The Pros and Cons of Being an Expat on a Tropical Island

Growing up, I used to daydream about living on an island in the middle of the ocean with a single palm tree. I imagined a place I could walk barefoot, be immersed in nature, and avoid the crowds that come with city living.

As time went by and I got older, I fell into the traditional path that most responsible adults take. I went to college, got a degree, and began working a comfortable job. I worked my way up the corporate ladder and achieved what I was taught to see as “success”.

But I thought often about that tropical island that took up my childhood daydreams.

Eventually, I gave in to the temptation. I quit my job, packed my belongings in a backpack, and set off on an adventure. Two years has taken me to 16 countries and countless experiences.

My busy mind eventually grew weary of traveling aimlessly. I missed learning and interestingly enough, I missed working. Internet searches and scouring social forums for ways to work abroad took up my days.

Eventually, digital marketing worked its magic and brought a Paradise Interns Facebook ad to my computer screen. Phrases like “learn digital marketing”, “unlimited scuba diving”, and “become a digital nomad” jumped out at me. Was this a scam? It sounded too good to be true.

It turns out it wasn’t. After some research and an interview, I was packing my backpack again. This time, I was heading to Bali for a digital marketing internship.

It may sound like the perfect life, and in many ways, it is. It’s not all blue skies and sunset beers, though. Living in a foreign country on a small island isn’t for everybody.

Read on for some pros and cons of being an expat on a tropical island near Bali.

Nusa Lembongan is a charming island near Bali  | The Pros and Cons of Being an Expat on a Tropical Island |

Pros of being an expat on a tropical island

Meeting new people

If you move abroad, you are guaranteed to meet a plethora of like-minded people from all over the world. In my marketing internship class alone, there were people from around the globe, including France, Germany, Canada, and Spain. When I moved to my placement on Nusa Lembongan, I was greeted by an entirely new group of people.

Because of this marketing experience, I have friends from all over the world to visit. My travel bucket list keeps getting longer!

A group of divers have fun on the boat | The Pros and Cons of Being an Expat on a Tropical Island |

Learning new skills

Traveling inherently teaches a person a multitude of skills. Budgeting, adaptability, and communication are signs of a savvy traveler.

But as I grew weary of traveling without a purpose, I looked to Paradise Interns for a new type of traveling experience. I wanted to learn something new and get valuable marketing experience while living abroad.

Throughout my digital marketing internship, I learned about social media management, content creation, graphic design, and copywriting, to name a few. A month-long bootcamp on Bali covered these marketing topics. Then, I applied what I learned by handling all digital marketing activities for a dive shop.

I also had the opportunity to learn everything I could about scuba diving and the ocean. I dove every time there was an opening on the boat, participated in coral restoration, and became a divemaster.

A scuba diver participates in coral restoration | The Pros and Cons of Being an Expat on a Tropical Island |

Lower cost of living

Many people who chose to leave their home countries to live abroad will admit that the cost of living was a factor in their decision.

It’s no secret that living somewhere like Bali will cost less than a flat in London or an apartment in New York City. But it’s not only the rent that is cheaper. I remember how shocked I was at the low prices of everything the first time I moved abroad, from gas to food.

When I was living on Nusa Lembongan, I lived in a cute wooden house, ate delicious meals like smoothie bowls and tempeh burgers, and enjoyed sunset drinks with friends. I was living a more comfortable life than I was at home for a fraction of the cost.

Just remember that it’s difficult to go the other way and return to a Western country after getting used to Bali prices!

Cons of being an expat on a tropical island

Giving up ordinary comforts

I mentioned that the cost of living is less in places like Bali. There is a reason for this. You are paying less, but you are also getting less. Fast wifi, hot showers, and functioning air conditioning are often nonexistent.

Personally, I don’t mind. I like living simply and do not need much to be happy. But it’s worth noting because this type of lifestyle isn’t for everybody.

When living as an expat, you probably won’t have access to some of the comforts that you’re used to. In my case, I had a saltwater shower. My outdoor bathroom was home for a family of geckos and countless bugs. The air conditioning was often dysfunctional, and the only way I knew if my scooter was low on gas was when it would stop running.

I loved every moment, but not everybody would.

A colorful sunset in Nusa Lembongan | The Pros and Cons of Being an Expat on a Tropical Island |

Missing life events

If you’re committing to living as an expat abroad, you must accept that you will miss many important moments for friends and family. You may only have the budget to fly back once a year if you’re living on a tropical island far away from your home country. Weddings, birthdays, babies being born, and other life events will pass you by.

While it can be sad to miss events like these, it balances out with the incredible moments you get to experience every single day.

Being in a foreign country

Choosing to live in a country that isn’t your own can lead to problems in the event of natural disasters like earthquakes or hurricanes. You don’t have the same access to medical facilities, your insurance doesn’t cover everything, and some governments can be corrupt.

I was living on Nusa Lembongan when the coronavirus pandemic took over the world. Indonesia had a slower reaction to the virus than many other countries. By the time Bali acknowledged there was a problem, I was faced with the difficult decision to stay on the island I grew to love or return to my home country in a matter of days.

I was on an island that had limited medical facilities and was dependent on a supply boat for food and fresh water. I didn’t think that staying was worth the risk in the event things got worse, so I flew home.

While any pandemic or natural disaster is unlikely, it’s something to think about when considering living on a tropical island.

So, is being an expat on a tropical island worth it?

Looking back on the last six months of living on Bali, one thing remains true – I don’t regret any of it. Throughout my digital marketing internship, I learned essential marketing skills, became a divemaster, and had experiences that I will never forget.

While living as an expat on a tropical island may not be for everyone, it was for me.