Five years ago, my life was very different. I was living in Korea with my husband, teaching English, working long hours, and always counting down the days until the weekend. Something felt like it was missing, but neither of us was sure what it was or what to do about it.
Everything changed in the summer of 2011 when we took a quick holiday to Bali.
There was something magical about Bali that made us immediately feel like we were home. I had never been to a place where the people were so warm and welcoming.
We visited temples, shopped at the local markets, watched the sun rise at Sanur beach and the surfers catch waves in Uluwatu, and walked through the Tegalalong Rice Terraces. We met two little girls selling bracelets on the street with their mother and, after buying some on our first day, they found us every night to ask us to buy more, so we gave them hair clips from Korea as a gift. I will never forget their faces when they saw how pretty they looked.
We were only there for five days, but that was long enough for us to decide to quit our jobs and relocate.
Ever since I was young, my passion has been photography. Bali offered me the chance to dust off my camera and start having fun taking photos again. Once we got settled, our afternoons were spent driving around the island on our motorbike, enjoying the scenery and local village life.
Due to the slower pace of life in Bali, compared to Toronto where I am from, it feels more natural to approach people and start a conversation. Not only are people almost always willing to stop and chat, but, more often than not, they will even invite us into their home to meet the rest of their family and have a cup of coffee.
Playing with a dog once led to a young Balinese girl inviting us inside for breakfast. The dog belonged to her grandparents, a couple in their 70s who had just celebrated their 50th anniversary. They were still so in love.
Practicing English with another young girl near Ubud led to her to invite us to meet her entire family, including her 100-year-old grandmother.
I’ve always been drawn to portrait photography. It’s amazing to be able to take a portrait of someone who in many cases has never had their photograph taken before. I love the different expressions elicited from different people, and the joy you can capture by telling someone they’re beautiful.
Our lifestyle now is very different than we ever could have imagined. We wake early to the sounds of roosters and our dogs wagging their tails at us, then make our way into town for coffee and a morning bagel from the bakery. We play with the dogs, swim in our pool, and get all work done by 4 in the afternoon so we can get out and take photos in the evening. We spend our nights with friends, eating dinner at the restaurants around Ubud, seeing movies at the local cinema, and getting quick foot massages before heading home.
If you had told me years ago that I would end up living in a small village in Ubud, in a two-story house with six rescued pets, working an average of three hours a day online as a graphic designer, I never would’ve believed it.
But life is not always what you expect it to be. Sometimes it takes a single step in the direction of your dreams to make other doors open, too. One decision can set off a chain reaction, and, before you know it, you’re living in a remote island halfway across the world, happier and more alive than you ever thought you could be.
Life is a series of choices, and the boldest ones often lead to the most interesting places — like Ubud, Bali.