So, remember how I said we were gonna get a house to settle into in Bali?
Yeah, well that didn’t happen. This adventure is teaching me so much about being fluid. Actually, it’s kinda banging me over the head with the concept. But, in the end, I think that’s a good thing…at least it will be, once I’m totally done morning the loss of my routine.
And, the need to know what comes next!
See, here’s what happened. Our entire trip was built around a critical assumption, that our daughter would be in what seemed like a very cool camp that blended Balinese culture, sustainability and all sorts of cool outdoor activities. After visiting the camp, we were all incredibly impressed…with their marketing.
Man, those brochures looked good.
But, the vibe we got from the actual place wasn’t so good. Not horrible, it’s just that our expectations had been raised so high, the reality of what appeared to be something closer to a “half-decent” experience just didn’t cut muster. We got the feeling our kid would be a bit of a pioneer as the camp figured out what it was going to be when it grew up. But, that’s not what we signed up for.
There’s a great lesson in here for marketers and entrepreneurs, by the way.
Great marketing can get people in the door. But, if you can’t deliver the goods once they’ve arrived, you’ll likely not only lose a potential customer, you may also lead them to feel conned…and tell everyone they know.
So, we had a family meeting and decided to pull the plug on camp.
Which left us with a challenge, actually a bunch of challenges. The upside of our decision was that we now had a ton more time to explore the island and be a whole family. The downside was my wife and I are a lot more into settling into a routine around local culture than sightseeing. And, the 6-hours a day of kid-free time to work, play, shop, read, yoga-cize and relax that my wife and I had planned the trip around had just evaporated.
We also learned that the window we’d chosen to travel is considered peak PEAK season here in Bali…who knew?
LOL. Leaving us with house choices that were gorgeous, but required a minimum of a month commitment. And, with our new mega-change in plans, we didn’t know how long we’d last in any given location (still don’t). So, that went out the window. Breath in, breath out. Still, we had to get out of our hotel, because we were on top of each other. So, my wife and daughter spent a few days visiting fancier hotels with “villas” to rent. Oh, I should mention something else about now.
In Bali, there’s no such thing as a fixed price. Everything is a negotiation.
It’s kind of like the rate sheet for advertisers. Anyone who pays it is a straight-up sucker. So, my wife found a super cool little villa at a beautiful resort property…and promptly negotiated the rate down to half the public price. We moved in 20 minutes later, and that’s where we’re hanging out as we figure out which way is up.
As I write this, everything is in flux. Where we’ll stay, how long we’ll stay, what we’re going to do on any given day, how much the entire adventure is going to cost, and how I’m going to handle working while everything else is whirling and spinning around me is all a work in progress.
So, let’s circle around to my location-independent workflow project.
Because, you guys need to get something out of this beyond reading a travelogue. In a word, everything’s out the window. I’m winging it. If you remember back to the original plan, I was going to film a ton of footage then send it to my VA to edit and post. Then record audio and send it to my VA to transcribe and post…
Even if I was capable of creating all that content on a level that didn’t suck right now, I have yet to find an internet connection, even a wired “broadband” one, that could handle uploading high bit-rate audio, let alone HD video. So, while I AM filming, it’s very likely you guys will have to wait until I’m home to see any of the footage.
So, I’m leaning a lot more on creating text-driven content, along with photo-albums for now. And, I’ve also just downloaded the ScribeFire plugin for both Firefox and google Chrome, which will allow me to write and set up posts offline, then just hit a button to publish them, once I’m somewhere with a decent signal.
Now, what about the client service side of my location independent workflow puzzle?
Some of it is working, some of it isn’t.
In my last post, I hinted at the fact that consulting is much harder to pull of as a location independent venture. Since then, I’ve managed to find times of day, decent enough connections and quiet enough areas to allow for decent skype calls. But, the conversations generally have to happen either first thing in the morning or late in the evening.
For calls that are more “scheduled updates and weekly sessions,” that’s doable. The real challenge comes when working on a project, say something in more of a start-up phase, where you’d really benefit from the ability to be able to jump on the phone, email or IM a few times a day to get quick answers, hash out ideas and share information WHILE EVERYONE IS AWAKE AND AVAILABLE.
Were I working on a 4-8 hour time difference, I could probably pull it off, but I’m 12 hours apart from most of my clients. And, that’s proving to be a challenge. One I’m still working on figuring out as I write this. And, something you guys should also consider when exploring location independent consulting. It may be doable for a few weeks, but as a lifestyle, I don’t see it being all that viable.
And, there’s one other thing. The heat.
From the reports I’m getting from NYC, Bali has actually been relatively cool. But, here’s the thing about Bali heat…it’s always wet…very wet…and it’s much harder to get away from. Most shops, restaurants, internet cafes and even many hotels and homes don’t have air-conditioning. Instead, they have fans, which makes it pretty okay. But, you pretty much walk around with what we’ve come to call the Bali sweat glaze all day long. For a lot of people, that’s okay. And, honestly, the sweat part doesn’t really bother me.
But, one of the things I should’ve realized is that both my daughter and I tend to shut down in heat. it’s just our constitution or, in y0ga-speak, our doshas. And, that effects our mood, our energy, our desire to do, well, ANYTHING, and, for me, my ability to create. And, oh yeah, did I mention I’m supposed to be writing my next book over here? Ack!
So, another lesson. Be sure to understand the nature of the climate you’re going to be operating in and consider whether it nurtures or negates your ability to do what you fantasize about doing.
Okay, so, let’s move on from location independent workflow to more juicy Bali stuff…
The Monkey Forest.
One of the first things we realized when the camp part of our plans was disappeared was that we were going to need to find a lot more cool things to do and places to go. And, while that’s a huge challenge to my ability to work, it’s actually a good things from a “seeing more of the country” and being with my family standpoint. So, we started simple.
Here in Ubud, there’s a place called the monkey forest. Guess who hangs out there? Yup, monkeys. There are no gates or cages to keep them in. They all cluster there because they know they’ll be fed a whole lotta bananas by silly Westerners like us. But, we weren’t ready for just how up close and personal the experience would get. Within seconds after walking into the forest with a black plastic bag filled with mini bananas (sold at the front), monkey began climbing up my wife’s body to get the bananas.
At first, she was freaked, we all were. But, then once we realized, they hand pretty human hands and they were just climbing her like a tree, not clawing, it got kind of fun. We bought a bunch more bananas and discovered that if you held them over your head, monkey would climb up to get them, then sit on your shoulder peeling and munching away (yes, pics are included in the gallery below).
One of the saddest things we’ve seen here is the huge number of street dogs, often sickly, ematiated and losing their hair. We stopped into one of the few shelters, where my daughter stayed to play with a bunch of rescue pups for about an hour. She wanted to take them all home.
The Balinese, according to the woman who runs the shelter, don’t really get the Western idea of dogs as pets. They are viewed more as just animals that happen to live along with families or in the wild. And, left largely to fend for and feed themselves. And, those are ones who are actually “owned.” The vastly larger population is wild and, sadly, there has been increasing government culling of the population out of fear of rabies and other illness.
Everywhere yo look, once you leave the main part of the towns, you find rice terraces. They often go on for hundreds of acres. At certain predetermined times, they are all flooded, starting with those at higher elevation, allowing the water to flow down into the lower ones. There, rice is germinated, then planeted in the paddies and harvested 2 to 3 months later.
Once the rice plants begin the grow in, the brown watery fields become lush green and the cascade of vivid green terraces is gorgeous (pics below)!
What looks fairly straightforward is actually a fairly complex, deliberate and complete ecosystem. Everything from the ducks, the cows, the rice and the even the variety of plants that line the paddies play a critical role in allowing the rice to reach maturity.
We are going to do a program that essentially allows up to spend a day in the life of a rice farmer over the next week.
Prices and tipping.
As I mentioned earlier, every price in Bali is a negotiation. And, nearly every restaurant or hospitality business folds in a modest (10%) service charge, making tipping largely unexpected. You can get a delicious multi-course meal for 3 people (without booze) for $15-$25 US. That same meal in NYC would cost about $75-$100. A 90-minute massage costs about $20 US. And, again, no tip is expected.
But, I’ve gotta be honest. Both my wife and I had trouble with the idea of not tipping above the 10% folded-in fee. Because, in NY, you tip 20%. That’s just what you do, because people don’t earn a whole lot on an hourly basis. They make most of their money on tips.
So, just because you don’t “have” to Bali, why would you change your tipping policy?
Isn’t that more about who you are inside and the respect you have for those who make your experiences more enjoyable than “what the local custom allows you to “get away with?” Especially when pretty much everyone serving you earns way less than, even adjusted for cost of living, than their NYC counterparts. And, for the most part, while I love a good snarky NY waiter, the folks who serve you in Bali are far more universally lovely and appreciative than pretty much anywhere I’ve been.
Curious what you guys think of that?
Wrapping up this week…
Well, there’s still lots more to share, including making silver jewelry, watching my 9 year old daughter work a blow-torch, yoga, meditating with ducks and frogs and more, but I’ll save that for next week.
But right now, we’ve just finished dinner and wandered over to relax barefoot on cushions on the front patio at Ja Juice Cafe. Brownies, cookies and lattes are being served while, off in the distance, a three-dude Balinese band is doing small-town justice to some Skynyrd.
And, as I glance up before hitting “publish,” I notice my girls now fully reclined, drifting into the night…
Until next week…
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