Forbes accused of encouraging modern-day colonization after telling readers to ‘quit day job’ and move to ‘cheap islands’ like Bali

The Nusa islands are located just to the southeast of Bali. Photo: Dim Dimitri / Pexels
The Nusa islands are located just to the southeast of Bali. Photo: Dim Dimitri / Pexels

An article published by American business magazine Forbes encouraging readers to “quit that day job” and “move to an island that’s so cheap you don’t have to work” has become the subject of online ire on Twitter, much of which are coming from Indonesians, as it reignited scrutiny on privilege, gentrification, and colonization.

The piece, published on April 30, rehashes a new report from International Living ⁠— a US-based publication devoted to global travel, living, retiring, and investing ⁠— that shows how it’s possible for people to spend their lives “on permanent vacation.” The report features 15 “cheap islands around the world” where people can live on as little as US$1,200 a month, which includes Penang (Malaysia), Koh Samui (Thailand), Phu Quoc (Vietnam), and of course Bali. 

(As a side note, we can’t help but wonder a little why both Forbes and International Living didn’t bother putting Indonesia on the sub-title for Bali, while other island entries are accompanied with their respective country names next to them.)

Quoting the report, Forbes wrote that people can find a villa in Ubud for US$500 a month, while a couple can live well in most towns in Bali for $1,900 a month. 

That isn’t inaccurate per se, but it appears neither Forbes nor International Living weren’t aware of the Kristen Gray controversy in January. In case you forgot, the American, who has since been deported from Indonesia, boasted about Bali’s low cost of living in a controversial Twitter thread and said she only paid US$400 in rent. 

These numbers may be affordable for foreigners from a developed country who can travel to the other of the world on a whim, but let us remind you that the provincial minimum wage for Bali is only around US$172. 

Related On foreigner privilege, gentrification, and racism: How one American digital nomad’s Twitter thread about Bali sparked backlash 

Following the heated debate surrounding Kristen Gray, it shouldn’t be surprising then that the Forbes article has been met with backlash, as many pointed out its indirect suggestion for what is viewed as modern-day colonization.

“No, are you insane. What is this? Please get rid of this type of obsession, back then your ancestors straight-out colonized many countries, now all of you indirectly seek to take people’s land in the name of “looking for an exotic place to live?” 

It’s 2021. From this side of the world, people are no longer keeping quiet about how westerners’ decisions to pack their bags and move to their islands will affect their lives. 

It’s true that Bali, for its part, still has a lot of work to actually realize a model of sustainable tourism that benefits its local residents, while authorities must step up to address tax-related concerns with foreigners who stay in Indonesia for prolonged periods. But just like we witnessed with the case of Kristen Gray, ordinary citizens are more cognizant of the real issues now than ever, and they’re not afraid to stand up to ignorant foreigners. 

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