Travel is Optional, But Freedom from Fear Isn’t


retirecheaply

I’ve been living abroad for about five years now, and spent about a third of the year in various banana republics for a few years half a decade before that. I’ve come to the conclusion that contentment can strike you anywhere, but not under all circumstances. If you’re terrified about money, you won’t find peace of mind anywhere, anytime.

I’m an American economic refugee here in Thailand, living reasonably well in a place that never seems to amaze me with all the interesting options it offers a geezer such as me. Sure, there are plenty of expatriates who have more money than me, but I don’t waste much time envying them. I have enough money as it is. If an opportunity arose to make more, I might consider it, but not at the cost of jeopardizing what I already have.

I rent a large, four bedroom house with a garden for about what a medium…

View original post 191 more words

A General Lack of Expertise


14022229_1143039502411341_2187519593202372578_n

 

Now that anyone with the time and interest can command an audience on social media or via blogs, we are faced with an interesting phenomena. Many people who command large audiences don’t know what they’re talking about. I may well be one of them.

 

When I offer opinions on politics, or engage in ridiculing people I’ve never met, dissing nations I’ve never visited, and continue to spread rumors that I’ve only recently heard or read, I’m probably not making the world a better place. I’m just another noisemaker, a cricket sawing his legs together on a balmy night. But unlike the cricket, I may actually be doing harm by echoing (Facebook calls it “sharing”) the opinions of others.

 

Some things are true and others aren’t. There may be important differences that are too subtle to be made explicit in a catchy headline or alarming photo. Often, the gap between true and false is small enough so it doesn’t matter a whole lot, but at other times it might make all the difference in the world. It might result in nuclear war.

 

So maybe sharing my hastily acquired and sloppily reasoned opinions isn’t really a civic duty at all.

 

What do I really know about Putin or Trump? Israel and Palestine? Iran and Iraq? I met a guy from Syria once. He had me over to his house for tea. Does that make me an expert on Syria?

 

If  this shocking lack of expertise were confined to me, the problem could be quickly dealt with. Delete my Facebook and YouTube accounts. Erase this blog. But it’s not just about me, and in fact, I’m not even a major player. I’m just an retired guy with too much time on his hands and too many prejudices to be able to claim an open mind.

 

There is no gatekeeper anymore. Broadcasting has been supplanted by the Internet, and there’s no process for telling fact from fiction. Walter Cronkite was a newsman. I’m not. He had a staff of fact-checkers. I don’t.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Another Day in Paradise


retirecheaply

P1140819.JPG

I was on my way to a funeral today at the leper colony near my home when I stopped to pick the flowers of Brugmansia, Angel’s Trumpet, a powerful hallucinogen. It contains scopolamine, among other psychoactive chemicals.

The hallucinogenic effects of Brugmansia were described in the journal Pathology as “terrifying rather than pleasurable”.[28] The author Christina Pratt, in An Encyclopedia of Shamanism, says that “Brugmansia induces a powerful trance with violent and unpleasant effects, sickening after effects, and at times temporary insanity”.[19] These hallucinations are often characterized by complete loss of awareness that one is hallucinating, disconnection from reality, and amnesia of the episode, such as one example reported in Psychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience of a young man who amputated his own penis and tongue after drinking only 1 cup of Brugmansia tea

In 1994 in Florida, 112 people were admitted to hospitals from ingesting Brugmansia.[31] The concentrations of alkaloids in…

View original post 169 more words

Time to Get Serious


h.jpg

All  this laughing  through tears isn’t going to get our grandchildren a better world in which to live. Some serious bad stuff is going down and somebody somewhere is going to have to take a stand to stop it.

The first step involves naming. It’s not just Fox News or CNN, it’s corporate lying. It’s not just quirky candidates, it’s pathological narcissism and limitless greed. Rather that a little deal, it’s a big mess, and the costs to clean it up will prove staggering.

Serious people used to be valued, at least in certain positions. Now everybody has to be entertaining first and then maybe capable of taking action when conditions are right, but you can’t blame them too harshly because doing the right thing can sometimes be a tough call. In general, there’s a general feeling of impotence and hopelessness that has trickled down from top to bottom. Facts don’t matter as much as beliefs. Judge me on my intentions, not my actions. Cut me some slack!

It’s amazing what some people were able to accomplish back before foolishness and whimsy became a way of life for most public figures. Now everybody’s a comedian and nothing good seems to be coming down the pike. I’d like to believe that we haven’t all turned into characters from a Seth Rogan comedy, but maybe I’m fooling myself.Maybe we really are all self-absorbed dimwits and will get exactly what we deserve.

 

Just 3.5% of Americans Travel Overseas


14462937_10206598565035696_958205021751595140_n

Fewer and fewer U.S. residents are even interested in international trips, dropping to just 9 percent of all leisure travelers today (versus 11 percent last year). Most of those trips are to Canada and Mexico. Only 3.5 percent of Americans travel to distant lands.

When I lived in South America, I was puzzled to see how few American tourists or expatriates I came across. Europeans far-outnumbered Americans. Even though Chile and Argentina are at least as sophisticated as is a lot of America, it was hard to bump into an American there.

Certain retirement magazines and websites keep flogging the same places, like Ecuador, or Panama, but I think they must have a vested interest in doing so. Relatively under-developed Nicaragua is socialist, but neighboring Costa Rica is basically one big Coldwell-Banker sign. There are lots of people trying to urge us to move to Costa Rica, and relatively few hawking Nicaragua So I would not trust most promotional literature, unless it was prepared by that rare soul without a hidden agenda.

Once I decided I was the kind of guy who would do better moving to an “emerging economy” (polite way to say “third world”) I became quite the wanderer. And then I discovered Thailand, and it became apparent that my pros and cons balance sheet was heavily skewed in favor of Southeast Asia.

I’ve heard that Budapest is wonderful and that Turkey is exotic, but I’m done weighing my options. Chiang Mai Thailand will do me just fine, thank you. And when the traffic becomes absolutely unbearable, which may be any day now, I’ll find a mountain village within and hour or so of the city and spend my days like Thoreau on Walden Pond, absorbed in the “bliss of the present moment.”

So why haven’t more of my friends and family followed me to distant climes? I don’t pretend to be Daniel Boone, nor am I in the business of selling retirees on Chiang Mai, or Thailand, or anywhere else for that matter.

When I see Facebook posts of my friends back home, it looks like everyone is completely fed up with what’s happening to our country. Many of my friends are terrified by rising medical costs, demoralized by politics, horrified by the sterile options open to most of us who must drive a car to accomplish even the smallest of tasks, shop and eat in franchised establishments, and endure an increasingly militarized police state. Why not at least venture abroad to see what other options exist?

You do realize that you still receive social security if you’re not living in the States, right? You do realize that medical costs in many places are less than co-pays required by most medical insurance plans. Most Americans over sixty are taking five or more prescription drugs. Ignoring the fact that many of them might be happier and healthier avoiding those pills, you do realize that most of those drugs are available abroad for a fraction of their costs at home. Don’t you?

The number of Americans holding passports is ten times the number who actually use them. This figure is artificially high because the vast majority of Americans born abroad have passports, but the number of us who actually have and use a passport is amazingly low. Is this because most people can’t afford to travel?

I found that I couldn’t afford to stay at home.

I suppose I am an economic refugee. I don’t say this to evoke your pity, but cost of living is a major reason behind why I made the leap. That and boredom. In most places in the States people come out for organized festivals, but otherwise the streets are quite dead. People drive from their homes to malls and back again.

If I were to attempt to return to the states, I would have to find some sort of subsidized senior housing. The last time I visited a friend in one of those places the aroma of stale urine was unmistakable. I might have to eat some of my meals as free lunches in church basements. Maybe I could qualify for Food Stamps, but the more I read about the future of that prospect, the less likely it is. I could wander the streets looking through plate glass windows at young people enjoying three dollar cups of coffee and staring at their laptops.

No thanks.

So if you’re afraid to take the leap without first checking out the overseas alternatives available, now might be good time to get that passport. I’ve been to lots of places and would be glad to offer my advice. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to finally take action.

 

what follows is a link to a recording the author reading this essay

 

 

A Fevered Brain Sets the World On Fire


Nobody knows what’s really going on, or which events are important and which are trivial. We only learn these things in retrospect. When they’re happening, we can’t see the forest for the trees.

Feelings of urgency rarely lead to good decisions. Maybe once we could trust Walter Cronkite to tell us the news, but now we are awash in a million websites, most of which are written by people no more knowledgeable or literate than ourselves.

Our mental state is a choice. We can allow our minds to be full of schemes, resentments, tangled desires, contradictory impulses…or we can simply choose not to listen to all that. Say “thank you for sharing” and then move on.

It seems like America is the monkey mind personified as of late. Blame and boasting dominate. Domination is the goal. It’s a fight for our very life, so there’s no holding back. Somebody must be utterly destroyed.

This would be funny or curious if the stakes weren’t real. The rest of the world is as queasy as we are. Stock and precious metal markets are uncertain, gyrating wildly. The poor stand to lose a lot. The most vulnerable may suffer the most.

The first world war began with the assassination of a relatively minor head of state in Bosnia. Nobody at that time could have predicted it would lead to the deaths of 17 million people.

Not much good comes from chaos. Sure, it shakes things up, but the net result is rarely favorable. The Quakers and other pacifists are right when they say that violence in thought and speech leads to actual violence. It begins with naming. The only way we can kill the children of our enemies is to name them first as “the enemy.” They aren’t Vietnamese women and children, they’re Viet Cong. We weren’t bombing the people of Laos, we were stopping supply lines along the Ho Chi Minh trail. All it takes is that simple shift in consciousness, and killing becomes not only permissible but a patriotic act.

 

here is a link to a recording of the author reading this essay

 

Only 30 Minutes From Home


retirecheaply

It gets stunning. The Samoeng Road is basically a continuation of a highway that runs East-West about a mile south of me. In twenty minutes I’m in the mountains, in thirty I’m up high where the air is cooler, fresher, and the views are stunning. This is the end of the wet season, so everything is as green as it’s gonna get.

If anybody in the area wants me to show you where this is and you have a scooter, let’s ride!

dsc_5154dsc_5141dsc_5137dsc_5133dsc_5120dsc_5094dsc_5090dsc_5086dsc_5080

View original post