When researching places to settle upon retirement everyone has different requirements and preferences. There are those who have lived the expat life for a long time who can’t wait to go home and settle into a comfortable routine, surrounded by children and grandchildren. Others, such as my husband and me, continue to look for new adventures in exotic and, in our case, warm climes.
A dream we had early on in our marriage was to retire on a sailboat and just float the days away. That could still happen but we’ve taken a bit of a detour and decided to settle on land, for now, in Thailand.Why, you ask?
Well, other than warm weather year-round, the great food and friendly people, one of our requirements was to find somewhere that our dollar would stretch further and we could live happily on that dreaded ‘fixed income’; where I could continue to write in blissful oblivion and the extra money I made would be gravy.
From Fabulously Frivolous to Fanatically Frugal
Anywhere you go in the world you can find luxurious real estate and high-end dining experiences and that’s no exception in Phuket. However, if you want to live on a budget, there are deals to be found for even the most serious bargain hunter.
A few small examples that actually made me giddy included my first trip to the dentist. I was having the type of tooth ache that makes you want to jump off a bridge with a 10-ton rock tied to your ankle. It wrapped around my head like a steel band that kept tightening while it heated up like the iron in a blacksmith’s fire. I would have given my eyeteeth to make it go away. I found the closest dentist I could and walked in off the street. I got an appointment for two hours later and proceeded to have an examination and x-rays. I was fully prepared to pay a ridiculous amount of money for the pleasure of having him tell me what I already knew… I needed antibiotics and probably a root canal. He did tell me exactly that and handed me a bill for 400 baht, which is $13, a little more than I would pay for a massage… and, it included the medication!
The next giggle-fest came when my motorbike developed a slow leak. I kept filling it every other day and then it just wouldn’t hold air for more than a few minutes. I limped to the closest bike shop, my tire fulumping around under me, and asked if they could please fix it. The mechanic set right to it as I sat on one of the little pink plastic stools set off to the side and looked on. He deftly removed the inner tube from inside the tire and ran it through his fingers with a concentrated frown. He wound up totally replacing the inner tube, re-inserted it (still can’t figure that out… it’s like trying to understand how they get those little ships into the bottle), wiped his hands on his pants and pointed me to the cashier. Total cost: 150 baht ($5), including labor!
The cost of veterinary care was another pleasant surprise. After spending oodles of money on my cat, Zorro, in both Florida and Dubai, imagine my surprise and delight when I took him for an emergency visit after an unpleasant altercation with a local ‘bully’ (of the feline variety) and the bill came out less than my cab ride there! I love this place!
Suffice it to say, we are living very comfortably and are quite happy with our decision. Who knows what the future will bring but, for now, we’ll slurp on our 50 Baht ($1.68) noodle soup, sip on our 80 Baht ($2.68) beer at sunset while digging our toes in the sand. Wine is a little on the expensive side but that’s for another column.
A published author and freelance writer, Anne O’Connell, has been an expat since 1993 when she and her husband escaped the cold of Toronto, Canada and moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. They enjoyed the sun and sand for 14 years, while she worked in the PR field, and then decided it was time for a new adventure. Heading for even more sun and sand, they moved to Dubai in late 2007 and then on to Thailand in 2011.
Anne has been working as a freelance copywriter and communications consultant since 2007, specializing in marketing, corporate communications, public relations, social media and website content. She and her husband have a passion for travel and that adventurous spirit has taken them all over the world. Anne grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia and has a bachelor of public relations from Mount St. Vincent University. You can visit her website at www.anne-oconnell.com or her blog at www.anne-writingjustbecause.blogspot.com.
Read more of Anne's Expat Focus articles here.