This post is coming to you from the jungle town of Ubud, Bali.
I’m currently at a writers workshop at one of the most popular coworking spaces on the island.
Looking around you will find bean bags, a mix of “digital nomads”, and craft beer. The speakers are cranking some chill lofi music that muffles out the sounds of motorbikes driving on the road outside.
The town of Ubud has seen an increase in tourism in the past five years which many attribute to the popularity of “Eat Pray Love” (amongst other things). However, the people I see here are here to work, and many have come to the CoWorking space after hearing about Ubud from fellow remote workers or sites like NomadList.
I myself found out about Ubud after seeing it on many “Top 15 Destinations for Digital Nomads” type lists. The warm weather, peaceful vibes, and Balinese hospitality have drawn me in and had me here for two months (I only planned for one).
The fascinating thing about the town of Ubud is that it is very much symbolic of a recurring theme that can be seen in other parts of the world- western salaried individuals moving into affordable locations and changing the scene.
Whereas this idea can evoke negativity when talking about places like San Francisco or Brooklyn, it isn’t as apparent here. People complain about Ubud becoming too touristy, but still love it’s cultural authenticity when compared to living in places in the US and Europe.
However, this is changing. It has to. More tourists mean more locals catering to them. More tourists means more of their western values being inflicted on local life. Having an “authentic experience” is difficult when you go to a local cooking class and are surrounded by people from San Francisco and London.
It is the reality of “having your cake and eating it too”. You want to go to Bali and feel like your in Bali but don’t realize that you are bring all of your western idea of materialism with you.
Walking down the streets of Ubud reflects this idea. Yoga classes taught by women from Germany and Sound Healing Centers founded by giddy entrepreneurs from Australia don’t necessarily scream “authentic”. However, we enjoy it, because it’s what the high paying tourists want.
I have mixed feelings on the whole ordeal. Part of me appreciates the fact that Balinese will have the opportunity to earn more money but part of me sees stores like “Billabong” and “Ralph Lauren” in the town square as a changing of the guard.
Nevertheless, I have the opportunity to live here comfortably for a fraction of the price of living in a city like NYC or SF (both of which I’ve lived in).
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