Hello, and welcome! If you are reading this, you have discovered my very first blog post! My name is Rob and two years ago, at the tender age of 51, I made the decision to use my military pension to retire to the exotic country of Thailand. I'm currently writing a book about my experiences, so rather than reinvent the wheel, I've decided to just post my first chapter. If you are thinking about making such a move yourself, feel free to ask me any questions you may have. I'll be happy to provide an answer if I can.
Chapter 1 – Why Thailand?
San Diego is a beautiful although expensive city. That’s where I lived during my last tour of a 26-year career in the U.S. Navy. I retired as a Senior Chief Petty Officer, earning a monthly retirement pension that would afford a fairly meager lifestyle in the United States. I found myself with very few attachments. My son recently achieved independence by joining the Navy, and the relationship I had been in for the past six years had come to an end. I had choices. I could get another job and continue the 9-to-5 hell most of us call a life. I could survive off of my pension by moving into a trailer in the desert, shooting rabbits from my front porch for dinner, or I could move to a country with a lower cost of living. I know you’re probably thinking, “That’s when he moved to Thailand!” However, I had some credit card debt to eliminate, so I chose to work. I got a job with the State of California, and within two years, I paid off my debt and managed to save a nest egg of about $20,000.
During this two years, I spent a significant amount of time looking into retirement locations on the Internet. The Navy had afforded me the opportunity to travel extensively, so I had an idea of what most of these retirement destinations were all about. I have lived in Japan, Italy and Croatia. Some of the top contenders for retirement were Panama, Ecuador, and Belize. I visited all three destinations and did extensive research on each of them. The countries in Central and South America left me feeling uneasy during my time there. Crime rates are high and I always felt as though I had to stay vigilant and aware of my surroundings. Whether my paranoia was warranted doesn’t really matter. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere feeling that way.
The food and historical sites of Italy are amazing, especially in the south, but I never felt at home or welcome during the three years I lived there. Japan is clean, the people are honest and law abiding, and the country is breathtaking, but it is even more expensive than living in the States. Croatia is absolutely beautiful. In fact, Dubrovnik is my favorite European city, with its medieval wall and spectacular location on the Dalmation Coast. The people are friendly, well-educated and cultured. Croatia was worth consideration. While each place had its pros and cons, my mind kept returning to a memory of a one-week trip I took while stationed in Japan in 1989. This trip was to Bangkok, Thailand.
I flew into Bangkok alone, never having visited the country before, not knowing what to expect. I was 24 at the time; a wide-eyed rookie sailor who had spent the majority of his life in a small town in Arizona. Thailand was amazing and beautiful, as well as raw and a little frightening. I landed around midnight. I took a taxi from the airport to Bangkok and during the 30-minute trip, my driver asked questions about the type of women I found attractive. “You like long hair-short hair?” “Long I guess.” “You like big girl-small girl?” “I don’t know … depends on the girl?” This went on for the entire trip. Back then you couldn’t register for a hotel online, so I took his recommendation for a room. Of course, the hotel belonged to somebody who paid him a kick-back, but it was a clean, simple room and I was satisfied.
A few minutes after I registered and began to settle in, I received a knock at the door. When I opened it, there was a man I had seen in the hotel lobby standing in front of me. He was accompanied by six young ladies, about my age, all within the parameters of what I had described to the taxi driver as the type of woman I found attractive. The man told me that any or all of them would stay with me for the night (for a nominal fee, of course). Being 24, and having a pocket full of money, I didn’t put up much resistance and invited one young lady to stay with me. She grinned like the Cheshire Cat and the others walked away, seemingly disappointed. My new friend was the first person I had officially met in Thailand. While her English wasn’t perfect, it was better than my Thai, and we (mostly) talked until the sun came up. I don’t claim to be a saint. I was a young man and life was an adventure.
During my week there, I saw beautiful temples and historical sites, I fed monkeys and elephants, rode a motorbike around the city, ate food I had never tasted before, drank Thai whiskey with beautiful women and soaked in every experience I could unearth in the mystical and ancient city called Bangkok. Since that week, I have never experienced the same feelings visiting other countries as I did then, perhaps because I was young and naïve, but maybe because then Thailand actually was a magical and exotic land.
So, while reminiscing about this poignant experience in my life, I decided Thailand would be my next home. During my Navy years I had often heard old Chief Petty Officers going on about how they were going to retire, move to Thailand, open a bar and die with a smile on their face. At the time, I never thought seriously about moving out of the U.S., but it seems I’m one of the few that actually did it. I have no interest in opening a bar, but the smile is still possible.
I had been planning the move to Thailand in my head for more than a year. About six-months prior to the move, I started putting my plan into action.
So, that's my first chapter and an introduction to why I moved to Thailand. In the future, I plan to provide information about how I obtained a retirement visa, and what went into the move. Then I'll share some of my experiences while actually living here. I hope you will join me in my journey!