every day. I got massages every day (did I forgot to mention the cheap massages…?!?!). I did yoga. I met amazing people. And legit, for the most part, all my physical ailments went away. There’s something to be said about getting out of your regular physical space. Sometimes all you need is a big hit of perspective and the soothing magic balm of Bali to believe.

This is the longest thing I’ve written for Tnfld by far and I feel like I haven’t even touched the surface. If you’re thinking of going to Bali, just do yourself a favour and buy the ticket. Be open to everything and get amongst it…you won’t regret it!


Tnfld Podcast | Ep04: Josh, from ambitious dropout to dream maker

Hometown / Auckland, New Zealand
Currently resides / Bronte Beach, Sydney, Australia 
Job / Full Stack Web Developer

A little bit about…

Josh is truly living a 2019 life. He’s found a way to have both work and play in the best way that suits him and his needs. A lot of that came with knowing himself and what would and wouldn’t work for him. A lot of people think “Oh, I want to be a digital nomad” without actually thinking about what that could mean (financial instability, bad wifi, the temptations of being in paradise, but not being able to enjoy it). As a full-stack developer he could have easily gone that route, but he knew being a full-time digital nomad wasn’t right for him. He wanted there to be a separation between work and travel so that he could fully enjoy his travel time and BE THERE 100%. But short trips weren’t going to cut it. So when he got back from Bali after a month he had a proposition for his boss…

Josh’s advice for living life Tnfld
  • Ask for what you want, especially at work, whether that’s more vacation time, flexible hours, a work from home option, etc. “It’s 2019 I feel like we should be able to ask for what we want and not always feel like we work for our jobs, but that our jobs can work for us too. And we can kind of create this life – why do negotiation always have to be about money?”
  • Do different things to break out of your comfort zone: “Every time I’ve made these drastic life changes it’s been kind of scary, but when I look back later I always think – wow that’s the best thing I ever did.”

  • March to the beat of your own drum. If you can’t hear that beat, do the things you need to do to grow your inner voice and your confidence in that voice. Over time you can teach yourself to be more confident with your decisions, with change, and ultimately with yourself.

Our favourite quotes

“For me the dream life would be a 50/50 mix of both travel and work. Take three months off for travel then come back and have a [9-5 work] lifestyle and nourish that other side of my brain [for the next six months]. The dream is to do both. So I asked for it. No one’s ever asked and no one thinks to, because negotiation is such an ancient thing. No one really asks for what they want and I thought…what do I really want?”

“For the first time in my life I came back to work from the holidays and I didn’t have the post-holiday blues. I was ready to work. [I thought] “Man my life is sick, I’m ready to work”…it was my choice to be there. That was the difference.”

“People say to you “Oh, I wish I could do that” and I think, “Why can’t you?” I’m not special. I’ve had nothing given to me, not a cent from anyone ever….but I’ve always just gone for it and slowly over time I’ve taught myself to be more and more confident with those decisions and making those changes.”

Josh’s Motto

In 20 years’ time you’ll always regret the things you didn’t do more than the things you did.

Inspired by Josh? Check out his travels on Insta…

thekiwinomad_ (he’s also an amazing photographer)

Josh’s Favourites

Some of the books that influenced him the most when he was first starting out…


Tnfld Podcast | Ep02: Ben, from corporate to creative

Hometown / Northern Beaches, Sydney, Australia
Currently resides / Berlin, Germany
Job / Freelance strategy and design consultant, co-founder of The Cultive

A little bit about…

Ben is the kind of guy you can throw into any challenge and he will not only adapt, but find a way to thrive. He’s a natural leader and has an inherent ability to infuse a sense of calm and ease into even the most stressful of situations.

Earlier this year he and his partner Caitlin left their corporate lives in Sydney and embarked on a three month adventure through the European summer. They’re now settled in Berlin and thriving.

Ben’s Motto

“Your energy is contagious. The energy that you give off, whether that’s happy, sad, irritated – whatever you’re projecting really affects everyone around you and that’s what you end up getting back.”

Ben’s advice for living life Tnfld
  • Take advantage of your environment. Instead of bracing against an upcoming cold winter, reframe it in your mind – build your winter nest, find a way to relish the time indoors and use the space you’ve carved out to get creative.
  • Do things straight away – even chores. Just do it when it should be done. Do it as soon as you can and then you’re on your way to the next thing.
  • If there’s something you want to achieve, focus all your upcoming decisions towards making that goal, even if they’re tiny little actions. Every bit will help you realise the big picture.
Our favourite quote

“I always think that happiness is a hard concept to talk about…I think about it in terms of satisfaction or fulfilment.

Being here [Berlin] is a totally different experience. It gives us not necessarily more happiness, but more opportunity for satisfaction in terms of fulfilment, because of the flexibility that we’ve managed to build in. So yeah, there’s more choice everyday…where we can wake up and say ‘are we going to work on this…are we going to work on that? Or maybe today we won’t work at all….have a new experience…go out to the national park.”

Inspired by Ben? Give him a follow on Insta…

@thebentweedie  |  @thecultive

Ben’s Favourites
Books
Podcasts
People

Tnfld Podcast | Ep01: Ruth, from city to surf

Or listen to on iTunes:

Open podcast in iTunes

Hometown /Auckland, New Zealand
Currently resides / SE Asia (most recently Siargao, the Philippines)
Job / Online health coach/seasonal physio

A little bit about…

Tory once described Ruth as “Someone who would have been the heroine of my favourite YA novel back in the day“. Ruth’s got a bit of a twinkle in her eye and a very strong sense of self. She’s warm, friendly, open…and happy, making her a breath of fresh air to everyone she meets. Ruth’s not the type to let life pass her by; she’s a straight-shooting go getter on a mission to live her best life whatever that may be (she’s still figuring it out like most of us).

Ruth left her hometown of Auckland a few years ago and has gone from working as a physio in London to travelling South East Asia, learning how to surf and building an online health coaching business. She’s determined to leave behind the 9-5 life for a simpler existence and is enjoying the journey (physically and spiritually) of finding her place in this world.

Ruth’s Motto

“Don’t be afraid of the unknown. Don’t not do something because you’re worried about what might happen. People say “Oh I wish I could do that, I want to do that” and I’m like…”Why can’t you?” And it’s always just fear – most of the time – that stops them from doing it.”

How Ruth lives life Tnfld
  • Makes sure she’s always by the ocean, so she’s able to swim everyday.
  • Surrounds herself with people who have similar values, who are on a similar mission, and who inspire her.
  • Values and prioritises connection with others – always putting family and friends first.
  • Works hard not to get caught up in chasing the Western idea of success.
Our favourite quote

“People with the simplest lives are often the happiest. And that’s why I question whether I’d go back to Western society where everyone is still struggling with life, even though they’ve got so much.”

Inspired by Ruth? Give her a follow on Insta…

@ruth_fletcher

Ruth’s favourites 

BOOKS

PODCASTS


Yoga 101: How to be confident in any class

Did you know that there are 16 magic cues (8 pairs of cues) that will ensure you’re doing every yoga pose correctly?

I definitely didn’t, until my first day of yoga teacher training. Our teacher got us to all stand up and took us and our bodies through each one. The 16 cues are divided up into 8 pairs, with the idea that each pair contains complementary cues that need to be done together to create stability in the body.

Take a moment, stand up and try it for yourself with the aim of holding all 16 cues together at the same time.

Tadasana cues (in pairs)
  1. Ground all four corners of your feet into the earth
  2. Pull up through the inner arches of your feet
  3. Draw the shins towards each other
  4. Broaden the back of your knees (push your knees back)
  5. Roll your inner thighs back (or up, pending the pose)
  6. Pull up through the pelvic floor (as if your perineum area was being pulled upwards)
  7. Cinch in your waist
  8. Lengthen your side bodies (from your hips to your armpits)
  9. Inner & outer shoulders back
  10. Roll the bottom of your shoulder blades down
  11. Tuck your front ribs in
  12. Broaden through the collarbone (as if they were moving back and out simultaneously)
  13. Take the edges of your neck back and up
  14. Reach through the crown of your head
  15. Energise your fingertips
  16. Smile

It’s not easy, is it? When you’re standing up straight and holding these cues you can feel the effort. These are called Tadasana cues. When you’re in a yoga class and the teacher gives you alignment advice for each pose, they’re not just making it up and pulling them out of thin air (well they shouldn’t be at least), they’re drawing from these cues.

They generally apply to every pose and if you memorise them you will always have something to draw on whether no matter how you’re feeling about the class, teacher, etc. And you will end up working hard as they make even the simplest of poses (like standing) intricate balances of effort.

Learning these cues changed my whole physical practice. Not using them is the equivalent of going to a gym and squatting weights without proper form, vs squatting with proper form. Be in the know, keep your body safe and remember that it’s all about connecting within…not how high your leg kicks or how arched your back is. Find that sweet spot between strength and ease. And never forget to meditate!

Written by Alex


Moving to Australia pt3: How I stayed

So I visited Australia, I fell in love with Australia, and then I moved to Australia. But the tricky part was…how would I stay?

Home and away (but actually the beach the TV show is filmed on)

Making the decision to move to another country is a giant step. Buying the ticket, telling your family and friends, packing up your belongings…they’re all big stepping stones to the life you want. Then there’s finding a job, residence, and community in your new home, and add on all the psychological stuff and it’s pretty full on. But the most important part, in my opinion, is figuring out your visa situation. Not just for the immediate future, but for long term.

The thing is – and I’ve seen it time and time again here – even if you think you’re just coming for a fun year, you really never know how you’ll feel by the end of it. And if you realise you can’t bear the thought of leaving, life will be infinitely easier if you’ve at least plotted out a slight idea of how you can stay.

There have been so many changes to the system in the past year that some of this does not apply, but I figure there’s still some value in my journey to Permanent Residency.

How I became a Permanent Resident in my favourite country on earth:

Holiday working visa, 417 (HWV):

https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/trav/visa-1/417-

This visa entitled me to one year of travel and work around Australia. I was allowed to work anywhere I wanted  so long as it didn’t exceed six months in any one place. This is available for Canadians and a host of other nationalities up until the day you turn 31. The price at the moment is $450.

HWV 1 year extension:

That time I worked on a cucumber and strawberry farm…

If one year isn’t enough time to explore the country there’s a way to add an additional year to your HWV, for many countries there’s the option of doing your regional work (aka farm work…although it doesn’t actually have to be farm related). This involves spending 88 days working in regional Australia. I worked on a small cucumber and strawberry farm in Woolgoolga. I dreaded it, but in the end it ended up being one of the most interesting and Australian experiences of my life.

Temporary work (skilled), 457 (aka Sponsorship!):

*This visa no longer exists as of this year…but my advice about planning definitely still applies*

Sponsored, happy and celebrating Xmas in July

During the second year of my WHV I spent six months working at a well known media company with the aim of getting sponsored by them. They offered me sponsorship and the next phase of my Aussie journey began.

At the time I started (2014), to get sponsored you needed to have a relevant degree to the job you were being nominated for, meet the min. amount of experience required, and a host of other things. I have friends now who have worked really hard to be offered sponsorship only to find out they don’t meet the minimum requirements and would have been better off getting a more relevant education to enable them to stay. I also have friends who weren’t fussed about their timeline so didn’t check out their options early…they ended up missing out on the 457 path to permanent residency, even though they are sponsored now and are very uncertain about their future in two years.

So much has changed in the last year regarding this visa, that I advise you to do your research and do it well!

Permanent Residency, 186:

https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/trav/visa-1/186-

With the now defunct 457 visa, once you worked at your place of sponsorship for two years you were eligible to apply for Permanent Residency. I was lucky that at the time the waitlist was only 6-7 months. The whole process was costly (I think I spent around $8k), but more than worth it. On Feb 13th, 2016 I got an email from immigration saying my PR had gone through. I didn’t even know how much it meant to me until I burst into tears at my desk like a crazy person. Haha. Luckily it was 5:30 and time to go home. I detoured to the Opera House with some friends to celebrate in style and ferry home with the beauty of Sydney stretched out before me. I am a proud Permanent Resident and so happy to call Australia home.

Citizenship:

https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/trav/citi/pathways-processes/application-options/migrant-with-permanent-residence

Once you’ve had your Permanent Residency for one year and lived in the country for at least four years, you’re allowed to apply for your Citizenship (cost: $285). Having done my Permanent Residency application myself I had everything I needed pretty much to do the Citizenship application too. It was quite straightforward and I’ll keep you updated on my status. So far it says wait times are 12 to 16 months and I’m on month six at the moment. 100% worth the wait.

So again, I can’t reiterate how important it is to do the dry work: check out what options are available to you before you even really need to look. The information is all out there and it could save you heaps of time, money and heartache in the future. If you have the chance to live in your happy place, grab it and go forth!

*UPDATE* One year and four days after applying I had my Citizenship interview and test. I just got my letter of approval and am waiting on my ceremony date. It’s not official until you pledge yourself to Australia at the ceremony. So excited and so proud to be an almost Australian citizen.

Moving to Australia

Written by Alex


Moving to Australia pt2: The seed is planted

In February 2012 I visited Australia for the first time. On this fateful trip, I conducted a little survey with every Australian I met by asking them: “Would you say you’re happy?”…not confronting at all, right? 😂

Sneaky pic I took of happy beach goers

But I was in shock. I couldn’t believe this magic place existed. A place where in some ways, everything was the same as where I came from: people worked 9-5, rode public transport into the city, spent the weekend hanging out with friends. Except it didn’t feel the same, it didn’t feel the same at all. It was sunny, warm and the ocean – the ocean – was right there. And nature. And so much green. I met people who had the exact same job as me, but lived in Bondi beach. They lived in a place that I had spent years dreaming about, finally getting up the courage to visit for a few weeks.  They would go to work, then come home and go for a surf! They would hang out with their friends on the grassy knoll on weekends and then head to someone’s house for a barbie (barbecue to the uninitiated) to finish off the day. They had 20 DAYS OF VACATION a year. They were allowed and encouraged to take unpaid leave. They also smiled a lot and seemed very relaxed. There was a general sense that these were people who were enjoying their life as they were living it. It was not about someday – it was happening right now.

But I had always loved Australians, from my fateful days spent on a little island in Greece during two uni summers, when I became friends with a group of them. I loved their easy going, straightforward attitudes. They were just generally good and decent people and so much fun.

So when I asked the “happy” question, the immediate reaction was “…ah, what?” Haha. But then in true Aussie fashion they would “give it a go” and their responses were always along the lines of “Yeah, I guess I am!”.

All the blues and greens

This gave my Toronto-conditioned brain a real jolt. If I’d asked the same question back home the answers would have been along the lines of “I can’t really complain, it could be worse” to the classic “…is anyone really happy?”. This general attitude of complacency – or acceptance, by virtue of it not being “as bad” as something else – never sat well with me. I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand how you could think like that and be able to find the motivation to go forward. By this point I’d already experienced some really big highs and lows in my life and my whole adulthood in Toronto felt like one long string of baseline “meh”ness. The moments of existential despair had overtime become more and more frequent. I found myself constantly thinking…how could this really be as good as it gets?

Well, it turns out it wasn’t. At least not in Australia. The secret was out! (to me). I had found the place that made sense to my brain. The place that made life worth living. I had peeked behind the curtain, I had seen the emerald city and there was no going back.

I spent the last day of this fateful first trip by myself. I walked through the city and suntanned at Bondi beach. I observed everyone and everything. I soaked up as much as I could and wrote it all down: the things people said to each other, the difference in attitude, my complex feelings of wonderment. I promised myself to find a way to somehow live like that back in Toronto. I was blown over, but I still didn’t see how that amazing place could ever be MY life. I didn’t dare dream that I would actually live there one day. That Bondi would be my backyard. That I would swim every morning in that beautiful, freezing cold sea. That I would get so used to sunshine that a rainy day would be welcomed.

So I went home and tried to keep that sunshine with me…

Six months later I applied for my Australian Working Holiday visa. A year and a half later* I was living in my apartment in Bondi.

And that’s how my love affair with Australia began.

*A whole hell of a lot went on in between then (hello separation from my partner, living a wild life in Costa Rica, working on a farm in small town New South Wales), but that would literally take a novel to write…or many, many more stories.

Moving to Australia

Written by Alex


Moving to Australia pt1: My first time in Sydney

Before I’d ever set foot in this place, Australia was this thing in my mind for a very long time: a sunshine country full of beaches and beautiful, friendly people. In the depths of winter in Toronto, I had this recurring dream where I would wake up on a beach, squinting at the sunlight – the sky unbelievably blue, the surf frothy. The soft sand littered with lifeguards and beachgoers all out enjoying the gorgeous, sparkling day. It was so warm and it felt so real; it felt hopeful and happy and right. I’d wake up from the dream and lie still, eyes closed, trying to hold onto that feeling for as long as I could. I wanted to feel that sunshine…

I visited Australia for the first time in 2012. My best friend Sid and I had always wanted to go ever since a fateful summer living on an island in Greece, where we’d met our first Aussie friends. We spent years after talking about it, but it was one of those trips that seemed like you would need a lot of time and money…and it just seemed SO FAR AWAY. So we let ourselves get swept up in our work and relationships and the trip became a distant dream.

My first pic in Bondi – little did I know this would literally become my backyard in two years.

Then one day, out of the blue, Sid said she was planning a three week trip to Australia and asked me if there was a chance I would come. At the time I was a few months into what I thought was my ‘dream job’ (aka. the thing that was going to make life better, fix everything, give me purpose, etc.), but it had turned into my own personal nightmare – as these things do when you rely on a job to fix your life. I was depressed, anxious and had no idea what to do next. I felt so trapped and I needed an out badly. This was my out.

Quit my job and travel for three weeks?!?! I thought it was crazy at first…three weeks away was a lot in Toronto at the time, but the idea wouldn’t leave my mind. After a month of more misery at work, I realised this was the perfect excuse to leave. I also found out it would only cost $500 return for me to fly with Sid since she was a flight attendant, which basically removed any other worry I had left. Looking back this was all such an obvious sign from the universe – when things start flowing, let the river take you! 

So I gave my notice, threw caution to the wind – with no job prospects for when I returned – and left. We flew to Vancouver, spent the afternoon there (such a good flying break – highly recommend), then took the midnight flight to Sydney where we were set to arrive early in the morning.

When we got out of customs I saw a row of palm trees just outside the gate. The air had a headiness to it. It felt like beach to me. The sky was blue. The colours were different – have you ever noticed that not all blue skies and sun are the same? This sky gave off a bright and warm light. I thought about that feeling I would get when I watched an Australian tv show back home. It was weird to be travelling in an English speaking country – so easy, but still different. We went to buy a bottle of water and I remember being shocked at the $3 price (haha, if only I knew!). We got on the train and headed to Central Station where our hostel was.

When we arrived in the city we were both awestruck. More palm trees. Blue skies. Heat…and this was downtown (or as the Aussies call it “the CBD”). I remember a change starting to take place within me (an awakening really) that I couldn’t yet articulate. The gears were turning. This was an English speaking, first world country – NOT in the US (which I was never a fan of), with amazing weather. We were giddy with excitement.

View from Taronga zoo. I thought it looked like Toronto.

You know those things you put off for awhile out of fear, a purported difficulty, or a myriad of other reasons? But then, when you finally do it you’re like…oh. OH. OHH! And regret immediately not having done it earlier? That was Sydney for me. That was Australia. I had a huge…“How did it take me this long to get here?!” stamped in my brain, on constant repeat. Why would I ever have put this off? Yes, the flight was long, but really – any flight longer than 8 hours is going to take your day and night anyways, right? And yes, it WAS so far away from Toronto, BUT in all the ways that mattered, it didn’t feel very far at all. It was easy to navigate, there was no language barrier and it was familiar – a thoroughly western city. And then on top of all that, it was absolutely, bloody gorgeous. I finally understood what world class city meant. The harbour, the ferry commutes, the luscious park havens right in the CBD (Hyde Park and Botanical gardens), the food and THE BEACHES: white sand, clear water, 20min from downtown – they were everywhere! And the weather, did I mention the weather?! It was Toronto on its most glorious day…every day.

I loved Sydney the minute I laid eyes on it.

Moving to Australia

Written by Alex

YTT: Yin and Traditional Tantra Hatha at The Practice Bali

If you’ve followed my Yoga Teacher Training Journey (see here, here and here), it’s been about a year since I did my 200hr course with Power Living in Bondi.

Since then I fell head over heels for the yoga at The Practice in Canggu, Bali. So when I found out about the 50hr Yin Teacher Training course they were holding, as well as the 50hr Traditional Tantra Hatha bridging course (for people who didn’t do their 200hr YTT with them, but want to learn the foundations of what they teach)…I knew I had to sign up. Here are my reviews of both:

50hr Yin Teacher Training with Nik Robson

Price: $850 USD

I’ve been to my fair share of yin classes with varying experiences, but when I started attending Nik’s yin classes last year I felt what I could only describe as pure magic. When I saw the training open up I knew I needed to find out what was behind it.

The training started with a half day, which included an opening ceremony and two hour practice. Our first full day was done in complete silence (definitely an experience). As the week went on (and we started speaking again hah) we learned about the pran vayus (different energies within the body), how to sequence a yin class to create specific experiences based on these energies and most importantly, how to create and hold a safe space for people to be free to create the *magic* for themselves.

We’d do yin practices that felt like an hour only to find out we’d stayed for three. Time didn’t exist and our little yin bubble was strong. We went deep and I felt like the course was lead the way Nik’s yin classes were lead: as a safe, strong, nurturing experience that gave us the space to really experience what we were learning and take it on board. There was a lot of trust put in us and the message was clear…it’s our duty to take these learnings, make them our own, and provide our own unique sacred spaces for people to experience yin.

50hr Traditional Tantra Hatha with Octavio Salvado

Price: $650 USD (a steal!)

If you’ve always wanted to take an extended spiritual pilgrimage to India, but haven’t found the time (hah), then this course is definitely for you. Not only is it insanely rich in content, but it also systematically shows you how to apply traditional tantra hatha yoga to your life…and how to reap the benefits.

This course was a whammy. So much information. So little time. We were given the same manual as the 200hr YTT course and I feel like we covered a lot of it. Each day was comprised of a two hour morning vinyasa krama, pranayama and meditation exercise followed by lectures with mini meditations and mantra chants in between. We were living and breathing the teachings being passed down to us. This is not the place to learn how to do your best downward dog (which you know if you’ve ever been to The Practice).

The majority of students were practicing yoga teachers (some even ran their own 200hr trainings) and a few yoga newbies. The yogis who had a fair share of trainings under their belt, all said they’d never found a course like this anywhere else in the world.

Here’s the course curriculum (direct from the site):

  • Tantric Philosophy, Cosmology and Methodology.
  • Moon, Sun and Fire: The 7 Stage Process to Awakening Kundalini.
  • Advanced Sequencing: The Energetics of Asana.
  • Mastering The Prana Vayus.
  • The Gunas and Their Connection to Emotions and Meditation.
  • Kundalini and The Chakras.
  • Understanding The Science and Connection Between Asana, Pranayama and Meditation.
  • The Science of Sound: Mantra, Vibration, Energy and Frequency.
  • Key Tantric Insights Into The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
  • Ayurveda and Tantra.
  • Yantra Yoga: The Mathematics of Dharma.
  • Kriya Meditation: The Ultimate Practice for Modern Yogis.

It was truly fascinating and the response I have to everyone who’s asked me about it is that I feel like I’ve learned all the secrets of the universe…and who doesn’t want to do that?!

It was amazing. Now go meditate!

Written by Alex


What are your conditionings?

A family friend told me a story years ago that I’ve never forgotten:

One year she went to both her company’s Christmas parties, one was in Toronto and one was in Vancouver. In both places she was asked “What do you do?” and both times she responded the same way “I’m in marketing”.

In Toronto this started conversations about projects, teams, roles, etc., but in Vancouver when she started talking more about her job they would interrupt her with, “No, what do you ‘do’ do…like snowboard/ski/etc.?”. 

Same party, different cultural perspective. This story stuck with me, but it wasn’t until I went to Costa Rica for the first time that I experienced it for myself.

There was no way I was spending Christmas at home. View from my bedroom (December 2012, Toronto)

I was 28 when my life turned upside down. I needed an escape from the turmoil, and Tory being the good sister that she is, said there was no way we could spend Christmas at home. We looked for cheap, last-minute flights to anywhere hot and Costa Rica was the winner.

We left the freezing, dark, wet, concrete metropolitan that was Toronto and arrived in Jaco: a touristy beach town that’s also sunshine on crack, lush,  tropical, living, breathing surf and reggae heaven.

If that wasn’t enough to jolt us out of our former pale, city-dwelling selves, there was so much more to come (but I’ll save that for another time and post…).

One of the things I noticed right away was that when I talked to someone new no one would ask me:  “What do you do?”, which is what I was so used to back home. Instead, the questions were along the lines of:

Questions
  • Where are you from?
  • How long are you here for?
  • Where else are you going/have you been?
  • Do you surf?
My answers
  • Toronto
  • One week
  • Home/nowhere
  • Not yet

This shook me up. I was so used to relying on my job as the main way to identify myself (even if I didn’t really believe it) that when it was taken away as an option I felt like my current situation did not and could not describe who I was. I wanted to say, “But really…I’m interesting! I’m exciting! I’m so much more than this! And…I LOVE TO SURF!”.

But I couldn’t. I wasn’t. And I didn’t know how to surf, even though I’d desperately wanted to learn my whole life.

Why was I so triggered by this? It’s easy to see why in hindsight. I was confronted with the fact that I was not living my life the way that I wanted and that most of my choices up to that point had been based on what was expected of me and the society in which I grew up.

I was 28 and on paper I found myself boring.

The deprogramming begins (Jaco beach, December 2012)

My inner life was and had always been rich (in anxiety hah, amongst other things), but my outer life was not a reflection of the true me. This realisation shocked me to my core and set about a series of big changes (hello Saturn Return).

I realised that the things that were important where I grew up were not universally important. That if I went somewhere different, a different set of values and rules applied. And that in all of these instances, none of them had to apply to me. In the end, what mattered was what I held true for myself.

I was deep, deep, down in a well of conditioning and I had just seen my first hint of light. What’s followed since has been a series of lightbulb moments where I’ve realised that there are a lot more of these assumptions living in my mind.

Here is a base list of assumptions I’d been conditioned with:

Doing well in school is the key to success / Doing well in your job is the key to success / Success = fulfillment

I was taught to try my best at everything. Growing up, I was never allowed to step back and examine if the thing I was about to work towards was what I actually wanted. This caused many periods of depression in my life, where I blindly followed paths of ‘success’ (new school programs, job offers, etc.) with the faith that once I achieved these things happiness would follow. It didn’t (surprise!) and I would accomplish things and then feel so much loss, disillusion and despair, often asking “What’s the point?”. I never thought about the journey, only about the final outcome and that outcome never lived up to the hype.

Being with someone is the key to happiness

I dealt with frequent bouts of depression and existential crisis from a very young age. Anytime I was in one of these periods my dad would always counter it with “You just need to meet someone and then you’ll be happy”. Then I did meet someone and was in a relationship for my entire 20s. And I WAS happy…for a time. It was a balm to my achy soul, but eventually the same ‘demons’, came back. Love is happiness – so much happiness, but unless you’re solid in yourself it can also be used as a distraction of sorts. We seem to often use our relationships, not to mention our responsibilities (mortgage, kids, etc.) as an excuse to not take those scary steps forward that let us grow. Relationships (even friendships) are one of the big excuses we use to stay stagnant.

That’s just life / There are some things you just have to do

This kind of acceptance has its place, but it’s often used to brush over things that make you unhappy and that should be addressed. Once upon a time I was told that pretty much everyone has to work 9 to 5 (I grew up in Toronto) and that you have to be born rich or win the lottery to experience a different fate. Already, in the last five years especially, we’ve seen how not true that is (as I sit from a cafe in Canggu, Bali, with money in the bank writing this post). This statement is almost the basis of this whole site hah, so I can’t really cover it all in one bullet point!

You can’t have everything

Said to many who dared to dream big! But really, what is “everything”? It can mean very different things depending on who you ask. And if it’s different for each person, then maybe you, YES YOU, can have your version of “everything”.

Here’s a good exercise. Write down a list quickly of everything that you want. Don’t think too hard about it, try and let it all flow before you stop yourself – you can edit it later.  Once you have this list, take a good look at it and see if you can start grouping together like things. By analysing what’s on that list, you will probably start to see some base commonalities emerge from your “everything’s”. If it’s living on a tropical island in a beach shack, maybe the essence of that is living in a place with sunshine and good weather or maybe finding a job that gives you more free time to slow down and enjoy the little things.

These conditions are pretty prevalent where I come from. I’m still trawling through them, one by one and actually get so excited now when I uncover a new one. Each time this happens the world gets a little lighter and I feel a piece of my freedom, a piece of myself, come back to me.

Do any of these resonate with you? What are your conditionings?

Tory and the sunset (Jaco Beach, December 2012)

Written by Alex

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