Closing this experiment

Returning to reality, my final blog

After returning from Myanmar last week, I visited my friend’s place in Pejang to look the bathroom extension I helped fund. It looks great and she’s already secured a tenant for a year. That will mean the project will pay for itself in just one year.

So, I’m happy that has worked out. It’s one of the few things that have gone smoothly on this journey, along with the Songan Pipeline Project, that I have mentioned in previous blogs.

I’ve decided to stop writing this ‘startup’ blog because I don’t have a startup nor does it actually help me. If anything it is a comforting distraction. I can write for Africa and I do often. The honesty now is that this experiment is not working for me.

I’ve been here quite a while now 

It’s nearly six months since I arrived in Bali and I’ve not yet found a project that has captured me – one where I can spend lots of time on it with someone that shares a similar vision. Maybe I was deluded in thinking there would be more people like me here in Bali. There don’t seem to be.

The Tribewanted Trip to Myanmar was a great experience because it was focused on the community, looking into actual opportunities, not manufacturing them, as ex-pat businesses here are, in the main, trying to do, while having very low costs. There was no mention of ‘niche’ there and it was exciting.

If we do something out there, it will be a ‘startup’ of sorts. But, like the other ideas I have been trying to get moving, it will be a slow process.

I can’t wait around forever, without knowing what the next day will bring. I need to re-think my approach and I’ve decided not to do it here, online. Part of the reason for this decision is that I’d hoped that more people would be interested in what I write and have opinions they’d share.That hasn’t happened.

The Realities of Starting Again in Bali

I am not a digital nomad or a location-independent worker. That much is clear to me. Unlikely my colleagues at Tribewanted Bali, I am also not on a ‘workcation’ (as our friend Liza Jansen calls it).

I’ve been trying to establish myself here and I’ve found it far harder than I expected it to be. A friend asked yesterday what my objective was where I came to Bali. I responded: “To try something different”.

The question is: have I tried hard enough? 

It’s a hard one to answer. What I know for sure is that I have not settled into any sort of routine. It’s been desperately lonely at times.

I thought there was a decent chance of something emerging out of Hubud or Tribewanted but that hasn’t happened. There have been plenty of people asking me to help with things on a voluntary basis, but I have come to know that where there is no feeling of value being exchanged, it is deeply un-motivating.

For example, when I got back from Myanmar, there was an email asking me to help with a business plan, but without offering anything in return. Sure I’d get something out of the experience, but surely the proposer has to be a bit more proactive in making a suggestion of value for me?

I have been very outspoken over the last six months or so about corporates because of the pain they inflict on their employees, not directly, but more subtly. I have connected with many people that believe the same, so I know that I’m not alone in my thoughts on this. The only difference is that I have the guts to say what I think.

Maybe this has ultimately hampered me, in the sense of being a distraction?

What has my contribution actually been?

In short, to meet lots of Balinese, as a means of establishing friendships and a place in the community. I think I have done that pretty well. The only other guy to have a similar experience is the youngest guy in the Tribe, Tommy.

Ironically though, it’s come at a cost of sorts: I’ve not really managed to establish myself in the Hubud community, or Tribewanted. The projects/partnerships I hoped would happen, haven’t.

For example, Jero’s Kitchen (a Balinese cooking class) was, in my mind, a nailed-on certainty to be assisted by the Tribe after Ben, Jake and Janine experienced it. I’d foreseen it being a weekly thing, but it did not happen. I ask myself what did I do wrong here and I don’t know the answer.

A second was selling tickets to a fundraiser at PKP Women’s Centre. While my sister managed to get four sewing machines back in NZ, I couldn’t shift £5 tickets. Brian from Tribewanted was there but that’s pretty much it from the Bule/Immigrant/Passing Through community.

I feel like I have made a contribution to the Balinese community, but at the same time it feels a bit hollow. If I am ever asked what my skills and strengths are, I always say to lead and motivate. Here though, I’ve not managed that.

For example, I have an idea to link all the 15-20 Balinese businesses I have come to know on a website or app. I see this as important, because they are all 100% Balinese with no foreign ownership. This should appeal to visitors.

Often these folks are not skilled in using computers and their written English is not as strong as their spoken language. Yet, they run good, authentic businesses and are great people.

I have spoken to many folks, both Bule and Balinese about the idea but nowt has happened. I’ve tried to get Hubud to help out, I’ve tried our Tribewanted crew too. I’ve had no success.

And, I actually don’t know what the reason is. What I know for certain though is that the constant is me.

So, it’s my failure.

What it all means

Naturally, this gets me down. I am lucky to have relative financial freedom, enough to have a go at this experiment and give myself to the people of Bali.

But, there comes a point where one has to be honest with oneself and ask the hard question: What am I getting out of all this and where is it all heading?

I’m at that point now.


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