Cruising along on a beautiful sunny 75 degree California day, my 50th birthday was already going well. Starting off with a workout that included the Stair Maser and some free weights, I felt alive and younger than ever. Leaving the gym , I gathered the last pieces of documentation required for our 104 page MM2H Application package, triple checked it for accuracy and headed over to the local Postal Annex store. Priced at $127.14, the clerk printed off a receipt and tossed my package of hard labor into the DHL basket for afternoon pickup, noting a scheduled arrival date of April 21st. Reading my Facebook birthday messages, I began my daily walk when I noticed a strange surge in traffic to the blog. Thinking spamming was to blame with people posing as new followers, I was almost ready to send a message to the forum asking if this sounded suspicious when I finally realized there was divine intervention taking the form of a Word Press editor. Finally reading a comment congratulating us on our featured mention in “Hot off the Press”, I figured out I’d achieved The Holy Grail of New Blogging.
Without further ado, I’d like to give a rousing thank you to Michelle W. for finding our little blog in a crowded field of thousands. Realizing I couldn’t start an expat blog until we actually made our move, I decided on a different approach I hadn’t really seen before. Focusing on what led up to the decision to choose early retirement and not look for another mundane cubicle job, our expat blog follows the steps leading up to overseas emigration. Presenting our story in a relative chronological format, I’ve combined life as a non-working House Husband for an impossibly long time with tales of our “Expat Destination Research Vacations”. Always planning on early retirement, Diane and I used our generous vacation time (by USA standards) and joined potential research with awesome tourism in places like The Galapagos Islands, and the rainforests of Borneo and the Caribbean breezes of Aruba. Home to millions of retirees, all the destinations offer affordable living, mild to hot climate and a large community of expats. We didn’t expect to choose Penang but also had no idea I’d be laid off five years before I wanted to quit working.
Faced with a wonderful new surge in site traffic I’ve decided to use this time to summarize what’s been going on with the blog since its inception last September. Although relatively new and not yet at 100 posts, I understand it’s tedious searching through and entire blog and often some of an author’s best posts from the past get overlooked. Basically, we’re in limbo at the moment. Possible even considered “seller’s hell”, that horrible wait between contract and close of escrow is upon us and the waiting is driving me crazy. Sadly, sellers have no rights and the deal is never done until the cash is in your account. No cash, no early retirement so please excuse my nervous anticipation. Meanwhile, for the benefit of our new audience, here’s a basic layout of “The Experimental Expats: Season One”
Rarely finding many blogs explaining what happens after an unexpected layoff, I broke the ice with Empty Cubicles. Detailing what happened once Diane and I agreed to choose early retirement Life As a House Husband demystified the stigma and leads into to a positive note with Losing A Job is good for your health which talks about my decision to use the extra time and get healthy. My One Thousand Mile Walk discussed my discovery of fitness routines I never thought I’d ever be strong enough to do. Becoming Almost Expats, this short post explains why we didn’t just leave right away (yes, accumulating more cash is an obvious answer) and after one year I described our progress with Almost Expats – The First Anniversary. Finally completing the prep work required to sell our house, Stress Test talked about the homestretch that’s occurring as we speak.
Why the long wait?
Often asked why we chose Malaysia, it’s necessary to understand the options for retiree residency to answer the question. One of the better programs in popular expat countries, Malaysia’s government offers the “Malaysia My Second Home Program“. More commonly known as MM2H, the financial requirements are the biggest drawback and complicating it even further, the ministry added some rules last year that seemed likely to affect our chances of approval. Almost reconsidering Thailand as a second choice before our agent convinced us to march on, I explained further in New Rules for MM2H Applicants and MM2H Update: visa issues intensify. Along the way, we reminisced about our brief stint living in San Diego in Border Patrol. Proving you can’t really know if a place is for you until you live there, the story explains why we are “Experimental” expats that may return with our tails between our legs (hopefully not). Having finally filed the paperwork yesterday, a comprehensive explanation of all 104 pages of background information is found in Filing Our MM2H Application.
Where else did we consider?
Having visited Costa Rica early in our marriage we decided to venture far away when we began seriously considering early retirement via expatriation. (Sadly, even with 535 days I never got around to scanning those pictures). Immediately short-listed, Thailand gained a special place in our hearts even over a short three-week visit. Experiencing an off the beaten path adventure, we described our expedition to a hilltribe village in Hangin’ with the Hill People in Thailand. Wishing to lean more about elephants, Thailand’s Best Elephant Experience chronicles a wonderful educational elephant farm. Naturally, great food played a role in our decision as you find out in 15 Tasty Thai Treats and if you’ve never experienced a fish massage, check out I’ll Take the sea bass; Hold the Feet Please. Just in case we’d get tired of eating there’s Papaya Salad and Pa-Thai, a post about a Thai Cooking School.
Enjoying Southeast Asia but still clueless that I’d be laid off, our first trip to Malaysia didn’t even include Penang, our intended destination. Instead we opted for Sabah province in Malaysian Borneo to experience the jungle again. Uniquely different from Central America, Malaysia’s spectacular Rainforest helped get us close to orangutans and Monkeying Around in Malaysian Borneo’s Kinabatangan River Valley solidified our wish to pursue volunteer opportunities with wildlife. Concluding with a pampering at one of the best kept secrets in the luxury hotel industry, our post on The Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort talks about how it surprised us with a private orangutan reserve better than touristy Sepilok Reserve.
Naturally, people expressed surprise when we ultimately decided to try Penang when we’ve never even visited. Partly due to what was Southeast Asia’s overwhelmingly best choice for an expat forum, we learned an immense amount online and regretted its demise, described in Death of a Malaysian Superhighway. Hitting our first snag before we started, our potential landlord to be backed out of the deal as we describe in Malaysian Housing Crisis. Concerned with “third world healthcare”, The Witch Doctors of Malaysia helps educate readers about the modern, inexpensive options available and in case that doesn’t work, 12 Reasons to live in Malaysia even reminds us what awaits. Undeterred by the Malaysian Air fiasco, Expat Death Wish talks about American media’s ridiculous obsession with tragedies it knows nothing about in the name of profits.
Finally, an in-depth analysis on why we chose Malaysia are found in a guest post I authored on the website Retirement and Good Living. A link to the interview is found in Why Malaysia?
As much as we love Southeast Asia, many expats call Ecuador home thanks to a stable government that uses the US Dollar, a low cost of living, pleasant climate and the only country boasting five ecosystems all in one sovereign nation. Needing to rule out Spanish culture, Diane and I combined a spectacular trip that included the Galapagos Islands, the capital city of Quito, the Ecuadorian Rainforest and the expat haven of Cuenca. Summarized in Escapades in Ecuador, we ran a five-part series on our luxury catamaran excursion to the Galapagos Islands. Titled as follows, the series is probably our most popular topic.
- The Galapagos Islands: Day One- A Preview of Spectacular
- Binocular Free Birding: Genovesa Island
- Swimming with Sea Turtles- Santiago Island
- Wildlife from The Flintstones: Santa Cruz and North Seymour Islands
- Quality Time with Sea LIons – Mosquera Island
Boasting one of the largest parts of protected Amazon Rainforest, Ecuadorian Eco-tourism at its best tells about our stay at Sacha Lodge, a wonderful retreat reached by boat, trek and canoe. Always adventurous with local food, we sampled Cuy in Two Cuddly Pets and a Coke, please (that’s Guinea Pig). Ultimately, however, gated expat communities with little local interaction and crime concerns are not for us and details are found in Ecuador’s Expat Haven- A distant Second Choice.
Why not retire to The Mother Land?
Possibly the dirtiest four letter word in the English language as far as I’m concerned, snow is the only reason necessary for not retiring in Diane’s home country. Having lived in Calgary for six years, I’ve grown very fond of our neighbor to the North. Canadian Holidays is a primer on all things different for an American expat in Canada and 12 Months of Expat Confusion is the sequel. Taking one last trip to the cold before moving to Penang, Cold: The Final Frontier before Malaysia reminds readers why it’s a great place. To visit. A Kung Pao Kosher Christmas describes the connection between Jewish New Yorkers and the Asian community and Boxing day: Then and Now is a post for anyone unfamiliar with December 26th as a holiday (basically every American). With The Stanley Cup Playoffs starting, Home is where the puck drops explains why we’ll be so lost without ice in Malaysia.
Hoping we’ve explained a bit about what makes our blog just a bit different from other expat blogs, I leave you with one last post should you be wondering why anyone would leave San Francisco. Thinking it’s “heaven on earth”, most people think the entire world is dying to live in a Utopia with all the good jobs, mountains, beaches, dining and culture. Yeah, whatever. For me, Climate Wars summarizes all that is not perfect here in the Golden State at least for suburban homeowners. Looking forward to our “second season”, thanks very much for tuning in and please bear with us over the next two months while we complete the transition from California residents to Southeast Asian Experimental Expats.
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