Tag Archives: California

You’re Leaving? Oh Crap !!

And so I boarded America’s oldest, crappiest and most obsolete public commuter train one last time on Friday afternoon and headed to Diane’s office retirement party. As if to mock me, both the BART train and San Francisco MUNI subway car lines both arrived on time and delivered me to Diane’s now former employer right on time. Complete with a pot luck buffet and a map that pointed to Malaysia (albeit in the wrong city), Diane’s entire staff at the Living Donor Transplant Unit gathered in a conference room overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and gave her an awesome going away event.

IMG_2615Ironically, one of the doctors Diane worked with went to medical school in Malaysia and promises he’ll visit the next time he makes his way to Hong Kong, his native homeland. Proceeding to tell us a story about some friends in Kota Kinabalu that served him an odd tasting lizard soup compliments of a reptile that lived in the river down the street, he gave a small speech praising our plans and wishing us well.  Quickly devouring the food and six bottles of wine, time flew by and soon it was just us, Diane’s assistant and her vanpool mates left. Taking a final stroll to Diane’s now empty office, we collected some presents, exchanged good byes and caught a ride for one last commute. Again as if to mock me, we somehow made the 28 mile journey from San Francisco to Walnut Creek in about an hour, about half the normal commute time.

Wrapping things up, it’s time to pack away the computer, printer and other electronics that will eventually make the ocean voyage and join us somewhere down the line. Entering the last weekend of our “rent-back” period, the adventure seems ready to begin on mostly positive notes with the possible exception of the air conditioner situation I discussed in the last post.

move onSaying goodbye to the room that’s been the creative aspect of House Husband Life since I began the blog last fall, I think we’re both a bit emotional but ready to explore and move on to the next chapter of life. Please follow us into Canada for a while and then tune in for all the craziness, misadventures and other seemingly bizarre things that we might encounter as Experimental Expats taking a chance on early retirement in a place we’ve never even visited.

Cheers to the working life !!

 

Sweaty Palms (and everything else)

Jumping right into the fire, (literally), Diane and I experienced some Malaysian hospitality before we even left Walnut Creek. As regular followers know, our plan of becoming expats in Penang next month is a huge leap of faith since we’ve never lived there or even visited. Planning on staying at The Copthorne Orchid Hotel for a few weeks after arriving while searching for an apartment, we’ve corresponded with one of the hotel’s sales managers to get quotes and information. Apparently aware that those not from the tropics hate the torrid heat and humidity, we received the following email this morning:

We would like to inform that our hotel will be carrying out chilled water pipe rectification works which will affect the air-conditioning supply for all rooms and outlets in the Hotel from 29th June till 2nd July 2015 (both dates inclusive). Please advise if you are ok with the above situation before we proceed to quote.

hotUnexpectedly accommodating, the hotel staff appears to be putting our potential comfort (or lack thereof) ahead of an easy booking for newbies that obviously need a quick and easy place to stay. Conveniently in the district we’d like to live in, we chose the hotel for its relatively moderate rates (by our standards) and proximity to public transportation, shopping and a host of apartment complexes with the amenities we’re seeking. Having arrived at our five-star Hawaiian hotel for our honeymoon 14 years ago only to find a construction zone in half the hotel that they conveniently forgot to mention, I’m already impressed. With our MM2H Application in the “process” status for at least another two months, we’re in no hurry so the complimentary advance notice helped us avoid our first major annoyance as we’ll simply stay in Canada an extra week or two. Score the first thumbs up for Malaysian hospitality.

Seemingly stranger but equally accommodating, our potential relationship manager at HSBC Malaysia called us on our cell phone in response to some timing issues and concerns we had with opening our local account and placing the Fixed Deposit. Referred by a friend on what used to be the world’s best country-specific forum (now defunct), he had the misfortune of calling during the Overtime period of a deciding game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs’ second round. As all Canadians know, this is a sin and I almost let the call go to voicemail but seeing a ten digit number I figured I’d better answer. Assuring us he can work with our schedule, he apologized for calling in the middle of the game and demonstrated another positive act of Malaysian hospitality by calling at all, never mind the 15 hour time difference.

hockeyBut the story doesn’t even end there. Opening a secure email from HSBC the next morning, our awesome manager-to-be told us he’d gone to university in St. Louis, Missouri where he was a big supporter of the St. Louis Blues, the local NHL hockey club. Amazed that our Malaysian bank manager would know anything about North American ice hockey in a country where “cold” means anything below 30 (Celsius), he even asked us what team we cheer for and who he thinks will win this year. Admitting his real passion is The English Premier Soccer League, the conversation ended with a reassurance that we could hop off in Kuala Lumpur before we get to Penang to open a local bank account. Score two positive notes for Malaysian hospitality as far as I’m concerned. Thinking perhaps I’m being overly complimentary, I am trying to enter this Experimental Expat phase with a positive open mind and so far, Malaysia seems ready to help us adjust accordingly. Stay tuned.

Please comment or share: Am I being to generous with my praise?

Coming next:
Our departure from California on May 19th; After that, please excuse the weekly clunky posts from my Ipad but do watch for periodic updates and stories of whatever we do on Canadian soil until late June.

 

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.

Continue reading

Homeless, Happy and Heading Out

Contemplating the phrase “All good things are worth waiting for”, I started day number 540 of House Husbandry like most others. Walking a few miles to kill time, I headed to Starbucks and anxiously waited for some clerk at the county to “officially record” the sale of our house. Industry speak for making the seller sweat a little more, the long and tedious process of escrow concludes once the county guy has his coffee, adjusts his chair and finally gets down to changing the public record of ownership. Perhaps due to a Friday close, the clerk performed his mundane task relatively fast and as I clicked the online bank account just before noon, I was ecstatic to find that the Experimental Expats have closed escrow and finally look forward to a new life in Southeast Asia. Woo-Hoo !!!!!

opportunityFeeling relieved but not really any wealthier, Diane and now look forward to an uncharted experiment to see if we really can live a 40+ year similar lifestyle, travel, enjoy life, pursue some new hobbies and sometimes just lay around on whatever assets we’ve accumulated. Planning on renting forever, two house have come and go and that’s enough home ownership for us. Ironically, someone sent me a Facebook post yesterday about another white guy/Asian girl couple that retired in their 30’s simply by setting goals and following a prudent lifestyle. Usually turned off by those bastards who beat me by 20 years, I actually read and even endorse the site because the financial principles are almost identical to ours. Titled “How this couple retired in their 30s to travel the world, it’s worth a read if you’re a 30 something looking to “retire early”.

Looking back, it’s been a great seven years spent in this house and we’ve enjoyed living in the San Francisco Bay Area just enough but those of you following know there’s no love lost when leaving a place that shuts out desperate home seekers that bid  $80,00 over asking price or more. Hoping Southeast Asia provides a fascinating new lifestyle, I thought this would be a good time for a gallery of some pictures we’ve taken from the area in our second house as a married couple.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Looking ahead, Diane and I got a month of free “rent-back” meaning we can stay as rent-free tenants for an extra month. Wanting extra time to finish liquidating all our goods, secure a storage locker, wait for the MM2H visa to be received and just basically hang around a bit longer, we plan on vacating May 19th. Deciding there’s no real hurry to hit Malaysia since the visa will take about 90 days for conditional approval, Diane suggested we re-import our 2002 Honda CRV into Canada, spend some time with relatives, give the car to her niece and leave via Vancouver. Whenever we feel like it. Hey, we’re retired now.

penangArmed with two suitcases, a backpack with important stuff and the memories of 50 years in North America, we’ll fly to Penang and check in at a hotel while we search for housing somewhere near Tanjong Bungah. Continuing the blog as expats in early July, we’re excited and hope we can share some great stories, blunders and pictures with all of you. Thinking Diane is less stressed out over a starting a new lifestyle, I can only sit back and quote a Tom Petty song from his 1994 Wildflower album that says

Well, it;s time to get going; it’s time to move on; where I am going I have no way of knowing”.

Here’s to new beginnings !!

We’re actively seeking new friends to meet once we arrive in Penang. If this is you, please share your contact information.  

 

On our Last Episode….

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.

Expat-blog-linksWithout 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”

BEST mad-scientist-movie 2

Continue reading

Filing our MM2H Application (Finally)

After endless months of correspondence, emails and sample documents, the time for Diane and I to file our MM2H Application is finally arriving next week. Technically known as “Malaysia My Second Home”, the program is a government sponsored plan that allows applicants unlimited entry in and out of Malaysia for ten years, renewable indefinitely. Although not the same as residency, the program is mostly designed for middle class folks that want to live or retire time in the country but not work. Limited opportunities are available for those wishing to engage in certain business activities but that requires special permission and extra paperwork . With an application requiring almost 100 pages of backup documentation, Diane and I don’t see ourselves starting an online enterprise anytime soon anyway. (For those interested, there is a 20 hour per week work permit for main applicants age 50 and over but only in certain sectors subject to government approval).

mm2h appConsidered one of the better programs for expats searching for a warm climate, stable government, low crime and high standard of living, the MM2H Program has been mentioned many times in notable financial publications along with other countries like Ecuador, Costa Rica and Panama. Offering benefits such as exemptions on import duty for vehicles, unlimited opportunities to buy property, education for children in public or private schools and even a foreign live-in maid, there are other countries that offer even more (Panama is probably the world’s best) but Malaysia makes a perfect base for exploring Southeast Asia at a fraction of the cost when compared with other expat destinations.

Continue reading

The Home Stretch

After a stressful period of cleaning, landscaping, staging, cleaning again and disappearing for the day, Diane and I are almost home free and nearing the last stages before heading off to Malaysia for early retirement. Not only did our potential buyer outbid the next closest offer by an insanely high amount, they even agreed to buy all our remaining bedroom furniture. Saving us the hassle of finding someone to dismantle our California King size bed and allowing us to live with bedroom intact right up until we leave, we think they were more excited than us. Additionally, their offer included 30 days free rent after close of escrow which helps put some time between our MM2H application on April 15th and the time we arrive in Penang as homeless expats.

inspectionsMaking the deal even sweeter, they buyers only asked for one week for inspection contingencies and would have waved them altogether had we done a sewer line inspection. Trusting the professionalism of our home, fireplace, roof and pest control inspectors, our buyers, a very nice young couple, clearly wants this house as much as I want to get out of here. After 515 days as a House Husband, I’m ready to leave now but all good things in life are worth waiting for so what’s another 60 days? Scheduling our departure for May 19th, we’ll be packing everything we can fit into four suitcases and two backpacks, loading the car, importing it back into Canada where we purchased it and spending about a month in Alberta, Canada with friends and family. Hoping it’s warmer than our holiday trip, we’ll soak up the last bits of comfortable weather before embracing 365 days of heat and humidity. Over the next 60 days we’ll share various posts of random musings and then the fun starts with an actual expat blog. Please stay tuned !!!

Coming next:  Our last trip to the Asian grocery store outside of Asia

Done Deal !!

Exactly 509 days ago, the manager of my once upon a time employer called me into that dreaded meeting where you know you’re about to be shit canned. With little hope of regaining a meaningful job in the financial services industry at age 48, Diane and I made a hard decision to retire about five years earlier than we hoped. Deciding Malaysia was the intended destination, this set up a painfully long period where we’d live on Diane’s salary while I took on Life as a House Husband. Designed for middle class retirees over age 50 that wish to retire but not work, the MM2H Visa suits our needs except for the age requirement that doubles the financial commitment for applicants under age 50. Needing to sell our possessions and primary residence to have any chance at a 40+ year retirement, I began the long daunting process of waiting way back in November, 2013.

Our House for 30 more days

After what’s felt like an eternity, we’re delighted to report that The Experimental Expats received six offers for our house after only one weekend open house. We’re even happier to report that there’s way too many people with too much money in the San Francisco Bay Area. Coming in astoundingly high, the winner of our mini bidding war offered 13% above asking price with practically no contingencies other than routine inspections. Even agreeing to waive the appraisal contingency even though we believe the property will probably appraise at less than what they’re paying, our buyers really want this house. Clearing the way for our expatriation, the last step is filing the MM2H Application as soon as I hit my 50th birthday, 21 days from now. Relieved and a bit sentimental, our plan is to stay in the house one month after escrow closes and then drive the 2002 Honda CRV to the Motherland (Canada), where we’ll stay with Diane’s family a few weeks while allowing the visa some processing time (The buyers even gave us a month of free rent).

goodbye1Hoping you’ve enjoyed our tales of expat destination research trips disguised as vacations to places like Borneo, Ecuador, Thailand and Aruba, in a few short months we’ll be off to Penang in search of adventure, relaxation, volunteer opportunities and a place to live. Should any wonderful readers have any suggestions on where to start the process of apartment searches, please feel free to contact us. Looking for new friends, we’ve already met Eric and Marlina who filed their MM2H application 6 weeks ago and are heading to nearby Ipoh and we’d love to meet anyone willing to spend some time. And don’t forget to check us out on House Hunters International. Hopefully by year’s end, we’ll be making an episode. Cheers and thanks for reading !!!

Coming Soon:
Upcoming plans, final thoughts on overpriced California and stories not yet shared from our past escapades. Then, we promise a real expat blog by summer !!

The Waiting Game

Although I believe I’ve said this before, once again I ask you to please pardon the interruption to our regularly scheduled blog posts while we play the game they call Real Estate. Grabbing one of the few opportunities available to me, I’m posting this quick status update so we don’t fall off the face of the expat blog earth. Simply put, California makes selling a house an enormous pain in the ass by running a “broker’s tour” on the Tuesday before your first weekend open house. While technically open to the public, most people work for a living and can’t spend their weekday afternoons at open houses. Instead, 45 real estate agents trounced through our immaculately clean house and left stains, pizza boxes and dirt everywhere along with their business cards.

buyerFor our troubles we received a total of four showings during the rest of the week. Convincing us the intention is to create a bidder’s war by receiving multiple offers, it seems like a huge waste of time to me but according to everyone it will be worth it. Having sold a house in Canada after one three-day open house open to the public, this week of living on pins and needles is frustrating me to no end. Along with disappearing on a short notice, you have to leave on every light in the house, make the bedding perfect every day and shower at the gym. Hoping this weekend solidifies the deal with two real open houses, our agent has set Tuesday morning as the deadline to submit offers and remains confident we’ll have multiple offers above asking price.

Continue reading

Green Beer and Char Kway Teow

Putting the last touches on our house for today’s open house, we hope to inherit some Luck of The Irish along with many potential buyers. Unclear if my real estate agent chose St. Patrick’s Day for any special reason, today is the “broker’s tour” where local agents get their first look at the house and contact their clients if they feel it’s a match. Finally finished with the prep work, they staged our house last week and it’s ship-shape and ready to go. The website Redfin.com has listed our house as “hot” which means it’s likely to sell 10 days after being listed according to their proprietary software that examines buyer’s preferences, price, recent sales and local competition.

st patty 2Returning to the Irish for a minute, St. Patrick’s Day holds a lot of memories; mostly drunken parties after work in various financial districts. Drinking way too much all the time, it’s a period I’m glad I experienced but choose not to repeat. Nowadays we prefer suburban evenings wearing a green shirt and perhaps sipping some green wine. Surprisingly, my internet research showed a lot of celebrations in Southeast Asia. Possibly the largest one, Singapore seems like a fun place to be for St. Patrick’s Day, holding street parties and various festivities. (as seen in the picture). Unclear if Malaysia allows such revelry, it doesn’t really matter to me. one way or the other as long as I can eat some Green Laksa. Looking forward to another adventure, I have to leave the house for the day now so enjoy the day everyone !!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day !!

Coming Soon: The results of our open house