Luck doesn’t stop when you leave home.


SOME OF US HAVE THINGS WE WANT TO DO HERE AT HOME. JUST BECAUSE YOU DON’T DOESN’T PUT YOU IN A POSITION TO PREACH ABOUT THE VIRTUES OF RUNNING AWAY

I’d be the first to agree. All my writing about retirement is directed to people who share my position, people who are not in their salad years, making lots of money and flourishing at work. If you’re getting rich and making a difference, more power to you! By all means, simply go on a well-deserved vacation every once in a while and spend a chunk of that hard-earned money. My writing is directed to people who aren’t happy with the future they can envision based on their present circumstances. I’m trying to send them a message of hope.

I’m not saying I wouldn’t return to the States for an extended stay if I had a good reason to. I just don’t foresee that reason. If the wheels of commerce in the entertainment industry turn so that a demand for my services suddenly materializes, I’m sure I could be persuaded to come out of retirement. I don’t foresee that happening, but heck, I could be proven wrong.

Good luck and good fortune happen to everybody. I’m sure if we could see an retrospective overview of all the times luck has already visited and we failed to notice, we’d be chagrined. Moving abroad doesn’t change the possibility of synchronicity entering our lives. The people we meet abroad are just as important as the ones we left behind. The opportunities one can find abroad are as equally significant, if not equally remunerative, as those we might find back home..

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As laughable as it is grotesque


GEEZERS GONE WILD!

 

Nobody, not even the Geezers themselves, wants to see them unclothed. Some of them might be temporarily off their meds, or might have taken twice the daily dose by mistake, but even then their erratic behavior will not strike anyone as sexy or charming.

 

Fortunately, developing countries that attract retirees on fixed incomes appreciate the income they provide, and so do their best to be good hosts, sometimes overlooking behaviors that might warrant a fine or even arrest back home.

 

All the Geezers anxiously await Geezer Gone Wild Week, which actually only lasts three days, because none of the participants can endure seven days of anything. Heavily attended activities include Power Napping, Watching Reruns of the Love Boat, and Griping About Young People Nowadays.

 

Making Friends


HOW CAN YOU MAKE REAL FRIENDS WHEN YOU AND THE LOCALS ARE SEPERATED BY SUCH A WIDE ECONOMIC AND CULTURAL GULF?

The ties that really bind people together are those of mutual respect and empathy. It’s obvious to all parties involved that there are differences in background and situation, but the most interesting part comes from discovering the far more significant nature of our common humanity than noting the differences in custom. What really matters in all this? Make a foreign friend and you’ll find out.

The big temptation is to let money get in the way. It’s tempting to try to fix someone’s problems with money and then resent and avoid them them later. Far better to develop boundaries that allow you co-exist with people you care about, allowing them the dignity of managing their finances.

That’s easy to say theoretically, but what do you do when your neighbor has a sick baby and you’re the only one around who owns a car?

OK, so this making friends with the locals thing isn’t necessarily going to be easy, but it doesn’t need to be thought of as a minefield. How about, as a garden, with all sorts of strange, new, attractive flowers, some of which hold hidden thorns. Caution and care will pay handsomely.

 

 

More About Me (I thought you’d never ask!)


 

 

MY STORY

My name is Dan Coffey, and for most of my adult life I forgot to get a real job. I was a member of a comedy troupe which formed just as we were all leaving graduate school. We moved to San Francisco and worked very hard at is for twelve years. During that decade, I made about ten thousand dollars a year, on average. Amazing that I managed to live and raise a family in one of the world’s most expensive cities on that incomet, but I did. Eventually, when it became apparent that we weren’t going to be discovered nor given our own television series, I moved back to Iowa. By this time I was on my second marriage and was supporting four children and a wife.

Back in the Midwest I scrambled to put together a teaching career, but found that my services were desired only on a part-time, or visiting basis. Within a few years of leaving the West Coast, I was selling shoes at a department store and working at Radio Shack.

And it never really got much better, at least income-wise. I tried a little of this and a little of that. Co-wrote three books, had a couple of important sounding things happen, but still, nothing really worked out. I got fired several times, and despite the fact that I had a somewhat impressive if spotty resume, the Big Break never broke and no big payoff ever materialized.

And then, at the age of sixty-one, I got fired from a low-paying, mind-numbing teaching job for the last time. I know it’s the last time, because I’m no longer sending out my mildly impressive yet spotty resume. I’m not ever going to work again, unless it means working for myself.

For the last ten years I have been spending all my extra money traveling, trying to find a place I really wanted to live where I wouldn’t have to feel poor or worry about money. I’ve found several, but I want to share my stories about two of those places, and make some general statements about the neighboring countries, as well.

The countries I found that really trip my trigger, that excite and delight me, make me feel rich and attractive, give me hope and make me want to learn more about them each day I’m there are

NICARAGUA and THAILAND

Even though they’re on opposite sides of the planet, they’ve almost the same place. I’ve spent more time in Thailand now than I have in Nicaragua, but I’ve made more trips to Nicaragua than to Thailand. They’re both about the same latitude (distance north of the equator) and the vegetation and scenery are similar. And they’re both about as inexpensive compared to the United States. In other words, if you’re making over a grand a month, you can live comfortably.

When I sold my house, my motorcycle and my car, and put a few plastic boxes of photographs and mementos into storage, I was free to go wherever I wanted, provided it didn’t cost too much.

On what I get from Social Security and my meager teacher’s pension (part-timers usually don’t get retirement benefits) I could either live in a van down by the river in the States, or quite well in Nicaragua or Thailand. As I write this, I’m in Thailand. I rent a delightful house surrounded by greenery, have a relatively new motorcycle and a new bicycle, and do pretty much whatever I want, when I want to. I get at least a one hour massage every day. I swim in a fifty meter pool that is largely empty of people, and I eat tasty, nutritious Thai food in restaurants at least once a day. It is possible to eat a meal in a restaurant here for one dollar!

If I get tired of Thailand, I’ll jump up to Laos, or hop over to Nicaragua. If I get tired of that, I’ll head down to South America. If I get tired of, say, Ecuador, I might head back to Asia. These emerging economies share many of the same attributes to the retiree in our position.

There’s a good chance that I’ll remain here in Chiang Mai, Thailand for a long time. The thought of dying here doesn’t scare me. It seems like a delightful place to spend the last twenty or thirty years I might have left.

So what’s the message I have for you and what can you expect to learn from reading this site? If you’re anywhere near in my position financially and you dread the idea of living a church mouse existence, getting steadily poorer as the social fabric of America disintegrates, maybe you should do something about it sooner rather than later. None of us knows how much time we have left. Cut your losses and make a break for it

If you’re a retired orthodontist with a net worth of six million dollars, then none of my suggestions will apply to you. If you’d like the stimulation of living abroad, look into Switzerland, Denmark or the South of France. You can build a gated Xanadu on a Central American coast, but chances are you’ll soon feel isolated and bored and eventually drink yourself to death. So make sure you go somewhere where you’ll find a community.

I don’t pretend to know what the best place is for you, since I don’t know for sure what the best place is for me. But I do know that I’ve found two pretty darn good places that make me feel less like a victim and more like a fully-functioning human being than trying to not slide to the bottom of the ever-growing remnants of what used to the American middle class.

I’m not trying to sell you on any specific plan of action or place. I’m a good writer and photographer, hence this web page. I’ve been looking into this for almost a decade, and putting a lot of energy and time into finding an affordable, delightful place to call home. So chances are you’ll learn something by reading my stories, and maybe even become inspired by some aspects of them.

Again, this is not a tutorial. There are other sites to visit and books to read if you want step-by-step directions of how to retire in a certain place. Chances are that’s not your problem now. Your first step is to decide to do something about your situation, and to realize that it’s OK to try a bunch of things and see which ones feel best. You can always change your mind. Nobody’s keeping score. As long as you don’t over-extend yourself financially (and only you know what that would mean for you) you’ll have many more options than you would staying put and hoping the next administration extends unemployment and food stamp benefits while keeping a lid on the War on Terror. I don’t want to be living in America when our skies are buzzing with surveillance drones.

My intention is to reach a certain segment of the population who are in a position close to mine, and would benefit from the increased freedom and emotional rewards of living in an emerging economy.

It’s amazing what a tonic it is to never worry about the cost of things.


What If…


WHAT IF MONEY WERE NO PROBLEM AND EVERYONE LIKED AND RESPECTED YOU SO MUCH THAT YOU COULD DO ANY WORK YOU COULD IMAGINE. WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

If you’ve already made the move to either Southeast Asia or Latin America, that could very well be the question you’re asking yourself right now. It’s a whole different set of problems than you had when you were worried about money or status.

Of course, if you want to worry about those things, you still can. You’ll always find something you can’t afford, and somebody who doesn’t hold you with the regard in which you’re convinced you deserve to be held. But if you can leave that alone, at least for a few hours or days, you might find new fun, the kind you forgot was even available anymore!

The problem with looking at the world through a new pair of glasses is that you sometimes find yourself dizzy. What used to come easily now requires proceeding more slowly. Stepping off a curb becomes a major affair. Even if you can stop yourself from rushing around, scrambling to get ahead, you still have to do something with your time. But what?

Part-time volunteer English teaching isn’t too bad a gig. Problem is, few students who are merely curious will do much hard work for something so daunting as learning a foreign language. We, living in their country, are much more motivated to learn their language. They have a vague idea that they should learn English, that it would help them get ahead, but if the lessons are free, chances are you’ll see fifteen students at the first class meeting and two at the second. \

The gigs where you get paid are harder to get than you’d think. First of all, the wages would be very low, and their own citizens who really need the money are motivated to over-estimate their own English skills and take all the jobs. If you want to be paid well to teach English, you’d better be in your twenties and good-looking. Blue eyes and blonde hair are a plus. That’s whom the private language academies and international schools are looking to hire, because these employers cater to the rich who can afford to pay for window dressing.

You don’t want those jobs, anyway. You’re not on your way to anywhere, career-wise. If you do accept a position, the first time you’re asked to kiss ass, you’ll walk. So shut the door firmly behind you on your former working life, on those sorts of huge limits and scant possibilities, and move on.

The world is a bigger, richer, more interesting place than we have been giving it credit for. (I know I just ended a sentence with a preposition, but I can’t figure out how to say it any other way.) Being able to retire overseas, we’ve been given a great gift. Let’s not squander it.


The Homing Instinct


NOTES ON TRAVEL IN GENERAL

Compared to Nicaragua, I haven’t yet traveled as much in Thailand, because once I found Chiang Mai I stopped looking. I imagine there are all sorts of wonderful places to live and to visit, but I’ll just have to find them one at a time, because I find drifting around to be slightly exhausting. I enjoy living in one place and knowing how to navigate my surroundings. Little victories, like knowing where to buy the best estate grown coffee, or who sells the best pineapples within fifty yards of my house are a lot more meaningful to me than reading a travel guide and then checking out yet another tourist site.

I think there’s a powerful homing instinct in all people, and it becomes magnified the farther you are from home. I’ve met backpackers who have roamed the world for more than a year, but they seem dizzy and listless. They can’t invest too much energy into talking to you, because for them, you won’t be here tomorrow. They’ll have moved on. I remember feeling the same way once when I was on a five-week tour with my comedy troupe.

We were playing a state college somewhere in Nebraska or the Dakotas, and I was at the party after the show, making small talk with a student, when I realized that I couldn’t remember where we were. As I feigned interest in the conversation, I worried this could be seen as a serious symptom of existential angst, that my life was way out of whack. After all, I didn’t even know what state I was in, much less who this person was! That thought was soon countered by another…who cares, tomorrow you’ll be somewhere else entirely.

There is a time in your life when that might seem more exciting than depressing, but for this geezer abroad, that time has passed. Even if I get the itch to go somewhere else, I’ll make a conscious choice to find a specific place and fit in as best I can.

SHOPPING FOR PLACES TO LIVE IS LIKE SHOPPING FOR ANYTHING, THE SHOPPING ITSELF BECOMES ADDICTIVE

As soon as I moved to Thailand, I saw a travel site lauding Uruguay, and wondered if I should have moved there. When I’m shopping for anything, shoes, motorcycles, houses, as soon as I make a choice and actually buy something, I become sad. Now I only have one of these things, whereas before I had the promise of all of them!

Magazines and websites are mostly designed to appeal to the broadest possible audience, and they do this by trumpeting the widest possible array of things that might lure readers. But you can’t buy all the things, just one. They keep telling you that this is a service they’re providing, helping you express your personality and individuality by making shopping choices, but I think more likely they’re playing on the addictive and superficial nature of shopping, and helping you justify your addiction.

When I was in high school, I first started looking at popular photography magazines. It soon became apparent that they were allowing their advertisers to dictate the magazine content, and that the magazine itself was just sort of a joint catalog for the camera companies. The fact that they were able to charge for this whorish behavior seemed laughable.

But today, those magazines still thrive, and somewhere, somebody is still plunking down five bucks for Popular Photography. Some writer is being paid to write a content-free article called “The Best Top Ten Zoom Lenses!” Nonsense sells.

And there an even greater number of web sites which promise the moon and deliver next to nothing. All the author did was tabulate keywords for which many people are searching, and link to those. But when you arrive at the promised page, there’s nothing there but a few lines of general prose that could have been written by a semi-literate Martian. Maybe it will include a stock photo borrowed from the web, a photo which may or may not have anything to do with the purported subject matter. 

IF YOU’RE GOING TO ACTUALLY MOVE SOMEWHERE, EITHER SELLING ALL YOU HAVE LEFT BEHIND OR PUTTING IT INTO STORAGE, THEN IT MAKES SENSE TO APPROACH THE DECISION WHICH AS MUCH RIGOR AS YOU CAN MUSTER.

Remember, after a certain point, not making a decision is making a decision. As anyone who’s tried it knows, sitting on a fence hurts. So once you start the process, you might as well set yourself a deadline for taking action, or you’ll spend a lot of time in between a rock and a hard place. And that can get expensive.

Like most people, I left the remainder of my belongings in plastic tubs and cardboard boxes, in storage back in the States. After a few years I’ll go home and decide what to do with it. I’ll find tub after tub of paper, my children’s drawings, old tax forms, to-do lists from twenty five years ago. Although I went to great pains to winnow all this down before I left, there are still plenty of pieces of paper that passed the first test, but will fail this last one. Likewise, the tubs of VHS cassettes, audio cassettes, LP’s, moldy books and fungus-spotted shoes will all have to be taken to the dump, because Goodwill won’t want them.

And then I’ll be left with ten plastic tubs of things I still can’t let go of, one-of-a-kind photos that I can’t imagine destroying but don’t know who else would want them, a few things too odd to be sold at a garage sale, but too precious to discard. These I will put in the smallest storage unit I can find, and dutifully pay rent on tor, say five more years, probably paying as much in rent for storage as I will on house rent where I’m living abroad.

IN YOUR TRAVELS YOU WILL MEET SEVERAL UNHAPPY SOULS WHO CAN’T STOP HOPING AND BELIEIVING THAT A BETTER PLACE IS JUST OVER THE HORIZON.

These people are afraid to set down roots of any kind, because they’re convinced that Shangri-La is just over the next mountain range. There, the prices are even lower, the girls even prettier and sweeter, the air cleaner.

Having identified these tendencies in myself, I don’t want to fall victim to their siren call. Here in Thailand, I have met several middle-aged men whom I would have to call sex-addicts. If they were fifteen years old, I could more easily forgive the greedy kid in the candy store, with eyes both burning and glazed, grabbing for all he can grasp.

Although these types exist everywhere, here in this exotic setting they seem more concentrated and starkly delineated. I once saw a poster that read “Some people’s whole purpose in life is to serve as a warning for others.”


Sex


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SEX IN THAILAND

 

 

 

Thailand has a reputation as a place where sex can be bought on any street corner. This reputation is largely deserved. Thai attitudes towards sex are refreshingly un-Puritanical. No one snickers about sex. It’s too important to the economy.

 

 

 

During the Viet-Nam war, the United States used Thailand as its regional rest and relaxation center. I don’t know if we seduced or converted them into providing this service, but from all accounts they were eager and willing to do so.

 

 

 

When polled, sixty-five percent of tourists list sex as their prime reason to visiting the Kingdom of Smiles.

 

 

 

Prostitution isn’t just confined to foreign men and Thai women. Ninety five percent of Thai men confess to using prostitutes.

 

 

 

Every Thai sex worker financially supports five other adults. That’s not counting the children that are being supported.

 

 

 

So even though there is no law in Thailand against prostitution, because it officially doesn’t exist (a very Thai way of looking at many problems) it would be insane for them to outlaw prostitution. To do so would simply encourage corruption by the police and plunge the economy into recession. There are official government efforts to discourage and reduce pedophilia. From what I read in the newspapers, most of that market has been taken up by Thailand’s poorer neighbor, Cambodia.

 

 

 

I’m not here to argue the pros and cons of prostitution, but just want to say that it’s refreshing to see how openly its practiced and how few people look down their noses at it or its practitioners. It’s a fact of life, and they seem to have accepted it with equanimity. The north-eastern province of Issan, which is highly agricultural and lacking in industry, is also densely populated. Most of the girls who practice in Bangkok, Pattaya, Phuket and Chiang Mai, come from Issan. The money they send home provides for parents and relatives who care for the children of these working women.

 

 

 

If you want a guide to how to avail yourself of this industry, there are plenty of guidebooks available on Amazon.