I still remember the day on our team trip in Kuala Lumpur when, chilling out in our apartment after an intensive day at work, Jon blurted out a question: “How about going to Bali?”. My immediate reaction to that word was straight and direct: “Yes! Let’s do this, let’s go right after Hong Kong!”. Since Jon and I had no definite plans, nor return tickets to Europe, the offhand comment caught my imagination and I started to check out Airbnb options straight away.
In the end, our plans changed while we were in Hong Kong–Matt and Sergei headed back towards Europe, and Jon ended up in Kuala Lumpur. Much to everyone’s amusement, I had to make plans to go back to Norway to take care of some business and look after the family dog. I know, right? My plans to move to tropical paradise, completely ruined by a yappy little Maltese toy dog with attachment issues, called Pupa.
When I was back in Norway, I had some doubts about making the return trip back to Bali a few months later. It’s always easier to make plans like this when you know you’ll be making the trip with a friend. But come on, the reasons to head to Bali were obvious!
- It’s cheap. Try to imagine what the prices are like in Norway–one of the most expensive countries in the world. Indonesia is just a little bit cheaper.
- The people. While I was enjoying the facilities and productivity at the coworking space in my town in Norway, it was always a challenge to meet a lot of similar-minded people. It seemed that all of them were hanging out in Bali, where there was an international community of nomads and creatives.
- It’s hot. I’ve always thought I’m a lover of snow and rain, but having experienced the heat of Malaysia, I’ll happily admit that I was completely wrong about that. Unsurprisingly, wearing shorts every day and walking barefoot everywhere, turns out to be quite pleasant.
And so the decision was made, and I set off on my way to Bali, via a short stopover in KL. 2 weeks into my stay here in Ubud, I’ve had a fantastic time, fuelled by some amazing new experiences, and great first impressions.
Hubud and its people
To be fair, Hubud was the 4th reason for going to Bali. It was also the reason why I decided to give up on the dream of a beachside life, and settle in Ubud, which is actually about 1 hour inland, up in the Balinese hills.
This beautiful coworking space right next to the Monkey Forest is probably one of the best I’ve worked in, and definitely the most unique so far. The name Hubud, meaning Hub in Ubud, is an appropriate one–it clearly shows how this space intends to become a huge destination for working nomads and travellers.
It’s a busy and very liveable space that’s fuelled by regular events. With at least a couple of hundred members, including freelance designers, writers, expat-entrepreneurs (many of them remotely running their companies, which are based in their home countries), nomad bloggers (for whom Bali is just one of their many destinations), and plenty more amazing people.
Now I’m here, I’m surrounded every day by smart, ambitious, and driven people who happily share their unique points of view with those around them. They might come across as very humble and modest about what they’re doing, but in reality, they’re all incredibly inspiring, very chilled out, and great to be around. Even though I’ve travelled to a lot of different coworking spaces, the atmosphere here is somehow different.
It’s really hard to believe that Hubud are celebrating their first birthday in a couple of days, because for such a developed, smart and liveable place, I could easily believe that they’ve been around for several years now. It really shows how well they’re doing, and how strong the community is here.
Ubud and its neighborhoods
Many of the people I’ve met here have said that when they first visited Ubud many years ago, it was a lot quieter. Since then, they say, it has got much busier and bigger. I’ve definitely seen a clear difference between the center, and the outer neighborhoods. While you’re in the center of town, you may well be annoyed by the constant scooter noises, and narrow pavements occupied by tourists (particularly at the weekends). But in contrast, all you can find in the neighborhoods are a few crickets, geckos and dogs.
I’m lucky that I found a place in the peaceful neighborhood of Nyuh Kuning, for my first three weeks. It only takes 25 minutes each day to walk into Hubud, and even though it takes a bit longer to reach the center of town, I have for now resisted the temptation to pick up a scooter. I’d definitely recommend looking for accommodation in Nyuh Kuning if you’re planning to work at Hubud, but if you’re travelling alone and walking back in the evenings, you might find a scooter is necessary. I think I’ll give in in the next few days and join the beeping crowds–it makes it much easier to get around, for sure.
One tip I’d definitely share, is that if you don’t feel comfortable being an obvious tourist, or just hate being surrounded by crowds of tourists, don’t head into the center of town on Saturday and Sunday–Ubud is one of those places that is a big tourist destination in Bali, and it’s easy to see why some of the weekend visitors describe it as a bit overdeveloped and lacking in charm. It’s much more pleasant during the weekdays, though.
And another tip, especially if you’re a very naive guy like me, who has enjoyed several years in a safe country like Norway: avoid walking around in Ubud at 3am–if you’re going out on Friday, for example, sort out some transport beforehand. Everyone keeps telling me that nobody is going to try and touch a 6.5 ft tall guy, but the problem is not the humans who live here… the angry, growling dogs on every corner that might follow you all the way home, are much more of a problem. Of course, they’re doing their job and guarding their territory—I’m the clumsy intruder, stumbling over things as I try and get back home in the middle of the night!
Balanced everyday life
One of the first things you’ll notice here is how easy it is to get hold of cheap, but very healthy organic food. It’s heaven for both vegetarians, who can enjoy the amazing Balinese veggie dishes, and also meat eaters, who can enjoy cheap steaks for breakfast (I’m a real T-Rex here). And it’s easy to get away from your kitchen and use that time for other things—I’ve still not cooked anything since I arrived here, even though I’ve got a kitchen in my villa.
A huge bonus is that every morning, I get to enjoy a great, healthy granola breakfast at the in-house Living Food Lab, which is a vegetarian-inspired cafe, with an amazing view of the rice paddies that surround Hubud.
Ever since I arrived here, my routine and body clock has improved massively. When you live in a village right by the rice paddies, your alarm becomes a bit useless–the sun, crowing cockerels and barking dogs gently wake you up at about 7am. It also gets dark quite early—at around 6pm, and there are less chances you will stay up till 1-2am like many other designers do. So the daily routine here in Bali tends to start and end earlier. It’s easy to adapt, and I’ve really enjoyed the steadier routine and more peaceful life, especially compared to living in a big city like Hong Kong.
For sure, I’m enjoying my new routine, but it’s not just me who has benefited. It’s also more than helpful for my teammates to be able to predict my time, and my everyday shifts. I’m feeling way more productive when I can work strict hours from 9am till 6pm, with a 1 hour lunch at 1pm. I manage to get a lot of work done, working very intensely, and then to really switch off after work, lie down in my hammock, ukulele in hand, and chill out and recover, maybe doing a little sketching and writing, before starting again in the morning.
I’ve had a fantastic 2 weeks so far, met so many great people, and put together some work I’m very proud of. There’s plenty more to come, though. Next up, I’ll be moving elsewhere in town, and I’m looking forward to exploring Bali a little more, and also making the most of the time and space I have right now to ‘hack’ my daily routine and find ways to be more productive and focused while I’m at work, and get even more from my downtime.
It would be difficult to count on my fingers, how many opportunities this place can offer, and I can’t wait to use most of them in the next several months. If you’re thinking about taking the plunge, and shaking things up a bit–do it! And if by any chance you’re in Ubud, tweet me, and let’s share some stories.