Stéphanie Smolders traveling and working in Bali

Living in another country. A dream for some and a reality for others. What is it like to emigrate and live as a vegetarian or vegan in a country other than the Netherlands or Belgium? We set out to find the stories of women who eat vega(n) and decided to take the plunge and live abroad. What is their story?

From teacher to digital nomad Stéphanie Smolders

Today the travel-loving Belgian Stéphanie Smolders who was living in Belgium and decided to sell house and home to go traveling. After visiting many beautiful places around the world, she arrives in Bali. AND she decides to stay. Why? What is her story and what is it like for Stéphanie to live in Bali as a vegetarian? Read her experiences in this new edition of vega world women.

Who are you and how did you end up in Bali, Indonesia?

My name is Stéphanie, 27 and from tiny Belgium. Until a year ago, I worked as an elementary school teacher. In addition, had a blog. The itch to travel was there since childhood and every year I took several beautiful trips.

My boyfriend and I had long been toying with the idea of traveling for an extended period of time. Without a plan, we sold or gave away all our possessions in August 2016! We spent 10 months traveling to places like the United States, Aruba, Dubai, Prague and so many more beautiful places. In April, we traveled to Bali for a project. One thing to another, they offered my friend a permanent job in Bali and we decided to stay. My days now? Plenty learning Indonesian and trying to adapt to Hindu culture. And the adventure has only just begun! I look forward to seeing where this chapter in our adventure takes us.


I even had a local on my doorstep today asking if I could help him with dishes for his “warung” (=restaurant) for vegetarians.



Why did you start eating vegetarian or vegan?

In my teens, I went to festivals regularly. One of the biggest is Pukkelpop in Hasselt. At age 16, I had two girlfriends who were vegetarians and one of them went to this festival with me. There we came in contact with an organization that tries to stop animal suffering. We watched a documentary that particular day and after 2 hours I was convinced I never wanted to eat meat again. That was more than 10 years ago now and I haven’t touched meat since. I do have to admit that with periods I still ate fish.

At first, this was quite crazy for my family, because this did not fit into their lifestyle. We went out to eat extensively every weekend and suddenly I started ordering different dishes. Meanwhile, they always have a vegetarian dish ready when I come home!

What is it like to live in Bali as a vegetarian?


Want to eat like the locals do? Then you eat 90% chicken, duck or pork.


In Bali, there are very many foreigners, mostly from Australia. As a result, vegan food has blown over to here, Bali. There are quite a few nice eateries that cook RAW or have only vegetarian options. Want to eat like the locals do? Then you eat 90% chicken, duck or pork.

They often know what vegetarian means and then make the dish for you without meat, even if it’s not on the menu. What I do often struggle with is the way they treat animals here. Dogs and cats they dump in the river, cows hang on with a nose bell, even killing animals in public is common. These are things that of course happen to us (in Belgium) too only much less visible. (Remember the terrible footage of Tielt, ed) In short, it takes some getting used to.

How do people within your hometown or country react when you tell them you are a vegetarian?

There are very many options here for vegans and vegetarians. They also make many dishes with tofu or tempe (not my thing) so they are open to it. Bali, of course, is different from the other islands of Indonesia. In Jakarta, for example, you will find far fewer options for eating out. I even had a local on my doorstep today asking if I could help him with dishes for his “warung” (=restaurant) for vegetarians.

What does it cost to eat healthy and varied food in Bali as a vegetarian or vegan?

I spend an average of 60 euros on groceries per week for two people. Vegetables here are quite expensive compared to Holland, especially if you want them organic. We don’t buy meat or fish. My boyfriend eats veg at home, but does eat meat when we eat out. We also eat out an average of two to three times a week. That costs us about 15 euros each time.

What tips do you have for other vegetarians and/or vegans to when they come to Bali or Indonesia?

There are a huge number of nice restaurants in Ubud & Canggu for vegetarians/vegans. You should definitely have tried a smoothie bowl if you come to Bali. My favorites can be found at Eden Cafe (Canggu), Water Cress (Ubud & Seminyak) and Nude .

A typical dish here is nasi goreng. That’s rice with greens and chicken. Feel free to ask at the warung (restaurant) for a vegetarian version. I definitely order these once a week.

What did you find most difficult about your emigration? And what did you like best?

I still find the hardest part about emigrating is having a permanent place to live. We traveled around for a year, doing a new place every week. Now we live in the same house, in the same place, and it still takes some getting used to cleaning and making food again. To build a social life and have some routine again. This is fun and scary at the same time.


I will always have travel jitters.


The best thing about living in Bali is definitely the culture and the food. You have so many great places to explore here and the people are very nice. Learning the language will be a little different, but we’ll do our best. We had not prepared this move at all and arrived here with only 20kg of luggage. So I have summer and winter clothes here.


Do you plan to return to Belgium someday?

We don’t really want to live in Belgium, but I would like to move back closer to family and friends. Not forever, but for a while. We do plan to live in Europe for a while, but of course that depends on how the adventure here continues. We’ll see what the future brings.

Has being abroad changed your view of Belgium? How do you look at Belgium now?

I look at my homeland differently now. When you live there, you always think it’s much better in another place. But really, there are advantages and disadvantages everywhere. Travel has taught me that. Every place has things you love and dislike. I wouldn’t necessarily want to live back in Belgium, but if I had to I’m sure I could put a spin on it again. I will always have travel jitters. Even now that we live in Bali, we travel to another island or country once a month on average.

Would you like to continue to follow Stéphanie? Then follow her stories at She writes mainly about positivity, looking at life from a different angle and following your dreams.


Curious about Asia? Then check out our travel tips for Thailand, Mongolia, India, Kazakhstan, Tibet and China!
Emigrating abroad is not something you do lightly. There is often a story behind this. A dream, love, work or other reasons. Do you enjoy telling your story and inspiring other people with it? Or do you know someone who should tell her story? I’d love to hear about it! Send an email to: