Bali has long drawn visitors and expats in with its endearing chaos and exotic, tropical vibe. But for Ginette Pearson, it was the vivid local textiles that prompted her return visits, ahead of a more permanent one, armed with only a single suitcase and a sewing machine.

Dunedin native Ginette always had the itchy feet of a traveller, though it wasn’t until later in life she had the freedom and funds to really explore. When her daughter embarked on a working holiday to China, she decided to follow. For two years she taught English at a middle-school in Changshu City, just north of Shanghai.

‘I enjoyed all the sights and experiences of immersing myself in another culture. After two years, I needed another change, so I then started applying for positions in the Middle East. I found myself in Yemen. A fascinating culture, amazing sights and an experience I will always be grateful for.’ Ginette eventually returned to New Zealand, but it wouldn’t be for long. It was mid 2009, and daughter Miranda was then teaching in Bali. Inspired, Ginette decided it was time to trade the corporate world for her own one-way ticket to the Island of the Gods.

I had been to Bali on holiday several times before I moved there. I always noticed the wonderful array of handwoven Indonesian Ikat textiles. I started sewing as soon as I arrived in Bali, and then created an online store selling popular items such as pillowcases and sarongs.

‘My need for cool, comfortable dresses suited to the hot, humid climate in Bali eventually led me to start making caftans. I became known around Sanur as ‘the tourist who wears big dresses’ she laughs. With the help of her neighbour, an experienced tailor, Ginette set about designing a collection which is now available on her online store My Bali Closet. ‘The local fabrics and tropical climate inspire my designs. The range offers classic styles for warmer climates, in a range of sizes and fabrics’ she explains. ‘The garments I sell are those I enjoy wearing myself. They must be flattering, comfortable, wash well, and well-made.’

‘I wear midi-length dresses most of the time, but during the cooler months I change to skirts and pants. I like rayon for my everyday wear, and tend to keep my linen garments for going out,’ she says.

‘When I left New Zealand, the intention was to stay as long as my finances and health allowed. It isn’t always easy living here but it certainly outweighs going back and having to work 9-5 to support myself.’

While the financial burden of retirement has many weighing up alternatives, Ginette advocates Indonesia as an option for those looking to make their money go further. ‘What I love most about living in Bali is being able to work doing something I enjoy. Being able to take a holiday, to Gili Trawangan or Lombok, whenever I want. The low cost of living, the climate, many things to see and do, are all appealing reasons to retire in Bali,’ she says. ‘There are, of course, downsides to living in a developing country. I enjoy going back to New Zealand. I go back once a year to spend time with family, and feel a bit unsettled when I first get back. But staying in Bali always wins out.’

With her sights set on the next stage, Ginette has plans to build her own home on a small plot of beachfront land in Lombok which was purchased when she first arrived. ‘I hope to eventually retire there, have a garden, do more scuba diving and bodyboarding,’ she says. ‘I want to improve my photography skills, continue with my online store, meet new people, and have a new adventure.’

Ginette’s beautiful linen garments and homewares can be purchased from her online store My Bali Closet, with shipping available worldwide.