My husband Michael and I were in our 50s when we made the decision to retire overseas. Before then I really hadn’t given retirement much serious thought.
I suppose I had seen us as part of the grey nomad brigade, caravanning the well-worn roads of Australia, gathering at 5 p.m. for ‘sundowners’ then toddling off to camp for the night.
But, to be honest, the thought of retirement scared me. To me, it was like the final chapter of your life. It’s what I would do before I die! I worried about Michael and I spending so much time together…I felt we hadn’t accumulated enough money…I thought I would be bored and not feel that I was adding value.
My management role was demanding and I worked long hours, but it provided a sense of belonging, achievement and contribution. We had a charming 1950s Queenslander home with tropical garden and pool. With family and friends nearby, I felt content.
But then, as happens with life, circumstances changed. Due to rezoning, we received good offers on our house. We had considered buying another property and continuing to work but we wanted a more inspiring life. This was our ‘real decision point’ when we seriously started investigating retiring early and moving overseas. So, we decided to sell our house and negotiated a long settlement.
We turned our sights toward Asia—because of the proximity to Australia, our love of Asian food and because it was within our limited budget! In Thailand—‘The Land of Smiles’—visa arrangements, owning property, the culture, climate and expat community attracted us.
One piece of advice that we didn’t follow was to visit first and stay some time. Not us. We disposed of belongings in Australia, took our 72 kilos of luggage and set off. We figured that if we really didn’t like our chosen area, the royal resort town of Hua Hin, we could simply move on again. We were determined to make this a new and exciting chapter in our life together.
Eighteen months on, I reflect on those earlier fears and our life now. Actually, the decision to leave our home country was easy once we had done our research and knew it would work financially. But the more intangible, emotional questions could not be answered until we were here and settled.
Well, we are more happily married! But we still prefer doing some things on our own and maintaining some independence.
It’s a more relaxed lifestyle. We ease ourselves into the day rather than me bolting to the gym at 5 a.m. so I could start work at 7 a.m.
It’s hard to describe, but we set our own pace, instead of it being dictated by work or other pressures. The pace of life here is so much more relaxed. We chuckled yesterday while riding the escalator two abreast, that we would be trampled if we did this in Sydney or Brisbane.
Our diets are healthier—there is an abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables, seafood, pork and chicken. And we exercise more often and at respectable hours of the day. I ran my first mini-marathon in May and was surprised to find many opportunities for pursuing this activity around Thailand.
I am delighted at how easy it is to make new friends from different countries, backgrounds and with divergent interests. Also surprising was the age group, with many people in their 50s just here making the most of life!
Learning about the country, culture, customs and religion is fascinating and whenever we travel we have the time to research, making the experience more rewarding. And speaking of travel, we have taken about 15 trips away from our home since we have been here. It’s easy to get around and there are so many enticing options.
A big question we’re asked is, ‘Is it really more affordable than Australia?’ For us…yes! We now own a two-bedroom villa with a pool and garden and there’s no way we would have been able to retire at the same age in Australia given the cost of living. Plus, for me, with the Age Pension kicking in at 68—arrgghhh—that would have meant another 18 years of work.
Some people tentatively ask ‘Are you happy you moved to Thailand?’ Absolutely! In fact, sometimes, sipping a drink while lolling in the spa, I have to pinch myself to see if I’m dreaming…