Where has the past 2 years and 2 months gone?

Leaving Bali.

I abandoned Bali on the 4th April 2021, or at least it felt that way. Covid had been active for a year. The Bali tourism economy was in tatters. My finances were tapped out and I’d borrowed to keep things afloat. I was eligible for the Australian age pension and it looked attractive, but I had to return to Australia to qualify and then live there for 2 years before I could return full time to Bali and keep getting the pension. I hated the thought of going, leaving Bayu, our dogs, my work mates, all of my friends, but I sucked it up and headed to Australia, a country I had not visited for 16 years. Bayu cried. I cried. How would we survive?


‘Do what you have to do,’ became my mantra. Arriving in Australia I spent two weeks quarantined in a Sydney hotel. Then, it was home to Mum and my sister, Janet, living on the Gold Coast. Catching up with friends and family, dieting, walking, writing, as well as applying for and getting the pension filled the first few months. Daily phone calls to Bayu as well as working on-line for Private Ubud Villas, filled out the rest of my days. Life was busy, but I couldn’t imagine following this same routine for two years.

What else could I do?

Mum put a roof over my head and the pension provided limited funds, but I wanted to earn real money, clear debts and get a place of my own. Before Bali, I’d had a successful teaching career, much of it in remote far north Queensland. Was I too old at sixty-six to resume teaching? Would I be able to manage my urostomy bag while holding down a job? Was this the solution to my problems? I registered as a teacher, and applied for a teaching position in the Torres Strait, where accommodation was provided.

Landing on my feet.

Within days I received a phone call from Paula, the principal at Badu Island, offering me a nine month contract teaching a Year 1 and 2 class. Accommodation was provided. I thought she was crazy making me this offer. I was old, physically damaged and hadn’t taught for the past fifteen years, but I hoped I could do it. She reassure me that I would be fine. After consulting with Bayu, I accepted the offer and flew into Badu in early September, 2021.

I felt so welcomed.

Paula met me at the airport and drove me to the school. In 2003 I’d done a mural painting contract at Badu Island, working with school kids and the first image I saw as we approached the school was a mural we’d painted together nearly two decades ago. I’d also done mural painting contracts at half the other schools in the Torres Strait back then and the photographs of each mural provided inspiration for works on canvas I painted back in my Bali studio.

Teaching is hard work.

Teaching at any age is hard work, but at sixty-six, it was a constant challenge, but I loved my job, my class and the friendship and support of colleagues. If I couldn’t be in Bali, then working at Badu Island was the next best thing. My initial contract was extended and I taught at Badu for sixteen months, before I did my final contract at Boigu Island, where I’d been the principal forty years before.

And then it was over.

Teaching made the time fly, but I counted down the days to the 5th of April 2023, and the end of my pension qualifying period. Bayu was at home in Bali, managing the business, looking after the dogs, living a very quiet life and also counting down the days. In March, 2023 I flew to the Gold Coast, registered for the pension again, said my good-byes and on the 10th April, I flew home to Bali, Bayu, our dogs and the life I’d been missing.

Home in Bali

I thought I’d hit the ground running, but my mind refused to focus on all the components of my life. I had all the time in the world but little motivation. I wanted to rest and watch Netflix. The past two years were exacting a toll, but I knew my drive would return if I set myself goals.

My unpaid work for Private Ubud Villas had to be done, so everyday, I got on with handling bookings, checking on villas and generally catching up with our staff, guests and owners. Motivation was not needed to do this job.

My art studio was a mess. In my absence, it had become a dumping ground for excess villa furniture, broken appliances, cots, high chairs and other items we use in villas when guests come with young children. My paintings were covered in dust. After a month, I couldn’t stand it any longer and I asked all my staff to join me one afternoon to sort out the gallery. Twenty willing bodies dived into cleaning, sorting and throwing out. The ute took a mound of rubbish to the dump. Villa gear was sorted, moved and relocated to a separate storage area, and my paintings were cleaned and rehung. The studio awaits and I’m nearly ready to start painting again. Murals I painted with kids at Badu Island in late 2022, are the inspiration for a new series of painting I will begin in mid June.

My passion for writing had also disappeared, but I forced myself to read old drafts. I have six books well underway and needed to decide which one I would focus on completing. “Painting My Future,” has won and I’m employing a writing coach to pace and mentor me to ensure I complete this book.

‘Walking more and eating less,’ is an additional goal for my Bali life, but this too has kicked off slowly. Bayu and I are off for a two week holiday in Thailand in a few days time and we are determined to make sure walking and sensible eating are a part of this vacation.

So I’m back in Bali, cloaked in love, smiles and laughter and my drive is gradually returning. I’ll share our Thai adventures in my next blog. Until then be happy.


13 thoughts on “Where has the past 2 years and 2 months gone?”

  1. Great to hear from you again Steve. I can imagine you would have been exhausted when you got home so totally understand time with Netflix ! Good to hear you are getting your mojo back! Xx💕

  2. Glad you are well Steve and home where your heart is . You done the hard yard for the past 2 years and now you can relax with the help of your Australian pension . Hopefully after your trip to Thailand you will be inspired to create your next stage in life and love . No doubt your enthusiasm for adventure and creativity will return tenfold . We look forward to the next chapter . Much love and best wishes Marilyn and Mike

  3. Steve,
    you express yourself so authentically..so good to hear from your orbit. Almost cried for joy knowing your mural from days gone by is still there for all to enjoy !

  4. Great to read Steve well done…looking forward to getting back this weekend. Cheers Kennedy

  5. Our stories are different but so much is the same. I’m 81 now and living with my daughter Bec who also remembers you with so much fondness and admiration. My temptation is to sit in my electric chair and watch Netflix but I have managed some painting and writing. Publishing “A Life In Short Stories” was a major achievement as it brought together so much of my life’s writing. I am now focused on writing screen plays and recently reached the quarter finals of the Bondi International Screenwriting Competition. Keep going Steve. You’re an inspiration.

  6. Steve, what a delightful read and it’s good to get caught up with you through your blog. Your writing is always compelling and it draws me into your stories.
    It’s good to hear you’ve returned to a life you love.

  7. The murals are gorgeous! What a lovely legacy
    for you and the children of Badu Island.

  8. Oh, my serendipity Bulan Mass travel mates were having coffee this morning and of course talking about you where were you how were you I go home to open my mail and there you were! So happy life has and is treating you well great to hear from you regards Mollie

  9. Delighted that you’re back home in Penestanan, Steve. Missed you on my last visit, but did have a nice chat with Bayu. Best of luck as you continue life where you’re supposed to be! Cheers.

  10. Thank you for your update, was wondering how you went through Covid. And glad your writing and painting again. Look forward to your new works. Virginia

  11. You are such an inspiration Steve, just doing what needs to be done. Your perseverance has paid off. Keep healthy and happy 😘

  12. Dear Steve,

    What an amazingly uplifting and joyous read, an awesome inspiration you are. Your approach to what had to be accomplished was a wonderful example – identify the goal, determine the path to achieving it and then do it!

    So wonderful to know you are back where your heart belongs and sings. May each day hold many moments of great beauty, wonder and awe.

    Wishing you and Bayu wellness and happiness always and enjoy every moment in Thailand.

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