We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.

What if your wanderlust wasn’t limited to a 10-day vacation? In our series My Life Abroad, we ask expats from around the world what it takes to resettle thousands of miles away from home, plus how their new city has influenced their style. 

Who I am: Sophie Bell, founder of lifestyle brand Peppa Hart.

Where I used to live: Cabarita Beach, Australia. 

Where I moved: Seseh, Bali, Indonesia.

How long my family and I have lived in our current city: Coming up on two years.

Why we moved: We wanted to chase our dreams and needed something new and exciting for our family. We were working so hard and had a house on acreage that was a lot of maintenance, and we also felt like every weekend was the same. We wanted to explore and show our young children there is so much more to the world. 

So we put our home on the market and booked our one-way ticket to Bali. Our family and friends were shocked. We hadn’t been planning it for a long time, but once we had made the call, we knew it was exactly the right decision for our family. Bali has always been a special place for us. We were married here in 2013 and have holidayed here several times a year throughout our lives. 

We were craving adventure, freedom, and the ability to be on the ground in Bali working on projects we had been dreaming of for so long, like creating our own clothing and homewares, and building exciting businesses that we kept putting off because we were too busy. 

The logistics we needed to line up before we moved: Securing visas was the first step to make sure we would be able to stay long-term. We worked with Bali Solve to help us with our applications. We are on a Kitas visa, which allows us to be in Bali for an extended time. Once we arrived in Bali, we finalized all our paperwork in person and opened our local bank accounts as well. 

Schools were super-important to us—we looked at three and did a deep dive on them all to see which would be perfect for our children. We were so happy with the school we ended up going with; it’s an incredible international school with a beautiful community of families from all over the world, all sharing a similar experience. Our children have friends from Sweden, France, Spain, Brazil, the U.S., Singapore. They are learning so much about the world already.

How we got our stuff overseas: We took our personal items and anything that was super-special to us, but overall the bulk of things stayed with the home (we sold it fully furnished, including kitchenware and styling pieces). We booked the maximum baggage allowance, which was around 14 bags between the four of us. People were a little shocked when we turned up to the check-in with 14 suitcases and boxes, but that was our entire life packed up! 

We mainly brought clothes, our kids’ favorite toys and books, coffee-table books I had been collecting, and special homeware pieces like ceramics my mum had made for me. (She and my mother-in-law come over regularly to see us, so they have been lugging over anything extra we needed to get settled!)

Rent vs. own: Because we are not Indonesian, we can only do long-term leases or a Freehold. A Freehold is still a lease, but it’s a 99-year lease. We have a 25-year lease with two extensions, so we have the land for 70-plus years. During the term of the lease, the property is completely ours. We can build, renovate, or do whatever we want to that land. 

What our house search was like: Before we arrived, we booked a three-month, short-term villa in the area we thought we would most likely end up living. The plan was to look for land and build from scratch and rent during that process, but once we arrived we found that yearly rental prices were going crazy with people flooding back to Bali post-COVID. We couldn’t stomach spending an outrageous amount on rent for 18 months while we built, so we changed tactics and started to look for projects that were around 80 percent finished. That way, we could come in and add our finishing touches but move in ASAP. 

We contacted all the main real-estate agents in Bali and told them our requirements, and also signed up for Facebook groups that showcase real estate in each area. We were able to find a property in beautiful Seseh that had two villas, side by side. It has stunning rice-field views and is only 10 minutes from all the best restaurants. We put an offer on it and came to an agreement with the developer to be able to finish the project ourselves and move in within three months. Now we live in one villa and rent the other one out. 

My advice for anyone who wants to build in my town: It’s definitely not for the faint of heart. There are a lot of pros, but many hurdles, too. You need to tackle language barriers and completely different building materials, and the rules are very relaxed. But the beauty about building in Bali is you can get absolutely everything custom-made. 

My advice would be to definitely be here in person. Things move quickly, and if we hadn’t been coming to the site almost daily, the outcome would not have been as great. (If you can’t be here to oversee the build, then I would invest in a really amazing project manager.)

Courtesy of Sophie Bell
Courtesy of Sophie Bell

The biggest challenge with moving abroad: Missing our family and friends. We were so used to having my mum and my mother-in-law around a lot, so to not have them down the road is definitely the hardest thing. Now that we know we are here for the long-term, we’re working on getting them here permanently. Life would be complete! 

The biggest joy of moving abroad: The change in our kids has been beyond words. My son, especially, has just transformed being here. He is so happy and confident. And because you are away from your family, your friends here really do become like family. We travel together and help each other with kids and life.  

Monday through Friday we are in the school and work rhythm, but once Friday afternoon rolls around, it’s adventures galore. There are so many gorgeous islands nearby that you can duck to for the weekend. We are constantly doing little trips, which we would never usually do in Australia. 

The most surprising thing I’ve learned about living in my city since I moved here: How lovely an expat community is. Everyone really looks after each other and is so helpful in sharing information and contacts. We have made lifelong friends here.  

Courtesy of Sophie Bell

Where I found design inspiration for my space: I wanted the space to be pared back and easy to maintain because it was designed to be a holiday rental. (We also rent out our own villa when we travel for long periods of time.) I wanted everything to be sourced locally and custom-made to fit the space perfectly. Most items, from the marble tables to the dining chairs to the brass toilet roll holders, have been custom-made.  

If I were to move abroad again and could do anything differently, it would be: Not to rush into anything. Really get to know the area and properties you’re looking at. A lot of things look great online and then you see them in real life and they just aren’t. 

The best piece of decorating advice I’ve learned from living in my current city: Work to its strengths. The artisans here are so talented at working with wood, rattan, ceramics, and concrete, so utilize all the amazing skills they have in these methods. But always get a sample done to make sure they can achieve the finish you want, and only pay a deposit initially. Once you’ve seen the finished product and you’re happy with it, then pay the remaining amount.

The item I brought from home that brings me comfort: My mum is a super-talented ceramist, so I had to bring a bunch of her beautiful pieces with me. Each has its own story and meaning for me. 

The moment I felt like a local: Last year we did a two-month holiday in Europe, and when we flew back into Bali it really felt like home. It was a real moment where we looked at each other and were so happy, like, this is our life now.

We also flew back to Australia recently for a friend’s 40th birthday and we were wondering if we would miss Australia, but it was the opposite. It really confirmed for us that as much as we miss our family and friends, Bali is the place for us.