Monday, November 26, 2012

Psychological Issues of Starting a New Life

Wrapping your head around a new culture, new life, and a new way of thinking can really play tricks with you mind.  What one must realize is that even though starting a new life can be exhilarating and exotic, there will inevitably be times of questionable sanity in making such a huge move.

As I research and read the blogs of others who have done this before me, I discover several things.  There seems to be a wall that expats face when they haven't made personal connections, learned the language and generally planned out their move.  Apparently at about the 3 year mark, the newness and exoticness has warn off and they become bored and depressed and either leave the country or become alcoholics and wallow in everything that's wrong with the country.

What I do know is that I'll have bouts of culture shock, maybe some depression, and self-questioning along the lines of "what have I done?"  Knowing this ahead of time is key to being able to get past these feelings until friends are made, joining groups is accomplished and interest in volunteering opportunities becomes apparent.

There are large numbers of expats in Chiang Mai, mostly English and American followed by Australians, Germans and other Europeans and Asians.  The Chiang Mai American Embassy lists over 8,000 expat Americans registered with them and there is most likely the same number who have not registered, since it is not required.  The Chiang Mai Expat Club has monthly meetings where more than 100 attend and as an offshoot of that club, there are many sub-groups of special interest like tennis club, gay expats, theater group, arts enthusiasts, and travel club.  I don't think I'll lack for contact with English speakers!

My intention is to join group Thai language classes immediately, although one can function without knowing Thai, personal experience deepens when you are able to converse with market sellers and folks outside the city.  I'll also be looking for yoga classes to continue my practice.  As for volunteering, I have to see what's available.  One choice of interest is working for one of the several non-governmental organizations who find and destroy unexploded ordinance (cluster bombs) that have been dropped on Cambodia and even more extensively in Myanmar during the Viet Nam war.  We put them there, so I believe we should clean them up.

One final thing to remind myself of is that I will be a guest in their country and I intend to revere and honor their culture, their way of thinking, and wholeheartedly participate in their historic festivals.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Reducing Life to Two Suitcases

It was my good friend Fernando who initially put into words what I hadn't yet considered in the week after my Thailand visit. "Why don't you retire there" was his suggestion after hearing me gush about the pleasures I had experienced on my travels. 

For a brief time the comparison of Quito, Ecuador and Chiang Mai, Thailand were on my radar because each have similar living expenses.  Quito is at 10,000 feet elevation and has really nice year-round weather, but doesn't seem as foreigner-friendly with a Catholic society.  Quito life seemed dull to me compared to Thailand with its festivals and spontaneous markets.

Thailand, on the other hand, has so much going for it that my list of pros and cons was easily tilted toward "the land of smiles" (which is true, by-the-way).  It is a Buddhist society and every male, usually teenage or up to their 20's, spends some amount of concentrated time in a monastery where they learn not only Buddhism and meditation, but also to be nice people.  

With Thailand in my sights for retirement, the only question was "when".  Early retirement seems reasonable to me.  Why not retire while one still feels like getting out, getting involved, and generally enjoying life?  We only have a limited time before old age closes in on us and diminishes our abilities and desire.

I will turn 62 in January, so I have had a year to prepare for this new journey and, believe me, it takes time to get ready.  I've sold or given away most of my possessions and by January, I expect to have my life neatly packed into two suitcases.  In my years of traveling I've managed to pare down to just a carry-on for any length of travel time, so two regular sized suitcases shouldn't be that hard. 

Logistics of financial/banking, visa requirements, getting medical files, getting all accounts on-line so nothing has to be mailed is challenging, but as each step gets crossed off a long list of "must dos" there comes a feeling of freedom.  My transportation in Thailand will be a motorcycle, so I've taken a motorcycle safety course and gotten the required international driving permit with motorcycle endorsement.  Its a long list and keeps changing as I expect my life to do in the coming months.

I'll talk about the psychological side of starting a new life in the next blog.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Retirement Abroad

The question a lot of people are asking themselves is "when will I be able to retire".  I've been pondering this question for many years thinking I would never be able to retire on what I've saved and with a relatively small Social Security income.  What I have also realized for many years is that there are always "options" for most situations. 

It is with this in mind for the past ten years or so I have been exploring retirement options outside the United States.  If I was ever going to be able to afford retirement, it would  be in a country that is not as expensive as the U.S. 

Traveling to the U.K., Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy, Croatia, Slovenia, and a few other European countries I could see that anywhere in Europe is out of the question for economic living.  The countries on my list would have to be "developing" countries with a lower standard of living than the U.S. or Europe.  Looking at Mexico, Central/South America was getting more promising and I have a head start with the Spanish language after traveling these areas for many years.

Until last year, my vagabonding was still turning up places that were definitely cheaper to live, but not as inexpensive as I had hoped.

By crunching my financial numbers I knew what I'd have for a retirement nest egg and it would be questionable living on a forced budget in the Spanish speaking countries.

On a whim last year I traveled to Thailand as a treat to myself after getting a hip replacement.  The plan was to enjoy a warm place in winter where I could exercise the new hip, get cheap massages, and generally take it easy.  What I found was a whole new inexpensive living experience, one that I am sure I can handle financially.

... to be continued

First Snow

Last night was our first snow of the season.  Just a week after hurricane Sandy knocked out power throughout New England, a second "Nor'easter" has dropped about 3 inches of the white stuff.  There are no reports of downed power lines, so our power grid is safe for the time being. 

We did lose our world-wide-web Internet for most of the day yesterday, but that, I understand, was due to a broken cable somewhere.

It goes without saying that living in the North East has its challenges.