Hello! My name is Amit and I’m originally from Montreal, Canada. I’ve lived in Bali, Indonesia since 2011.
1. Why did you move abroad?
I never consciously decided to move overseas; least of all to the other side of the world. Two years after surviving a near-death accident while traveling around Asia in 2009, I had returned to Asia when I took a brief detour to Bali. I’d heard about the recoveries that others had made with the help of traditional healers, natural remedies, local massage practitioners and intense yoga practice. So I came to pursue further physical healing; but I also stayed on to care for my mind and spirit as well.
2. How do you make a living ?
I’m mainly a writer and editor, but I’m also an artist and labyrinth-maker - I created the first labyrinth in Bali! I also facilitate creativity workshops, in which I offer experiences with intuitive, expressive and therapeutic value. I’ve written for websites and publications, including Travel + Leisure and Journeywoman; and I’ve edited yoga and dance manuals, human rights reports (I’m a lapsed lawyer too!), personal development books and magazine articles. I’m currently in the process of finishing my first (non-fiction) book, a travel memoir about walking the Camino de Santiago – with donkeys, some invisabilities (resulting from my accident), and a quirky cast of characters. Find more about current projects.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
I actually consider my current residence in Bali – or wherever I happen to live for an extended period of time (which has, in the past, included France, Israel and Nepal) – to be my home. Since I haven’t lived in Montreal for many years, I regard that city as my birthplace rather than my home. I’m a tad erratic in keeping in touch with close family members - which I attribute to the time difference: 12 (or 13) hours makes for some tricky coordination!
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Bali?
Learning and practicing non-attachment. I’m never sure when I’ll decide to leave. But also: Taking advantage of opportunities, to immerse myself in the local culture, learn the Indonesian language, and familiarize myself with Balinese tradition and customs. I do, however, have a favorite holiday in Bali, which I missed only once: Nyepi, the Balinese New Year (according to the local Caka calendar), a.k.a. the Day of Silence. It’s an exquisite experience, as the entire island shuts down for a full 24 hours; the airport is closed, residents and tourists are forbidden to leave the property, electricity cannot be switched on (at night-time), and vehicles are verboten. In 2018, for the first ever, the Balinese authorities also shut down all internet/Wifi and data networks, so all connections to the outside worlds were put on pause. The inevitable and precious result is that nature’s creatures are more audible and the sky is carpeted with stars and light otherwise unseen on most nights. How’s that for a unique and surreal experience?!
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Bali?
Watching the behavior and language use of other expats and tourists; and feeling embarrassed at their lack of respect towards the Balinese – especially in regards to clothing (or lack thereof!) and decorum.
6. What do you miss most?
Outings to Trader Joe’s with my older sister. Return policies. Clean streets and beaches, and REAL recycling programs. Proper walkable sidewalks. (Efficient) public transportation.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
Ubud was an extremely easy and friendly town in which to meet people and socialize – especially if you find yourself in a café, seated in close proximity to others. The town also features a veritable smorgasbord of events, movies, ceremonies and festivals – including the annual and ever popular Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, Bali Spirit Festival and Vegan Festival. The Balinese are also approachable and quite willing to offer assistance, direction or… a massage!
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
Bali isn’t quite my ‘adopted culture,’ because regardless of how long I reside on the island, neither I – nor other expats – will ever be considered bona fide Balinese – which I’ve accepted as entirely reasonable. It’s a deeply complex and multi-layered culture, with rituals, levels of language, traditions and unspoken but generally accepted forms of behavior and restraint that are far beyond the reach of our western-comprehension. I don’t look at their differences as strange; rather I’ve learned to appreciate that my life in Bali comprises an ongoing immersion in a fascinating culture that will always and to some degree, remain impenetrable.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
That ALL the Balinese people are warm, gentle, friendly welcoming, trustworthy, and eager to deepen their connection to you. I’ve learned that the Balinese are much like people you will meet around the world; there are those with whom you can more easily interact, and those you would do well to stay away from. A good rule of thumb to observe: If there is ANY exchange of money involved, keep your western wits about you. And if an extremely welcoming and friendly Balinese tells you that you are now a member of their family, simmer down and take heed; honeymoons don’t last forever. Even in Bali.
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
Generally, the cost of living has been much lower. At least, until a few years ago. Due to the upsurge in tourism and a growing number of expats moving to the island, the prices have noticeably increased –especially for accommodation, food, and other items. Costs of transport has also increased; so it’s best to haggle on that count too. While you can find endless options for western / vegetarian / vegan / raw food around Ubud, their offerings tend to be pricier. So I would also recommend that you explore the wide array of Indonesian ‘warungs’ for more affordable and flavorful local treats.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
Enjoy living on this amazing tropical island, and find a way to get involved in the local life and culture! Learn the language. Respect the traditions and wear appropriate clothing; if in doubt, ask! Unless you see a price tag, and regardless of how cheap it seems (compared to your home country), this is Bali: Haggle. Practice patience. Anticipate obsolescence: Stuff breaks down. A lot. Invest in good health insurance coverage. Be prepared to occasionally share your space with nature’s creatures: dogs, geckos, frogs, spiders, ants, little lizards, cockroaches, the occasional (non-poisonous) rice field snake. Don’t expect to find the same level of service as you find in the West. And don’t expect punctuality; Indonesians abide by ‘jam karet’ = “rubber time”; they arrive when they can/choose to – or not; there’s no sense fighting what you cannot change. And remember that this is an island of ceremonies, so keep your eyes peeled for the next one coming to a temple near you.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
My blog began as an outlet for my healing journey back in Canada; but once I returned to Asia, it evolved into something more. I now combine writing about life and journey of healing in Bali, with other stories about my travels, and quirky or interesting sightings.
Thanks and “matur suksma” for reading!
Amit's blog, Healing Pilgrim
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