Stickman Readers' Submissions January 6th, 2015

Decision Time

Just over a year ago, I was given a redundancy package after 15 years with my company. I enjoyed my work and could have quite happily stayed on for another year or two, but this was a one off opportunity and who could say when, or if, it would be offered again. The package, plus my retirement savings, meant I was finally in a position to make the long held dream of retiring to Asia a reality.

Fate intervened a week later when my father unexpectedly passed away, and in the following month my brother had an accident that landed him in hospital for a few months. My plans to travel and retire in Asia were put on hold. Death and illness really cause you to reassess things.

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During the next few months, I took a couple of trips to Thailand, the Philippines and Cambodia to get a feel for where I really want to spend my time.

Now that things have settled down, I realise I need to make a decision as to whether I make the ‘big move’ or just continue on with a few extended trips each year. For whatever reason, this decision has caused me some stress recently and I have found myself unsettled over the past few weeks. Previous experience tells me that when I feel this way, I am best to take a step back, relax and think things through.

I wasn’t sure whether I really wanted to move to another country and leave the familiarity of family and friends, and the predictability of life in Australia, or just take extended trips a few times a year.

My mind was made up after realising that if I don’t do it now, I will most likely never do it.

It’s great to have made the decision as that unsettled feeling has now left and in its place is all the planning and things to look forward to. Life will become more challenging but also more interesting.

I have now started the task of packing up my possessions to put in storage. I will organise for my house to be rented out through a local real estate agent. The rent from my property plus my retirement funds will afford me a decent lifestyle in any of these countries.

It would have even been better if the Aussie dollar had not tanked over the last few months, but these things are cyclical and one must weather the ups and downs of the financial markets.

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The only question that remains is where to go? The three countries I mentioned are so very different as are my levels of experience with them.

I have been a regular traveller to Thailand for over 20 years, studying the language and was even married to a Thai at one stage. I learnt later on that I was in love with Thailand, and not a particular Thai.

I have travelled quite extensively in The Philippines recently and it has a lot to offer, but there are numerous issues there. Once you get used to the extreme security in all public places (armed guards at everything from banks to pharmacies to hospitals to hotels) and the constant frisk downs (I am at the point where I just raise my arms when I see a security guard at a place I wish to enter), The Philippines can be a great place to holiday. The ladies are pretty much queuing up for us whiteys, but if you are looking for something long term I would suggest you seriously scrutinise their motives, as poverty can be a real driving force there. That said, I believe that Filipinas are probably more compatible with us than most others.

The Philippines may be geographically located in Asia, but I consider it to be an odd man out, having more in common with a Latin American country. The women are very marriage-minded, and the men are machismo. The Philippines is certainly popular with a lot of foreigners, particularly Americans, but I think it would be a challenge living there.

I have only been to a couple of places in Cambodia and for me, the jury is still out. Infrastructure is an issue, but the people remind me of the Thais a couple of decades ago. That alone makes trips there worthwhile. If you want a relaxing few days, with good food, cheap drinks, cheap massages and friendly female company, book one of the many hotels in Phnom Penh near to the river, and you won’t regret it. Try La Croisette on Sisowath Quay overlooking the Tonle Sap river – homemade pasta, excellent wines, good views, and moderately priced.

So, for me, it will be six months in Bangkok to start the ball rolling. My extra curricular activities will include furthering my Thai studies and possibly teaching English part-time. I know many people consider English teaching to be low end, but for me, it’s more about having a range of options to give my day some structure.

There will be trips to The Philippines and Cambodia, and I would like to explore Vietnam as well.

That’s the plan, and now that I have written all this down, my unsettled feelings have completely disappeared.

Thanks for reading.

Stickman's thoughts:

If I were you and I really was not sure where I wanted to be, I'd spend time travelling through the 3 countries that appeal, talk to expats and get a feel for what it would be like to retire there. Bangkok is an easy choice with more expats than anywhere else in the region and the best infrastructure. You have options so explore them!

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