The taste of crispy bacon, fresh eggs, sauteed potato, mixed vegies and grilled tomatoes with cracked pepper is even more delicious when you don’t have to make it yourself! More often than not, my husband and I like to indulge ourselves in this decadent breakfast at our local restaurant, The Gekko Garden, less than one kilometre away from our city townhouse. We justify the calories by riding our bicycles there and enjoy chatting about how we might spend the rest of the day.
The plate will cost me $4 and that’s including freshly squeezed orange juice. We may decide to drive 25 minutes to the base of Doi Suthep mountain to enjoy a flavoursome lunch under the canopy of the Southeast Asian jungle or we might choose to swing by the Old City and wander through Shaman’s second-hand bookstore and chat with the eccentric Italian owner who has an enormous fondness for cats.
That’s everyday life here in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and it’s easy to get used to its gentle rhythms. But recently, I was reminded of just how special it really is when I flew back to Australia to speak at International Living Australia’s Fast Track Your Overseas Retirement conference.
I landed at Brisbane airport at around eight in the morning and hopped in a taxi. As we approached the city, sitting in rush hour traffic, I watched as hundreds of people marched down the streets, bound for grey office spaces. A wave of gratitude struck me like never before. I was once a part of that rat race, but I escaped. I got out. I am free.
How? Thanks to what feels like the world’s best kept secret: a move overseas to a destination with a lower cost of living. Selling up in Australia and moving to Thailand bought me the freedom to retire at 46. Simple as that. I did my maths, sold my house, consolidated a few humble investments and abracadabra I am retired in Chiang Mai, Thailand’s “Rose of the North”.
My husband, son and I live on a simple budget of $2,400 per month, but we actually don’t spend all of that. Life here is so affordable we’ve even managed to save some money.
For me, escaping from the rat race means that I wake up to the natural sunlight, not the harsh sound of an alarm screaming in the darkness. It also means that every second of the day can be devoted to what I want to do, as opposed to what I ‘should’ be doing or what I get paid to do.
Escaping from the rat race means that my perspective has shifted greatly about the expectations of my day. Two years ago, if I had to go to the post office, it was a burden and a nuisance. Now, going to the post office is a fun family event. We jump on our bicycles and ride down there. Of course, it gets a bit hot, so we’ll pick up an ice cream for $2 and head back home for a swim in our pool.
Floating in that blue pool and feeling the warm sun touch my skin makes me wonder why I ever thought the rat race was a good type of ‘normal’. Frangipani trees hang overhead as I do laps of the pool and ponder what stopped me from retiring even earlier.
Perhaps it’s because I used to think that living a simple life equated to the mundane. How wrong I was. As I’ve discovered, a simple life is a rewarding adventure full of rich and delicious surprises. Here in Chiang Mai, we walk, ride and explore this colourful city. We observe, learn and exchange cultures. We eat meals with layered depths of flavours and meet amazing people who have also rejected the idea of participating in the rat race until they are 70 years of age.
Life here is filled with expat camaraderie, laughter, freedom and adventure. As I sit writing this postcard to you, I am looking at the lush Doi Suthep mountain from my window. On top, the golden temple looks as though it’s floating in the midnight sky. The serenity is spectacular and I can only hope that you are well on the way to realising your retirement dream, early or otherwise, because it really is true that you can live better, healthier and with a newfound vibrancy overseas.