Where are you from and what do you do?
We’re Chelsea and Todd from the USA. We’d been living for 7 years in New York City. Todd is in Advertising, and Chelsea does Events.
When did you first come to Bali?
We’d been planning our one year trip for 3 years and flew to Thailand on Jan 30th, 2020 which was the day the WHO announced the global pandemic! Like many people, at that time we thought it’s not going to touch us!
We had a detailed itinerary for our planned year-long trip, with 20+ countries. We arrived in Thailand , went north, went into Laos, Cambodia and we were in Vietnam when it all went south.
We flew to Bali on March 18, 2020. We had been faced with making the decision of what to do. Our family and friends were calling us and saying “Are you coming home?” Do we risk travelling back? Or do we continue with this amazing experience?
So we decided to go to Bali just 2 days before we got on the plane. We really didn’t know much about the island of Bali. We had planned to go there but that was supposed to be a couple of months later.
Why did you decide to stay in Bali?
Honestly, we took a leap of faith! We thought maybe we’d stay for approximately a month. And we ended up staying for 7 months.
The first place we stayed was in Nusa Dua and then we travelled around to Canggu and Ubud, and we really loved the area of Ubud.
What made you want to build here?
We were staying in some amazing Airbnbs and we thought “Why did they do it this way? Why didn’t they do it that way?” And we thought, “If we did this, we would do it this way”, and that was the first point where we thought we could do this. We could figure out how to do it ourselves.
We had saved some money for our big one year trip but we realised that due to the pandemic we couldn’t do all the trip in the way we wanted, so we would have some extra money that we wanted to do something with.
We have a financial advisor in New York who had helped us save for the trip. We contacted her and she said “Funnily enough, one of my other clients is in the process of building in Bali as well so let me connect you”. And so we spoke with her and she had a friend, a local business owner, who could walk us through the process of building. He has close relationships with landowners and designers, and has built a few villas. We’ve been very lucky to meet a lot of good people.
What do you love about Bali?
The people, of course. We met incredible people, some life-long friends, our pandemic family!
We went into this trip looking for some clarity on where we want to be for the rest of our lives and what do we want to do. And I honestly don’t think we would have found that if we had gone on the path that we had set out on – visiting 20 places and always on the move.
Bali was the place where our minds could, for the first time, be free and envision what we wanted. So it has a magical feeling to us.
Not many people get that opportunity to say “Screw it, I’m going to take off a year”. When we got to Bali, we were still in that New York state of mind. And Bali allowed us to slow down and relax. A few months later, we get up and enjoy the day. There’s this wonderful clarity.
Did you do much research before you decided to build?
We did a lot of research at the beginning to try to understand how things work. But once we found our contact in Ubud, everything just kind of unfolded because he knew all the right people
Normally, I’m a very detailed person and I really like to research as much as possible, but this was kind of a leap of faith for us.
How did you choose this piece of land?
Our consultant showed us a few different plots of land and there were a few that didn’t quite work. And then we found one and we thought this could be it. The land is 5 are and we loved it. We thought about it for a couple of days… and it all came together quite quickly!
It’s a quiet spot, 10-15 mins away from Ubud centre. When we saw it, it was a very quiet and romantic feeling. There are no other buildings there to block our view.
We’re hoping to help the farmer in front of our land so he doesn’t need to sell his land and can keep on using it as rice fields.
Are you using an architect/contractor or managing it yourself?
It turned out that the landowner is also the builder so that kind of worked out in our favour. He’s built quite a few villas around Bali and we’d seen his finished product. He saved us a lot of headaches. We’re building a 2 bedroom villa. It’s footprint is 110m, not including the garden or pool.
How long has your build been going and when do you expect to finish? Did you plan it to take this long?
Construction started in early late July/early August last year. By the time we left in October, there wasn’t a ton that had been built, just the foundations.
We had to leave Bali then but we were weirdly at peace with it. We put a lot of trust in our builders. We had seen a lot of their finished products and felt confident.
Have you made any changes to the design?
We were actually surprised that we haven’t and I think it’s because we did a lot of design planning at the beginning. We were very clear on what we wanted so we didn’t need to change much. We’re going to add an outside section with a bathtub, but overall we haven’t changed a ton at all.
How often do you visit your build?
We haven’t been back since we left Bali in October 2020! We have close friends there who own a hotel and they are our boots on the ground. We entrusted them with checking the build quality, and so far, so good.
We thought that we would be back in Bali by now, but it just hasn’t worked out that way.
We’re paying our builder in stages so we can check that each stage is complete before the next payment. The builder stays motivated that way!
We like to be in contact with the team on a daily basis because we don’t have the luxury of walking up to the site and pointing out certain things to check they are being done right. In the late stages that we are in right now, things happen so quickly.
Having good people on the ground, who are on our side, has been the biggest blessing for us. Since we can’t be in Bali, they can advocate for us.
There’s a lot of different people, outside of the build, who are working on the build, so we have to be in regular contact with them. We’re working with Wendy from The Interior Tailor
I have a background in Events, and managing when things don’t go to plan! So I’m used to remaining very level-headed and that’s helped us with this build process.
When will you finish?
We started in July 2020, and were supposed to be finished in May 2021, and I think we’re still about a month out. So we’re pretty happy with the progress.
Where are you now?
We had to go back to the USA for a wedding and one of my old bosses hit me up and said “I’ve got this opportunity in Bangkok. Are you interested?” And I said tell me more.
Low and behold, after 2 weeks of interviews, they offered me the job on the day we were flying back to the US. They asked if I could start in January? and I said “Yes I can!”.
So we had 3 months to see friends and family in the USA, and then we moved to Bangkok in January 2021!
Obviously, we had the build going in Bali, so it’s kind of destiny. We can move to South East Asia and it only a short flight to Bali so we can easily pop in.
Being stuck in Bangkok, which has been under different lockdowns, means I have time to focus on the villa. I had planned to be there in person, but I can check things online and be a mini-project manager.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking about building here?
Have a lot of patience
From the beginning, have a clear direction of what you want it to be, but also know when to pick and choose your battles with the builder!
Just do it! It opens up so many opportunities!
You can follow Chelsea and Todd’s journey to build their villa here
We’d love to hear your story!
If you’re building in Bali (or have recently finished building) and would like to be featured in our Build Diary, please contact us at email@example.com