Breaking news, my dear friends (because really, after all these years, aren’t we?)

I am a homeowner in Bali.

And a resident of Brooklyn.

I am so deeply content.

Alex with Brooklyn Bridge behind her, NY
Statue of liberty illuminated at night, NY

And I truly can’t wait to tell you every detail about it.

But, in short, in just about the most perfect alignment of dreams I could imagine, I went in kind of the blink of an eye (or, at least, the blink of two months) from feeling achingly lost and adrift to having not one but three beautiful homes in Bali, Brooklyn, and Oak Bluffs.

And saying goodbye to another.

City architecture

A Wandering Heart

I haven’t had a home that felt truly like my own since I left my adorable little one bedroom apartment in Koh Tao abruptly in the summer of 2018

I loved that objectively ugly little apartment deeply. It felt like home. I recharged there, I hosted there, friends and sometimes even family gathered there. After selling off and packing up the last remnants of a beautiful seven years in Thailand, I sat in stunned silence with my island family on the steps of the front porch, absolutely oblivious to what I was truly saying goodbye to, to how many years it would be till I’d hold my own set of keys in my hands again.

I moved my physical body back into the house I grew up in, a house I love dearly to this day, but it was no longer the refuge my north star, my mom, once warmly welcomed me home to. Rather, it had become a place to survive a great tragedy, and place to make her final year comfortable amid a cruel and relentless disease.

Handstands in the city

When my mom passed away in late 2019, I’d lost my mom, a very close friend, and my dog, and ended a five year relationship, all within a year. I suddenly felt crushed by the weight of three thousand square feet stuffed to the brim with generations of family heirlooms — as well as the clothes and hobbies and precious and mundane objects of a woman stopped in the tracks of living a vibrant life. I needed out. But I didn’t really know where to go.

The community I’d left behind in Koh Tao had disbanded with the closing of Banyan Bar. So, I had a travel business I was raring to get back to. I had a new, burgeoning love in Tel Aviv. I had friends I felt I’d missed out on a year of my waning youth with. So, I bounced around living out of a suitcase, trying to juggle all of that and in retrospect I see, outrun my suffocating grief.

Sunset behind city skyscrapers

Sitting still made me want to crawl of out of skin. I hate that phrase, but it’s the only way to describe the sensation of almost physically convulsing with the discomfort of your own thoughts and memories.

The events of 2020, of course, put an unwelcome end to many of my options for distraction and comfort. In late 2020, I felt an almost panicked push to find a home. I considered countless options in the US and abroad, trying to balance factors like my distaste for winter and my craving for being near people I love.

Rainbow over city architecture, NY

While many wondered why I didn’t decamp to our family cottage in Martha’s Vineyard, which my sister and I inherited, it’s from the 1800’s and not “winterized,” meaning it can only be lived in roughly April through November; not to mention it’s even less accessible than Albany, and there’s not a great year-round community of people my age there. And at the time, it didn’t quite yet feel like my home.

The heat map of humans in my life eventually won out over the physical heat of more tropical locations, and in early 2021 I actually started the process of actually looking at properties in New York City; what seemed like perhaps my one opportunity to ever own real estate in the notoriously pricey market now humbled by a pandemic. The girl who spent her twenties paying cash for a bungalow in the Thai jungle finally figured out her credit score and how to apply for a mortgage, and started making the rounds of real estate viewings.

Alex with bike overlooking the NY city skyline

Globe sculpture
Sunglasses held up to NY city skyscraper

But aside from the fact that the market was heating back up again and I was shocked by the size and location of the apartments available to me, I couldn’t deny the impracticality of paying for a full time home in one of the most expensive cities in the world when I travel so frequently, and said city has banned short term rentals of under 30 days. The mortgage payments just seemed enormous with no opportunity to recoup with rentals. Eventually, I decided to shelve that particular dream, but with gratitude for everything I had learned from the process that once seemed so over my head.

Travel and work were starting to heat up again. So, it was back to the nomad life for me.

For the next year or so, I bounced between work trips, sublets, Airbnbs, the empty homes of generous friends who opened them to me, and occasional sojourns back to Albany where I’d swap out the thousand pound bags I was trudging across the earth and try to make progress on the seemingly never-ending and always-dizzying process of cleaning out my childhood home for eventual sale. What was I going to do with all this… stuff? Mine, my mom’s, my great great freaking grandma’s? I know it sounds obsessive, but there was truly a constant low-level buzz in the back of my mind wherever I was in the world, stressing about that. I was tired, burned out, and desperately seeking a sense of home in all the wrong places. I was unsettled.

City architecture at sunset

I did spend two weeks in our Oak Bluffs home in the summer of 2022, in which I spent some time trying to truly nest and feel some deeper connection with this property that I’d been overwhelmed by, the previous two summers that my sister and I tried to take over the responsibilities of renting and running. I woke up every morning and practiced gratitude for this precious family home our mom created for us, and with each drawer I organized, I felt myself more aligned with this old cottage. The return on time and energy investment was amazing, and I started to feel ownership of the house in a way I hadn’t before. It was like a little hint — this is how good it can feel, to feel home. 

Saying Hello to Brooklyn

In the fall of 2022, some of my closest and oldest friends in New York approached me about a shared home they were living in and I was a frequent visitor and subletter of — a house I have referred to over the years with a wink as “The Commune” due to the sheer number who live there. Seven humans — give or take a subletter — and one dog call this gorgeous, fully intact brownstone in Bed Stuy home.

Living area in New York

While it wasn’t the area I’d have asked a genie who gave me three wishes for my house to be located, in part due to the long commute to subway stops, it truly already felt like home. The rent was insanely reasonable, the roommates were open to sublets, there was no long-term lease to sign, and the house was filled with creative people who inspire me, make me laugh, and with whom I have so much mutual love and adoration.

New York architecture

Bedroom light in Brooklyn, NY
Woman holding cat in Brooklyn, NY

There’s a beautiful backyard with a peach tree and grapes growing around the fire pit, the neighbors I plan to befriend next door have an outdoor barrel sauna, the garden level has studio space and a pottery wheel, and the first floor a beautiful communal kitchen, dining room, and living room. There are spontaneous communal meals, cuddly nights with the projector, solo morning teas on the rooftop, and lots of laughs and adventures.

The bedroom available to me was more like a studio. It has a spacious walk-in closet, its own half bath, and enough space for a California king bed, a small office space, a couch and tv area, and a small kitchenette I’m building out.

Monstera plant in city
Plants in bathroom, NY

Walking through the city in Brooklyn, NY

While one roommate would for some reason feel like an immense amount of social pressure, seven means there’s always someone around if you need to share a hug or a glass of wine — but there’s no one who’s relying very specifically on you for those things, either.

Kitchen in Brooklyn, NY

Daffodils in New York City
Dog portrait in NY subway station

So I said yes — but that I couldn’t move in until the spring.

I admit, the commitment-phobe in me was already crawling the walls of the home I hadn’t moved into, and I immediately started thinking of how I could get out of it. My intuitive soul sister Steffi even sent me a message at one point telling me, you know, you don’t have to go through with this. We will still love you if you change your mind.

Living space in Brooklyn, NY

Central Station, NY

Bedroom in Brooklyn, NY

Eating, Praying, Loving

Meanwhile, I landed in Bali at the end of January eager to see if it would still inspire me the way it once did.

I first came to Indonesia in 2013 to do my divemaster on Gili Trawangan, with fun stops in Bali and Lembongan along the way, then bopped back to spend more time in Bali while living in Thailand in 2017 and totally fell in love with Canggu and Uluwatu β€” plus a cute trip to the Sugi Islands in 2018 that made me realize how much of Indonesia there was to explore.

Before I left Southeast Asia abruptly in 2018, Bali was my intended next move. As many unexpected turns as life took and as many more logical paths I tried than a volcanic island with bad airlift halfway across the world from my family, the black sands of Bali and the warm year round sun of Southeast Asia did still linger in my mind.

I had to walk down that path to see if the door at the end of it was still open. 

I will tell you that the Bali I found in 2023 blindsided me in some ways β€” it’s a very different place than the one I left and at first, the door felt pretty shut. But, that’s the subject for another post, and with time, I started to remember the rhythms of life on a Southeast Asian island — even if this one is 275 times the size of the one I spent my twenties on — and wiggle it a little less ajar.

My besties had already been planting seeds about what an amazing investment opportunity Indonesia could be for months. I was skeptical, but my curiosity was piqued, and I talked to friends who owned homes or land about their process, bopped around different rental villas to feel out various neighborhoods, and started meeting with real estate agents.

Bali Bathroom, Indonesia
Bali living area, Indonesia

Buying property in Indonesia as a foreigner is a fairly complicated process, one that others have outlined much better than I have interest in doing, so there are plenty of resources for those interested in learning more. I’m simply interested in sharing more my emotional journey of buying my first home than the technical one, but I will say that overall I found the process to be welcoming to foreigners, if complex. 

I went into the process thinking I knew what I would hypothetically want: a one-bedroom “turn-key” property in Canggu — the Williamsburg of Bali — that I would reside in while I got to know Bali more intimately, and land in Seseh or Kudungu — the, I don’t know, East Flatbush of Bali? — where many of my friends were building dream houses as an investment in the future, when development will inevitably spread towards those beaches. But while things may be slowly crawling in that direction, they aren’t there now, and at the moment it’s more suited to families and couples than a social single gal like ya girl.

Because of Bali’s shocking and overwhelming traffic issue, I was incredibly specific about location. I wanted to be on the “beach side” (many properties are now being built north of a thoroughfare called Raya Canngu, which I pretty steadfastly refused to consider as they just felt too remote) and I wanted to be in Canggu or Pererenan, though would also consider a dream property in Berawa.

Bali architecture

The rumors were true — Bali is back, baby, and so anyone who owns a home there is sitting pretty with rental income. Great news for those who already own, less great for those who want to buy, as, as my real estate agent explained, logically, no one would really sell at the moment unless they were desperate or needed a huge cash infusion for an even bigger project.

Many, then, are going for new builds, called “off-plans” in Bali, where you essentially fund the build of your portion of a villa development. Prices go up as the projects near completion, and it’s a more affordable option than buying a finished home. But quality can vary, and I loathed going and standing in a chaotic construction site trying to envision a home. And really, I didn’t want to wait another year for construction to complete. Once I started to allow myself to be vulnerable enough to think that this might actually be something I want, I realized I how bad I really did — and now.

Handstand in yoga studio, bali

I started to get a bit more flexible in what I was willing to consider. And, as my knowledge expanded, my desires did change, too. I realized the way land is leased in Bali, buying something as a “future investment” isn’t a great idea — you need to be ready to build immediately, which helped me shelve the idea of a more remote land purchase for the future.

Sunset and cafe lights, Bali

And, the more properties I visited, the more I envisioned hosting my friends and family there — and a one bedroom started to feel small. To have people fly across the world and then put them in a hotel felt wrong after all the hospitality I’ve received in my lifetime — I wanted the opportunity to return it.

So began the courtship process, one that in fact did remind me very much of dating. You look at a profile, see if you feel a spark and if so, meet in person. There you try to ask yourself — can I picture a future here? A few places, I thought I might.

So too did my commitment-phobia rear its head here. Wait, shouldn’t I check out Cabo, Mexico, before I really made any solid plans?!, I’d think, tossing and turning in the middle of the night. And then I’d roll my eyes so hard at myself, I’d have to look for a local optometrist. No, I was trying something new. I was trying focusing my wandering eye on one idea. I was trying sticking something out. I forged ahead. 

Cliff in Bali, Indonesia

First there was the old rice silo a French couple had converted into a stunning studio with two satellite rental units that I spent the weekend deciding to put an offer in on, before they pulled it off the market that Monday. Then there was the rundown one bedroom loft that I fell truly head-over-heels for, making me realize that perhaps I was more interested than I thought in putting my own mark on a place. That one was hard to talk myself out of, even as I realized it was riddled with licensing and legal issues. Meanwhile, I tried to talk myself into a stunning three bedroom that seemed like it was everything I ever wanted, but for some reason I could never picture myself waking up in.

At the end of March, I left for Thailand feeling defeated. In two short months I had grown from ambivalently asking some questions about the real estate buying process to desperately wanting to put down an offer before I left Indonesia. I could feel how frantic my energy was before I left, not wanting to once again have “wasted” so much time on something that didn’t come to fruition.

airplane wing with sunset behind

The Glass Slipper

Before I’d left to run my retreats in Thailand, I had primarily been working with one really lovely foreign real estate agent, but when I was frustrated by the lack of inventory, I met with an Indonesian one who I hoped might have other connections. She had yet to show me a single property, telling me, I know what you want, I haven’t seen it yet, I don’t want to waste your time.

I was in a Bangkok dentist waiting room with an ice pack on my face when I saw a message from her. Can you get to Bali by tomorrow?

I was intrigued. And cold.

Bali Kitchen
Bali backyard with pool and pergola

She had met with some builders she was friendly with about a seven villa development project they were working on in Seseh when they casually mentioned they were about to close a villa they’d built in Pererenan — but the buyer was being difficult. Let me see it, she’d asked.

She said from the moment she walked in, she thought of me. Two bedrooms, a beautiful bathtub in the master bath, a home office, and a pool overlooking a rice paddy. Not so small I couldn’t host; not so big I’d feel adrift alone in my own home.

I watched the walkthrough video she sent me while a doctor injected novocaine into another quadrant of my mouth for the next round. I had a knot in my stomach waiting not to love it.

But I did.

I can get there by Friday, I told her. As I hustled to arrange my travel back to Bali, I asked all the questions I had diligently learned to ask, and I liked the answers — to all except the price. However, my mind played back a recent prayer I’d sent the universe saying please, I’ll pay everything I have… just let the perfect house appear.

But price wasn’t the only issue — remember, there was another buyer. In fact, they already had a notary appointment scheduled. However, the three builders of the house, young Europeans around my age, were very Bali and very like me in that it was important to them to have a good relationship and good energy around a sale. For them, they were offering their life’s work and passion. For me, I was offering my life’s savings. There was not, apparently, a good vibe exchange happening with the current buyer, who my real estate agent confided in me, was pushy and negative. 

I checked into an obscenely overpriced last-minute Airbnb in Canggu and immediately messaged the owners, as I always did these days, asking if I could buy it. Ha. High on the possibility that I was touring my dream home the next day, I went out to dinner with friends and celebrated, but was in bed early in anticipation of the next day.

I did not stay in bed long. I was greeted back to Indonesia with an unwelcome salutation: Bali belly.

In any other circumstances, after a night of torturous cramps and zero sleep, I’d have cancelled a viewing. But I knew that wasn’t an option here. So, texting my sympathetic real estate agent a warning, I gingerly got ready for the viewing prepared to pretty much crawl through the property.

A friend of mine in Bali had told me when he was looking for land, he knew the moment he turned down the gang (street, in Bahasa) to view it, that it was going to be the one. I had a similar feeling as we slipped past a temple and drove along Balinese gating on one side, and a babbling stream on the other. It felt like I was driving home.

While certainly only a few weeks away from completion, the site was still in the very final stages of construction. Still, I couldn’t help but smile. I could picture myself waking up here. 

Bali bathroom with tub

I asked for a few hours to go to a pharmacy, take a bath — you know you’re sick when you can’t stand in the shower — and think. My real estate agent set us a meeting with the sellers for that afternoon, and we arranged to go back to the house and look again after. 

The sellers were very sweet — it was the second property they’d built in Bali and they did so with a lot of love. When they told me, it’s important to us to create something beautiful in the world, I had that same feeling I’d had driving down the gang — this is my home. I left the meeting with a smile (and a stomach cramp).

After a few hours of sitting with it, I was able to view the space a little more clear-headed that afternoon and formulate a few important questions. There were minor issues — there was little to no storage in the house, there is an empty lot to the left (meaning construction could start at any time and devastate rental ability and sanity) and major ones — the rice paddy it was overlooking could be sold to developers at any moment, a possibility that made my stomach hurt both at the time and as I write this.

But, it wasn’t a quick cheap build. It was built with super high quality materials, and with a lot of love and good intentions by people who cared. The location and layout, the two most important factors, made me melt.

The next day, sitting quietly on the couch, I put together an offer and an offer letter, and sent it off full of butterflies. As I got ready for dinner, they countered, and I responded. 

That night, I was at dinner with my Indonesian friend Rifqi when the message came through. My second offer had been accepted.

The euphoria that night as several of my Bali friends came out to celebrate kicked off a parade of high-key emotions that lasted the week as a whirlwind of to-dos wiped out my schedule — notary appointments, letter of intent appointments, rental management company appointments, bank appointments, all racing against the clock of my impending departure. Eventually, I pushed it back three days, the absolute maximum I could manage and still get back to the US in time to get down to my conference in Puerto Rico.

I oscillated between pure joy — truly, I felt so lucky to have found this house — and pure terror, wondering if I’d made the biggest mistake of my life, something my dad reassured me is an experience everyone feels when buying their first home. And you know what? Even if it was. It was time to take a big swing.

Friends smiling in Bali

Eventually, the signing day arrived. It was, in true Bali style, marked by an almost surreal amount of unexpected chaos and sweetness. I was the bewildered but calm first responder on a motorcycle accident en route, at which point I realized I didn’t know how to call 911 in the country I was about to become a homeowner in. We paused mid-signing for hugs and tears as one of my sellers and the notary discussed a recently passed dog.

The builders brought me flowers and told me how much this sale meant to them, and we all hugged and cried. My tear ducts welling, my pants covered in a stranger’s blood, my adrenaline high, I felt a moment of peace as I signed my name over and over again. For all the sterility and organization of house hunting in New York, I knew this was the exact mess I was meant to be in. Southeast Asia had called me home.

Bali kitchen and living room, Indoneisa
Bali outdoor dining and pool in backyard

On the way back to my house — my house! — I thought of calling friends to celebrate, but something called me to go there alone. 

As I sat in front of my empty pool, watching the sky turn pink, I thought about a story my grandmother once told me. She shared a bedroom with her own grandmother until she was married, and then with her first husband, my grandfather. When he died, long before I was born, she slept alone, and was head of a household, for the first time in her life. She recalled the day she came home after the funeral, and in the stale Midwestern heat, she wanted to turn the AC on, but didn’t have the energy to close up every window and door in the house the way she’d been instructed to her whole life. So, she just turned on the AC with the windows open anyway, sitting there, feeling the fresh air breeze and the soothing cool of the air conditioning all at once, and realized there was no husband or father there to tell her not to. She controlled her own destiny, enough to make the most frivolous of temporary choices.

I’ve thought of that story often in my life, and I thought of it the day I watched the sun set from the back of the house I’d just paid my life savings for. It was all mine, as were the beautiful forks I’d selected without anyone’s input, as were the indulgent tiles I’d begun to daydream of, following only my own whims. While I’d love to find someone to create a home with together someday, I think, after so much discomfort around my alone-ness for so long, I felt pure joy and gratitude for controlling my own destiny in this moment, for experiencing buying my first home all on my own.

Dancing before a beach sunset

Nesting, Now

I slept all of two nights in my new home before I had to leave Bali on a red eye back to the US. It pained me to go. In true mayhem mode, I opened my bank account that morning, accepted, evaluated and returned tile samples mid-day, and had my favorite driver pick me up and bring me to the airport with stops along the way to buy a TV, microwave and other essentials that afternoon. 

Once I was on the plane, it kind of seemed like a dream. Did I really just… buy that home?

As frequent 4AM phone calls for deliveries, and wifi set up, and whatnot remind me, I did. 

Alex in front of Bali house, Indonesia
Detail shot in Bali, Indonesia

I do plan to make this the cozy mermaid clamshell home of my dreams — think seashell tiles, metallic grouting, and coral murals — and there’s lots of work to do on this blank slate new build to make it mine. But, even simply getting the villa finally settled for renting has been a longer process than I expected, which I’m sure will come as little surprise to anyone who’s ever built or renovated a house. Also needless to say, I’m extremely eager to start recouping some of the never-ending expenses that have piled up as I get my dream house together.

The management company I landed is super highly regarded and thus, I hope renting and running the villa while I’m in the US will be a mostly hands-off process, eventually. However, at the moment it’s pretty full on from afar, with help from local friends that remind me I’m already rebuilding a beautiful community on my new island home.

Stay tuned for further posts documenting the full Bali move-in process here, assuming it’s something you guys are interested in!

Brooklyn Bound

Meanwhile, I’d already pushed my May 1st move-in date to Brooklyn to June 1st and didn’t want to miss a single day of my new life. So while it was pretty much pure chaos (is moving ever not?) my time in Albany before and after Puerto Rico was a whirlwind of packing up for three moves — Bali, Brooklyn and the things I’d decided were headed to live in Martha’s Vineyard.

I’m all about outsourcing right now and doing what I need to do to juggle the million things I have up in the air. So my first instinct was to hire a moving company to get myself from Albany to Brooklyn. The price shocked me for what was essentially less than a studio apartment move, three hours away, but I shrugged it off — until the pre-move phone calls that left me checking my pulse and realizing I was stressing. When they told me anything on the inventory list, even a lamp, would not go on the truck, my gut check said a firm no. Why pay a fortune to sweat over packing lists from Puerto Rico? I rented a U-Haul, which helpfully offered me the option to pay for hourly movers on location in New York to unpack the truck, all of it for a fraction of the price of the moving company.

Sunflowers in NY

If there’s one thing cleaning out a three thousand square foot home will do, it’s make you a conscious consumer. I have done my absolute best to buy as little as possible for my New York apartment, bringing furniture from my last Brooklyn place, and taking treasures from Albany to make it feel homey. Even in the move itself I tried to create as little waste as possible, stuffing the drawers of my dresser full and packing every suitcase and backpack I was bringing to buy less boxes. 

As I drove that U-Haul south to Brooklyn, I had three hours to reflect on how happy I was that I didn’t take Steffi up on that offer to back out of the Brooklyn house.

New York skyline at night

Group of friends smiling in New York

Friends dancing in New York City
Laptop overlooking New York skyline and water

As thrilled as I am about my Bali home and building a life there, my mom’s passing reminded me that I have a lifetime of soul connections here in the US and spending time with my dad, my sisters, and the rest of my loved ones is deeply important to me. Much of my work and life is here, and I think that’s why trying to find one home base was just never quite sitting right with me. And now that I found the solution, nothing has ever seemed more obvious.

I went from no homes… to three. But I did have to say goodbye to an old one.

Girls hugging in front of city skyline

Saying Goodbye

I didn’t really expect to feel so emotional leaving my childhood home for the second time in my life, to be honest. I lived on the road so much more than I did in Albany since my mom passed; perhaps even spending as much time downstate as upstate if I counted up the days each year.

But there’s something about the place you have set to home in your Google Maps.

Park Aerial View, New York

I know my future isn’t in Albany. But darn if it isn’t hard to go. 

Like I said, this home and the things that my mom loved and treasured inside of it, the things that I have left of her, have weighed heavily on me these last few years. When I set my goals and intentions for 2023, feeling at peace with saying goodbye to this house was was one of my top priorities. Feeling like I hadn’t “finished” was, I believe, one of many things holding me back from moving forward with my life.

Laundry piled on bed

However, I felt a massive shift when I finally came back to Albany with the clear head of having made the Bali house purchase and having committed to the Brooklyn apartment. It made me realize it was hard to make decisions when I felt so open ended about where life might end up. I’ve sent many of the heirlooms I chose to keep (a small fraction of what there was, but what is most precious to us nonetheless) to Martha’s Vineyard, a decision that feels so intuitive now but I was stumped on for such a long time — I guess that’s how life goes. I packed some up for Bali. I brought many to Brooklyn. More still, I finally found a way to let go.

I had to do a lot of letting go, to leave.

Postcard from Albany, NY

Flowers blooming in New York City

I am moved to tears thinking of the kindness and warmth the Capital Region showed us in the hardest years of our lives. Yes, I mean the family my parents built and created for us there. My mom’s best friends who to this day let themselves into the house to put food in the fridge for me when they know I’m coming, or my best friend’s mom who comes over to help me pack up a U-Haul.

Gallery Wall in Albany Bedroom
Welcome Sign

But I also mean the people who were in our lives for just a season. The manager at The Spectrum who would put the movie my mom wanted to see in the theater with the wheelchair seating. The waitresses at The Olive Garden who treated us with so much kindness and normalcy when we brought my mom for what would be her last restaurant meal. The staff at Anatomie who met me with so much compassion when I late cancelled classes because a home aide didn’t show up or my car broke down and I couldn’t find a ride. The community at Good Karma who met me at my worst and reminded me friendship and joy and passion can find you at any stage of life.

Aerial yoga class

Albany is a loving place full of kind people, and while my mom was notoriously reluctant to move there (at her funeral, my dad quoted her saying “I didn’t work my entire life to get out of Decatur, Illinois to move to Smallbany, New York!”) twenty-eight years after moving upstate, there’s a building with her name on it, and a city bursting with people who loved her and keep her legacy alive. I leave with a heart full of understanding for why she loved raising her children here. Recently I came across the card my mom gave me for my eighteenth birthday. Thank you for the best eighteen years of my life, she wrote. Years spent in this house, with our art and our stories and our memories in every corner.

Now it’s my turn to reverse her journey, once again.

Albany architecture

I gave myself five minutes to sit on my front stoop of the house I grew up in, the one I left at seventeen thinking I’d never come back to in a serious way again. A house I don’t even have a set of keys to, because they door is open. A lifetime of memories played out on the lawn in front of me as I let myself fall apart for a minute. Maybe, if you’re lucky enough to have a childhood like I did, a beautiful home created by two flawed, loving, fantastic parents like I did, in a community as warm and loving as this one, maybe it’s supposed to break your heart open a little bit to leave it.

And then I got up, sat in my sweaty U-Haul, and drove south to go put it back together again.

Alex in Albany, New York

What’s Next

I’m happy. I’m tired. I’m figuring it out. Frankly, I’ve been doing a lot and feeling stretched pretty thin, trying to juggle these moves with an intense period at work. They say moving is one of the most stressful things a human can go through, and I feel like I’ve done it twice in two back-to-back months!

City and airplane wing from the sky
Grafiti in New York

But, it’s the kind of exhausting and hard period that feels like okay, this is taking me where I gotta go, you know what I mean? Now that I’m standing here, it’s amazing I didn’t see the solution sooner. I love being connected to my US community and so much of my work is based here. But, the idea of being here full time always made me itch — both the long winter, and it felt like trying to quiet that wild, untamed part of me I’ve always loved the most, the kind that comes alive when I wake up somewhere I don’t speak the language and don’t know exactly what the day will bring.

How will I split up the year? I don’t know exactly, yet. I think in a perfect world I’d love to spent January through May based in Bali and June through December based in Brooklyn, but we’ll see how my worlds develop in each. Both feel so deeply like home already, in different ways.

Cocktail over city aerial view, New York

Will I still travel? Yes, of course. But, that being said, I think I will no longer pack my calendar with so much “filler” — I had nowhere, really, to be, so if I went to X destination for a retreat, it was easy to visit a friend nearby in Y, or tack on a few days solo in Z.

Backyard in Bali

Albany still isn’t sold, so I haven’t had to say that final goodbye yet. I’ll probably head back for a few days in August for a visit and to work on a few categories of things I didn’t move to Brooklyn with me: my books, boxes upon boxes of my mom’s writing, our precious childhood holiday decorations, my college art, etc.

I want to work less. I know I’m not supposed to say that but it’s true. I want to date more. Both these places feel so full of excitement and possibility in that area. 

New York from Above

The last two months changed my life.

Traveling back from a recent weekend away and realizing how excited I was to go home was the warmest feeling.

I used to say home is wherever I’m with me. And I know that’s still true, in some ways. But these last few years have taught me that home is also a place your heart can relax totally, a place you recharge, a place you build things that last.

And now I have three.

Alex in front of packed moving van, Albany NY

If you made it this far… thanks for sticking with me through this crazy long update! Let me know if you want to hear more about this process in the comments! I love ya all just so darn much!

  • Angie
    July 5 2023

    Can’t wait to come visit you in all your new homes!

    • Alex
      July 9 2023

      My door(s) is/are always open you for babes <3

  • Nikki
    July 5 2023

    Congrats, Alex! This resonated with me a lot. Being able to have a place in NYC and some place that’s warm all of the time is my dream; glad to see it come to fruition for you!


    • Catherine
      July 5 2023

      I loved reading this. So happy for you! ❀️

      • Alex
        April 26 2024

        Love you Catherine <3 Can't wait to see you later this year.

    • Alex
      July 10 2023

      You ended up in one of the cities I very strongly considered, Nikki! In a different life, I think I could have been super duper happy there! Maybe someday πŸ™‚

  • Cat
    July 5 2023

    I packed up my career and life in NYC at 32 and am turning 35 next month. A lot of what you wrote resonates with me, and I hope I can find home the way you have. Best of luck on this next chapter!

    • Alex
      July 10 2023

      I know you’ll find your way, Cat! It’s weird how it all so suddenly comes together…

  • Natalie
    July 5 2023

    Even though a part of me was slightly hoping you’d be moving to Tel Aviv, I can tell you’re just exactly where you’re supposed to be. I hope all three of your homes are filled with joy, love and laughter! You certainly bring those things into the world 😊.

    • Alex
      July 10 2023

      This kinda makes me tear up — what a blessing to wish someone! I too was slightly hoping I’d be moving to Tel Aviv, ha… it was not easy to let go of that dream, but in the end, the reality of visas etc. won out… but that city will always have a piece of my heart!

  • Liz
    July 5 2023

    Could not possibly be more joyful for you in this next chapter! Ready for all of your adventures from these 3 perfect home bases. Love you so much!!

    • Alex
      July 10 2023

      You are the best best best! Thank you for being my first Brooklyn visitor! I love you!

  • Liz
    July 5 2023

    I’m so happy for you Alex!! What a sweet life update. Thanks for sharing 🩷

    • Alex
      July 10 2023

      Thanks Miss Liz! <3 YOU are sweet!

  • Sandy
    July 5 2023

    Congratulations on the new homes Alex! I look forward to seeing more posts on the process. When my husband and I bought our first and current home I had all of these doubts as it was my biggest purchase ever and I had this feeling i was making a mistake but I am so happy now to have a place to call my own and relax.

    • Alex
      July 10 2023

      See, I love hearing that we all go through this, haha. It’s been a lot of work managing the house from afar for sure… when we finally get photographers in for rentals, I will do another update on the progress (and the challenges of managing them from afar!)

  • Laura
    July 5 2023

    Beautifully written, Alex. How you write about transitions in life, and the communities that we build around us is beautiful. I’m so happy you have found home in so many places.

    • Alex
      July 10 2023

      Thank you Laura, that means a lot. You guys have really encouraged me to keep sharing here again, and I’m grateful.

  • Paige
    July 5 2023

    I was hoping Bali was the destination! I’ve been checking in to see! I wish you well on this brand new chapter and I’m dying to see the updates as you make it your home.

    • Emma
      July 6 2023

      What a beautiful post, it brought me to tears! I wish you all the happiness in the world ❀️

      • Alex
        April 26 2024

        Emma, you are too kind. I feel the love <3

    • Alex
      July 10 2023

      Aw you’re so sweet Paige! I feel so grateful to have found this particular little slice of paradise and made it mine.

  • Jen Chambers
    July 5 2023

    Thank you for sharing your journey. I live vicariously through your travels. You’ve visited parts of the world I would love to go to but know that’s not my life and I’m okay with it. Keep posting and sharing as it brings a smile to my face from my little Chicago bungalow in a small suburb of Illinois.

    • Alex
      April 26 2024

      A much delayed reply, Jen, but wanted to say thank you for the kind words and the encouragement. As I write my first post in absolute ages and catch up on comments, they warm my heart!

  • Jess
    July 5 2023

    Alex, from one wandering heart to anotherβ€” this whole post wrecked me. I’m so unbelievably excited about everything your future holds and I’m SO freaking proud of the leaps you’ve made. You’re doing great, amiga. DΓ­a por dΓ­a.

    • Alex
      April 26 2024

      Jess, hope this blast from the past brings you a smile like yours did to me! Love keeping up with each other’s lives on Instagram, and hoping to get back to sharing here as well. You’re doing great too <3

  • Chelsey
    July 6 2023

    Congratulations Alex, I am so happy for you that you have found so much peace in this area of your life! I loved reading this update, it was so heartfelt. I also find myself being torn between where my family/friends are and where my job/passion takes me, both of which have my heart. I really related to your story and it has given me further hope to find peace in this kind of lifestyle as well πŸ™‚ Thank you for sharing and I’d certainly enjoy reading more about the process. I hope your summer brings less work, more dating, and the recharge you need!

    • Alex
      April 26 2024

      Chelsey! This is so sweet. I feel lucky to have found this balance at the moment between the family/friends and the job/passion — Bali and Brooklyn, though I do feel torn and miss one when I’m at the other! I guess we will see how it shakes out in the next few years. Excited to have some blog posts coming up and starting to share a bit more here again!

  • Karlijn
    July 6 2023

    Somehow this post brought tears to my eyes. Your writing is so beautiful Alex! I’ve been following you for about eight, nine years, and I’ve felt so sorry for everything you had to go through with your mother and all the other awful things that happened that year. I’m so happy to read you finally found your amazing homes!

    • Alex
      April 26 2024

      Karlijn, this is so kind. You guys make me cry all the time! (Good tears.) It’s been a year of amazing peace and I look forward to writing a follow up to this post to detail that!

  • Laura
    July 6 2023

    You truly are a beautiful writer. Thank you for sharing this new journey with us and best of luck for the new adventures that lay ahead x

    • Alex
      April 26 2024

      You’re so sweet Laura. Thank you for the kind words — apologies for the belated response!

  • Claudia
    July 6 2023

    Congratulations Alex!!! I’ve been following your blog for 7 or 8 years now and never dared to comment. But I bought my first home a few months ago, in a place and circumstances I’d never thought I would see myself in, and this really resonated with me. Wishing you all the luck in your new adventures!

    • Alex
      April 26 2024

      Aw, Claudia — apologies for my delayed reply, but this sentiment is timeless! I hope your home as brought you as much happiness as mine have brought me. I hope you don’t wait 7 or 8 years to comment again πŸ™‚

  • Chelsea
    July 6 2023

    I’ve been reading your blog since 2013, so it definitely feels like a friendship, albeit one-sided. So pleased to hear that you’ve found this place (or these places) of contentment <3

    • Alex
      April 26 2024

      I may not know you all as intimately as you know me, but it has always felt like a family here to me, Chelsea <3 You're so kind.

  • Tessa
    July 6 2023

    Can’t wait to hop over and visit your new home in Bali!

    Also β€œI first came to Indonesia in 2013 to do my divemaster on Gili Trawangan, with fun stops in Bali and Lembongan along the way…” hot dang I remember reading your blog when you first left Koh Tao to go to Gili T – over a decade πŸ«ΆπŸ’›

    I dread the day I really have to pack up my childhood home – keep chastising my dad to do some more of the work himself now! Think we have barely made a dent in my mums things but at least tackling a little bit each time I’m back. I understand a parent won’t declutter the sentimental – but it does help when they can keep a hand on their closet, bathroom cabinet and the boring stuff. I guess it’s the tax for us having grown up in wonderful full childhood homes.

    Look forward to the rest of your adventures!

  • Sarah
    July 6 2023

    Thanks for sharing this and taking us on your adventure to home ownership! I wish you happy memories in all of your new homes.

  • S
    July 6 2023

    Yep, brought me to tears. Just a really lovely post. So happy for you and congrats on being a multi-homeowner.

  • Joella
    July 6 2023

    It’s hard to believe your divemaster on Gili T (and the blog posts that convinced me to do my PADI open water on Gili T!) was ten years ago, Alex! How?! Anyway- congrats on your new home (s)! So exciting!

  • Aussie Jo
    July 6 2023

    Wow some good news here that made me happy for you feeling like the place you live is truly home is a wonderful feeling

  • Melissa
    July 6 2023

    I love all this and am so happy for you, Alex! Can’t wait to hear more about your new home in Bali (and I may be asking you for travel tips at some point…) 😊

  • Emily
    July 6 2023

    Alex, you’re such a fantastic writer. Thank you for sharing your gifts with the world. I recognized myself in so much of this post. It was the encouragement I truly needed today. Best wishes for your new homes!

  • Drea
    July 6 2023

    Love all of this for you! I can’t wait to hear about all the adventures you’ll have in your new neighborhoods!

  • Krista
    July 7 2023

    So beautifully written! Thank you for sharing everything, I look forward to seeing what comes next in all three communities!

  • Janice
    July 8 2023

    β€˜Maybe, if you’re lucky enough to have a childhood like I did, a beautiful home created by two flawed, loving, fantastic parents like I did, in a community as warm and loving as this one, maybe it’s supposed to break your heart open a little bit to leave it.β€˜
    Definitely and that’s a good thing. πŸ™‚

  • Our Freedom Years
    July 8 2023

    Another excellent post. This one really struck a chord with me. I’ve also spent a lot of time reflecting on the concept of home since giving up my expat career in Singapore and spending the next four years traveling full time with my partner — particularly after losing my mother. I’ve considered the two or three base model but haven’t yet found the right bases just yet. Maybe one more year of travel and then I’ll finally be ready to settle somewhere…

  • Thursa
    July 8 2023

    I loved reading this and would equally love to read more of your home-making journeys! Like others have said, I’ve been following you for about 10 years now and can truly say I am so happy for you!!

  • Brandy
    July 9 2023

    Congratulations on your new home! It’s so beautiful, love the design. Definitely want to hear updates on it in the future. Your words about leaving your childhood home really resonated with me – we packed up my childhood home a couple years ago, in part so my parents could move closer to me (my dad had a type of dementia that he ultimately passed away from) and even though I never planned to move back there, it was filled with memories and so hard to leave it behind forever.

    Good luck with everything!

  • Thia
    July 15 2023

    So happy for you Alex!

  • Vanessa
    July 20 2023

    Long time follower, first time commenter. I truly love reading all about your adventures and wish you all the best in your new home!

  • Supraja Lakshmi
    July 28 2023

    Congratulations on becoming a homeowner in Bali and a resident of Brooklyn. That sounds like an amazing combination of places to call home. You have been through so much in the past few years, and I admire your courage and resilience. You deserve all the happiness and peace that you have found. I loved reading about your journey and how you made your dreams come true. Your photos are stunning and your writing is inspiring.

  • Femi
    August 10 2023

    Congrats Alex on finding not one, not two, but THREE homes in different corners of the world!

    Your story of finding and creating homes in Bali and Brooklyn is both inspiring and heartwarming. Your determination and the way you’ve embraced change truly show that home is where the heart dares to dream.

    Wishing you joy, unforgettable moments, and many cozy mermaid vibes in your new nests!


  • Brian
    September 15 2023

    Thanks for sharing your journey with us. You’re a great storyteller I must say! All the best for your new chapter.

  • Thuc
    October 23 2023

    Hey Alex, you most likely don’t remember me but I read your blog, “back to front”, many years ago β€” and will now periodically think of you and wonder how you are going.

    When I first read your blog, I was living in my hometown of Sydney, Australia, working in finance and in a long-term relationship.

    Since then, I’ve lived in New Zealand and currently live in Hobart, Tasmania. And I’ve changed careers and am in a different relationship.

    I can still relate to so much of what you share about home, adventure, change and self-identity. So as always, thank you for the honesty and openness you put out in the world. Your Bali and Brooklyn homes are absolute dreams! xx

  • Hunny
    October 23 2023

    Congratulations on achieving the wonderful milestone of becoming a homeowner in Bali and officially calling Brooklyn your new home. It’s truly an incredible blend of locations to settle in. Your journey over the past few years has been quite a journey, and your strength and determination are truly admirable. You’ve earned every bit of the happiness and tranquility you’ve discovered. I truly enjoyed learning about your path and how you transformed your dreams into reality. Your photographs are absolutely captivating, and your writing serves as a great source of inspiration.

  • Sarah samith
    February 21 2024

    Loved reading the blog! thank you for sharing

  • Raven
    April 25 2024

    Such a fantastic blog and all those information are very nice.

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