Tick tock; tick tock. Yet another week drags by as we wait for the painstakingly and ridiculously unscientific process of “closing escrow”. Perhaps the hardest and most frustrating week of my life, we’ve gone back and forth with the buyers, the real estate agents and the title company in hopes of finally getting paid cold hard cash for the sale of our overpriced piece of suburban dirt. Meanwhile, I’ve recently been recalling some stories of our last Singapore trip. Steeped in colonial British history, Singapore is a fascinating city in many ways, albeit not for experimental expats planning on living with no real income. Anyway, when we last left off, the discussion centered around the eminent changes in policy now that the government’s much-loved and long time leader has passed on.
Having focused on our determined quest to find cultural attractions outside the department stores, I recently posted about our experiences in Singapore’s Little India and Chinatown districts. Turning my attention to one of my favorite topics, I began contemplating the fate of Singapore’s other cultural anomaly besides shopping: The signs. Directing citizens and visitors alike how to conduct almost every behavior in all possible public situations (and even some private ones), they’ve always held my interest. Although accepted as a way of life in exchange for years of relative prosperity, low crime and political stability I’ve been told enforcement of many rules and regulations recently toned down and i began wondering if the new generation wants more freedom and less signage?
Questioning whether a population can voluntarily abide by codes of conduct without being constantly reminded, I decided to share some of my favorite signage in Southeast Asia. Time will tell but please tell them to keep the classics like this piece of complete political incorrectness I found in Thailand
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”
Unlike most Americans, I love April 15th, the anniversary of my birth. Almost as bad as being born on Christmas Day or more recently, September 11th, it’s the infamous day representing the tax filing deadline for millions of Americans. Considering Diane and I always get a sizable tax refund anyway, the day never meant much to me as far as the government goes. But this year is a triple whammy in a very positive way. First off, it’s my 50th birthday. By itself that’s an awesome milestone especially for those lucky enough to be starting the second half of life sans work. More importantly, however, it marks the end of my 550+ day trudge as a House Husband waiting endlessly to file an MM2H Visa without adverse financial ramifications. (Although it’s permitted, applicants under age 50 need to submit a fixed deposit that’s twice as high). And finally, we close escrow ten days after we file. Now that’s good karma !!
So what have I accomplished in 50 years on the planet? Sadly, nothing at all except marrying a wonderful lifelong companion that puts up with my anal personality, overly chatty nature and other misgivings like my pathetic lack of skills when it comes to putting anything together. As far as contributions to humanity, I helped a couple of thousand high net worth clients make sure their cash was where it should be for 30 years. Hoping to change that, Diane and I pan on including volunteerism as part of our travels, especially as it applies to animals. Our favorite and number one on the bucket list to visit is Tasikoki Wildlife Rescue Centerin the northernmost province of Sulawesi. Rich in biodiversity, the island receives little attention in the conservation field and their mission is to diminish the trade in protected wildlife. Their Facebook page is awesome and I highly encourage everyone to visit and like it.
Not really feeling old yet, I still think of myself as middle age but relatively fit enough to spend ten or fifteen years traveling, exploring, sharing stories on the blog and being as active as practical without dehydrating myself to death. Deciding to spend my long 17 month period between layoff and MM2H filing getting healthier in preparation for expat adventures, it’s been a long and often challenging time. Eagerly awaiting this day I’m looking forward to another half century minus the cubicles, work stress and day-to-day trudge that is life as an American army ant worker. Here’s to 50 more !!
Thanks to everyone for reading and supporting our blog !!
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).
Considered 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.
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.
Making 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
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 Visasuits 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.
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).
Hoping 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 !!
Apparently, somebody is watching over us. Understanding that heat and humidity are possibly the worst conditions for fitness training, Diane and I have avoided the inevitable topic of how to enjoy all the incredible food available in Southeast Asia without destroying the last year of workouts. Lo and behold, as if they heard we were coming, a group of dedicated fitness professionals just opened up what looks like an incredible gym conveniently located right in the heart of Penang. Normally avoiding promotion of specific businesses to keep the blog from sounding too commercial, this post is an exception to the rule. Consider this my one and only plug for something we haven’t yet seen but are confident will meet our expectations. Worrying about where to find air-conditioned comfort, studio classes and modern equipment we’re used to, Team Powerhouse Fitness appears to be a godsend.
Recapping a bit, Diane and I were neither fat nor fit back in late 2013 but knew we could stand to lose a few pounds and increase our fitness levels. Deterred by her two-hour commute and my ridiculous work hours that coincided with a time zone three hours ahead of the Western U.S. coast, we usually reserved productive workouts for once weekly weekend trips to our local gym. Fortunately, the bank that shall remain nameless put an abrupt end to my working days and sent me reeling into uncharted (and unemployed) waters. Wondering what life as a House Husbandshould be like, I decided to embrace the positives. After agreeing we’d simply retire early 16 months later once I was old enough to apply for an MM2H Visa at a reasonable cost, I embraced the free time and embarked on a five-day a week fitness routine that included HIIT training, free weights, yoga and a lot of cardio. Seeing an immediate improvement, Diane decided to use her corporate gym membership and started attending fitness classes.