Tag Archives: San Francisco Bay area

House Squatting Part Deux in Beautiful British Columbia

Insisting we spend the last night as Bay Area residents in our empty house, Diane got her way as we slept on the California King one last time. Getting perhaps an hour of sleep with a 725 Mile drive to come, anxiousness overwhelmed me as I watched the clock about every six minutes, drifted off for a bit and finally felt relieved as 5AM approached. Exhibiting the first example of leaving my comfort zone, we drove our 2002 Honda CRV all the way to Washington State with the check engine light on. Assuring me it wasn’t a mechanical issue, our awesome “jack of all trades” neighbor used a small diagnostic checker the day before to assess the problem. Indicating a “knock sensor” malfunction, I took his word and hoped it was in fact related to emissions and the worst thing that would happen was poor gas mileage. (I didn’t notice this; it drove like a dream as most Hondas do for many years)

imageArriving in dreary Portland before rush hour but late enough to take advantage of the carpool lane, we whizzed by after two gas stops and a lunch break at McDonalds. (Disclaimer: the only time I ever eat the worlds most unhealthy fast food is on driving trips although I will try it once in Malaysia). Deciding it was best to stop about an hour out of Seattle’s nightmarish traffic, we checked into a Best Western Premier in the picturesque industrial town of Chehalis. With everything we own now stuffed into the CRV including two boxes of vital records, two suitcases, two duffel bags, three small bags for “transit” through Canada and a backpack, we thought it best to haul it all up to the room. Fortunately the hotel had a luggage cart and an elevator. Using Yelp as a guide, we found a nearby restaurant with a lot of home cooked food and the hotel staff confirmed it was the best in town and told us they send all their guests there. Tired and hungry, we drove the 1.5 miles even though my legs needed a break after an 11 hour drive.

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One Last Road Trip

And now it’s time to say goodbye to California, the USA and eventually the Western Hemisphere. With everything we own now in four suitcases, two backpacks and a couple of small gym bags, we bid a fond farewell to Walnut Creek, California early this morning. Dropping the keys and the garage clickers into the mail slot, we locked the door one last time and closed another chapter of life. Reflecting on the last seven years and three months, I think we’ll miss the comfort of the quiet neighborhood but ultimately those of us with no kids simply don’t have the same special sentimental memories in a house as parents whose lives are often influenced by the precious time spent watching children grow up in a house. Considered just another successful investment, our house served us well but with no real ties to The San Francisco Bay Area, moving on makes perfect sense.

BorderCrossingAs you read this, we’ll be somewhere on I-5, the enormous 1,300 mile highway that starts at the Mexican border and ends at the Peace Arch, a ceremonial park in Blaine, Washington dedicated to the friendship between Canada and the United States. Not really in any great hurry, we’ll stay overnight somewhere in Washington before preparing for the presentation of yet more paperwork to not one but two different Customs Offices (as if 114 pages for the MM2H wasn’t enough). Recently changing to a ridiculous new system designed to cut paperwork, all Americans wishing to export anything at all must now file a special form on a newfangled electronic system. Sadly, Canada may as well be Zimbabwe from the government’s point of view  so vehicle exportation falls under their new rules. Naturally, the simplified system is so complicated that it requires an individual to get an EIN (employee identification number) from one place, register on the export system and even take a test to make sure you “understand the system” before you’re allowed to go ahead with the process.

Typical of most everything, those of us too frustrated or lazy to deal with all this (myself), can simply pay $200 and have a Customs Broker do the filing. Unfortunately, one still has to follow the rest of the rules that include

1) Driving to the truck border, parking in a lot and walking ten minutes to the US Customs Office. Of course you can only do this on certain times and days.

2)  Surrendering the aforementioned form as well as the vehicle’s original title and bill of sale to a Customs Officer

3) Obtaining a stamp to be presented to the Canadian Customs Officer confirming that the US government has allowed the privilege of exporting a car back into the country that it was both manufactured and purchased from

4) Driving another half mile, waiting hours behind enormous 18 wheel semis with mounds of paperwork and finally being told to park the car in a different lot and proceed to the Canadian Customs office.

5) Paying yet another fee, this time to a Canadian agency called the RIV (Register of Imported Vehicles).

6) Obtaining a “Form 1” which proves to any Canadian province that your vehicle went through the insane process of “legal importation” back to the country it came from.

Fortunately, it will ultimately be my in-laws problems about what to do next for re-registeration in Alberta. Before that, however, Diane and I will spend some time with a friend in the Vancouver area, drive across the province via Jasper National Park, stay with Diane’s parents in Edmonton for a while, relax at a family friend’s cabin for a week or two and finally meander back to Calgary, the city where we purchased our first house.

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Eventually, six or eight weeks will have passed since we filed our MM2H Visa for residency in Malaysia so we’ll finally buy one way plane tickets to Penang via Vancouver/Hong Kong and get on with being Experimental Expats for real. Until then, I apologize if the format of my posts is not up my usual standards since I’ve not yet mastered posting via an IPad. And I’m sorry for the delay in getting on with the expat blog (although technically I’m an expat while in Canada). Once again, thanks to all for the amazing support, patience and continued readership.

Cheers for now from the interstate !!

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 !!

 

50 Years in 24 Boxes

With two weekends left until Diane and I pack the car and vacate what used to be our primary residence,  it was time to load our remaining possessions into a truck and drive them to a storage locker. Thinking it makes more sense to keep the stuff in California than ship it away to a city we’ve never visited and have no address in, the plan is to have our awesome next door neighbor drive the boxes to a local port after we’ve been in Malaysia for a few months. Fortunately, a reputable storage locker is right around the corner, making transport quite easy. Providing a free truck with move-in, the property managers were very friendly and we chatted about our move while providing payment information and buying a lock. Needing only an 8 X 10 locker, it seemed  odd how 50 years of my life (14 married)  all crammed into 24 boxes in a locker the size of a large closet. They assigned us #532.

Utilizing the amazingly successful app known as OfferUp.com, Diane and I continue to liquidate almost anything we can sell and people drive from as far as four counties away to buy crap. Cleaning out the kitchen ware of everything but the important stuff like some plates, coffee maker and basic silverware, someone came and paid us $95 for a bunch of pots, pans, some utensils and various other little sundries, bringing our total to almost $4,500. Not realizing we even owned that much, the pile of unsold items gets donated to our local Hospice thrift shop this week and fits into about two medium boxes. Unfortunately, nobody seems to want our custom-made Italian microfiber maroon loveseat that we bought in Canada. Waiting almost two months for the delivery, we paid over $800 and can’t even dump it for $50. Unable to find a buyer but needing something to sit on anyway, I scheduled a Salvation Army pick up four days from our departure date. So much for anyone understanding quality merchandise.

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Authentically Asian-American

With escrow closed and all the money where it needs to be (for now), Diane and I turned our focus to the remaining issues of getting outta here. Desperately trying to violate the terms of the contract they wrote, the buyers of our house had their rather audacious real estate agent present us multiple requests to vacate ahead of the 29 day “rent-back” they wrote in the offer that gives us an extra month in the house as tenants. Ignoring them, we simply had our agent explain that while we understand their situation (the wife is pregnant and almost due), our move is a complicated issue due to our MM2H filing, liquidating all our possessions, exporting our car back into Canada and scheduling various medical appointments. Squatting comfortably in a practically empty house rent-free, Diane continues to work until Friday, May 15th and my job is to sell whatever else I can on OfferUp.com before donating whatever remains to the local Hospice store.

censoredAnxiously looking forward to a cornucopia of delicious food the likes of which we’ve never experienced, I grew impatient yesterday and made a side trip to my favorite Vietnamese Noodle shop after selling an entire box worth of used CD’s to Half-Price Books for $47. Sadly, Diane recently discovered that all her CD’s, DVD’s and video tapes are subject to a Censorship Fee of USD $5 per item. In addition they’re subject to approval by the Film Censorship Board that physically views and inspects every item shipped, causing delays of 2 to 3 weeks to censor and no guarantee of return. With over 200 CD’s packed in a U-Haul Box it made no financial sense to attempt importing any media materials. Renting a storage locker last weekend, we don’t plan on shipping anything anyway until they complete our visa and we’re confident we like life in Malaysia.

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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.

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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”

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Welcoming My Second Half-Century

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 !!

cuteSo 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 Center in 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.

asiaNot 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 !! 

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 !!