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From a pretty Kentish girl to meeting British Ben in Bali

Andy McLean

Originally posted by Andy McLean on Jan 2nd, 2015

I went to my first event at Escape the City in London in June last year (yes, it’s now 2015).  It was about how to become a travel writer on which would have otherwise been a quiet Monday night.

On the train back to Kent afterwards, I got chatting to a rather pretty girl (a rare fellow train talker) and when I mentioned the event, she replied: “Ha, good timing! Today, I decided to quit my job”. I’m pretty sure Train Girl is now on their mailing list!

I mention this anecdote because it illustrates why it makes sense to speak to people wherever you can (trains are especially good places to meet interesting people) and to show how I came to be writing about Tribewanted Bali, which starts here in Ubud next week.

By the end of that week I had decided to leave the UK after ten glorious summers due to a family illness in my home country, New Zealand. It meant that I missed out on theEscape to the Woods event in September that I had spoken to Train Girl about and meeting Train Girl to watch Andy Murray at Wimbledon.

Escape to the Woods turned out to be an awesome event for meeting other people that were tired of the robotic nature a City ‘career’ (an awful word) – it was a place to meet a whole new community. Here I’m using the words of my great friend Parul who was part of that weekend, spent camping in Sussex.

When we chatted about her experience, she made specific (and special) mention of Ben Keene, the founder of Tribewanted. Today I formally joined Ben’s Bali tribe over a typically strong Bali coffee at Bali Buddha café.

Ben has been connected to Escape the City since its inception and he’s proven to be super ambitious. I love the way he ‘got it’ when the City corporates did an awful pitch of their jobs during the milk round at his Uni (see here at 0.55). As he said, there was nothing compelling beyond the promise of money.

The thing of most interest to me about what Ben has done is described in the quote below. They are the words that come closest to my ideal of ‘social tourism’ here in Indonesia, something that is not volunteering in the traditional sense.

The impact [Tribewanted] has on both visitors and local communities. We bring people together for magical experiences. We’re trying to mix the best of the old (preserving cultural heritage, conserving valuable resources, and mindfulness) with the new (design thinking, co-working, renewable energy, permaculture, and social networks).

As mentioned in my previous post, I have spent three months in Bali having a good look around for a project to get involved with (or, if I must, something ‘to do’). Tribewanted Bali has always been part of my plan since Parul told me about in the early Autumn.

It might not be an exact fit with what I feel I should do right now, but it’s an experience I really want to take a full part in.

When I first mentioned Tribewanted Bali on Linked In a month or so back, my friend Gunther Sonnenfeld remarked to the effect: “Awesome, so it’s basically a co-op!”.  It helps that Gunther is one of the leading thinkers on innovation and I don’t mean fast/cheap payments, I mean real/ambitious innovation. I relate to his thoughts because I hold the same view that innovation is about mindset, not tech.

Gunther was commenting on Ben’s formula for our tribe of 24 escapees over the next three months when our time will be split as own projects (50%), helping each other (25%) and community projects (25%).

It was this way of working that appealed to me both as a highly desirable experience and an incredibly ambitious concept for the future of work. It’s so simple, yet so sensible and loads better than any ideas I came up with in this article on the subject.

To find the right social enterprise opportunities in Bali, it’s clear that rapidly improving my Indonesian language will make the biggest, fastest difference over any other approach. So while I should be ‘executing’ on one of the two options I see that will help ‘make it happen’ (to quote my old job description), for now my plan is to immerse myself in the Tribewanted Bali programme.

It’s an interesting dilemma for me. I have never mastered a language except, arguably, English so language is something very important to me in my 40th year. If I can become proficient in Indonesian, it will feel like I have completed something that will be very useful, as compared to say my MBA which has very limited long-term value.

Yet, there is an experience on offer here with a bunch of Brits, people that I have come to love over many years in their country, in their company. While I am trying to let go of England as my home, it’s not easy and in some ways, it’s actually harder than dealing with the existential vacuum that is part of my daily thought pattern.

So, when I see something so cool and easy to join as Tribewanted Bali, I can’t resist. It’s the chance to be part of something to satisfy the basic need of belonging.

Then when I think of being part of an experience that has the real potential to be able to demonstrate why working folk should only spend 50% of their working week on their regular work, my ego kicks into overdrive. I’ve never been much of a visionary, but this is something I feel strongly about.

I dream of the possibility, for instance, of my old company Investec binning off its silos and cost centres and truly live its long stated ‘one bank’ strategy. I dream of fast, radical change rather than slow, incremental (predictable) change where every woman and her parrot need to have a say.

I had intended this post to be more detailed about the types of opportunities I’m seeing for me to contribute to Bali and the Balinese but, as usual, I have gone off on a principled rant. I hope you enjoyed it.

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