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I left the U.S. for Bali and was 'depressed' at first: Doing these 2 things every day made the experience 'amazing'

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Olumide Gbenro
Photo: Olumide Gbenro

Olumide Gbenro had often dreamed about his new life in Bali, months before he decided to move there: he'd watch the sunset on the beach, drink out of fresh coconuts and ride his motorbike through colorful street markets. 

It was 2018, and the 33-year-old entrepreneur was living in San Diego, hustling to launch his social media marketing business, Olumide Gbenro PR & Brand Monetization – and although he was thriving at work, he craved a change. 

One afternoon he was scrolling through Instagram and stopped on a photo of a friend who was traveling in Bali. "It looked very peaceful, like the perfect place to live," Gbenro says.

In 2019, he found an apartment in Bali through an acquaintance on Instagram and booked a one-way plane ticket to live in paradise. 

At first, moving to Bali wasn't as smooth or Instagrammable as Gbenro imagined it to be, and he says he was "depressed" for two months. While Bali was "beautiful," he struggled to make friends, lived in a cramped guest house and was stressed about his finances.

"I only had two clients when I first moved to Bali, and something that weighed on my mind constantly was, 'If I lose these clients, will I be broke? Can I still afford to live here?' he explains. 

Gbenro built up his client roster by reaching out to local businesses – he currently makes about $140,000 a year and is staying in Bali on an investor visa – and decided he needed to embrace new habits to build a happier, more fulfilling life. 

Meditation 

Gbenro found a larger one-bedroom apartment in a luxury building with ocean views, a private gym, pool and restaurant downstairs. Once he was settled in his new place, Gbenro crafted a new schedule of how to work and start his mornings. 

The biggest change he embraced is a local tradition: each morning he wakes up at 8:00 a.m. and meditates for about 30 minutes before brewing a cup of tea and checking his phone. Meditation has long been part of Hinduism, which is a popular religion in Bali.

During his meditation, Gbenro sits on a chair in his living room and reflects on the work and personal goals he hopes to achieve in the months ahead. Sometimes he will meditate on a quote or positive affirmation as well. 

Mindfulness has helped Gbenro "slow down the beginning of the day and think through the things I need to prioritize," he says. 

Olumide Gbenro meditating on the beach in Bali
Photo: Olumide Gbenro

Exercising outdoors 

Another practice that helped Gbenro improve his mental health and adjust to life in Bali was committing to a regular workout routine, and exercising on the beach as often as he can. 

Gbenro works out in his building's gym 3-4 times each week, either starting or ending his workout with a brisk walk or run on the beach. 

The workouts brought back fond memories of his time on Ohio University's track team as a college student and reminded Gbenro why he fell in love with the sport. "Working out regularly really helped me deal with stress, and I would often get 'runner's high'," he says. 

He quickly discovered that even a short workout would help clear his mind and put him in a better mood. "I definitely became a lot happier," he says. "This regular practice of exercise and mindfulness helped me step up to the next level in my work and life." 

His advice to other expats 

Once Gbenro started visiting co-working spaces in Bali and attending in-person networking events, he says it became much easier to build close friendships with other expats and locals. He knows conversational Indonesian, but says a lot of people living in Bali also speak English.

If you're moving to a new place alone, Gbenro recommends taking socialization "one step at a time." 

"Don't overstimulate yourself!" he says. "Start by going to a coffee shop or co-working space, and ease into it just by saying 'hi' to someone who looks friendly." 

Once you feel more comfortable venturing out alone in public, he suggests researching local networking events, meetups tied to specific activities like meditation, running or art, and looking up calendars for city-wide events like concerts and flea markets to meet your new neighbors. 

Taking such risks is "worth it" to discover your new home, he adds. For Gbenro, moving to Bali has led to "the most amazing personal growth," he says. "It's been the most amazing time of my life." 

Check out:

This 33-year-old left the U.S. for Bali and lives a 'life of luxury' on $2,233 a month—how he spends his money

This 23-year-old left the U.S. for Mexico and now lives on $1,400 per month—here's how he earns and spends his money

'I quit my job. Now I regret it': Do this before you make your next move, says CEO of 15 years

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