Bali Dispatch #5: Aussies, Freak-fests, Train-rides and Truths

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I’m writing this final dispatch from NYC, after very deliberating missing last week’s dispatch. There’s a reason for that…

A while back I wrote post about how an increasing number of bands were getting pissed off at fans using their cell-phones to record and share their concerts in real-time. Not because they were concerned about the video and photos getting passed around, but because the process of documenting and sharing the show while it happened took the audience out of the experience of the show. And, the band’s wanted their fans to be “more there.”

And, interestingly, as I started to roll into the tail end of our across-the-world experience, I started to feel something similar. I noticed myself documenting more, wondering “how can I share this,” rather than just being in the experience. I was constantly pulling myself out of the moment in the name of reporting on it.

I began to feel like I was cheating both myself and my family, just the slightest bit, out of the most engaged journey possible. So, I made a decision to take notes here and there, shoot pictures when I could, but also to be more present in this once in a lifetime adventure.

So, this final dispatch is based more on recollection as I look back over the last week and a half of our month-long journey.

Okay, first, a recommendation. If you know you don’t sleep on planes, it’s a pretty good idea not to schedule 3 red-eye flights within a 10 day window. I ended up getting a bunch of work done on the flights, catching up on some projects, watching 4 movies and about 8 back episodes of Glee (love). But pulling three airborne all-nighters while simultaneously barreling through timezones was more than a bit surreal.

The wackiest jump was the one from Melbourne, Australia (more on that in a moment) to L.A., because we crossed the international dateline and traveled against the rotation of the Earth. So, we left Australia at 8:45pm and arrived in L.A. at 6pm…the same evening. Very strange, indeed.

So, what about Australia?

We chose Melbourne, in large part, because I had a bunch of virtual friends there, including people I wanted to interview for my next book, and I’d never been to that part of Australia.

First thought…oh how I loved brushing my teeth without having to use bottled water anymore, lol!

Second thought…holy crap, it’s cold here! Yeah, we’d sojourned from the tropics of Bali into the dead of the Melbourne winter. It’s nothing like the NYC winter, but we hadn’t exactly planned on this leg, so some quick shopping for warm clothes was in order.

Melbourne’s a beautiful city. And, big. Bigger than I realized, with so many different areas. Our hotel, the Mantra on Russel, was right on the border of Chinatown and Bourke Street, a thoroughfare that felt a bit like NYC’s Times Square with bustling sidewalks, street musicians and artists and wall-to-wall shops. On the first day, we got some warm clothes, bopped around and recovered from the flight.

Day two was pretty much all business for me. I headed over to the offices of Envato, which some of you may know as the company behind cool resources like FreelanceSwitch, TutsPlus, TheNetsetter and Rockable Press. It was great to finally meet friends like Collis and Cyan Ta’eed, Joel Falconer and Skellie, people I’d been talking to online for years, in person. And make a new friend in Naysan Naraqi. Loved hanging out with them and seeing the variety of musical instruments scattered around the office.

From there, I took a train out to the Melbourne burbs to grab lunch with my friend, Darren Rowse, of ProBlogger and Digital Photography School. I was interviewing him for my book and, also, just catching up. When you see Darren at conferences in the U.S., he’s pretty much swarmed by crowds, so it’s nice to be able to just hang out, grab a sandwich and have a great conversation. You’ll learn a lot more about that conversation, btw, when the book’s out.

On the ride out, I was struck by how familiar it all felt, a bit like riding the Long Island Railroad out of NYC. And, by something else. A packet of M&Ms cost me $2.60 Australian, or about $2.10 US. And, a soft drink cost $3.00, versus about $1.50 in the U.S. A bit of a shock to system, especially coming off of Bali, where everything that went into or on your body was dirt-cheap.

The next few days would build on this realization as I discovered that Melbourne was actually the most expensive city we’d ever been to. Far more expensive than NYC. That, I didn’t expect.

Coming back into the city from the burbs, I reconnected with my friend, the genius brand architect and cause-driven renegade, Stephen Johnson. He and his wife, Nanette, who happens to be a food-blogging savant, wonderful host and cook, took amazing care of us for the bulk of out time in Melbourne.

Stephen had arranged a tweet-up at a great little cafe downtown and I had a great time connecting with the intimate group of 30 or 40 people that included yet another virtual friend, Jade Craven, who I finally got a chance to hug in person. And, I loved being able to spark up a conversation in the group about fear, entrepreneurship and dreams, three favorite topics of mine these days.

The next day, we piled the newly-blended Johnson-Fields clan into a mini-van and journeyed out to the Yarra Valley, known as Australia’s wine country. Gorgeous, gentle mountains. We would’ve stopped to tour the wineries, but since it was winter in Melbourne when we arrived, we visited an animal sanctuary and a variety of eateries and shops as we dotted our way out and back.

And, the kids. Theirs and mine. They got along amazingly and it was so nice to see my daughter totally immersed in her new world-bridging friendships. It was like they’d all known each other for years.

Kids are like that…makes me wonder why grown-ups can’t follow the same M.O.

We all spent the next few days hanging out, playing, devouring an insane meal cooked by Nanette on Saturday evening that boasted a voluptuous rigatoni with spinach balls & courgette sauce and homemade chocolate ice-cream that was so luscious you literally couldn’t eat more than a few spoonfuls. And, Stephen and I traded interviews for various projects we’re both working on.

I should mention, too, that Stephen and I had never met in person before I arrived in Melbourne. Nor had our families. But, because we’d spent a chunk of time connecting over skype and email and because so much of both of our thought-processes and worldviews appear online, it was like saying hello to old friends when we finally touched down. And, that comfort level trickled down into our kids, too.

That’s part of the magic of leveraging the online world to build global relationships, one person at a time.

What about workflow?

Melbourne also saw the “rebirth” of my ability to weave work much more effectively into our travels. The hotel had wifi, though, in Melbourne, there’s apparently no such thing as unlimited internet. I went to front desk to ask about wifi and the person said, “we’ve got a few plans, is an hour enough?”

I started laughing and said I was a blogger, so he offered me their biggest, bestest package, 5 days wifi for $60. I signed up, but before stepping away, turned back and asked, “oh, by the way, that’s unlimited, right?” “Uh, no,” he said, “actually, you get 800 megabytes of transfer.”

For a blogger, especially one who also needed to be able to do skype calls with consulting clients, that was not a whole lotta bandwidth. But, I did what I could to stretch it and balance the usage with the international data plan I’d also purchased for my iphone, which was still not functional for calls in Australia (well, it was functional, if I wanted to pay like $5 a minute, since ATT doesn’t allow you to swap sim-cards). And, I able to work in bursts of work at random cafe that had wifi (always paid), while my wife and daughter were off on other adventures.

All in all, though, the combination of being back in a city, having a 2 bedroom suite to work out of and a real connection made being able to work a much more enjoyable and do-able experience than it had been in Bali. Just be ready to spend a lot more for a connection.

On the last day, we’d all come to agree that the Melbourne leg of this adventure went way to quickly, we wished we’d planned more time in Australia. But, then, that just gives us a reason to come back sooner.

L.A. – The Final Leg…

I’m not going to write much about L.A. because, well, it’s L.A.. We spent most of our time down in Santa Monica, which I heart seriously. Could easily move there, I think. And, of course, I had to bring my daughter over to the glorious freak-fest that is Venice Beach. She was mesmerized. Loved it.

On our last day, I was able to interview another friend for the book, Steven pressfield, the author of epics like The Legend of Bagger Vance, The War of Art and Gates of Fire, over a yummy organic breakfast at Kreation on Montana and 10th St (go there, sooo good). And, of course down a few lattes at Urth Cafe, just because that’s what you do.

Some final thoughts…

One, let’s talk about this whole location independent thing.

It’s not for me. Actually, it IS for me, but not the way so many people have bandied it about. Yes, I want to be able to live wherever I want without reference to whether the local economy can support my professional endeavors. BUT, I don’t care a whole lot about being able to bounce from country to country, roaming the world without being tied down. And, when I do so, I’d rather do it without the expectation that I’ll be working or that I’ll be “reachable.”

Two, routine matters to me. Because of it’s impact on my ability to create.

I am a creator. That’s what I do. I create books, businesses, blogs, music, art, whatever vehicle allows me to manifest my jones. But, I’m also someone who care deeply about the work I create. I am driven to create great work. Not satisfactory, not really good, but great. And, to do that, I’ve realized, I need routine. That’s a tough thing to find when you’re bopping from place to place, changing time-zones and countries and, if you’re working online, always in search of a decent connection.

And, finally, a thought on being flexible.

We left for this one-month other-worldly adventure not knowing quite what to expect. Still, we had a lot planned. And, most of the plans were based on my daughter going to and loving camp in Bali. On day two, we realized that wasn’t going to happen and we started to dance. Everything had to be changed.

I confess, it took me longer than I’d like to morn the loss of the adventure I’d conjured in my mind and awaken to the fact that there I sat with the two people who meant most to me, ready to engage in the adventure of a lifetime. So, screw it if it wasn’t going to unfold the way I’d expected, the future was still ours to craft together.

Once we all circled around to understand and accept this, and kill the fleeting desire to just pack it in and go home, that created a tabla rasa for new magic to happen.

And, happen it did.

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30 responses

30 responses to “Bali Dispatch #5: Aussies, Freak-fests, Train-rides and Truths”

  1. Lea Woodward says:

    Loved reading your dispatches, Jonathan. Location independence is a brilliant thing for the freedom it affords you to choose how to make it work for *you*…we’re still figuring out exactly what works for us but we’re having fun along the way. I think.

    No, seriously, we are – but like you found that once we figured out how to let go of any preconceived notions of what something was meant to be like, we enjoy things so much more!

    Any more future trips planned? 😉

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Hey Lea, And, you’re the guru of location indy living! Yeah, it was quite an adventure. Staying put for a while, tho my daughter really wants to head back to Australia. Next trip may be Central America…I hear they’ve got killer wifi! LOL

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jonathan Fields, remarkablogger, Grant Griffiths, Elysia Brooker, Lori Paquette and others. Lori Paquette said: love his insight RT @jonathanfields: And, so it ends – Bali Dispatch #5: Aussies, Freak-fests, Train-rides and Truths […]

  3. Great post, Mr. Fields. Now you know the bane of my internet-access existence. Welcome home!

    I’m off to the airport myself, right now…

  4. Julie Gomoll says:

    re: Just being there v reporting on & sharing everything

    In 1998 I took a solo trip around the world. I had only a carry-on with me. I brought a portable CD player along, but soon shipped it home to save precious space. My camera, of course, I kept.

    I was able to find Internet cafes almost everywhere I went, including Bali, and sent out updates when I could.

    Today, I’d bring a computer, for sure. Or my iPad, at least. Which means I’d also need to pack chargers and converteres. I’d listen to music, keep up, at least some, with goings on in my industry. And of course I’d blog.

    I’m so glad I took my trip when I did. It’s not a trip I could do any more (well, I *could*, but I doubt I would). I simply didn’t have the option to be always- or even mostly-connected. Not that that’s a better or worse way to travel. I’m just really glad I was really *there* for the whole trip.

    Incidentally, Bali was one of my stops. I liked it, but it was my least-favorite of any of the places I visited. It’s like the whole island has adapted to appeal to westerners. Made me kind of sad.

    I really enjoyed your updates, Jonathan.

  5. That’s a really good point about being in the moment, to fully experience what you’re doing. I will try to remember that when I visit France in November.

    Also, I am surprised at your experience with internet connectivity! I guess we here in the US are spoiled. That’s good to know as I plan my quest to become hard working-location-independent-globetrotter-girl.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      We’re definitely very spoiled in the US with connectivity, plus my needs to be connected while I’m working can be pretty extreme

  6. Loved the dispatches. It was great to see you and your family adapt to the adventure. Your daughter will have such a great “what I did on my summer vacation” story.

    My niece and I were doing “when I win the lottery thing” last night. I decided I would have an apartment in Las Vegas for the winter. I am a night owl, currently living in a lovely quiet place. So it would be interesting to go to the other extreme and live in a place that is a bit raucous.

    I would not do the Tim Ferris backpacking thing but there are other options which you have demonstrated in your dispatches. I guess this has really opened up what you conceive is possible for your life.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Adventurous excursions during the day and luxury at night, that’s how I like it, lol

  7. Sean Cook says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this journey. I have to confess that I’m behind and didn’t read all your posts, but I really related to the ones I did get to, especially this one.

    I saw a tweet a while back from Darren Rowse about his meeting with you and thought to myself how awesome it would have been to be a fly on the wall at your meeting. But then, thinking about it more, I wondered if that’s really fair to you and Darren. You can’t always be on stage for your followers, and I am glad you took some time to enjoy your trip. There’s no point in setting out to have an experience like this trip for us. You need to go for yourself, and give yourself permission to be in it.

    I would rather learn from your reflections on an experience than try to vicariously experience it through media while you lose the actual experience for yourself while worrying about the details (camera angles, sound quality, whatever).

    So good for you on setting that stuff aside and being in the moment. I’m sure you are the better for it, and that means that the thoughts you have and the reflections you share will be better.

    Thanks again,


    • Jonathan Fields says:

      It was great to hang out with Darren, just the two of us at the local lunch spot. Gotta take those opportunities when they come.

  8. Kerry says:

    Hi there,
    Loved reading your reflections about Melbourne – where I live! Sorry about the cold, the poor internet and the expense! Why is it so expensive here I wonder. It sounds like you ate in a bit but the coffee and food in Melbourne are fab. Bring on the warmer weather though!

  9. Tim M says:

    I also am a Melbournite and enjoyed your take from a visitor’s perspective.

    Cold yes. It’s why I am moving to Byron Bay.
    Expensive, yes, but there’s way worse.
    Internet in AU is a rip off, though, at least for locals it’s becoming much, much better (especially for 3G data on iPhones). I hope you tested Telstra’s excellent coverage out at the excellent wineries and saw how epic their coverage is (rips over ATT and Verizon).

    I wish I’d known about this visit, I’d have organised to meet if possible.

    Hope you checked out some of the excellent coffee (hat tip: Deadman, Market Lane, St Ali, Penny Farthing, Espresso3121, Monk Bohdi Darma, Midali, Seven Seeds).

    Next time, a trip down the Great Ocean Road in summer or Autumn would be worth it (some epic surf to be had).

    Btw, I am super interested in what international data plan you used…I’d love to have this info for one of my sites.

  10. Amy says:

    Great post!

    I learnt that lesson recently to. I love creating, and love change and variety. But recently I’ve had so much change and variety that there has been no space for just that little bit of routine that helps the creativity flow. It needs space to marinate after all!

    I hope on your next visit to the South Pacific you include NZ 🙂

  11. Nanette says:

    Thanks for the kind words Jonathan!

    It was lovely to meet you all and to hang in Melbourne together.

    Looking forward to getting the families together again soon in New York!

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      We had such an amazing time with you guys, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

  12. Great to hear your journeys Jonathon.

    I flew out of Sydney to Fiji as you flew in to Melbourne. We wanted to escape the cold and have a relaxing holiday -but I had some work to do as well. I thought I would be fine as it was a 5 star resort and advertised as connected but the wifi was broken and the cost of the in-room broadband was US$35 for 24 hrs. So I also chose to learn the lesson, work occasionally, relax more and enjoy the Pacific culture.

    When crossing borders and oceans it’s easy to fall into the trap of judging a place by what it hasn’t got compared to home rather than looking with new eyes and appreciating the differences. Of course it helps when the differences are so helpful to the relaxation process as in Fiji!

    Great lessons learnt. Bulla!

  13. Welcome home, Jonathan!

    I liked your thoughts about the location independent thing – I was waiting to see what you wrote to see whether I wanted to pursue it more on PF or let it be. I think I’ll pursue it more, too, as I’ve seen a lot of creatives fall down on that one.

    And YAY! for embracing the adventure and being fully there. Mark reminded me a couple of weeks ago of what we lose when we’re continually “on air” or thinking about what we’re going to share.

  14. Tom Bentley says:

    Jonathan, welcome home. Your reflections on needing a routine reminded me of the Flaubert quote:

    Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work. ?

    Here’s to the happening of new magic!

  15. Daniel says:

    Welcome back!

    I thoroughly enjoyed your dispatches. So many of the adventure had that head nodding familiarity. The last time I went “Location independent” I came to the same conclusion: The stress of maintaining a decent connection and trying to develop a routine made things less enjoyable than they could have been.

    Great series!

  16. Ren says:

    Great point about ‘being there’. I find myself documenting rather than enjoying the moment sometimes and have to consciously pull myself back. Travel can bend your mind and open new channels of creativity, but it’s best when you’re neck deep in the experience!

    Good to hear you enjoyed Melbourne despite our chilly weather, too.

  17. Just reading you talk about my home town made me very nostalgic (Melbourne) but I found your comments about the cost of living here really interesting…having lived in London for so many years we are still adjusting to the expensive cost of living here in Australia. And we were shocked to discover they get away with charging for bandwidth here – and at much slower speeds too.

    I also wanted to thank you for taking the time to update us though – I know how wanting to be *present* on your travels can clash with the act of getting it all down to share, but your journey has been fascinating to read. I’m the kind of animal who adores travel but also craves routine to add some order to my chaos, so I’ve appreciated hearing how it all turned out for you. Good luck settling back in!

  18. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on working while traveling and for all the dispatches. That split between being the observer and being a participant is really a problem, I’m finding. It’s why I never live-blog any event I attend and only do minimal updates or documenting of any kind. Simply put, I’m not a reporter.

    Although I haven’t said much in the comments I’ve been keeping an eye on your dispatches (and of course tweeting them 🙂 ). It’s been a hell of ride and thanks again for sharing it with us.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Yeh, it WAS a hell of a ride, but in the end, it turned into a really wonderful adventure…after I morned the loss of what I thought it was “supposed” to be and just embraced what it was. Good lesson for me, Mr. Control Freak. 😉

  19. Great to follow your adventures in my part of the world – I guess i just expect the high cost for connectivity when travelling, (not that it doesnt make me mad). Melbourne is a great city I just arrived here on Thursday and very glad I brought my cold weather clothes.. I liked the fact that you made plans and realised you had to change them I used to be the biggest planner for travel but found that I missed out on doing certain things because it wasnt part of the plan – now I am much more flexible and find I get to see or do things that I maybe wouldnt have done in the past.

  20. The issue with recording an event instead of experiencing it is more prevalent now, but we’ve been doing it for ages. When the technology was clunkier and more costly, less folks engaged in it. My Aunt was _always_ behind a camera or video camera. (Hmm… come to think of it, I’ve seen very few of her photos. That’s kind of crazy…) Anyway, now it’s so easy and inexpensive to document, everyone does it.

    When digital cameras first came out, I found it interesting the way they altered the whole documenting experience. The simple fact that the camera was no longer held in front of the face helped to break down the barrier between photographer and subject. Or, that’s how it seemed to me, when my Aunt started using a digital camera.

    In the olden days, when traveling, I’d bring a camera, but consistently leave it behind. Then digital cameras appeared and I bought the smallest one I could find, figuring I might actually carry it around. And I did. However, I didn’t want my camera to remove me from the experience, so I relied on a quick succession of snapshots, which I would later weed through. Several of my traveling companions were surprised to discover that yes, I did have a camera and had actually taken pictures with it.

    On the other hand, it’s fun to look for beauty in unusual places and record it. I suppose, at that point, you’re really moving out of documenting a subject and into creating art. Maybe.

  21. Karilee says:

    First, <3 Glee!

    Second… I do envy you the travels, or at least the people you got to meet along the way. The internet has made it amazingly possible to go visit friends you've never before met, which is rather astounding. I suppose in the snail-mail-only days it might have been possible to do that with pen pals, but I think finding your "right people" might have been more challenging.

    And finally, since you were mentioning Bali… I was helping a client with a new site today for the charitable side of their business, a school and clinic for hearing-impaired children in Bali. It will definitely be on the itinerary when I manage to visit there:

    It's great to see companies embracing social responsibility that can prosper alongside their business endeavors.

  22. Aaron Spence says:

    G’day Jonno,

    Glad you had fun down under on the way home. I hope you didn’t tip anyone here 😉

  23. It’s been fun watching your travels, living vicariously. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Glad also you mentioned the unmetered internet thing – when I tweeted my experience I got a lot of people saying they didn’t believe me that it was time AND transfer metered. I spent a fortune on wifi interwebs even though I had a prepaid MIFI along with me for half of my trip. A lot of the expense is down to currency conversion fluctuations I think though? I’m hoping next trip down under won’t hit the wallet quite so hard 😉

    Good luck with the book, looks like it is going to be great 😀