5 Unexpected Lessons I Learned Living in Bali

5 things learned living in paradise

I spent the winter of 2014 abroad. My husband Josh and I whiled away November and December in Venice Beach, California and then we spent a couple of months working and living in Bali. We are both fortunate to be able to work from (mostly) anywhere and so we did, working seven to eight hours a day and playing the rest of the time. We did what most deem impossible in LA: Got around without a car, just two wheels and the open bike path. We rented a car only when we needed one, but most of the time, we only went as far as our bicycles could take us.

We broadened our spiritual practice through so many classes, courses, events and adventures.  One highlight was being part of the Love Mob, where we gathered in the centre of The Grove Shopping Center the weekend before Christmas, just to share a little love.

YouTube video

In early January, we boarded a plane for a full 24 hours of travel that landed us in absolute paradise: Bali. Living in Bali was an incredible experience, let me tell you.

We had seven weeks on this magical, mystical and rapidly changing island. We were floored by the beauty, the uniqueness, the kindness of the people, the green of the green and the 98 per cent humidity that made our curly hair do ridiculous things.

Now back at home, the impact of our time living in Bali continues to affect our daily lives. One constant remains: We’re more aware than ever that gratitude, health and happiness are the most precious commodities.

Here are the five things I learned living in Bali.

1. The Gift Of Gratitude

Being grateful for things doesn’t bring more great things into your life. It invites you to see, hear, listen, feel and be present for the greatness that surrounds you everyday, in every moment. The Balinese people do not have much of what we tend to value on this side of the ocean. The don’t even have high speed internet (how can they cope without being able to stream YouTube videos of hamsters on pianos eating popcorn?) For the most part, they do not earn enough to ever leave the island. Most live in small, crowded quarters and they work really hard. And they are the happiest, kindest people I have ever met. Why?

Gratitude. It is estimated that the Balinese spend 1/3 of their lives preparing for and participating in ceremonies and celebrations, and 1/2 of their household income on offerings.

Meghan Telpner's lessons learned living in Bali

We would be sitting in the small yard of our homestay and women would come through to hang flags on our door, light incense, wave a flower and chant some prayers.

Such is the way of life. When you spend so much of your time being thankful, it kind of takes over the way you think in any given moment. The challenging experiences become opportunity for learning, growth and evolution, and the joyful experiences are abundant as you become more present to them.

Try this: Find two moments in your day to practice gratitude and create a ritual around the practice. We meditate together every morning, and always take a moment before dinner to share what we are currently feeling grateful for. It’s a little thing, but one of those little big things.

2. Simplify, Don’t Complicate

Meghan Telpner's lessons learned living in Bali

I am not sure why we complicate our lives so much, but I am thinking it has to do with feeling unhappy, or unsettled. We were living in Bali for nearly two months with only carry-on baggage, and still seemed to bring too much. Life is so much easier, more enjoyable, and more relaxed when the clutter we create gets cleared away. This one came up so often that we made up our own little song, a mantra if you will.

Simplify, don’t complicate.

Simplify, don’t complicate.

I don’t need so much on my plate.

That over there, I don’t need it!

More stuff, more clothes, a bigger house, a new partner, a baby – these things are not the secret sauce of happiness if you’re not happy as things are. Filling our closets, our cupboards, our schedules and our bellies doesn’t make us better, happier, or healthier. Shed what you don’t need, lighten the load and just simplify!

Try this: Pretend like you were packing up to move. Take just your closet and your kitchen to start. What would you take? What would be worth moving and what would you be ready to give away? Start by decluttering your physical space and you’ll find your emotional space will start to become lighter and brighter as well. That over there, you don’t need it!

3. Be Ready To Be Happy

Meghan Telpner's lessons learned living in Bali

We often attended yoga classes taught by the Balinese while we were living in Bali. They offered what was called Happy Hatha, a most awesome mix of traditional hatha yoga with ridiculously amazing bursts of laughter yoga. Our first experience had us literally in tears. I didn’t stop laughing for two hours. It was amazing. Something our teacher, Eka Sukma said resonated with me. And it was that we need to be ready to be happy.

We can’t just wake up one morning and decide, today is the day I start being happy. We need to prepare ourselves, want it and be open to it. He compared it to buying a house. He explained how people think that buying the house is the answer, but then they cause themselves more stress by needing to take out a mortgage and make payments and the house which was supposed to be a great thing, becomes another stress. Just as you need to be ready to buy that house, you need to be ready to accept happiness and all that comes with it.

Meghan Telpner's lessons learned living in Bali

What does it mean to be ready to be happy? It’s about:

Try this: Start talking to yourself in the mirror. I am totally serious. When you wake up in the morning, look yourself in the eye and laugh, smile, wish yourself good morning, tell yourself how happy you are, how much you love yourself. Smile. And laugh some more. Big belly laughs. Real or fake, the cells of your body don’t know the difference – they will just get happier. Then work on practicing happiness in any random situation. Happiness is a muscle that needs practice, exercise and more practice.

4. Always Find The Fun and Choose Love

Meghan Telpner's lessons learned living in Bali

In any given situation, you have a choice. You can choose to be cranky pants, reactive and mean, or you can smile, be kind and have fun. People often ask me if I am always as happy and silly as I appear in my videos. Of course not. I definitely wasn’t having the time of my life on hour 14 of our first of two back-to back overnight flights, but what good does complaining about discomfort or wishing for something to be different do for us? It doesn’t change the situation we are in, only serves to increase our personal suffering.

Look for the humour, look for the beauty, look for the opportunity to enjoy the moment and express it through love. And if it’s just not possible, then at the very least, take a few deep breaths and work to calm your mind, and then perhaps you’ll be able to find the fun and the love. This is the 30-second technique that I often practice. Consider that for the most part, it’s our blessings that cause our stressing.

Try this: Dance. JUST DANCE. Turn on music and shake it. This will change your energy, your mood, your spirit and your blood flow. And for the four minutes of that song, let yourself feel truly, uninhibitedly full of love. Laugh, play, make noises, make faces and shake it. Notice how you feel afterwards and then work to feel like that most of the time. That is love!

5. Practice What You Know

We know yoga is good for our mind and bodies. We know drinking green juice is better than drinking a soda. We know going to sleep early is better than staying up late. We know a good morning poop is better than not pooping. We know loving the work we do is better than hating it. We know being kind to others feels so much better than being mean. We know that being generous is better than being selfish. We know deep breaths into the belly will calm the mind and lower stress levels. We know most hair dye and nail polish is cancer-causing. We know that actively being part of a community is better than isolating ourselves. We know that saying hello to strangers we pass on the street is a friendlier gesture than avoiding eye contact. We know we should walk to the store and leave the car at home.

We know. We always know.

So let’s practice what we know because being kind, showing and sharing love, and taking care of our health will change the world we live in. Josh and I spent seven weeks living in Bali practicing what we know in every waking moment and it brought us more fulfillment, joy, unexpected conversations, adventures and connections than would have otherwise happened. Practicing what we know makes our lives better!

Try this: Choose three of the things that you know, and start doing them. Do them for a week and then share below how things changed.

Want to take on the paradise challenge?

We don’t need to go away to practice living in paradise. Our paradise is where our heart is and our heart is where we are in every moment  Why are we all so much more open and kind when we are away from home? Let’s make home our paradise!

I would love if you would take on two or three or all of the lessons outlined above and practice them for a week, maybe two. It doesn’t cost any money. It doesn’t take up any time. It’s just a practice of being kinder, more open, more loving, more playful – more you!

If you’re going to give it a try, please post a comment below and share how you are doing and what you are noticing.


  1. I won’t bore you with the details but I’m struggling with a few things at the moment and struggling to find happiness. It has made me more understanding of what it’s like to want to be happy but be finding it really hard to get there. So I definitely need a bit of conscious happy making! I pledge to smile more, practise yoga and meditate, maybe every day, put on some tunes I love and dance and do some de-cluttering at the weekend. I will report back!

  2. Thank you Meghan for sharing this! I love your wisdom and yes we do always know exactly what we need. So this week I am taking on getting more sleep, being more generous, and embracing fully doing what I love. Peace and light to you!

  3. This article couldn’t have come at a better time, everything you said resonated so much with me Meghan!

    My husband and I are on the cusp of moving from St John’s to Victoria with our kids. We are selling our house, and most of what we own, leaving at the end of May on a two month road trip across Canada. This all came together in the last week and a half, and evolved from a deep process of letting go, trusting our intuition and taking a leap of faith. We have a couple of months to tie up loose ends, and enjoy the time we have left here before embarking on this new adventure.

    Since making this decision I have been filled with so much gratitude, for the time we have spent here, as well as for the new life we are about to experience. I feel so grateful for this opportunity to take two months out of our lives to focus on each other, exploring the country together with no distractions. We fully intend to embrace each moment and focus on having fun! This process of letting go is allowing us to simplify our lives, and move to a place (physically/mentally/spiritually) where we will be living in accordance with what is most important to us, embracing each day as an adventure. Like you, we fully intend to embody these lifestyle shifts long after we arrive at our final destination!

  4. I think I will take on the challenge! For me, #2 and #5 resonate. I need to work on simplifying my life and practicing what I already know!

  5. Thanks, Meghan, for reminding us of what is really important in life. is isn’t “stuff”. I am going to continue to be grateful for my family, friends and the work that I do. I am ready to be happy – i already talk to myself, and i have been known to laugh out loud at things i see and hear. I am also going to smile at as many people as i can, so that they can feel happy as well. I am also going to find fun and choose love. i am going to not let first world problems upset me – most of the time i can’t do anything about them. I am going to try really hard to practice this, not for a week or two, but forever

  6. Meghan, this piece is brilliant! I don’t know if it’s the change in season or the amazing bowl of grilled balsamic veggies I had today but I was so ready to receive this article – such great points made and so much truth. I have so much of this to put into practice starting today! Today is the day!

  7. Hi Meghan
    I am a new student of the CNE program and I am so grateful I made this decision because so far I have enjoyed it and learned valuable things and your videos make it so much fun. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, wisdom and experiences in this blog. Definitely nourish our souls is as important as nourishing our bodies, and being happy is a decision and a commitment to ourselves. We might struggle sometimes but we cannot wait for all things to fall at the right place to be truly happy.
    I will practice not to isolate myself so much, to laugh more and say hi to me when looking at the mirror.
    Life is the not the accumulation of things but that of wonderful experiences.
    Thanks for being such an inspiration.
    Take care

  8. Loved and was inspired by this blog! Couldn’t have come at a better time! I’m going to try to practice gratitude, simplify, and practice what I already know. Off to a good start! Tonight at the dinner table, the kids and I each chose and discussed 1 thing that we were grateful for today. I think that simplifying will be the hardest to accomplish.

  9. Love it!! Live like you’re traveling, open minded, in your own paradise… I pledge to weed out my wardrobe and keep only what I love and can dance in, to read some of a novel every day and invest in imagination and… to buy fresh flowers for myself and my roommates! Thank you, Meghan!

  10. I saw number 3 on your Instagram, and loved it! I love the idea of looking at myself ~really eye-gazing not just judging my face or how I look before heading out ~ and practicing some self-love and laughter. I will start trying this. I also love movement as a way to increase love, gratitude and mindfulness. I pledge to spend more time in my hoop, on my mat, and just dancing. Last week I went for a walk, but ended up skipping and moving very silly to get my heart rate up, and I felt so great after!

  11. Meghan – AMAZING, AMAZING, AMAZING article. You hit every point that people need to really live a HAPPY life. I have been following many of the ideas that you spoke about for many years now and it has given me a much lighter life for sure.

    What I mean by that is by being able to process everything (negative or positive) much easier by not taking on emotions attached to it it leaves the weight on my shoulders and in my heart very light. I feel much more closer to the free spirit that I am.

    I am truly blessed to be aligned with such AWESOME people such as yourself. Keep doing what you are doing, and I’ll make sure to resonate the same energy and positivity from this end!


  12. This is a beautiful post that I wish that everyone in the whole world could read. I have a friend who at the end of every day asks her children what kind thing they did for someone that day. She says since they always know she is going to ask, it keeps the idea of “choosing love” always on their hearts. When she told me I thought it was such a beautiful idea, but now I’m even more inspired to do it with my own kids.

  13. Love your “Simplify, don’t Complicate” lesson that can be applied to all parts of our lives. Even when I’m writing and having trouble hitting my point I find that if I start to take words away, my message is much clearer. Welcome back to Toronto!

  14. Loved watching you trek through bali via Instagram. Thanks for bringing back these lessons- best souvenir I could have asked for! :)

  15. Hi Meghan,

    For me, your suggestion for #4 kind of fits into #5, because I know I should dance on a daily basis, and sometimes I just don’t. So along with a daily dance party, I’m going to [re]commit to a daily walk outside and taking deep belly breaths whenever I notice I’ve been bracing or holding.

    Thanks so much for this and for all you do!

  16. Meghan, thank you so much for posting this. Just dropping you a note before I open up my closets and start the clear out. Thank you for hitting on what I needed to hear – throwing out the nail polish, been holding onto it for far too long. Clearing out the makeup/perfume and other toxins. Going to practice dancing and being silly more often. Love meditation and give 2 hours to myself each morning to journal and be disconnected from the world and plugged into myself. So worth it. I try and practice gratitude and work with others when they are constantly complaining to stop and take a minute to think, what are they happy about and have gratitude about? This helps to break the constant winging and complaining or wishing. Be in the moment and be happy. Loved one of your readers post on invest in imagination, that’s brilliant!

    Anyway, just wanted to reach out and thank you, this is perfect!

  17. The unexamined life is not worth living.
    – Plato

    Meghan, I believe your blog, classes, book etc. really help people to examine the choices they are making about what they eat, how they feel and what the life they really want to be living looks like. I always enjoy how positive and informative your posts are.

  18. Such a beautiful post, need to remind myself every conscious moments what it means to be truly happy because sometimes life brings you chaos and negative people. I loved Bali I’ve been dreaming to lived in Bali one day, but what you’re saying makes me realize I need to love my own city first, will try my best to feel at home here.

  19. Oh My God … You too are so darn cute – thank you so much for sharing the video – my heart exploded with pure joy. And thanks for the many lessons. I thoroughly plan on taking them all on.
    I so love you guys.

  20. I want to start with gratitude for what I have in my life and to really laugh every day! Yes and go to bed earlier with less TV but thats boring…but will get done. Great trip report loved the dancing :)

  21. […] retirement but when you’re young and in great health. We choose to do two months in LA and two months in Bali. It was going to require all kinds of logistical arrangements, serious budgeting, planning for both […]

  22. long time fan here. i’ve had to face some very unpleasant things this year and find a way to accept ‘what is.’ rough going, but work that had to be done. i’m all signed up for the awesome life detox, and found this article to be super helpful! can’t wait to move forward even more and simplify as well. love the ‘try this’ part of each step. it’s a great way to put your suggestions into practice in an easy and practical, do-able format! bring on 2015!

  23. […] THIS blog post really resonated with me. Everything about it, but especially #4 Always Find the Fun and Choose Love, when Meghan tells you to try dancing. I have a ten month old who is up every two hours at night. He’s not a “good” sleeper, neither am I. But too little sleep day after day, week after week, month after month and I start going bonkers. I’ll cry a little, but one of the most helpful things I do when I’m about to go nuts or if the baby isn’t feeling well, is to turn on some of our favorite music and dance around. I’ll sing at the top of my lungs and dance with him. He loves it, I love doing it, it lightens the mood and the air. We relax. And more often than not, both of us are able to rest. Love is the only way through any situation.  I also want to try the happy hatha yoga she recommends. It sounds like a fun way to decompress. […]

  24. I am greatful for your desire to share your beautiful thoughts and experiences. Your blog inspires and gives value to my life. I will take on the challenge to be more kind to myself and laugh and dance daily!

  25. Love your blog! I came back from my Bali trip a few months ago, and I still can’t get over it. Ubud is the most magical place, nature is amazing, especially the rice fields! Thank you for this wonderful post, I really enjoyed it!

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