Monday, June 1, 2015

IN MY OWN WORDS

The Financial Crisis cost me my California home and my business and kicked me out of comfortable middle class life. After paying off my loyal, bewildered staff I was left with $1,200 a month from Social Security and enough cash for an airline ticket to somewhere. 

But where? Where on earth could I live comfortably on $1200 and have enough left to start a business? I'd grown up in Australia, lived in Japan and Fiji, got my doctorate at UMass, married, and started two US companies that afforded me regular European vacations. Suddenly, my needs were highest just when my resources were lowest. As you can imagine, I was somewhat frantic.

I looked at every affordable destination on earth. Most were either too hot, too cold, too violent, too primitive, or too dirty for what I would call a comfortable life. Then I got a Facebook message from a woman I hadn't seen in 30 years. She was living in Thailand and suggested I visit her in Chiang Mai. Talk about timing.

I'd visited Thailand in the 60s and been struck by its exotic beauty. But I was put off because it was full of troops on R&R from the Vietnam war. Now when I researched Chiang Mai I was surprised: HSBC bank's expatriate world survey rated Thailand #1 in the world as a place to live. And Chiang Mai is ranked the #1 place in Thailand to retire.

Cramming as much of my life as would fit into three huge duffel bags I boarded a Royal Thai Airways flight from Los Angeles and, 14 hours later, walked out of Chiang Mai airport into blazing sun and a brand new life.

It took me a full year to figure out the basics of where - and how - to live in this new culture. I wasted my remaining savings making beginners' mistakes but, even so, as each month passed I felt I'd made the right decision. Thailand turned out to be everything I'd read about and more.

Most importantly, in Thailand my $1200 allowed me to rejoin the middle class. On that meagre income I've been able to create a new business and fly to Australia to visit family. All the while eating better food and getting better medical and dental care than I'd ever had in my life.

Beyond the basics I fell in love with the Thais. They've spent 2,000 years creating a culture devoted to happiness, tolerance, and beauty. For example, that stuff about older people being respected? It's true. 

We really are. I'm constantly invited for drinks or dinner by much younger Thais who are actually interested in my opinions. Thais value and listen to older people. Knowing how unlikely this sounds to fellow-Westerners I shot the video on this page of some friends who retired to Thailand much earlier than me and got some pleasant surprises about ageing here.

I was so enthused about what I saw here that I ran around interviewing people who've retired and, based on what they told me and what I learned in my first year, wrote some books for anyone thinking of retiring to Thailand. 

Soon I was getting emails from people asking for help in making the move. That's when I realized I had a business: helping people retire to Thailand. Instead of their spending a frustrating year and wasting thousands of dollars, I created a 1-week residential workshop that crammed that first year into 60 hours.

We find apartments, visit doctors and dentists, take a Thai cooking class at an organic farm, go shopping, meet other retirees, handle visas, meet a wonderful bank manager, get insurance and, of course, go elephant-washing in the river. That's only scratching the surface. We eat at a different restaurant every meal and visit temples and....

As you can tell, I'm having the time of my life. I hope you enjoy the books and, most of all, I hope you'll visit me in Thailand and see for yourself. If you're interested in retiring to Thailand, check out my website, www.thailandretirementhelpers.com

Best wishes for a wonderful retirement.

Godfree Roberts

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