New York vs. Bali: The Differences & Similarities Of Digital Nomad Life

This guest post is written by Amanda Smith from Loco Travel Magazine.

New York and Bali. They’re worlds apart, yet they share similarities. It’s hard to think of any, unless you’ve lived in both.

Once you spend enough time in a place, you get to know its personality. What’s under the surface, instead of just a quick glance at how it ‘looks’. For the past three months, I’ve called New York home. And for the best part of last year, it was Bali.

The more I travel, the greater contrast I yearn for. I lived the island life, so I was ready for the big city lights of New York City. That’s the part of this lifestyle that I still pinch myself about. To be able to experience life on opposite sides of the world educates you like nothing else can. The lessons come at the most unexpected of times.

Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned when comparing NY and Bali.

New York Cafe Culture

City life & island life. 7 similarities & differences.

1. They both teach you minimalism

In Bali, people don’t have much. It shows you how little you need to live. People wear the same clothes every day. Their most expensive item is their scooter. The ocean is their playground – their muse. The Balinese find happiness through their environment, not things.

And in New York, you’re forced to downside your belongings. The apartments simply aren’t big enough for you to own a lot of stuff. Although for different reasons, both places teach you minimalism.

2. You find your own area

I loved Canggu. Although it’s becoming popular now, I was attracted to the laid-back, local surf vibe it has. I rarely left Canggu, apart from sporadic trips to Ubud and Lombok. Canggu became my Bali.

The same happened in New York. I settled in Brooklyn, which was my New York. I travel into Manhattan weekly to meet friends and explore, but Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is my home. I can travel the world without leaving my borough.

Manhattan New York City

3. Healthcare is an issue. Locals are struggling.

As an Australian, it’s easy to take healthcare for granted. For us, having access to support isn’t a luxury, but a right. Both New York, well the United States, and Bali both have exorbitant healthcare costs. I’ve spoken to dozens of locals in both NY and Bali – they’re all struggling to keep their head above water.

The income doesn’t match the cost of healthcare. Add student loans into the mix for New Yorkers, and healthcare seems almost impossible for someone in their mid-twenties who are too old to be on their parents cover.

4. The café culture

If you love cafes like me, you’ll be in brunch heaven in both places. But let me warn you, brunch NY-style can get boozy.

Picture two hours of mimosas, free pour, and you’ll get the idea. Food included, of course.

Coffee Culture in New York

5. It’s as safe or as dangerous as you make it

I’ve felt unsafe in Bali just as much as I have in NY. There’s this stigma of danger associated with NY, but I’ve never felt my safety was compromised. The sheer amount of people make the city safe.

You can walk on any street at any time, and there will be people around you. Keep your wits about you and you’ll be fine in both places.

6. The morning / night culture

I’m a morning bird, so in Bali I was in my element. Go into any café or coworking space at 7.30am and you’ll be surrounded by surfers and morning runners. The floor was covered in shoes, and everyone sat cross-legged, carefree. The surf culture shapes the daily way of life here, making it a place that makes you want to get up early.

NY, on the other hand, comes alive at night. Wander into any café at 7.30am and it’s dead, but anytime from 11.00am you’ll struggle to get a seat. Creatives burn the midnight oil working into the night. It’s completely normal to see coffee shops filled at 10.00pm still.

Living here, I’ve had to readjust my body clock to start later, to flow with the energy of the city.

7. In Bali, surfers rule. In NY, no identity dominates.

The surf, health scene dominates in Bali. There’s a long-haired surfer holding his board or an organic café almost everywhere you turn. But the sheer diversity of NY means you can’t categorise the city by an identity. It’s easy to blend in here because of the sheer amount of personalities.

You’ve got your Wall Street professionals in the Financial District, hipsters of Williamsburg, the chic bohemians in West Village, the Mediterranean’s in Queens, the tourists in Midtown, and that’s just scratching the surface. You can be anyone and anything here. The only common thread is individuality.

I could go on for days about what I’ve observed between NY and Bali. I’m one of those people that love city life just as much as island life. I listen to my body and follow a feeling. Right now, I’m yearning for some sun, but I’m not done with this city yet.

Have you been to New York or maybe even lived there as a digital nomad?


About the Author:

Amanda writes from the heart, telling stories about places by talking about its people. Never able to store away her backpack for long, she’s been to over 30 countries – where she’s slept under the Saharan Desert stars and hitchhiked across European borders. Amanda is currently living in New York City and shares authentic narratives of travel on her Blog Loco where it’s not about ticking off bucket lists but taking ownership of our own travel experiences.


  1. noah meyer June 2, 2017 at 6:37 am - Reply

    Very cool article. Thanks!

  2. Kevin June 9, 2017 at 12:27 am - Reply

    Just a comment on healthcare.
    I agreee the general traditional hospitol / doctor costs are high.. but medical tourism in Bali in bothe the preventive and aesthetics is both very well priced and high quality. Things like anti-aging, chiro and especially dentistry is now a major interest for Australiand, Europeans and other countries in the SE Asia reions to have a great excuse to come to save heaps on those costs.
    Thanks for the nice comparisons with NY.

    • Carolin June 10, 2017 at 2:20 am - Reply

      Thanks a lot Kevin for your comment, appreciate you opinion and I am sure most people from western countries are aware of that too.

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