#HumansOfHubud Neyna Rahmadani
It was 10am and Neyna was sitting in Kantin (the canteen in Hubud) with her laptop open. I hurried myself over and asked if she was ready. “Hi!” she chirpily acknowledged my presence, eyes glancing up for a brief second before darting back to her screen. She asked me to give her 10 minutes.
“Everyday before I start work, I spend at least 30 minutes to 1 hour just crafting my to-do list” Oops, I might have just interrupted her day’s planning.
Neyna Rahmadani is an Indonesian graphic designer and photographer living in Bali, who is currently working remotely full time for a Ubud-based Australian retreat company called Natural Instinct Healing. I would call Neyna petite, but from the moment we sat down, it was evident that her persona was larger than she was, even if she claimed,
“if life is a stage, I am definitely the backstage crew.”
She had rejected Hubud’s request to interview her in the past because she didn’t want to be in the spotlight. “That’s why I’m behind the camera”.
Neyna was referred to me by our Partnership Manager Maria. I later found out during the interview that Maria has been pushing for this for a while now and the reason is clear. The concept of digital nomads and remote work may be growing on a global scale but in Indonesia, it’s very much in its prenatal stages. With regards to female Indonesian digital nomads, the numbers are even slimmer.
“I haven’t really met anyone, maybe 1 person? I guess the other female digital nomads I know would be the girls in Hubud, like Kintan or Maria”.
So we wanted to chat to Neyna to get to know her story. What makes her the exception? I asked Neyna what made her leave her corporate job in Surabaya, especially one giving her all the tangible rewards and securities of working in a big corporate company. What pulled the trigger?
“There wasn’t a particular moment. But, for almost one and a half years, I was trying to get a university scholarship for my masters and I got rejected 7 times. In some cases, I was rejected by the university and in other cases, when I got the university acceptance, I didn’t get the grant. Or I got the grant and the university, but I had problems with the visa.” This happened while she was still working in her previous corporate company and feeling completely unsatisfied.
“I felt like I didn’t fit in with the corporate culture. I worked overtime frequently. And I finally got myself thinking: why am I doing this?”
The concurrence of both events eventually made her realize that perhaps she was trying to pursue her Masters degree overseas because she wanted to run away, not because she actually wanted to learn.
She decided to pull the trigger and hand in her resignation. A week or two later, she scored her current job and what once used to be her favourite holiday destination, has now become her home.
With location independent workers being not as normalized in Indonesia, wasn’t she afraid? “I still feel scared. But yes, I feared that I would not fit in the company. (I thought), I have nobody here, I have no friends. But that’s why I am grateful to my new company for signing me up with Hubud so that I can meet people” And that is undoubtedly one of the best things about coworking spaces. It’s knowing that anywhere you plan to relocate to in the world, there is a place where you can meet like-minded people, or simply just meet people. And that’s a truly comforting thought.
“I remember when I arrived at the Surabaya Airport, the uber driver asked me if I was going to Bali for a holiday. I said no, I’m moving there. He asked me if I had somebody there and offered to connect me with his driver friends there…I still remember my heart pounding, but I also remember a quote from my favorite author : feel the fear but do it anyway!”
Yet the reality for Neyna was that alternative – staying put – wasn’t even an option. “Once you sign up to work for a big company, they will give you a lot of benefits and security. Yet, at least for me, that security I got from all my previous corporate jobs made me feel insecure. Because it made me afraid of jumping out to the unknown, it’s almost like you’re being trapped. You’re hesitant to take new steps. Because you’re afraid to lose it. And that’s what I felt.”
The fear of being trapped trumps the fear of the unknown.
It has been a year since she moved to Bali. “18 February, I still have the bag tag on my fridge”.
“I set my working hours to 9am – 5pm and … I organize myself by typing a to-do list on Slack. I know it’s kind of weird but…like 5 big to-dos. And when I finish a task, I give myself an emoji. Slack has a lot of emojis and I am a very visual person. So when I’m done with my first task, I give myself the fire emoji, then the panda emoji for the second one….just make it fun for yourself you know?” I said I know I love emojis too. My favourite one on slack is the caterpillar.
When Neyna sent me a couple of her favourite shots, it’s quickly apparent that humans are her motif and street is the cynosure of her photography.
“I find my passion in connecting with people through photography, offering a different point of view of everyday objects.
You can walk to the market every day, but it will be really different when you can see it in a different perspective. I enjoy working inside a studio, but I rather be outside and expose myself to the heat, talk to people, strolling around. I’d rather talk with locals than directing a model.” This is why she’s working on a personal project documenting female Balinese construction workers, a profession challenging the traditional role of women in her society.
She then tells me about some of her photography highlights. “Cock fighting – the one on Masceti beach. I stepped inside the arena, like a boxing arena. Less than 10% (of the attendees) are women and they were selling drinks and snacks. It’s so intense…The male audience are so welcoming though, they encourage you to go to the front row…. But it stinks”
During my conversation with Neyna, her acute awareness of gender in society is very evident. I wish I could delve a little more into that with her.
Ultimately, when I ask her to choose between her passions, she nearly scoffs as if I’ve just said something completely absurd and responds
“I’m in a polyamorous relationship with photography, graphic design, pizza and coffee. I have a lot of partners.”
I burst into laughter. My greatest relationship has been and forever will be with pizza. Just as I wrap up the conversation, she shares her last piece of advice – “(I think it’s important to note that) working as a digital nomad, or whatever you call it, it doesn’t mean that we’re diminishing the importance of the corporate lifestyle. It’s just a matter of choice and finding the best technique of working that best suits you…It’s our main job to keep exploring what fits you…if you keep complaining and you don’t move your ass to do something about it then that’s your problem.”