Expat Judith Gold, 68, never runs out of places to explore on Bali, the tropical island she calls home. "I love to go to all the different waterfalls. It seems to be never-ending. I hear about new ones all the time," she says. "You're hiking through the jungle through papaya and mango trees, and your guide is handing you leaves that are every type of spice that you can imagine. It's amazing. I enjoy discovering what I call my 'secret gardens,' too. There are so many. The island has changed so much just in the time that I've been living here, but the old island that I fell in love with is still here."
Bali, Indonesia is a place where luxury doesn't have to come at a premium. After rambling through the jungle, or meeting with friends along the beach, Judith returns each evening to the beautiful, 1,600-square-foot, two-bedroom villa she shares with her cat and two dogs.
She has a private swimming pool in the front yard, a beautiful, well-tended garden, and plenty of tropical foliage throughout her 3,200-square-foot property. Her housekeeper leaves little handmade baskets full of flowers and fragrant incense around her home and pool, leaving it smelling fresh throughout the year.
The cost of all this?
"I allow about $900 per month to live on, but I usually spend closer to $600 per month," she says. "I have a staff of three now: one to maintain my pool, one as a gardener, and one to clean my house. They all work part-time for me and I pay them a total of $150 per month. The rest goes to food, electricity, veterinarian bills, laundry…everything. If I want to take a road trip, I've got the cash to do that. I have enough left over every month for playtime, so I can go to a secret village or garden any time I want."
Bali is also great for indulging your taste buds. "Every cuisine that you can find in the world is here. It's amazing, and it's growing all the time. Even the high-end places are reasonably priced. Food is probably one of the cheapest things. You can go to one of the little locally owned mom-and-pop places and pay about $4 for all the food you want."
Judith prefers doing most of her shopping at the traditional markets. "I get all my fruits and vegetables at the local morning market, and there are markets nearby where you can buy all the jams, herbs, and spices that you can imagine. I buy my meat and imported foods at Popular, the largest supermarket in this area."
Judith first visited Bali in 1995, when she vacationed here with her daughter. She was running an import-export business and worked as a consultant at the time, but a car accident in 1998 resulted in her living on disability. She wasn't able to keep up with her business—the cost of living went up and the cost of buying also increased—and she could no longer afford to live comfortably in her native Vancouver.
With the help of an agent, Judith applied for a retirement visa and moved here in 1998. Now her days are full of fun and adventure, and she no longer worries about having enough money to live comfortably.
Healthcare is affordable. Judith developed a bursa in her hip and was treated at the hospital. "The doctor and most of the staff spoke perfect English. I was transported there by ambulance, saw a neurologist, had an ultrasound, received treatment, and was taken back home by ambulance. The entire bill cost less than $120. I do have health insurance through my travel agent that includes medical evacuation, and that costs around $1,500 annually, but it doesn't include out-patient coverage. I really have no need to spend more on insurance, though; I don't think that it would pay for itself."
"I'm retired, having a new beginning, and enjoying a freedom that I never dreamed possible. Now that I'm debt-free, I can afford things that were not affordable in the past," says Judith. "I feel blessed every day that I'm here. Once you come to this island, you always want to come back."
By Wendy Justice, a former registered nurse who moved to Hong Kong in 2005. She planned to travel around the world and, after falling in love with Southeast Asia, settled in Vietnam in 2012.