Published in Medium
I’d heard about lots of people who sold, or rented out their home to go and live like kings somewhere cheap overseas. It sounded like something I wanted to know more about.
We looked at our situation and decided we could afford to semi-retire, only work 6 months a year, if we rented out our home and lived somewhere cheap for 6 months of the year. Not perfect, but better than the alternative (full-time work).
What follows is the outline of steps to achieving this plan and how it went in practice.
Finding the ‘Somewhere Cheap’
We realised there are five criteria to consider when deciding on your location. They are:
What you’re looking for will obviously be up to individual tastes and needs. This site was really useful, with its brilliantly research Best Places to Retire list. Also, Numbeo gives detailed costs of living expenses, and data about the above criteria. It even allows you to do a comparison between two different places.
A good way to help narrow down your decision is to look where the digital nomads are. They’re savvy at working out the best spots with best value for money. The Wi-Fi Tribe was really useful for the practical details of the location.
In the end we decided on Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Finding a Home
If you’re planning to stay in your location for a minimum of 3 months, it is a good idea to book a hotel for your first week and then, local renting laws permitting, go through an estate agent for your accommodation. The rent can be less than half what you’d pay for hotel or even Airbnb accommodation. The longer your lease, the cheaper the rent.
If you’re looking at Thailand these sites are helpful for listings and FAQs:
It’s a good idea to read the FAQs as each location may have different costs for tenants. In Thailand for example, rent does not include electricity costs which could give you a rude shock. Other than that, Thailand is an easy place to rent an apartment/ condo. There is barely any red tape and no officious documentation is required.
Health Insurance: Make sure you have health insurance that will cover you while overseas and includes emergency evacuation. Your normal private health insurance may not extend to other countries, and your travel insurance may be limited. I know it’s a bit dull, but it’s worth a check.
Water: In many of the cheaper places to live water is an issue. You’ll find yourself paying out money on a daily basis. Usually the cost is pretty low and won’t break the bank, but nevertheless it’s a cost you need to factor in as essential.
Pensions: Each country has different rules, but I know Australia’s aged pension comes with residency requirements. Firstly, you are required to be a resident on the day your become eligible and you must remain in residence for 24 months after your qualification date. Once that time has passed retirees who depend on the government aged pension have to return to Australia ever 6 months to maintain their residency requirements. These rules are obviously in place to deter Australians from taking their pension and buggering off. Please bear in mind that these rules are complex and prone to change, make sure any decisions that may impact your eligibility for the aged pension are informed. Here is the link to the relevant Centrelink page.
Managing Home Affairs from Abroad
Assuming you’ve rented out your home to help fund your life overseas, the key to the experience being stress free and successful is a good property manager. Word of mouth is the best way to find one that will work effectively and thoroughly for you in your absence.
The other vital element is reliable Wi-Fi, but if you’ve followed the advice of digital nomads, that shouldn’t be a problem.
Living in a new town is a challenge enough, but life in a new country is a whole new level of adjustment. Here are a few tips to help the transition:
Be kind to yourself: Don’t expect to feel at home too soon, allow yourself at least 6 weeks to get your bearings and feel any level of harmony with your new home.
Laugh: There are going to be challenges, language barriers and confusions. It’s inevitable, but enjoy them as part of the adventure, don’t get wound up over them.
Be open: You will feel like a stranger in a strange land, where everything is slightly odd. Nothing is familiar. Even the most basic elements of life become trials, such as in the supermarket. Suddenly choosing toilet paper, encountering weird vegetables and selecting the right washing powder all take on new complexities. Be prepared to try new things and expect the process to be one of trial and error.
Finding Your Tribe
Our social networks are vital to our enjoyment of life. Without a tribe in your new home, you’ll find it difficult to make a success of it. After speaking with many expats living abroad, I can let you in on some paths to finding your tribe.
Trivia Night: This is my personal favourite. I like it because I know I’ll meet people who speak English, value knowledge, are social and like a drink or two. Plus, you can win stuff. Even if you rock up by yourself, you can join a team and presto, you know people. Here’s some info about trivia in Chiang Mai.
Volunteer: There are innumerable organisations and charities desperate for volunteers to help. It really depends on what is important to you and how you think your might be able to best help. This site details 150 programs throughout the world. When you join one of these groups you know you’ll meet like-minded folk with big hearts.
Facebook: Before you head off, join a couple of Facebook groups in the area. They give you great insights and also info about up coming social events and deals. I joined a few pages, including: Farang Community Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai News in English and Chiang Mai Expat Teachers.
Is it worth it?
I guess this is the ultimate question. I found pitfalls and pleasures, most of which I’ve chronicled in these articles. It isn’t easy and it takes a leap of faith, but I do think it’s worth it. You’ll be richer for the experiences, the people you meet and for having your perceptions challenged.
Even if you don’t pick the right place for you first time, keep going. There is no right or wrong, just what’s right for you.