Beyond its reputation as a choice holiday destination, Bali is an island rich in culture and tradition. For Gillian Goh, Bali is where she’s able to pursue her passions in fitness, wellness and female empowerment through the very digital platforms she’s created herself: The Lady’s Lair and Bali Fitness Travel.
SGN chats with Gillian on her motivations for relocating to ‘paradise’, her reasons for building her platforms to empower women and insider tips for those looking to realise the dream of moving to Bali.
14 May 2021 / By SGN
Think of Bali and images of a perfect holiday island with sandy white beaches and endless hours of fun in the sun conjures up. For Singaporean Gillian Goh, Bali is more than a holiday destination – it is the place where she can balance work, life, and her passion for fitness.
Sports has always been central to Gillian’s life. The young athlete competed in school netball teams from primary school up till university, and even had the chance to represent Singapore in regional and international competitions. When Gillian graduated university, she retired from her decorated netball career and thirsted to find a new sport that could challenge her in the same way.
“I’ve always believed that the best athletes are always looking to push their limits and challenge their bodies,” Gillian says. She had discovered Evolve MMA – one of Asia’s top mixed martial arts (MMA) academy – during her university years and joined as a student to train in MMA.
During this period, Gillian had also transitioned into working full-time in sales and enterprise development at Checkout.com and Hootsuite, but did not allow her professional career to hinder her from progressing in martial arts. In 2016, Gillian placed 3rd at the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Championship in the white belt division, after a career streak winning gold at multiple local and regional competitions throughout Southeast Asia.
This win prompted her to rethink her professional career and she found herself switching to digital marketing at Under Amour Southeast Asia, where she was better able to juggle being an athlete and holding down a full-time career. At Under Amour, Gillian worked on growing the brand’s social presence in Southeast Asia and worked alongside many regional fitness partners. In 2018, Gillian was presented with an opportunity to expand the brand into Bali, Empire Fit Club, an Indonesian boutique fitness brand.
“Back then, I was already seeking new opportunities to develop my skills beyond digital marketing. When the opportunity came, I immediately listened to my gut and took the leap to move,” Gillian says. Within three months, she packed her bags and booked a one-way ticket to Bali where she would stay for the years to come, driving sales and marketing for Empire Fit Club.
Discovering Growth When Time Stood Still
When the pandemic hit shores, the fitness industry was greatly affected with gym closures announced across the globe. Gillian did not allow herself – nor the fitness facility – to be another casualty, with Empire Fit Club Bali moving out of its physical venue to focus on growing its online presence. Members can now join virtual training in the comfort of their homes, which gave Gillian more time to focus on starting her own business endeavours.
Tapping on her previous experience in business development and digital marketing, Gillian launched two community-led platforms using social media – The Lady’s Lair and Bali Fitness Travel – in August last year. “At the end of the day, social media is just a tool and a platform. The real value is still in the authentic emotional connection behind the screen,” she quips, exerting that social media can be a powerful platform that allows one to amplify their story and attract people who would like to be a part of it.
Borne out of Gillian’s desire to inspire and empower women to stay motivated and build their confidence, The Lady’s Lair works as a virtual community service that connects users with coaches and incentivises fitness goals. Members on the online community are rewarded offline with the accumulation of “sweat credits” which can be used to redeem a pamper session such as a mani-pedi, hair treatment, facials, massages and even therapy.
“Women are spending lots of money – easily a few hundred bucks a month – on services. What we’re doing is to package these into a single solution that also engages them throughout their fitness journey,” Gillian explains. “Whether they’re a traveling digital nomad, busy working executive or stay-home mom, women can stay engaged in their fitness journey – all with the convenience from wherever they want it – to become the best version of themselves.”
Passport to A Wellness Retreat
“Beneath the beautiful Instagram photos, cafés and hotspots, the really beautiful thing about Bali is its unique culture. You just don’t get to experience that kind of culture anywhere else in the world, nor within Indonesia,” Gillian says.
Prior to the pandemic, fitness retreats to Bali were popular among visitors to the island. Gillian shares that these retreats have since evolved from your run-of-the-mill surfing and yoga classes to activities that rejuvenates the body inside and out. This includes joining professionally-coached workout sessions, hunting for good food and bonding with the locals and fellow visitors.
Her other venture, Bali Fitness Travel, was launched a month after The Lady’s Lair with the aim to help budding travellers uncover the lesser-known side of Bali (after the pandemic, of course) for a meaningful retreat from the hustle and bustle of city life.
“The best retreats are the ones that goes beyond just the physical workouts and recovery to encompass mental, spiritual and emotional healing,” Gillian says. While waiting for international travel restrictions to ease up, Gillian has been researching for unique escapes in the island and worked with local businesses and global transformation coaches to set up customised fitness getaway solutions for future travellers.
The Insider’s Guide To Exploring Bali
To best experience what Bali has to offer, Gillian urges travellers to get out of their comfort zone by straying away from the usual tourist spots. One such way is to hop on the back of a scooter or hire a trusted guide to explore the hidden sights of Bali, all while being mindful to be respectful to the locals.
“We need to respect local traditions and customs such as Balinese ceremonies and the way the island is governed,” Gillian shares. As a rule of thumb, she recommends being properly clothed when visiting religious sites and following rules in the community whilst exploring the island. More importantly, Gillian encourages visitors to the island to be open-minded to meet, connect and forge lasting relationships with the community.
As a seasoned resident, Gillian shares her insider tips on how new expatriates can better relocate and navigate living in Bali:
#1 Connect With Your Social Circle
Facebook Groups and Events gives access to contacts, information, and word-of-mouth recommendations that have been tried and tested by users. This includes medical help, IT assistance, pet adoption, as well as villa management, rental and sale. To get started, Gillian recommends checking out Canggu Community, Canggu Nomad Girls and Girls in Bali on Facebook.
Prior to relocating, Gillian also took the initiative to connect with Singaporeans living in Bali via LinkedIn and had friends link her up to contacts who are already living in Bali.
#2 Hit The Gym and Check Out Co-working Spaces
Heading to the gym and opting to work at co-working spaces are another great way to meet with people in Bali. Gillian shares that she had made new friends with similar interests – local and international – at the gym and from attending networking events at co-working spaces.
#3 Take Care Of Homesickness
One of the things we miss most about our home country when living abroad is a good meal that takes us back home. For Gillian, authentic Singaporean hawker food was always something she craved whenever she missed home. Lucky for her, she discovered Dapur Panda, which was started by a fellow Singaporean who had relocated to Bali a decade ago, and urges for others to find familiar flavours while living in a foreign land.
Since taking the plunge to move to Bali three years ago, Gillian is glad that she can pursue a career that combines her passion for fitness, martial arts, travel and adventure.
“My life mission has always been to inspire and empower others, especially women, to become happier, healthier and stronger so that they can become the best version of themselves,” Gillian says. She hopes that her platform can inspire others to discover what they truly enjoy and be able to take charge of their lives.
Based in Bali, Singaporean Gillian Goh is the Founder of The Lady’s Lair, a platform that empowers and encourages women in their fitness and wellness journey, and Bali Fitness Travel, a platform that equips visitors to explore Bali for physical and mental fitness.