Occasionally, people I’ve grown up with will ask me, “Why would you want to move to Thailand?” It’s a fair question. I enjoyed a good life in the United States. A military retirement afforded me a decent, low-key lifestyle, even if I chose not to work. If I stayed in the U.S., I’d be closer to family and friends, and all the conveniences to which I’ve grown accustomed would be at my fingertips. It would be easier to find a good steak or tacos, that’s for sure!
One reason I chose to leave is cost of living. Housing costs, even in the less-expensive parts of the U.S., are outrageous. The last place I lived was a small, two-bedroom apartment in the cheaper part of San Diego – a 30-minute drive to downtown, and it was $1,650 per month. It wasn’t a luxury apartment by any means. The complex had a small pool, but there was no security gate, and parking was a contest sometimes. I had questionable and often loud neighbors. Although Santee (the name of the suburb) isn’t particularly unsafe, it certainly isn’t an affluent part of the San Diego metropolitan area.
In Thailand I pay less than $500 per month for a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom house, with a yard, in a gated community with security guards. I would expect to pay at least $2,500 per month for the same place in California, and that would be a considered a good deal. The property here has a lake, a very nice pool, and a small gym. Late in the afternoon, there are a dozen families walking dogs and pushing babies in strollers around the property for exercise, chatting with each other as they go. After dark, it’s quiet. If I paid the same $1,650 as I did in California, I’d have a mansion with a pool, and a detached room for the maid … no exaggeration! Food, and anything labor intensive is also significantly cheaper. I was shocked at the price of groceries and fast food during a recent visit to Texas. A cheap meal here is a dollar or two, and $10, will get you a fancy dinner in a decent restaurant (as long as you don’t order beef). Interestingly, to me anyway, is fast food is more expensive here than eating in a good, Thai restaurant.
While money is important, it’s not the main reason I chose to live abroad. I looked into several different countries, and eventually decided on Thailand, but living in a different country was my main intention. During my time in the Navy, I was stationed in Japan, Italy, and Croatia. I’ve visited countries all over the world (as most sailors do). No matter the quality of living conditions, I always enjoyed the adventure associated with living somewhere I knew nothing about. Visiting a foreign country is much different than living in one. It’s sort of like the ads for fast-food restaurants. What you see in the picture is a highly enhanced version of reality. You don’t really get to know about a place until you’ve been there long enough to see past the shiny façade used to make money off of tourists.
I recently turned 55, as have many of my friends from my hometown of Kingman, Arizona. My son is grown, and I’m lucky enough to have some sort of retirement income. It’s not a lot, but it’s enough. I figure I’m well over the half-way mark in the years I have allotted to me. In my mind, I might as well try to do what I find enjoyable with the time I have left. Right now, I’m busy exploring Thailand and the countries surrounding it. It’s nearly as simple to fly to Vietnam for a few days as it is to fly to Las Vegas from California. There is still plenty to see and do, and that’s what “floats my boat” (so to speak). I may eventually get tired of what I’m doing and head back to the U.S., for all its comforts and familiarity, or I may head to Ecuador or some place and see how things are there. This is the lifestyle I find rewarding. However, you don’t necessarily have to move to another location to find satisfaction.
My point is, we’re all getting older, and we’ve all paid our dues. There comes a time when you should do what you can to satisfy your own needs, wants, and desires. You’ve spent your life working your way up the ladder, raising your kids, and doing what’s expected. Now it’s your turn! For you, that might be buying a dirt bike, and spending weekends tearing up the desert. Maybe you enjoy wine tasting, and want to spend your extra time travelling up and down the California coast hitting all the big vineyards. Maybe you want to find the perfect fishing hole and try to catch a big ol’ trophy bass. Maybe all you want is to put on your comfortable jammies, drink hot tea and read as many novels as you can. The important thing is to do what makes you happy, and to make time for it. For folks my age and older, it’s our time to do what we want!
I would love to hear what your ultimate happiness goals are. What makes you happiest? Is it attainable? Are there obstacles? Let’s talk!