An American travel influencer, who went viral on Twitter last week for plugging her e-book about moving to Bali during a pandemic, is being deported from Indonesia for allegedly violating her visitor-stay permit.

Kristen Gray and her girlfriend Saundra originally relocated to Bali for six months in early 2020 because they were tired of being “broke [and] struggling to find work.”

“I also wanted to get out of survival mode and tap into how I could THRIVE,” Gray tweeted.

Gray said living in Bali had been amazing because of their “elevated lifestyle at a much lower cost of living.” She had been paying USD$1,300 in rent in LA, compared to USD$400 in Bali.

“Being a digital nomad is everything, I was able to successfully transition my graphic design business on road. I work 100% for myself; in the beginning it was challenging but I’ve grown up so much as an entrepreneur,” she tweeted.

Gray described Bali as “the perfect medicine” to cure her American life, and praised the island for its “safety, low cost of living, luxury lifestyle, [and] queer friendly and Black in Bali community.”

So when COVID-19 halted the world, Gray and Saundra decided to stay.

At the end of the Twitter thread, Gray shared a link to their eBook, Our Bali Life Is Yours, which they sold for USD$30.

“It’s a guide breaking down how we did it and how you can do it too,” Gray tweeted at the time.

It includes direct links to visa agents, and information “on getting into Indonesia during COVID.”

She also reportedly offered paid consultations on travelling to Bali in the middle of a pandemic.

Twitter / @kristentootie, via @gastricslut.

Twitter / @kristentootie, via @gastricslut.

While Gray’s story appealed to some of her followers, it also sparked a lot of backlash particularly among Indonesians. Many tweeted their concern, criticising Gray for encouraging foreigners to travel to a country already struggling with its coronavirus situation, and for glamourising Bali.

In June of last year, locals raged after a yoga retreat popular with foreigners held a 100-person chanting event with no masks or social-distancing measures, and lied about it.

In a statement obtained by Balinese news outlet Coconuts, the Ministry of Law and Human Rights conducted an investigation and found Gray had violated a number of immigration laws.

“The concerned foreign national is suspected to have done business by selling her e-book and putting up consultation fees on traveling to Bali, which means she can be subject to sanctions according to the 2011 Immigration Law,” the statement read.

She is also suspected of “spreading information that could unsettle the public”, by encouraging people to travel to the country during a pandemic and for suggesting that Bali is queer-friendly.

While parts of Bali may be queer-friendly, it was only last year that politicians in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta shopped around an archaic bill that would force LGBTQI+ people to “seek treatment at rehabilitation centres”.

Gray was in Indonesia under a visitor-stay permit until January 24, however authorities have decided to deport her.

As of yesterday, January 19, Gray is currently detained at the Immigration Detention Centre in Denpasar to await the next available flight to the United States.

Speaking briefly to the media, she said: “I am not guilty, I have not overstayed my visa, I have not made money in Indonesian rupiah in Indonesia. I put out a statement about LGBT and I’m being deported because of LGBT.”

Gray has since set her social media accounts to private, or removed them entirely.

Image: Getty Images, Twitter / @kristentootie