Digi go-go to Bali

Raul Dias | Updated on July 24, 2020

Life is a beach: In Canggu, surfing lessons at lunch are the norm, as are al fresco sunset yoga sessions that replace post-work drinks.   -  ISTOCK.COM

Short trips, medium vacations are on hold. The long stay is possibly the way forward in a post-pandemic world. An aspiring digital nomad turns his attention to the Indonesian island

* While Ubud and Seminyak count among tourist hotspots in Bali, Canggu is more of a digital nomad heaven with countless stay options, internet cafés, cheap dive bars, art galleries and Insta-worthy vistas

“Trust me, it’s paradise. This is where the hungry come to feed. For mine is a generation that circles the globe and searches for something we haven’t tried before,” says Leonardo DiCaprio’s mononymous character ‘Richard’ in the 2000 film The Beach. The film was a backpacker cult classic, so ahead of its time that it effortlessly segues into the current milieu, exactly two decades later. A time when digital nomadism seems to be the way forward for millennials-on-the-go, as they chart their course in the post-pandemic world. One that is ruled by the unholy trinity of anxiety, apprehension and uncertainty.

All this, while attempting to precariously juggle travel, work and a little adventure on the side. Constantly searching for their version of a modern-day Valhalla, as it were. Nesting in places as far flung as Cancun in Mexico to Bali in Indonesia, where tribes of wannabe digital nomad warriors — app developers, social media marketers or the ubiquitous travel vlogger — hunker down for extended periods of stay.

Moving on

Loath as I may be to admit it, I am one of these people now. Even though I have been on the fringes of the digital nomadic lifestyle for nearly a decade as a freelance travel and food writer, setting up temporary ‘shop’ wherever I travel, I have somehow always found comfort in being tethered to my writing desk, here in my home base of Mumbai. The full-time, peripatetic lifestyle scene was not something I could wrap my head around.

Like a lot of things in our lives that have changed this year, I have done a rethink. “If I can work from home, I can work from anywhere”, is a mantra I now chant on a loop.

As we do a rethink — about how we work and travel — an important realisation comes to the fore. The trade-off by combining work with leisure over an extended period while remaining socially distant is far greater than the ephemeral lure of a short trip. The latter is no longer as attractive and realistic as before, what with Covid-19 testing and fortnight quarantines putting a kibosh on everything.

Quick on the uptake and saddling up to this cultural sea change are countries such as Estonia, which recently announced a special long-term digital nomad visa. The eastern Caribbean island of Barbados, too, has unveiled a similar 12-month digital nomad work visa to allow visitors from all countries to live and work there, tax-free.

Seas the day

I am not looking that far. As a frontrunner on the honeymoon-meets-family vacation scene for decades, the sea-’n’-surf paradise of Bali has had a facelift of sorts. Transforming itself into a digital nomad haven for the last couple of years, the Indonesian island is poised to become the post-pandemic world’s epicentre for the hipster drifter for a host of reasons that I will unspool shortly.

Exactly a year ago, back when ‘Corona’ to me was just a brand of bottled beer, I took a wee detour to Bali in the middle of a work trip to Thailand. The purpose of my two-day trip to the island was to scope out an abridged version of the digital nomadic lifestyle there, as part of a writing project I was in consideration for. While said project did not work out, what I gleaned from the trip was a destination ripe for the picking.

Like almost every prospective digital nomad, I found myself in Canggu, along the south coast of the island. Canggu is relatively inexpensive to live and work in and easy to navigate around. I was there checking out the three main things a digital nomad seeks: Accommodation, a place to work and something extra when R&R beckons. A rough estimate covering these three points came to a monthly budget of $650-900.

Ticking all boxes

While other areas like Ubud — the rice terrace-surrounded bucolic heart of the island — and the more upmarket Seminyak are no less attractive, there is something to be said for the beachy vibe of Canggu. Here, surfing lessons at lunch are the norm, as are al fresco sunset yoga sessions that replace post-work drinks.

With its explosion of avocado-toast serving cafés, cheap dive bars, art galleries and Insta-friendly vistas, Canggu garners serious cred on hipster street. But it also has a wide variety of both co-working spaces (with lightning-fast internet speeds) and a plethora of accommodation options. From inexpensive guest houses and plush Airbnb rentals to communal ‘co-living spaces’, the search in Bali ends here.

I was barely an hour into my dalliance with ‘digital nomading’ at the Tropical Nomad Coworking space near Canggu’s Echo Beach when I got chatting with Sarah. A digital content curator originally from Texas, she had been based in Bali for six months at the time. By the look of it, Sarah was still in the honeymoon phase with her digital nomad life. “It really does not matter if you are an aspiring digital nomad or an experienced one,” Sarah says rather encouragingly. “Bali is the kind of place where you are almost guaranteed to find some truly unique and inspiring places, and people who help you get to your productive best, while living life to the fullest.”

Quite the prophetic solution for these bleak times, I’d say.

Raul Dias is a food and travel writer based in Mumbai

Travel log
  • Getting there
  • From India, one has to fly to Bali via Bangkok, Singapore or Kuala Lumpur (a return ticket comes to around ₹18,000). Travel within the island is easy with cheap and plentiful transport options available, including taxis and bikes on hire. Citizens of 169 countries (including India) get a free 30-day visa on arrival. This visa period can be renewed by taking a short ‘visa run’ to places such as Malaysia, Singapore or Thailand and coming back to Bali.
  • Stay
  • Dojo Bali (dojobali.org) along Canggu’s famous surf break of Echo Beach ticks all three boxes offering a trendy co-working and co-living space along with recreational facilities such as surf lessons and Balinese cooking lessons, all at reasonable prices.
  • Outpost (destinationoutpost.co), with its flagship sister property in Ubud, is another great co-working and co-living space with an apt slogan of “design your best life”.
  • BLink Tip
  • While the whole of Bali is very safe, there are women-only stay options such as Goddess Retreats (baligoddessretreats.com).
  • (Note: The above information is intended to provide a general idea for future travel.)

Published on July 24, 2020

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