If you leave, don't leave now, Please don't take my heart away, Promise me just one more night, Then we'll go our separate ways… “If You Leave,” Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Don’t know if any of you remember me. I’ve written a few submissions on semi-retirement and early retirement in Thailand or elsewhere. It has been a couple years since I’ve submitted anything to Stick, although I have remained a loyal and regular reader. The recent discussions about new visa restrictions possibly causing a mass exodus of many from the Kingdom, has prompted me to write this. I don’t purport to be an expert on anything, but it seems to me situations like this will always occur. A situation only becomes an emergency if we have failed to prepare for it.
As you may or may not recall, my plan has been to earn money in the West and spend longer periods away from home enjoying the lower cost of living and the benefit of not having to work every day. In this past two years I have spent significant amounts of time away from my home. I have lived on Maui (Hawaii), beautiful beyond compare but barren when it comes to female companionship; Costa Rica, pricey and touristy but with a decent P4P and “free” scene; a contract job in San Francisco, a great cosmopolitan city with amazing restaurants and beautiful women that would have been extremely expensive if my contract had not included lodging; and brief trips to Korea and Japan. Korea was interesting, not too expensive and very different from anywhere else I have been. (Google kiss bang for an example of the scene there). In between trips I return home to Southern California to replenish my bank account and manage my business.
At this point I have enough savings and passive income to be able to “retire” to Thailand and leave my life here in the U.S. When I say enough, I mean that I could scrape by, living a simple life and having to supplement with teaching English or some other hustle. The exact type of life many in Thailand are living I imagine. I couldn’t travel home to see family very often, if at all, and would have to limit my nightlife sojourns. Although I could afford to die, I couldn’t afford to get really sick. Not the type of life I’ve imagined for my golden years.
The issue isn’t what if something happens, the issue is what will I do when it happens? What if I want to move? What if Thailand becomes inhospitable or the cost of living increases dramatically? Or what if Thailand decides to do the unlikely and crack down on its visa requirements?!? Oh wait… I think too few who “retire” have an exit strategy in place. Enough money to move on to a new place if things change or if they themselves change. The Middle East was once the Garden of Eden, lush and verdant. Now it’s a scorched sand pile. I know it took millions of years, but you get my point. Nothing stays the same. And neither do we. The loud music you loved as a kid now hurts your ears. The all night, every night parties have become a few pints with friends and home by 11. More importantly, the days of crashing on a friend’s couch, eating cheap street food and picking up lovely young things with a few charming comments are long gone, for me anyway. I need a nice hotel room, a decent restaurant and while I still think I’m charming as hell, the lovely young things now require a stipend for their time. Alack and Alas.
All of the foregoing are factors in why I haven’t yet pulled the plug and fled to Thailand or Central America for good. While there are days that I feel I can’t take another minute of the stress and worry that come with life in the West and am ready to escape, what brings me back to reality is my need for an exit strategy. I can’t imagine anything more stressful than being broke in a foreign country. I don’t ever want to feel trapped. I don’t ever want to be stuck in a place or situation where I am unhappy or where I feel unsafe. It’s of no use to look for the fire exit after the building has burned to the ground.
Unfortunately, the reality is that things will change, for the better or worse, and I need to be prepared. I don’t want to come off as a financial know-it-all or someone who hasn’t made mistakes. My father used to say that if I had a dollar I would spend two and in a way he was right. In my eyes, money only exists to buy the things I want and the experiences I desire, but I don’t want or desire a life of destitution. So I save, and I plan and while I enjoy myself more than many, I forego some desires so that I can exit gracefully if or when the time comes. While burning your ships before battle may have been badass, I don’t see it as sound life strategy. Me, I’m building a lifeboat and stashing a life preserver insider, just in case.
The point you make is poignant given all that is happening in Thailand at the moment. Many moved to Thailand at a young age and had plenty negative to say about their homeland. For whatever reason, over time some come to feel less enamoured with Thailand. People change, places change, situations change….so, yeah, we need to be aware of that and to have provisions in the plan for it.