An African American digital nomad has been accused of exploiting their “foreigner privilege” after posting a how-to guide on living a life of luxury in Bali, Indonesia.
In a now-inaccessible Twitter thread, Kristen Gray, who runs a graphic design business, shared that they struggled to find work in the U.S. and wanted to get out of survival mode — and Bali was “the perfect medicine.”
Hoping to “elevate” their lifestyle, Gray and their girlfriend booked one-way flights to Bali, where they have been living for over a year now.
“This island has been amazing because of our elevated lifestyle at a much lower cost of living,” Gray wrote. “I was paying $1,300 for my LA studio. Now I have a treehouse for $400.”
Gray noted that they only planned to stay in Bali for six months, but the onset of COVID-19 in March forced them to “wait it out.”
According to the entrepreneur, “major benefits” of moving to the island include safety, low cost of living, luxury lifestyle, queer-friendly and the presence of a Black community.
The couple has since made friends with locals, even having a “Balinese mom” whom they made restaurant menus for.
“Overall, Bali has helped me heal from childhood traumas, some physical ailments (like IBS and acid reflux),” Gray wrote. “The entire experience has been about healing and growth. I needed to press pause on my American life to REST and HEAL.”
Gray concluded the thread with an invitation to purchase their e-book titled “Our Bali Life is Yours,” which sells for $30.
“It’s a guide breaking down how we did it and how you can do it too,” Gray noted. “We include direct links to our visa agents and how to go about getting into Indonesia during COVID. It’s also for anyone wanting a change of pace.”
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Gray’s thread quickly sparked discussions on foreigner privilege, gentrification and racism. Many accused them of tone-deafness to the realities of Bali, where the minimum wage reportedly sits at $140 a month.
“How have you ensured that moving to Bali and encouraging others to do so isn’t contributing to gentrification?” one user asked, citing examples.
Some also criticized Gray for encouraging people to travel to Bali. Such a move is impossible at this time as Indonesia officially bans tourists until Jan. 28, according to Antara News.
“Indonesians have every right to be mad over the misleading thread that was created by Kristen Gray, since she basically encouraged foreigners to visit Bali, Indonesia DURING THE PANDEMIC, even [after] the government clearly stated that they’ve closed the border,” one user wrote.
Others challenged accusations that criticizing Gray’s actions was “racist.”
“Americans are always saying ‘Listen to Poc!’ but when ACTUAL LOCALS — ACTUAL INDONESIANS — are criticizing this Kristen Gray for exploiting Bali with her U.S. citizenship, y’all assume that we’re racist,” one user pointed out.
Some users reportedly questioned if Gray could be overstaying their visa. By Tuesday, immigration authorities were able to confirm that they are legally in Indonesia.
“[Her stay permit] is still valid until 2021, it’s a visitor stay permit actually,” said Eko Budianto, head of the immigration department at the Bali office for the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, according to Coconuts. “We want to look into other possible violations, but it must be stressed that information about special paths that she’d mentioned do not exist in immigration or at the borders.”
It’s unclear whether authorities will also look into possible tax evasion since Gray claimed to be running their design business. Under Indonesia’s 2008 Income Tax Law, foreigners working in the country for more than 183 days are subject to pay dues.
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