Today, more than ever, people are packing up their things and moving abroad in search of something new and exciting. Whether it be for a sabbatical, a new business opportunity or simply to just experience something different, its an exhilarating experience that is rarely regretted.
We often get asked – “What’s it like living in Lombok?” “Why move to Indonesia?” Well, to help answer those questions we recently sat down with fellow Australians Elke, Jon and their kids Lani (9 years old) and Tiko (8 years old) who swapped the Aussie beach life for a more relaxed and slower paced life in Lombok. Hear from them what living in Lombok has been like. What they’ve loved. What they’ve missed. And their advice to other families considering a similar move.
1. What brought you and your family to Lombok?
Jon and I travelled a lot before we had kids. We have always loved Indonesia and spent many years living in Kalimantan. We always knew that we would come back. Our kids are now 8 and 9, perfect ages for travelling. We wanted our children to experience life in another country, more than just a holiday, but a life experience away from the privilege and comfort of middle class Australia.
We thought a year in Indonesia would be a great opportunity. But, equally important, Jon and I wanted to get away from the daily grind of life back home. Jon had a serious health scare a couple of years ago. Our priorities changed after that. We didn’t want to spend our lives working jobs that we didn’t enjoy. I’ve been receiving monthly updates from the Australian Volunteers Program for about ten years. Every month I have checked the positions available in Indonesia, but most education sector jobs are in the big cities. We didn’t want to live in the city. Then one night I saw a job in a place called Gerupuk, in southern Lombok. I’d never heard of Gerupuk so I googled it, and these beautiful images popped up. I asked Jon what he thought, and straight away he said, yes, that’s the one we’ve been waiting for. So, I wrote the application and before we knew it we were packing up our house and on a plane to Jakarta.
2. Why Lombok?
We live in a coastal town in Australia. We love the outdoors and spend most weekends at the beach. Lombok has a beautiful coastline. There’s surf, snorkelling, rice terraces, and waterfalls. It’s a beautiful island, an adventure island for the outdoors. Lombok also maintains its strong cultural traditions and offered us an opportunity to live the traditional village life that we remembered from our years in Kalimantan.
3. What were your first impressions of the island?
We fell in love with Lombok as soon as we got here. The beautiful beaches, aquamarine waters, rugged coastlines and traditional villages. It’s like Bali 20 years ago. You have that beautiful mix of east meets west, the haphazard chaos that is Indonesia; local markets spilling on to the streets, motorbikes piled high with families and shopping, the call to prayer sailing on the breeze, cows and buffaloes. It’s pretty magic. But, its not so rugged that you can’t find some of the small comforts that I love from home; like a good coffee or a good piece of cake.
4. How have your kids settled into living in Lombok?
They love it! The Rinjani Indah school opened a month before we arrived. The school opening was a huge part of our decision to move here. It’s been wonderful. It’s a small school but growing. The community of families are a beautiful mix of people from all around the world.
5. What does a typical day look like for your family?
Jon takes the kids to school on the motorbike in the morning, while I get a bit of work done at home. After school drop off I usually meet a bunch of the mums from school for a surf. I didn’t surf before living in Lombok. But I love it now. It’s a big part of my life here. A morning surf is followed by a fresh coconut and some chill time on the beach. Then I head back to Gerupuk where I work for a local charity, called Pelita Foundation. Pelita run after school programs for the kids in the village. I’m the English teacher. It’s a fantastic organisation and I feel very lucky to work there. The kids are so enthusiastic they arrive 2, sometimes 3 hours early for class. It’s a welcome change from teaching languages in Australia.
6. We hear you guys love a road trip, what have been some of your favourite family excursions?
Yes, we love a road trip. Lombok is a special island. It has so much to offer. The beaches along the south coast past Kuta are all beautiful, and all so different from each other. Further north are the rice terraces in Tetebatu, and the waterfalls in the hills around the base of Mount Rinjani. East Lombok also provides its own bit of magic with beautiful snorkeling in almost untouched waters. Note: You can check out our Guide to Lombok for more.
7. What advice would you give to a family thinking of making a similar move? What are some of the biggest challenges?
My advice would be just do it! It’s a bit like having a baby, you don’t wake up one day and say to yourself, right, I’ve done all the things I wanted to do, everything is in place, now I’m ready. You just take a risk, dive right in and work it out along the way. There are so many opportunities in Lombok. The economy is growing. But it’s not without its challenges. We experience regular blackouts, and the internet can be unreliable. In Gerupuk our water is delivered by truck and stored in tanks. It can sometimes take half a day for the water to arrive. You need to plan ahead and be a bit organised. There’s no hot water in most of the houses, though mostly you don’t need it. Also, the Indonesian culture can take some getting used to. You need to be patient. No one is in a hurry here. Time isn’t so important and being late is the norm. If you’re planning to do business in Lombok, be prepared to slow your pace and adjust your expectations.
For the kids I’d say the hardest part has been the language. Jon and I both speak Indonesian, but our kids don’t. They learn Indonesian at school and Jon and I have been teaching them a little, which has helped, but its been slow. Even more challenging is that the local kids speak the local language, Sasak, which is completely different to Indonesian. Most of the interactions between my kids and the locals is through sport, through football and surfing, which has been great. But the language barrier is frustrating for them. My advice to anyone planning on moving to Indonesia is to learn some of the language. It enriches your experience and allows you to interact more deeply with the people around you.
8. If you look back on your year living in Lombok, what will you remember the most?
The wonderful friends I’ve made. The morning surfs and fresh coconuts. Fun and laughter with my students in the classroom. Cold showers. Barking dogs. Cruising around on my motorbike. The relentless dust. The cows and buffaloes. Views out across Gerupuk bay. The vibrancy and chaos. Smiling faces. The relaxed pace. The mud and rain. All of it. What’s not to miss. I love my island life.
Thank you Elke, Jon, Lani and Tiko for sharing your amazing and truly unforgettable experience living in Lombok. We hope you come back again soon!
To see more on their amazing year living in Lombok, you can check out Elke’s Instagram