Category Archives: California

Parting Reflections of The (Once) Golden State

Approaching the last five days of living in suburban San Francisco, Diane enjoyed her last week of work while I began to pack. Surprisingly, as I laid it all out and opened the two pieces of luggage that will make the trip to Malaysia, it suddenly looked like less than I thought. Unusually big, the good suitcase we purchased for international travel comes equipped for this kind of move with secret little zippered compartments everywhere. After a cup of tea and some contemplation, I set out to experiment and found myself with room to spare. Satisfied I haven’t over-packed despite all the comments from experienced expats, I zipped it all up and left it in the corner of the house, now devoid of everything except one stupid couch (to be donated) and the furniture the buyers agreed to buy from us (the entire bedroom set, two lamps, two coffee tables).

california attarctionsHaving finished my task earlier than expected, I decided to share a post dedicated to the good experiences we’ve had in California since returning from Canada in 2007. Knowing I’ve focused on a deteriorating quality of life coupled with prices that are nowhere in line with the average salary, please note that California does have a lot to offer should anyone be lucky enough to have any cash left for leisure activities. Offering everything from majestic mountains to ocean beaches, California features majestic mountains including two relatively unknown national parks for those that hate the crowds of Yosemite. For beach lovers, there’s 700 miles of coastline including the relatively unknown Northern coastline. Parents never run out of stuff to do with kids and even childless couples like us enjoy Disneyland, Universal Studios and The San Diego Zoo. With the best aquarium on the West Coast and America’s premier wine country, Diane and I enjoyed our share of the state’s best attractions over the years.

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Seller’s Remorse

Having returned from our trip to Portland where we met what will be our first new friends in Malaysia, Diane went back to work and I resumed House Husband Duties. Unlike all of 2014, there’s a lot to do before selling a house, trying to liquidate all your possessions and being home to accommodate the throngs of vendors that the real estate agent schedules. Creating a “Marketing Calendar” to keep track of it all, our real estate agent’s administrator’s job is booking vendors to get the house inspected, painted, cleaned, washed and staged. Almost wishing I was the one working, selling a house in the Land of The Overpriced is turning out to be an enormous pain in the ass.

dirty jobsUniquely different from selling a house built six years earlier and occupied only by us, homes older than me usually come with pages and pages of recommendations for minor repairs, statutory code upgrades, cosmetic fixes and disclosures up to Wazoo. (Built in 1964, our house is almost new compared to many homes in suburban Contra Costa County). Needless to say, none of this comes cheap. Along with bearing the unfortunate responsibility of paying broker’s commissions, the seller of a home in Northern California spends more on vendor’s fees, title company bullshit and miscellaneous regulatory fees than most men spend on an engagement ring. Spending upwards of $10,000 is “normal” even though our real estate agent conveniently “underestimated” all these costs by at least a few thousand.

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A Thankful Thanksgiving Weekend and double anniversary

November 30th marks exactly two months since our blog opened for business and one long year since my unexpected layoff that led to my current House Husband Status. Approaching the home stretch, we have 136 days until we file our paperwork for MM2H, the ten-year social visit pass that acts as our residency visa in Penang. Upon approval, we finally both begin early retirement in Malaysia. Simultaneously, our house goes on the market in mid March and hopefully closes escrow by May, rendering us homeless and forcing us out.

thanksAs a total newbie that knew nothing at all about blogging, HTML, CSS or anything else technical, I had no idea what kind of response I’d receive. Many of you provided support, complimented my writing style and offered help during our transition to an overseas destination we’ve never visited. Unfamiliar with the blogosphere, I’m unclear if this good or not but I just received my 4,000th page view and have managed to entice 90 followers so far. I want to thank everyone for helping me along the way and especially anyone who shared, re-blogged, commented and took part in any of our posts. With a lot more to learn about blogging and entering a very scary but exciting period, your responses, follows, and advice make it a bit easier. Finally, a special thank you to those expats in Asia who have shared their email addresses with us and allowed us to build a small social network before we even arrive.

Coming in December:
Parts 3 and 4 of  The Galapagos Islands Series, our last Arctic holiday in Canada and an update on potential MM2H trouble that might land us in Thailand 

Border Patrol

Having now sold over $1,000 worth of crap using the amazingly effective app called Offer Up, I recently began emptying boxes in the garage. Taking stock of what goes in storage or gets shipped to Malaysia, I reminisced about a three-month period almost erased from memory as I discovered some old trinkets. After my first stint as an American expat in Canada, Diane and I made a failed attempt at living in San Diego. Perpetually famous as one of America’s dream retirement spots, it’s also the largest big city in the world located so close to a free border between two nations.

Diane protecting us from Mexican immigrants

Diane protecting us from Mexican immigrants

Recently I posted about changes in the Malaysian MM2H visa application process that involve stringent new income verification rules. Potentially affecting American citizens, we’ve been informed by Joy-Stay (our agent) of possible delays or even rejection should our application be “selected” for verification of the verification. Accordingly, we’ve contacted some of our readers living in Thailand asking for information on their current visas if “Plan B” becomes necessary. Reiterating Thailand’s ridiculous revolving door policy of never-ending “enter, exit, enter again”, some of you told us about a “retirement visa” but with an annual renewal requirement requiring our physical presence, that didn’t seem very convenient compared to ten years of unlimited entry.

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Fleeing California for Malaysia before the real “big one”

Years before Diane and I planned to retire early and try expat life in Penang, I was sitting in my little studio apartment in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco. Waiting for age 50 to qualify for an MM2H Visa was a quarter century in the future, Like almost everyone else, I had a cold beer in hand as I watched  game three of The 1989 “Bay Bridge World Series” between the San Francisco Giants  and The Oakland A’s, their cross-bay rivals. Only 24 years old and brand new to San Francisco, my world rocked violently as the earth shook for what seemed like an eternity. (It was actually only 16 seconds long.)

giantsToday, October 17th, 2014, marks the twenty-five year anniversary of the earthquake officially known as “Loma Prieta” but remembered as “the almost big one” for those of us who experienced it. Knowing California’s building standards are superior to many less fortunate densely populated areas of the globe, I’d be remiss if I wrote a post about my hardships although 63 people did die and damage was very high by American standards. But there was no internet yet and many fellow bloggers might have been in diapers on that infamous day, therefore I’ve chosen to commemorate the occasion by sharing my experience as best I remember it. I’ve included some short You Tube videos worth watching if you’ve never seen coverage of the event.  Continue reading

Mountain Climbing in San Francisco

No, of course you can’t really climb a mountain in San Francisco.

Intentionally, Diane and I don’t live in “the city”. Choosing suburban life after owning a newly built beautiful home in Calgary, Alberta, it seemed only natural. Sacrificing home ownership grates on me every day as the filing date slowly approaches for MM2H, the Malaysian Social Visit Visa and we begin our experimental early retirement in Southeast Asia. With just over six months remaining, it occurred to me how overseas readers might enjoy a story about San Francisco, the famed City by The Bay

 Diane and I live here until we flee for Malaysia in 2015.

Diane and I live here until we flee for Malaysia in the spring of 2015

Unfortunately, Walnut Creek, California lies about 25 miles west and with a $20 price tag just to get there, house husbands living on their wife’s salary for another six months don’t spend an awful lot of time in San Francisco. Convincing city people why suburban life has its rewards is often daunting. Recently, I underwent surgery to repair a hernia and the rehabilitation created a perfect opportunity to share a little piece of our suburban utopia before embarking to the chaos and excitement of Malaysia. Continue reading