Four years ago my day consisted of the following: waking up at 6am, dropping my son off at daycare, spending 1.5 hours in traffic to go to work, working all day, spending another 1.5 to 2 hours in traffic, picking my son up from daycare, making dinner, cleaning, playing with my son, putting him to bed, more cleaning, more work on my computer and then bedtime, never before 12pm. All to be repeated again the next day.
One Friday afternoon I was having a discussion with a work colleague and she asked for some advice on a dilemma she was facing. I excitedly suggested that she handle it by being spontaneous, live her dreams and grab opportunities when they come – to live life and not let the daily grind overcome her. Great advice – but if only I listened to it myself! That evening, I went home to my husband all excited about the possibilities for my friend: she was now going to take an impromptu trip overseas to meet a man. I shared with him the eager advice I had given her, and then I had an Oprah-esque ‘Aha’ moment and realised: ‘I don’t practice what I preach!’
We then sat down and discussed what our dreams were, what our priorities were and what we wanted from our lives. Funnily enough, this is something that never really came up before as we were pretty much on the cogwheel of life, reacting to situations instead of actually being in the driver’s seat.
The first of which was time with our son. He was two years old and I had spent 187 days away from him in that past year travelling on business. We had so many friends with children who always said how quickly kids grow up and how they never get enough time with them. So number one was freeing up time for our boy, Noah. Secondly, we – or more specifically, I – needed a break. I had been working in the IT industry with a lot of travel and a lot of stress for 20 years; it was time for me to take some time to consider if this was what I really wanted to keep doing. Thirdly, we wanted to focus on our health. We wanted time to get back into shape, eat good food (not just the quickest meal we could grab between meetings or to eat in the car, not airport or aeroplane food or simply going without anything all day because we were just too busy). NO! We wanted to ensure we were healthy so we could be there for our son for a long time to come.
So, the following Saturday, we decieded we would go to Bali for a six-to-12 month hiatus. We gave ourselves six weeks to pack up our life, leave our jobs and find somewhere to live in Bali!
We had mostly wonderful feedback from people when we told them why we wanted to go – a few thought we were crazy, and a few shunned us, but all in all the response was great. I had work colleagues putting bets on how quickly I’d be back as I was such a workaholic. Many people couldn’t understand why I would leave a lucrative career for the unknown.
When we arrived in Bali we stayed on the beach (20 steps from the sand) in a lovely villa we rented for six months.
We joined a hotel fitness club and would spend every morning walking along the beach, then go to the hotel where we would hang by the pool. We’d put Noah in the kids club and go to the gym and then pick him up and spend a few hours at the hotel pool playing with him. We’d then go home to the luxury of a perfectly clean house and all the meals cooked, courtesy of the staff at the villa. We’d then go out the front to the beach and play soccer with our son. It was idealistic. We had done all that we set out to do: we had quality time with our son, I lost 18kgs in eight months and we were eating really well thanks to Titin, our wonderful cook, and we had enjoyed the break we wanted from the rat race.
Well, that was the big question! We were in such a good place but we had spent all of our savings, so we had to work out what to do.
I put out to the universe that I wanted to stay in Bali. Now when I say that, I’m not sitting here with dreadlocks, wearing happy pants, smoking the wacky tobaccy! I had learned the art of being in tune with myself and with the world around me; I had learned about putting out what you want and using an ‘ask, believe and receive’ method, as well as staying positive and knowing that whatever happens is meant to happen.
When I announced to my landlord that we were moving because we wanted to stay in Bali to live and we needed a more permanent place, she offered me a job. Thanks, universe!
It was a great opportunity to work for a company that specialises in leadership development and teambuilding; it was completely different to anything I had done before, but I jumped in with both feet.
Just when all was going really well, I broke both of my legs falling down some stairs – that kinda put me back a few steps (pardon the pun). I am a very independent person and I couldn’t even go to the toilet by myself – needless to say, it didn’t do great things for my dignity. Due to a misdiagnosis of a fracture in my leg as well, I was out of action for about three months and gained back 8kgs of the 18kgs I’d lost. I stayed positive throughout, didn’t miss a day of work and focused on what was good. I was living in paradise, I had a wonderful family, a beautiful place to live, an income and a cook and cleaner to help around the house. Life was good!
Then we found out our house in Australia had flooded and sustained major damage, so I had to fly back and sort that out. The silver lining there was that I had been thinking of all of my possessions as a burden and wanted to get rid of them. It’s amazing how the universe delivers.
Living in Bali afforded us a lifestyle that we were so grateful for: the biggest thing for us was time! Time to spend as a family, time to enjoy life, time to travel, and time for friends and family.
About 18 months ago we went on a family trip to a tiny island called Gili Air. It was absolutely beautiful and extremely remote – like something out of Robinson Crusoe.
To cut what would be an extremely long and complicated story short, I had a collapsed lung one evening. Unbeknownst to me, my heart had also shifted, giving me only a short period of time to live. After a very long walk to a boat we charted to the main island, then a long taxi drive to the hospital, I was told I had to have emergency surgery as I had about 30 minutes left to live. We arrived at the local hospital with people lying on the floor and dogs and cats walking through the corridors – it was like something out of a bad movie. Before I knew it, I was whisked off for what I thought would be the standard procedure for a punctured lung: a long bore needle in the chest to remove air. I was OK with that. But as I was sitting there in the room in a wheelchair, surrounded by people not speaking a word of English, and with no one able to explain what was happening, the procedure from hell began.
With no anaesthetic, I was cut on my side between my breast and my back about 12cm, wide enough for the doctor to get his hand in to see a way to put the tube in. It was then that my body went into shock and subsequent post traumatic stress. I was coming in and out of consciousness as the pain levels peaked. I had about five men holding my arms back as I was screaming in agony, but trying to do so as quietly as I could as I knew my son was outside the door waiting for me. Then the doctor hit a nerve. It’s amazing how the human body can cope in such circumstances. I kept thinking of what my mum had told me, to go to a happy place when things aren’t good, so my happy place was the beaches of Bali. I also had the distraction of a pregnant cat waltzing through the theatre; watching its stomach swaying back and forth was a welcome diversion. A hideous experience, but a fantastic outcome: I survived.
I was medevaced to Singapore, where I spent 10 days in intensive care and about a month in hospital. It was a great achievement the day I could walk one lap around the ward, as that was when they would release me. What was hardest for me to cope with, apart from the physical challenges, was the mental strain. I questioned everything: my marriage, my purpose, my future. Why me? For a while I went into a deep hole with the post-traumatic stress disorder taking its toll. About two months after I was released from hospital, I started to take control of my recovery and get my positive mindset back.
We were then faced with another big decision: the money had run out again and we had to decide if we would sell our house or go back to Australia. Every fibre in my being did not want to compromise the life we had made for ourselves in Bali, however challenging it had been at times.
We put our house on the market. What then followed was an incredibly stressful eights months of feeling absolutely desperate to sell and not wanting to lose what we had created for ourselves in Bali. We maxed our overdraft, borrowed money from friends, and I had hardly any sleep stressing about what the future would hold for us, dreading the thought of leaving Bali. Then I had a massive ‘get my shit together’ moment when I realised I had gone off path with all of my worry about nothing I had control over – I had to have faith in what I knew worked. So I got focused: I put out to the universe that we would sell our house, I put a price on it and I let go with love, knowing that whatever happened was meant to be. Now, coming from an almost manic state to this point was big for me. It wasn’t about thinking it; it was about thinking it, saying it and really believing it. The next week our house sold for the exact price I wanted (my husband freaked out – he kinda thought the ‘putting out to the universe’ thing was a weirdo hippy belief, but he was starting to see the transformation in me and see how it really works). It’s funny how when we lived in Australia I never had to worry about money, and would buy almost anything I wanted, but when we came to Bali we ended up with nothing twice. I believe our desire to stay and our belief in manifesting our desires through positive thinking, love and action is what has kept us here.
We went back to Australia in December 2012 for three weeks to settle our house and decide what to do with all of our worldly possessions. One week in we realised how much ‘stuff’ we had accumulated: we spent every day and night going through boxes, sorting furniture and cleaning. During this process I realised how incredibly and ridiculously excessive I was in my spending. I bought the best of everything, spared no expense, and when it came to clothes, if I liked it I’d buy one in every colour. I found the whole exercise of sorting through everything actually quite sickening. We’d come from Bali where there is a lot of poverty, and now I realised how overindulgently I’d lived. My husband and I came up with the best idea ever that was such a relief as soon as we decided to do it. We’d give it all away – everything! First we called our friends and told them to come and take whatever they wanted, and then I donated three full truckloads of stuff to Diabetes Australia and the Salvos. The drivers nearly passed out when they arrived – they couldn’t believe we were giving it all away. I can’t tell you the joy it gave us to do this, as well as the relief we felt ridding ourselves of all of that stuff. The number one rule for us moving forward was to simplify.
So we came back to Bali this year with a new lease on life. The business I was working for was downsizing, so it forced me to look at other options. I’m now happily working for a wonderful Australian IT company five hours a day, finishing my studies to become a health coach and working on creating retreats for women to help them find balance in their lives.
My day-to-day life now is wonderful – I wake up grateful every day. I walk my son to school every day, I work from home five hours a day, I have time to do what I love, and I enjoy regular massages. We are working on establishing our business. We go to the beach for dinner a few nights a week. My son spends most of his time outside in nature. I live in a community surrounded by like-minded people, and I’m surrounded by Balinese people who are gentle, loving and extremely cultured. We are blessed: we created this and we are thankful every day to be here and live this life.
Take risks, and follow your dreams. Ask, believe and you will receive. Honour your family and friends, and never let a chance go by to tell someone how you feel about them and what they have done for you in your life. Do not let fear rule your decisions: hear it, feel it and move it on and out of your thoughts. It’s never too late to start a new path in life, a new career and new friendships. Dream big! Give to others with absolute love. Stay positive. Laugh, every single day. Take time to laugh, and find the funny in the hardest situations. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Make others feel good genuinely. Surround yourself with people who support you and uplift you. Your health is everything – don’t take it for granted. Take time out for yourself. Nurture your health, relationships, career, spirituality, creativity, finances, home life, cooking, happiness, social life, exercise and education equally to give you balance. There are always ebbs and flows in life, so ride out the ebbs and fly high on the flows.