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.”
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.
How have you ensured that moving to Bali and encouraging others to do so isn’t contributing to gentrification? (i.e raising prices so natives aren’t kicked out/forcing Balinese to learn English as opposed to expats learning Bahasa, etc.?)
— 🤢 (@stevanicaa) January 16, 2021
so basically using the privilege of western education to become upper class in an asian country where most people can only clean such houses. yeah that doesn’t sound problematic at all.
— Complex Nightmare (@debatante) January 17, 2021
She’s enjoying her foreigner privilege here. you don’t know in Bali, our local people treated as second-class citizen in a certain places? and she said everything in here is cheap while our local is struggling with their lives.
— CFA (@CFA_004869) January 17, 2021
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.
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 the gov clearly stated that they’ve closed the border
— ⁷ٱلنساء (@sheikhaannisa) January 17, 2021
I love your story, but “Our Bali life is Yours” “Getting into Indonesia during Covid”, as Indonesian, this sentences actually bothering me
— bukan siapa siapa (@pentolbulaaat) January 17, 2021
I get it, the weather’s nice, the living cost is cheap, the smoothie bowls are $4, but telling people to go here illegaly while providing links? Yo :/ why? My country is getting through over 800k cases of COVID, you’re telling people to come over and kill us basically?
— Ren | WORKING ON COMMS (5/5) 🍊 (@orentama) January 17, 2021
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.
americans are always saying ‘listen to poc!’ but when ACTUAL LOCALS ACTUAL INDONESIANS are criticizing this kristen gray for exploiting bali with her US citizenship, yall assume that we’re racist https://t.co/zjTkTXB822
— ᴋᴏᴏʟɪ | #BLM (@shannaykay) January 18, 2021
This isnt about Black Americans. Its about foreigners or “expats” moving to countries to live a “permanent vacation” lifestyle while still making US salary abroad
Notice how she plugged her e-book and social media. She’s working, right now. She’s hustling rn as a “digital nomad”
— menswear will save ur ass this winter 🤎🥭🧃 (@cestlafemmenoir) January 17, 2021
To kristen gray
I saw an idiot living in Indonesia without paying taxes and saying Indonesians are racist : pic.twitter.com/wpd7EGgPrc
— Natnat (@Natnat78354305) January 18, 2021
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.
Feature Images via Kristen Gray