I’m Rob. My wife is Diane. Collectively, we’re Rodi.
Several years ago, my employer of five years “eliminated my position” due to budget cuts. Obtaining another job during middle age is challenging and frustrating. Already planning for early retirement anyway, we decided to push it up a few years.
Understanding the financial challenges, we concluded that leaving the United States might be both practical and exciting so we chose Malaysia as a starting point. Before moving to Asia, we needed to endure a long 18 month period of semi-retirement for only one of us thanks to an age requirement for the Malaysian residency visa. After two years of living in Penang, we decided there’s nothing worth staying there for and began to dislike our boring life in a dilapidated town disguised as a beach resort. Always loving Thailand, we moved to Chiang Mai in July, 2017 and began living Chapter Two. Having its own set of issues like heavily polluted air and a “burning season“, we were planning on packing up again and moving to Puerto Vallerta, Mexico in the summer of 2020. But Covid19 challenges overwhelmed and made the risk too high so we came back to Canada for now.
Our blog is about becoming overseas expats. While I love sharing experiences, I’ve found there’s not an awful lot of blogs out there about Malaysia. Given that we left Penang in 2017, I’ve changed the focus of the blog but somehow I keep getting questions about Malaysia so I need to reiterate that we have no affiliation or vested interest with any Malaysian visa agent and our opinion of life in Malaysia is relatively negative. Therefore, please don’t send me logistics questions about obtaining a Malaysian visa. We’ve moved on from a situation that wasn’t right for us and there’s plenty of posts written in chronological order leading up to our decision if you’re curious why we didn’t like it.
A Brief Background
Diane is a Canadian citizen and Registered Nurse and I’m a Brooklyn Boy who worked in the financial services industry for over 30 years. We met in 1996 (before the internet was commonplace) through an antiquated forum known back then as a “mailing list” . Marrying in 2000, we left San Francisco in 2001 for Calgary, Alberta, where we bought our first house and then sold it six years later. Returning back to America in 2007, we tried San Diego but hated it. From 2007 through our move to Asia in 2015, Walnut Creek, California was “home”.
Since we’re not entrepreneurs who sold a company nor are we independently wealthy, our lifestyle while still working was financially prudent; we lived below our means, invested diligently, and prepaid the mortgage regularly. We also took several annual “research” vacations to discover an early retirement destination overseas that affords a similar lifestyle, a warm climate and low-cost of living.
After stops in Ecuador, Costa Rica, Thailand, Singapore, Borneo, Mexico and Aruba, we decided on Penang, Malaysia . Despite thinking Penang isn’t a good place for retired and active middle-aged North Americans, the fact remains that Malaysia has Southeast Asia’s best visa program called MM2H (Malaysia My Second Home). Noting that the primary applicant needs to be 50 years old, we’d planned on working a few more years but unfortunately, the “new economy“ had other had other plans for me and I found myself unemployed effective December 31st, 2013. Job hunting sucks so we opted for something better than commuting and applied for the retirement visa in 2015 as soon as I turned 50.
The Leap of Faith
Capitalizing on a hot market, we sold our suburban Bay Area house and all our stuff in the spring of 2015. I was in charge of all the planning while Diane continued to work right up until we left. Moving to Malaysia proved to be easier than we thought and we landed a two-year lease in a condo overlooking the sea less than two weeks after arriving. We learned almost everything we knew about Penang on a forum devoted solely to the MM2H Visa, social media and one meeting with our new landlord. Living on a modest budget for two years, we used Penang as a base and visited Thailand (twice), Australia, Myanamar, Bali and Cambodia as well as returning to Canada for the a long (and cold) four week Christmas break.
Unsure what’s next, we’re thinking of renting and eventually buying property in Canada and then hopefully leaving for warmer pastures during the long Canadian winters.