Posted: 8/30/22 | August 30th, 2022
This guest post is from Will at Tribal Hostels. After years of traveling the world on as little as $10 a day, he’s finally putting down roots in Indonesia and starting a hostel for digital nomads.
Once upon a time, in a far-flung land of spectacular sights, a young and bedraggled backpacker sat crammed in the cheapest carriage on a 32-hour train journey down the eastern spine of India. The smell of onion bhajis, sweating bodies, and fried sugar floated through the cabin. Outside, green, red, and orange landscapes loped by; cities turned to villages, nothingness, desert, and coastline, and once more into cities. Time slipped by and warped, the crowd roiled and swelled, seemingly with more people always getting on than getting off, an Escher puzzle of a train carriage.
The backpacker clung haughtily to his roost, for to visit the bathroom would undoubtedly mean losing his coveted spot.
That backpacker was me.
In 2009, I hit the road to discover who I was supposed to be, what I was good at, and what I could endure. My whole goal was to get outside of my comfort zone and evolve into a better, more capable, and more confident (I was a shy kid) version of myself.
This was the beginning of a life-changing journey that led me to online entrepreneurship as I backpacked around the world for the next decade.
On my travels, I got involved in many different projects around the world aimed at supporting my chosen lifestyle. From blogging and publishing a couple of books to selling weed on the beaches of Goa and doing odd jobs on farms, I did what I could to fund my life of adventure. I stuffed my backpack with trinkets, baubles, and colorful shirts and sold these at festivals back in the UK. I also started doing some freelance writing and sold some of my more outlandish stories to media publications.
As time marched on, I stepped away from casual drug dealing and herding goats and focused more on my online ventures. I drop-shipped products from China (which didn’t really work out), explored trading cryptocurrency, and founded a company leading adventure tours in Pakistan, Iran, and Kyrgyzstan. I played around with affiliate marketing, and, little by little, my fledgling travel blog grew and grew.
As my online business expanded, my need for reliable Wi-Fi and a quiet place to work also increased, but, to my horror, it was damn hard to find a work-friendly hostel.
I absolutely love hostels: the people, the energy, the community, and the mingling of different ideas and personalities can be truly electric. But, as many of my fellow digital nomads may know, they are often not very conducive to building an online income that can support a life of travel. Indeed, it is very tricky to get meaningful work done in a hostel, as there are so many stimuli and events happening.
A lot of digital nomads and online freelancers end up burning out after a year or two as they, like me, struggle to balance the backpacker lifestyle with the responsibility and discipline of being your own boss.
And so, in 2014, while in a packed, humid dorm of questionable hygiene in Colombia, a sudden idea entered my head: I would open a hostel. A hostel unlike any other. A hostel that has everything you need for a successful day: beautiful views, comfortable beds, friendly vibes, an amazing pool, plentiful greenery, delicious food, damn good coffee, an excellent bar, and, crucially, the kind of space one could work from.
I wanted to build the kind of hostel I had always lusted after but never found — somewhere I could work my ass off during the day, in peace, and then be assured of a good time in the evening, with plenty of social areas.
A place where aspiring entrepreneurs, broke backpackers searching for the means to travel forever, hard-working hustlers, and Instagram babes alike could rub elbows, bump fists, and settle into their home away from home.
Fast-forward to 2018: I had just moved to Bali, where I made two firm friends at the local gym named Mark, a fellow Brit, and Gonan, a Balinese local.
Like me, Mark was struggling with balancing the digital-nomad life and the need to do some work on the road with still enjoying the thrills and community of backpacking. Gonan is passionate about Bali and welcoming foreigners to his home island.
Together, we started working on the hostel idea I had envisioned.
Within a few months, we had found the perfect spot: a large patch of land on the outskirts of the happening hipster hub and surfer hangout of Canggu. It was here, surrounded by rice field views and just a stone’s throw from the beach, that we would construct Bali’s best hostel.
We had a clear vision in our heads of a very special place that could cater to the increasing numbers of backpacker entrepreneurs and digital nomads working online who still wanted to experience of staying in a hostel.
Construction would prove challenging as we battled worker shortages, misplaced blueprints, and having to jump through legal hoops to do everything properly (luckily, we were well blessed with good Balinese friends who could help us out).
After two years of construction (and an unexpected pandemic), our baby, Tribal Bali, finally opened with a very soft launch in September 2021. Then in May, after much hustle and bustle, we got our first dorms and private rooms open.
Tribal is the first-ever custom-designed and painstakingly built digital-nomad co-working hostel in Bali. We’ve worked hard to ensure that it has lightning-fast Wi-Fi, a healthy and varied menu served up by our dedicated restaurant staff, comfortable beds designed for privacy and smart compartmentalization, a gigantic hanging cargo net where you can chill out with a book, and all the amenities you need to work hard all day without leaving the hostel, if that’s what your heart desires.
Our coworking space has everything you need to work: sitting and seating desks, sofas, beanbags, private booths for calls, and lots of power outlets.
Our hostel has private rooms, huge shared bathrooms, and carefully designed dorms that offer privacy, charging outlets, and stairs to the upper bunks (rather than the noisy ladders found in other hostels).
We also have a gigantic multileveled pool, certainly the best in Pererenan right now, and the bar serves up classic cocktails, beers, our very own Tribal Tonics, and a backpacker-friendly happy hour!
My travels taught me that dreams are what sustains us and, if you’re willing to be really freaking uncomfortable for a while, any dream is possible. While I am no longer a broke backpacker on a whirlwind journey, it’s my great honor to have the opportunity to host the next generation of aspiring digital nomads and gallivanting explorers in this custom-built hostel.
My hope is that Tribal Bali can become a shining beacon of how it is possible to enjoy the best of the backpacker lifestyle while also meeting like-minded entrepreneurs and getting quality work done in a work-friendly and community-oriented space.
After over a decade on the road, I am beyond excited to finally bring the dream to life and do my part to help provide for the next generation of aspiring and inspiring digital nomads.
Adventurer and vagabond, entrepreneur, and hostel owner, Will has been backpacking around the world for over a decade and likes to explore truly wild places.
Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner. It’s my favorite search engine because it searches websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is being left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as it consistently returns the cheapest rates for guesthouses and hotels.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- SafetyWing (best for everyone)
- Insure My Trip (for those 70 and over)
- Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)
Want to Travel for Free?
Travel credit cards allow you to earn points that can be redeemed for free flights and accommodation — all without any extra spending. Check out my guide to picking the right card and my current favorites to get started and see the latest best deals.
Need Help Finding Activities for Your Trip?
Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace where you can find cool walking tours, fun excursions, skip-the-line tickets, private guides, and more.
Ready to Book Your Trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. They are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.