Nicole living in Bali Indonesia
Photos courtesy of Nicole Humphreys

How I Quit My Job, Moved To Bali And Started A Business

A year ago, I sat in my nondescript 3rd story office in Los Angeles, staring out the window at the people on the sidewalk below. They all moved about, oblivious in their routines, going about their days while I contemplated one of the biggest decisions of my life. 

I had just come back from my honeymoon in Bali, the first proper vacation I had taken in a few years. It came, somewhat serendipitously, after the most intense year of my life. A year in which I worked harder than I knew I was able to and endured stress levels that I am still shocked my body was able to combat.

Those magical two weeks outside of my office––not thinking about work, enjoying the outdoors, meeting new people, having adventures, going out to meals, spending quality time with my husband, feeling the sun on my face every day, woke me up to what I had been missing.

There was life happening all around me, and I was so busy working that I felt like I was missing out on it. My brain was having an internal conflict as one side of it was telling me, “Quit your job… get out and see the world… take a risk, live your life… if not now, when?” The other, more rational side of my brain was telling that side to shut the f*ck up and be appreciative of what I had.

After all, I had what I thought was my “dream job.”

I was the Director of Operations for the non-profit I was working for. I was earning a great salary, and I was working for an organization that was making a difference in the world. Career-wise, that was all I had ever (thought) I wanted.

On top of that, I had a beautiful apartment near the beach in Marina del Rey, CA, an amazing group of friends, an adorable dog, and just got married to the love of my life. I should have been on top of the world. I should have felt fulfilled.

But I was miserable.

As I sat in my office that day, watching the people outside I knew that I needed more. I needed to carve my own path, be scared, and figure something out on my own.

Most importantly though, I needed to LIVE, to have new experiences and see the world, choose what work meant for me, and to create the life I had always dreamed of.

I called my husband and told him, “I think I need to quit my job and I want to move to Bali.” After a long pause he replied, “Okay, I’m in.” (I knew I married him for a reason!)

From that point on, we spent every night at home working out the logistics and answering not-so-insignificant questions. What would we do with our apartment and all our stuff? What about our dog? How would we tell our bosses? Our families? Our friends? How were we going to make money?!? 

The hardest one for me was if and how I could be away from our fur baby (and who would watch him even if I could).

After talking to family and friends about it, everyone told me that I couldn’t let the dog stop me from having the adventure of a lifetime. “Think of it like sending him to boarding school,” they said (I’m not sure why this analogy made me more comfortable but it worked at the time.)

My in-laws graciously agreed to watch him at their home in Nebraska and all of a sudden the pieces started to all come together. We were doing this.

move to bali with your significant other - life goals mag

At least once a day during the ensuing months, one (or both) of us would freak out about the idea and want to back out.

When we finally gathered the courage to quit our jobs, though, it all started to become real. We began selling/giving away all our belongings, planned to move out our apartment and broke the news to our loved ones. We were really moving to Bali!

Luckily, Bali is a relatively inexpensive place to live, so you don’t have to be a millionaire to make a move there. We sold our cars, furniture, and anything else in our apartment that we could convince someone to give us money for.

We used that money, savings, and some generous wedding presents to help fund the move.

The next big battle was figuring out what to do to earn a living (we realized the assorted funds from the paragraph above would only get us so far). I read books, searched blogs, and talked to anyone that would give me advice.

Foreigners aren’t allowed to formally “work” in Bali (at a company, restaurant, store, etc.) so the only real option is to start your own business. Scary – but I was up for the challenge. I had a few ideas but settled on starting an online store which I named August Effects.

During our honeymoon, I was blown away by the textiles, colors, and designs I saw around the island. I was so impressed by the incredible artisans we met and the unique goods they could create.

Upon our return to Bali, I spent weeks exploring the crowded markets of Denpasar and Ubud to get inspiration. I finally decided to start a few products of my own, all of which embodied the spirit of Bali to me. I hand-picked every fabric, zipper, and thread myself and found different local artisans and manufacturers to help bring my products to life.

how to start a business that does good, while also traveling and following your dreams

My background is non-profit and one of my greatest joys is giving back so I knew I wanted to incorporate a giving aspect into August Effects. I decided to partner with Bali Children Foundation (BCF), an amazing non-profit whose mission is to provide an educational pathway for disadvantaged Balinese children.

BCF works in the rural, poverty-stricken villages of Bali, bringing education, computer skills, and real-world job training to the children they serve. BCF is currently in need of new English dictionaries for the children in their programs so for every August Effects purchase, we donate a dictionary to a BCF child. 

I know now, as I write this from an island coffee shop, drinking a fresh watermelon juice and looking out at the ocean, that the risk I was so scared to take turned out to be one of the greatest decisions of my life.

August Effects is now five months old and is been off to an incredible start. In addition to individual sales we make on, our products are in 16 retail boutiques across the US. Last month, we donated our first 102 dictionaries to the children of BCF and it was more incredible than I could have hoped for.

Today, my husband and I split our time between Bali and the US. We run our businesses from our laptops which allows us to travel as much as we want, as long as we have a WiFi connection.

However, the nomad lifestyle does come with its challenges and is not for everyone. We spend a lot of time on planning and travel logistics – what our calendars look like, where we are staying on what dates, who is watching our dog, which loyalty program miles to use to book flights, and figuring out how to realistically afford our lives and business expenses.

There are definitely sacrifices you make when you choose this lifestyle.

Our life has become one of minimalism; our personal belongings are often limited to a few suitcases, luxury accommodations are no longer on the agenda, and there’s always an awkward silence when people ask us “where are you living?”

It can be stressful at times, but most of the time I feel incredibly grateful for our lifestyle. I feel free, creative, and incredibly passionate. I am never bored. I am constantly looking forward to the next adventure and I’ve grown to love giving up some control over life. I let the universe guide me and live in the moment as much as possible.

How to move to Bali and start your own business

If anyone out there is thinking about quitting their job to travel, to start their own business, or just do something different, my advice is this:

Take the time to envision your ideal life.

Figure out what you are passionate about and when you feel the most at peace, most creative, or most content. In this ideal life, think about where you are, how you feel, what your career looks like, what your partner is like, etc.

If you envision something for yourself that requires you to make changes in your life, then do it. Step out of your comfort zone. Take baby steps every day to make those changes. Creating your dream life does not happen overnight, it takes time, dedication, and work.

Create a morning routine that serves you

Every morning, I practice self-care through 15-20 minutes of guided meditation, gratitude journaling, and writing a “future biography” of myself as if someone was writing it about me five years in the future. By doing this each morning, I’m able clearly set my intentions for the day and manifest the life of my dreams.

Take that leap of faith

Lastly, my biggest recommendation is to take that leap of faith and go for whatever you are dreaming of! It will be scary. You will have doubts.

It will be a roller coaster.

You will have good days and bad days.

It will be hard work.

In the end, though, it will make you stronger and it just may be the greatest decision of your life!

quit my job to move to bali

What it's like to quit your job, move to Bali and start your own business abroad. #entrepreneur #wanderlust
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