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 | Ep03: Abi, from fast-paced Londoner to Bondi buddha

Hometown / Swindon, United Kingdom
Currently resides / Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia 
Job / User Experience Designer

A little bit about…

Abi grew up in a small town in England and spent most of her twenties working her way up the corporate ladder in London. She loved big city life, had a great group of friends and a flourishing career, but found herself being drawn to a more conscious way of living. 

One day, not too long after starting a new job, she had an overwhelming sense of claustrophobia while sitting at her desk. She realised she had been filling her life with more and more unique hobbies to fight her boredom and needed a real break from corporate life. 

She (bravely) asked her new boss for a 3-month sabbatical and took off to travel the world. As expected, she wasn’t quite the same when she returned from her travels and was inspired to embark on a new adventure across the pond.

Abi’s Motto

“I’m always trying to question things. The more conscious you become in your life the more questions arise out of things you do in the day to day.”

Abi’s advice for living life Tnfld
  • Be extremely protective of your work life balance and try to find ways to bring your passions and interests into your job.
  • Try having no plans and taking a few hours for yourself every weekend to do your own thing and give yourself space for spontaneity.
  • Be conscious of your body and the health of your mind and invest in them.
  • Stop and check in. Notice the little things. It’s insane how much more awesome life is when you do.
Our favourite quote

It’s been a real exercise in consciously trying to craft a life that I really actively want to be a part of rather than just drifting.

I know the importance of doing something every day that’s good for mind, body, soul. There’s a longevity in contentment if I do that.”

Inspired by Abi? Give her a follow on Insta…

abi.w_


How sunshine and salt water changed my life

I never realised how much the weather and nature affected me until I moved to Australia – land of sunshine and 10,000 beaches. I always tell people that I feel like my base level of happiness is so much higher in Australia and I think that at least 80% of that is because of the amazing weather and the fact that I can be outside by the ocean every single day of the year. I’ve always been happier when the weather is nicer, but I thought that most people were in the same boat and it was just something you had to deal with. I’d joke about having SAD (seasonal affective disorder), but never really paid serious attention to how my surroundings were actually affecting me.

Growing up in Toronto, my family lived in a an area that was modelled after an English village so our neighbourhood had lots of huge trees and grassy lawns. It felt a bit like living in a park and i’d spend countless afternoons roaming around with my sister and our neighbours. When I moved away from home for uni, I lived in a smallish suburban town in Canada and my world consisted of maybe a 1km concrete radius around campus. The only places I really went were home, uni, gym, bar; building to building. It was winter at least 5 out of 8 months of the school year and even when the weather was nice, I barely remember there being any trees or grass on campus. Every November like clockwork as the days got shorter, greyer and colder, I’d find myself slipping into a dark place mentally. I think back then I wrote it off as early 20s angst – being unsure of my studies, what I should do with my life etc. But when I think about my environment and lifestyle at the time it all kind of makes sense.

After City2Surf – 14k run from the city to Bondi (and by far the furthest I’ve ever run in my life)

I don’t think I consciously realised that I was missing that connection with nature but I did start going for runs. I can’t remember how or exactly when I decided to start running. I’d always liked track and field i.e. short distance sprints, but I’d never been any sort of distance runner – I was the kid in middle school who would join the cross country team for approximately 2 weeks every year and then quit. I thought my newfound will to run was motivated by a desire to keep fit but I think it was probably more my body screaming for some fresh air and what little nature I could find.

My first running route was just a simple rectangle around campus, but since then I’ve sought out a running route in every single place I’ve lived. When I was working as an au pair after my first year of uni,  I went for nightly runs with the family dog through the winding roads past vineyards in the south of France and then through the city streets in Liege. During my internship in Quebec City I ran around the uni campus at Laval where I was staying. As an ERASMUS student in Paris I’d run by the Canal St. Martin, or walk across the city to explore new parks. During law school in Windsor I’d run along the Canadian side of the Detroit river at least a few times a week. Some of these runs were even in the middle of winter (rugged up in gloves, hat and my warmest hoodie)!

During my last summer at law school I lived in Costa Rica for 3 months teaching English, learning Spanish and doing some translation work for a law firm. My life in Costa was lived at least 75% outside; I basically lived on the beach and it awakened something inside me. When I landed back in Toronto and drove through the suburbs with my dad, I knew I would never be able to look at city life the same way. My first few days back I felt so antsy and realised how much of my life in Canada I lived inside and essentially immobile.

I’d never realised how important the outdoors were to me until that point, but I still had a year of law school to finish and after that 10 months of articling to officially become a lawyer. I slowly acclimatised back to my Canadian life (with lots of struggles) but I was never quite the same. After living (more like surviving) through a winter that was consistently -20 and left me feeling desperately claustrophobic, I finally made the decision to join Alex in the land down under. Lots more to that story but that’s for another time.

Sunrise sesh before work in Bondi

Basically, once I moved to Australia, it became so obvious how much weather and nature impact me. Mainly because it’s SO BEAUTIFUL here 90% of the time that when it’s not, I immediately notice the difference in my mood. The sky in Australia is the bluest blue you’ve ever seen. The ocean literally sparkles and is so clear you feel like you could drink the water. Flowers and plants bloom with abandon everywhere. I can go outside all year round comfortably, touch my feet to the the earth, the sand, the ocean. It sounds so simple and it is, but it makes such a big difference in my quality of life to be able to be in nature every day.

I still work in the CBD and live a ‘city’ life for the most part Monday to Friday. But living in Bondi means every weekend feels like a vacation and in the summer I can get in beach time before and after work. I have so many moments by myself outside where I’m just genuinely happy to be alive and I feel like that was something that was really rare for me before.

All I know is that any time I dive into the ocean or touch my bare feet to the grass, I can’t help but smile and feel like a kid again.

Written by Tory


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

Are you living in the wrong place?

When I decided to move to Australia, my dad told me he was worried I was running away and warned me that “the grass isn’t always greener”. This warning haunted me my whole first year in the land down under. I found myself always waiting for the other shoe to drop and constantly questioning my choices. What if I was just escaping “reality”? What if I was just being unrealistic? I may have left Toronto behind, but I made sure to take my anxiety with me…

Emma and me, five years post-farm (Crate Cafe, Canggu, Bali)

While working on a farm in Australia (see why here), I met my Swedish friend Emma whilst packing cucumbers. We were talking about the differences between Australia and where we came from and if we would go home or stay. I still clearly remember when she said: “Alex, just because you were born somewhere doesn’t mean you’re meant to stay there.” Then she proceeded to list off all the reasons why Australia suited who she was: from allowing her to be outside all year long to abundant sunshine to the fitness-first, active culture. Something about the way she stated it so matter of factly, struck me deeply because it rang so true.  Just like ‘1+1=2’, Emma was saying that ‘you’ + ’where you live’ should also = something. It should add up.

There’s the place you were born and then…there’s the place you were meant to be. For those who were born in a place that has always felt like home – you may not get this sentiment, but for those who have always felt a little off, this could be for you.

I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, but something never felt quite right. Growing up I didn’t know how much of that was attributed to my place of residence, but looking back the signs were all there.

Here is my very non-scientific, very personal “Are you living in the wrong place?” checklist.

When at ‘home’ do you:
  • Feel like an outsider for no obvious reason?
  • Fantasize and/or find yourself living your whole life for your next vacation?
  • Find it hard to be motivated by what’s ‘”supposed to be” important in your life, but your friends/coworkers/family seem to have no issue doing so?
  • Feel like your outlook, emotions, opinions, etc. are often different than the general sentiment?
  • Feel like you’re limited in the ability to do the things you want to do based on your surroundings?
  • Feel like the way people go about things is unnecessarily difficult?
  • Feel like the way you’ve been living doesn’t make sense to you?

Obviously these questions can apply to a wide spectrum of things and should be taken with a HUGE grain of salt (and context), but bear with me and let’s continue with this exercise…

Have you ever been somewhere else and:
  • Felt immediately at home (and not just because you were sipping a daiquiri/lounging in a luxe hotel room/etc.)
  • Met people who you have more in common with (and not just other travellers, but locals)
  • Felt like the way people live life there makes sense
  • Felt like you could see yourself living there beyond the honeymoon period of travel
  • Felt like your values were finally being met

If this all sounds too familiar then you probably also have a home away from wherever you grew up. I carried around a lot of guilt about leaving Toronto – “Why did I have to move across the world when I lived somewhere so great?” was a question directed at me many times by many people.

But it wasn’t great – not for me.

And just because something’s not outright awful doesn’t mean you have to stay and spend all your energy trying to make it work. I was always taking on new projects, activities, etc. (sewing classes, running groups, soccer…to name a few) to try and turn things around. I kept thinking that if I just found the right thing somehow life would start to make sense. I thought if I found that thing I would all of a sudden “get” what everyone else seemed to – the invisible force that kept them motivated and excited about their lives. And yes  – contentment is found within and equanimity is the goal, but if you have to spend more than 20% of your day just dealing with your circumstances (-30 degrees outside with a nice icy slush to shuffle through/horrible transit/a very serious corporate culture) then maybe it might serve you better to be in an environment where you can free up that energy to be spent on more positive and productive pursuits. Have you ever heard that quote about how you need to fill up your cup first before you can fill up anyone else’s?

In this day and age, especially if you’re born in a first world country with the means and resources to choose your fate, make sure you honour that privilege by making a choice. Remembering to choose consciously and with purpose.

So one year into my Australian journey, my parents finally came to visit. We took a ferry across the water from Circular Quay to Manly (sidenote: best public transit commute in the world). The water was sparkling, the sun was shining – Sydney was turning it on. My dad stood at the front of the boat, very still and quiet as he watched the cliffs fly past. He turned to me, put his hand on my shoulder and said: “I can’t believe it. The grass is ACTUALLY greener here…I wish I had moved to Australia when I had the chance.’’

Are you where you were meant to be? If not, where is that place for you and why?

Written by Alex

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