This Expat Life (Bali): Month 36 + My 3-Year Expat Anniversary

After moving abroad in July 2014, I started compiling monthly roundup posts about life as an expat in Asia and all the nitty gritty that goes on behind the scenes here at Travel Lush. You can find all of my previous monthly roundup posts here.

Much of last month’s roundup highlighted the frustrations I was feeling with expat life and the challenges that come with living and working abroad. I don’t care what anyone says, living in a foreign country will challenge you and, at times, it will wear on you. And while it is an amazing experience and I do love it (after all this month does mark my 3-year expat anniversary!) there are moments when it leaves me feeling completely frustrated and lost.

And that’s kind of how I’ve been feeling the past few months.

I realize traveling only offers a temporary escape from life’s problems. And by no means is it a solution, but sometimes getting away provides a nice recharge. And that’s exactly what Bali has done for me. Super cliché, I know.

I’ve now been in Bali for about six weeks – and they have honestly been six blissful weeks.

Sure there are issues, like that time my neighbor started bumping the worst techno at 6am on a Saturday. Or that time when Aaron and I got a flat tire and were stranded on the side of the road miles from home.

But honestly, my time here was much needed and is much appreciated. And it’s not over yet. I still have a month left on this magical little island before I head back to big, bad Beijing.

So what have I been up to the past month? A lot actually…

Aaron and I moved into our picture-perfect villa on July 1. We are seriously in love with this place. If you want to see more pictures or find out how I found it, check out this post.


We couldn’t believe it. How did we, the two people who have the worst luck when it comes to apartment hunting, manage to find the perfect villa in Canggu for only $500 a month?

And then it happened. The neighbors out back purchased an insane sound system and they’ve since taken to blaring music at very odd hours. They’re fond of sh*tty techno music and the song ‘Red Red Wine’ by UB40.

Our neighbors have very eclectic tastes.

With the whole living abroad thing, Aaron and I have learned that sometimes you’ve just got to laugh these things off. So whenever the neighbors get into party mode and start blasting ‘Red Red Wine’ that’s our cue to set out and explore Canggu. It’s kind of forced us to get out of the house more, so you know – lemons and lemonade and all that.

We still love our villa. I mean just look at it!


On another note, I’ve learned that July is a really great month to be in Bali. The weather is mild (it’s currently a lovely 81 degrees), it’s the dry season so it doesn’t rain too much, and there are a ton of cool things to do.

First off I was able to be in Canggu during this year’s Tropica Street Art Festival, which happens every year in July. For anyone who was following along with my Bali adventures from last summer, you’ll know that I missed out on the festival by a few weeks. But I was able to tour all the new street art after the fact – and I was impressed. Before then, I had zero idea that Bali even had a street art scene.


That’s why I was jazzed when I found out the Tropica Festival would be returning to Canggu for a week in July. A bunch of talented street artists from Indonesia and beyond gathered in Bali to participate in the festival, and they put up some great murals and pieces along the way.




Through the festival I also discovered a really amazing art space in Canggu called the ALLCAPS Gallery. Seriously, I was floored when I went there during the festival a couple weeks ago. The massive outdoor space is covered with giant murals done by street artists from around the world. A bunch of the work that was done at this year’s street art festival was done in this space. If you’re a street art fan and you’re in Canggu, go here!

Another really cool cultural thing I was able to experience was the annual Bali Kite Festival. As I recently found out, kite flying is a big deal in Bali. Apparently the windy season starts in July which means that the skies are filled with beautiful kites this time of year.


Kite flying is such a big deal in Bali that there is a whole festival dedicated to it. I literally had no idea such a thing existed, but luckily Aaron brought it to my attention a couple weeks ago. So we made the trek from Canggu to Sanur to see what it was all about. Seriously, it was so much fun!


Teams from around the island turn up to compete in the festival. They’re all clad in matching uniforms that are really cool looking. And there are so many beautiful kites. Hundreds of people showed up the day I went and it was so much fun seeing the kites float in the sky, watching the teams work together and being able to people watch (one of my favorite activities!).


We were even lucky enough to be there for the grand finale. The enormous kite (pictured here) was so long I’m guessing the tail extended at least the length of half a football field (or maybe a whole football field?). Hundreds of people gathered around to watch it take off. Hopefully these photos, and the tiny people in them, give some sort of perspective of just how big this kite was and how jubilant the crowd was. It was definitely one of those travel moments I’ll never forget!

The kite was crazily big. Just look at all the people carrying it!

Working & Blogging

The majority of my time – whether I’m in Beijing or Bali – is spent working. More and more I’m realizing that I’ve let blogging go by the wayside. I think I’ve done a decent job of at least getting some blog posts out there on a regular basis but it’s very challenging to balance blogging with a 9-5, which is what I’ve been doing for the past year and a half.

Being back in Bali always makes me realize just how much I still love blogging. So I’ve been attempting to get back to the one-post-a-week schedule. I know it’s not a lot in the blogging world, but it’s something I’d really like to stick to. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m trying! When you write all day for a living it makes blogging a bit of a challenge, but I do love blogging!


I feel like I bought a thousand plane tickets last month. I mean not really… it was only three. But still, that’s a lot of plane tickets. The first ticket was for a quick visa run to Penang, Malaysia, to secure my 60-day Indonesian visa.


I had a blast revisiting Penang, the city where I went on my first ever solo trip and the place that’s home to quite possibly the coolest street art ever (aside from Canggu, that is)! Aside from wandering around and eating all the Indian food, Aaron and I were also able to meet up with our Beijing friend, who was also doing a visa run. It’s always cool to be able to meet up with friends abroad.

travel lush penang

We also bought our plane tickets back to Beijing. We’ll be landing back in the Big Smog in the beginning of September. It’ll be nice to be back “home” but we’re especially excited because one of our dearest college friends is coming to visit!

I’ll be taking some much needed time off of work to explore the city with my friend and we’re even planning a visit to the Great Wall. Yes I’ve lived in Beijing for 18 months, and no I haven’t been to the Great Wall. What’s wrong with me?!

And finally, the third plane ticket I purchased last month was to go to my real home in California! In China, the entire country gets a week-long holiday the first week of October, including me. So I’m taking the opportunity to go home to get reacquainted with my family and friends and favorite foods.

Rico's Taco Shop chile relleno
See you soon old friend.
This time around I’m going home for a whole two weeks, which should be a decent chunk of time to fit everything and everyone in, including the newest addition to my family, my niece’s sweet little baby boy.


And the most popular posts of the month were….



How did your July shape up? Did you do anything fun and interesting?

About Justine

Justine Lopez is a California native who always seems to take the unconventional route in life. She also suffers from a serious case of wanderlust. In 2013, she set out on a yearlong round-the-world journey and never looked back. Since then she's lived the expat life in both Jakarta and Phnom Penh. She's now living and working as a freelance writer in Beijing. As she meanders her way through Asia she's always seeking out great vegetarian food, budget travel deals and amazing new travel destinations.

4 thoughts on “This Expat Life (Bali): Month 36 + My 3-Year Expat Anniversary

  1. I dream of the day I’ll be able to rent the perfect villa and spend a few months in Bali. That is one place I would love to stay for an extended length of time! PS: You should try blogging when you have a child. 😉 I’m lucky if I can get a post off every 2 or 3 weeks AND that’s with a hubby that works part-time. When I think of how much time I wasted pre-child….*sigh
    Shelley recently posted…Travel Memory: A Sunset Felucca Ride down the Nile

    1. Haha, so true. I’d say you’re doing pretty darn well Shelley! And you should totally bring the family to Bali. There are so many people with little ones all around. And the villas are amazing!!

  2. How have you been, Justine? It’s been a while I read something on your blog. Nice to see you grow as a traveler. Your expat stories are quite inspiring, the way you write them with so much honesty. All the best!

    1. Hi Runuka!! Thanks for the comment. I’ve been good. Super busy, but good! Working so much I haven’t had as much time to keep up with all of my favorite blogs. But I’m going to catch up with yours soon 🙂

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