Potato Head Beach Club - Bali

Building a Cryptocurrency App from Bali: The Top Five Pros and Cons of My New Life as a Digital Nomad

In 2016, I sold my company SNAP Interactive. My nearly ten-year experience there as Co-Founder and CEO was a wild ride; one that saw about twelve of us become paper millionaires almost overnight; one where I was honored to ring the opening bell at NASDAQ; and one where I made some mistakes and ultimately learned some incredibly valuable lessons to move forward with. That experience also inspired me to write a book, “Explosive Growth — A Few Things I Learned Growing To 100 Million Users,” available on Amazon. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? Maybe not.

Whether or not you’re familiar with the trials and tribulations I’ve written about to this point doesn’t really matter, because it’s time for the next chapter anyway — my life as a digital nomad. That’s the story I’m now looking to share with you. Will it be filled with as much turbulence as my previous story? Will it change my life — for good or bad — in just as many unexpected ways? Those things remain to be seen, but I must say, it’s off to a pretty terrific start.

I originally embarked on my journey to become a digital nomad about four-to-five months ago, when I decided to not renew the lease on my apartment and put all my personal belongings in storage. I’ve learned that fully committing to a change as big as this one is essential to making it work.

Shibuya Crossing In Tokyo — The World’s Busiest Intersection

My first stop was Tokyo and now I find myself basking in the tropical climate of Bali. It’s a long way from home (New York City), but it might be exactly what I needed to make the most of my new lifestyle. It’s only been a couple weeks since I landed here, but I’m incredibly impressed with the initial outcome.

Unfortunately, much of what I’ve learned about life as a digital nomad, I had to learn first-hand. I wish I had someone — a mentor perhaps — who could have prepared me for some of the high and low points I would encounter. As such, that’s my inspiration for writing this blog.

If becoming a digital nomad is anything you’re considering, I want you to know what that might look and feel like. Take a look at the following top five pros and cons I’ve discovered about my experience in Bali. Hopefully, after that you’ll have a good idea of what to expect … enjoy!

Pros

Digital Nomad Programs: If you were wondering how I got here in the first place, an exciting and innovative startup called Hackers Paradise is the answer. Their mission is to foster the digital nomad lifestyle. More specifically, they assist entrepreneurs in optimizing their productivity from exotic locations all over the world. They take care of all the logistics involved with working remotely, so you can focus intently on bringing your most creative and game-changing ideas to fruition.

Hacker’s Paradise At Our Weekly Lunch

They’ve only been doing this since 2014, but it seems like much longer because my experience so far has been phenomenal. I enrolled in a program that runs from October 21 through December 15 and has a crypto/entrepreneurship theme. If Bali and crypto aren’t your cup of tea, Hackers Paradise runs various programs as do other similar other companies, that feature different themes and thrive in various international locations throughout the year. You can follow Hacker’s Paradise on Instagram.

Vibrant Entrepreneurial and Crypto Community: This has been perhaps the most pleasant surprise of my trip to date. Much of this is likely attributed to Hackers Paradise and similar programs, but Bali itself also seems to be an island paradise for digital nomads with a very quality entrepreneurial ecosystem.

I’ve already met several extremely talented and knowledgeable people who have inspired me in various ways. One of them is a software engineer who created a crypto wallet for a top coin from scratch. Another individual founded a Crypto Investment Fund and an over-the-counter (OTC) exchange. More than just crypto contacts, my group consists of experts in digital marketing, branding, freelance design (Jess and Emily), and talented entrepreneurs including Nic, a lawyer who runs freelance lawyer, and Matt, a front-end angular engineer. My group also includes Rebecca Main, a Romance Author, who’s working on her fifth romance novel.

Omnia Day Club Bali

The HP community is as diverse as it is innovative and brilliant in every way with interesting people joining weekly — including the newest addition to the group, Xavier Damman, the founder of OpenCollective.com and Storify.com. I was fortunate enough to share a ride with Xavier to the stunning Omnia day-club. Throughout the scenic ride, we discussed our startup and shared several compelling ideas on how to grow them.

Outpost Coworking In Canggu, Bali
@the_milan_amin Teaching Us How To Grow Our Social Media Following

Bali also has plenty of coworking spaces that support like-minded professionals in developing and refining their best ideas. Three of these locations — Outpost, Dojo, and Hubud: Ubud Coworking & Community Space — host incredible talks most nights with super successful entrepreneurs from a wide variety of industries. In addition to the nightly talks, there are also frequent meet-and-greets, breakfasts, lunches, and even the occasional TEDx conference. Last week, Hubud: Ubud Coworking & Community Space hosted Startup Weekend, powered by Techstars. It’s an entire weekend geared toward helping digital nomads launch their startups.

Bali has Kriptoland!

There’s also a crypto presence in Bali, which makes it the ideal destination for the launch of my new app coming soon. (More on that in the next blog perhaps.) In fact, there’s even a crypto conference coming soon called BlockBali.

Fewer Distractions: If you’re considering the digital nomad lifestyle, this should weigh heavily into your decision making. By working distraction-free for five-to-six hours per day, I’ve doubled my productivity. Getting away from the constant distractions of daily life in Manhattan has been amazingly beneficial to reinvigorating my spirit and creativity. I’m not the only one who thinks this way either. Warren Buffet and Bill Gates have both been known to seek escape for long periods of time. They say it clears their heads and allows them to execute at a much higher level. I couldn’t agree more.

Morning Workout At Roar Fitness

The time difference is a key factor in eliminating distractions. It’s about a 12-hour difference from Bali to NYC City, so you’re much less likely to be interrupted by a phone call. For instance, if I’m working on something at 2:00pm, I’m not likely to be interrupted by a phone call because it’s 2:00am back home. All of this extra time has helped me finally commit to a morning workout (the views don’t hurt).

Cost of Living: Okay, so when we first got the bill of 610,000 Indonesian Rupiah for a delicious group dinner for four of us with drinks, I was a little alarmed. When I calculated the exchange rate, however, of over 15,000 Indonesian Rupiah for every U.S. dollar, I realized the price wasn’t so bad. In fact, it was actually pretty damned cheap (only $10 per person), especially considering that the bill included a 7% service charge and a 10% tax rate.

The cost of living is a such a pro in Bali, I can fund my business and live a much higher quality of life than I could ever dream of in the U.S. For example, massages have become a daily routine for me because they cost just a little over $5 USD here.

A Delicious $4 USD Pineapple Chicken Dish

Food: It’s actually somewhat difficult to spend more than ten dollars on a great meal in Bali. You would really need to pile on the drinks and extras. Don’t let the low cost fool you, however, because the food is incredible. Most of it is conducive to a healthy lifestyle, featuring a wide assortment of fruit juices and fresh vegetables. If there’s only so much guava and coconuts you can take — like myself — you can still find a great place to escape for a guilty pleasure like a not-so-healthy, but extremely satisfying burger and fries.

Cons

Bali Belly: The first few days of the trip, about three-quarters of my group fell violently ill to something not-so-affectionately referred to as Bali Belly. Somehow, I’ve avoided this scourge to the human digestive system, but it seems almost inevitable that it’s going to happen at some point.

Don’t let something this trivial dissuade you from enjoying the freedom of becoming a digital nomad, however. It’s a small price to pay for all the benefits, and there are a couple commonsense precautions you can take. First of all, only go to high-end eating establishments. Look for a meticulous level of cleanliness when dining out and use bottled water only, even for teeth brushing.

Other than those small measures, the best thing you can do is just accept that Bali Belly is coming for you at some point, ride out the 24–48 hours of misery, and get back to work when it’s over.

Minor Inconveniences: Business amenities are readily available, but be prepared for them to work inconsistently. Deliveries for things like whiteboards should arrive … eventually. There can also be difficulties in securing printing and scanning services, and there can be a several week waitlist to get something notarized in foreign countries. Also, the internet can be quite spotty at times.

A Traffic Jam in Canggu, Bali

Traffic in Bali is an absolute nightmare. The roads have no dividing lines, traffic lights, stop signs, or any other simple safety measure that keeps most New Yorkers from committing vehicular homicide on a daily basis. It’s pretty much every man for himself on these roadways. There are also no sidewalks, so being a pedestrian is no picnic either. In that sense, walking or driving anywhere is a verifiable free-for-all , one that can make driving in NYC seem like a leisurely stroll in the park.

I advise careful planning regarding any of these minor inconveniences that you might take for granted in the U.S. For instance, ATMs don’t exist on virtually every street corner in three different brand names, like they do in NYC, so using cash requires a travel plan to a known source. And even when you find an ATM, you’re lucky if it works.

Planning your phone calls to friends and family back home is also a good idea. In fact, the twelve-hour time difference makes it just about mandatory. Whereas it can be seen as a pro to eliminate distractions, it can also be seen as a con when you simply must call somebody for whatever reason.

Different Distractions: Different distractions exist in Bali from NYC or just about any place in the U.S. Instead of being distracted by a constant flow of text messages, phone calls, emails, and other alerts from friends, family, and coworkers, you’ll likely get distracted from some of the most picturesque backdrops and naturally beautiful landscapes you’ve ever seen.

Daily Live Music at Sandbar For The Sunset

For instance, rather than sitting in a hotel lobby or a boardroom for an informational discussion, you’ll be sitting on a soft, comfortable chair on a white, sandy beach with pristine, blue-green water in the background and a gentle breeze cooling your bronzing skin. How’s that for a dichotomy?

This is Sandbar (the same beach bar as above) at 2am.

The nightlife is also fantastic in Bali. If surfing is your thing, there’s plenty of that to be had as well; and there are some peaceful rice fields and other areas with breathtaking views to be appreciated as well. It all contributes to a serious level of FOMO (fear of missing out).

Avoiding those distractions comes down to the same thing as avoiding them anywhere else; you need to have discipline. I simply commit myself to four-to-five hours of solid, uninterrupted work every day and I achieve the professional output of probably ten-to-twelve hours in Manhattan.

The Ring of Fire: Hold onto your hats … literally when you venture into this part of the world. Lombok, which is about 100 miles from Bali, is precariously located on one of the most dangerous geographical locations in the world — the Ring of Fire. This is where the fastest colliding tectonic plates in the Earth occur, which causes approximately 90% of the world’s earthquakes.

Fear of Flying: If the thought of flying keeps you up at night and causes you to draft a new last will and testament as part of a pre-flight religious ritual, stay grounded once you get here. The area is infamous for having atrocious airline safety records. As a horrific example, an almost brand-new jet crashed shortly after takeoff a few weeks ago here, killing all 181 people on board.

List of Tools

Still with me? Cool; here’s a list of tools that have been quite helpful in building my app from a faraway land:

  • Slack: To communicate with my development team in Belarus.
  • Earth Class Mail: A mail scanning and forwarding service.
  • Airtable: For organizing my personal life and collaborating with the developers on my new app.
  • Skype & Zoom: To conduct video conference calls with the development team and friends.
  • Notarize: To get documents notarized regardless of where in the world you are.
  • WhatsApp: To communicate via voice, video, and text freely with anybody in the world.
  • Wunderlist App: To make quick reminders when I’m on the go.
  • Dropbox: To access my documents from anywhere.

You might already know of some other helpful items or discover some new ones once you get here. If so, please let me know about them. Knowledge sharing is key to all of our success in the digital nomad community.

What’s next?

So, there you have it — the best and worst of my new life as a digital nomad in Bali, as well as some friendly pieces of advice to help you out. Where do I go from here? I haven’t quite figured that out yet. For now, I’m playing it by ear. Maybe I’ll stay in Bali for a while longer, or maybe I’ll move on to a new tropical location. Maybe I’ll even go to the other extreme and visit Glacier National Park. I doubt it, but one never knows. There is one thing I know for sure: if I work my ass off to make $78 million in my new crypto app, I’m sure as hell not going to lose it this time … (You really should read my Best-Selling Entrepreneurship Book — Explosive Growth.)

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Cliff Lerner is the Author of the Best-Seller Business Book, Explosive Growth, which can be purchased on Amazon. He advises startups on how to achieve Explosive Growth. Cliff is currently working on a Cryptocurrency app whose goal is to get 100 Million Users to adopt Crypto.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by +393,714 people.

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