By any measure, 2019 was one remarkable year. We experienced such drastic changes that the beginning of the year almost feels like a whole different lifetime. The top among these changes was retiring from our jobs at the ripe old ages of 41 and 42. Even though we have only been retired for 8 months, it might as well have been a decade ago. It feels like forever since I stepped foot into a fluorescent lit office partitioned into cubicles. Part of the reason for this distance is that we completely uprooted our lives upon retirement. If we had stayed in the same place but just stopped going to work, it may not have felt as drastic. Instead, we not only quit work, we also sold everything we owned and got on a plane bound for Thailand. Lots of other things happened too.
I basically started this blog in January 2019. I did hit the publish button on the first post in December 2018, but it didn’t really go live until the next month. I needed a post up to be able to tweak settings, appearances, and fiddle around with learning how to run a website before unleashing this beast upon the public. January was when I began to let people know that I would be detailing my travel experiences and expenses as a nomadic early retiree. I still feel like a novice when it comes to website management and back end maintenance, but I’m gradually improving. After a year of writing, my most popular post is a geeky one about sequence of returns risk. However, if you’re interested in my personal favorite, I’d choose My Kate Moss Retirement Plan.
In February 2019, Katie and I took our first vacation to Asia. This was also the last official vacation we’d ever go on. It was during this short trip that we discovered just how insanely cheap day to day life is here. Since I had spent many years dreaming about and planning for nomadic travel, I had often read about the low cost of living. But I was still somewhat skeptical. How could it really be that cheap?
After experiencing the costs first hand, even as a short term tourist, I was pleasantly surprised that the reports were true. And if you follow our spending, you can see exactly how little it costs us. Honestly, we’re not even trying that hard or paying that much attention to what we spend. We just apply our natural frugal tendencies of walking most places and cooking at home for most meals. We pick nice places to stay in a good locations, but avoid the fancy places catering exclusively to western tourists. Doing these things means we’re on pace to spend less than half of what we used to spend while living in the US.
This first Asia trip also helped us decide that we wanted to start our retirement travels back here as well. It was not just because of cheaper prices, although those are nice, but also because of the interesting cultural differences. I figured that if we were about to completely uproot our life, we might as well jump in head first and really experience a new part of the world and way of living.
Upon returning from Vietnam, I submitted my notice to quit corporate work forever on April 19th. Katie had already done this, so when I joined her it became official for both of us. This kicked off an absolutely crazy period of our lives where we were faced with the daunting task of getting rid of nearly everything we owned. This was combined with wanting to transition our jobs as smoothly as possible while also trying to mentally prepare for a major life change. As you can imagine, this was a very overwhelming and stressful time and quality sleep was severely lacking. It’s something I never want to have to go through again. But in the end we made it. We quit as scheduled on April 19th and moved out of our Silicon Valley apartment on April 30th.
From there we packed up our car with our few remaining earthly possessions and embarked on a cross country road trip. We camped where the weather cooperated and stayed in hotels or Airbnbs where it didn’t. The highlight of this trip was our time in Moab, Utah. We originally planned to only stay a few days but ended up staying an entire week since we liked it so much. Eventually we made it back to the Midwest where our roots are. After we visited our family and friends there for a month, we set off for Bangkok at the end of June with only one backpack each.
We began this new lifestyle by re-learning how to properly relax and enjoy our newfound lack of responsibilities. It’s not an instantaneous process to transition from a work mentality to a retirement mentality. Like anything else that’s a major life change, the adjustment period takes time. We went through periods of excitement and boredom. We battled expectations compared to reality. We caught up on our long time sleep deficit and took advantage of our ability to slow down and really absorb all of the new things we were learning and experiencing. We did lots of fun tourist things like the incredible experience of spending 3 days exploring the Angkor Temple Complex in Cambodia. We saw lots of wildlife like massive monitor lizards, dozens of monkeys, swarms of giant bats, and even a wild pig at the beach. And of course we ate a lot of delicious food.
As nomadic retirees, we also faced an additional challenge of figuring out our ideal travel speed. Moving around is a lot of fun, but it’s also a bit hectic and feels more like a vacation than normal life. Slowing down means that things are less exciting, but they are also cheaper and offer more normalcy. This can be great if it turns out we like our chosen spot, or not so great if we chose poorly. All totaled, we visited 10 destinations throughout Thailand, Cambodia, and Malaysia during the last 6 months of 2019. We enjoyed most of those stops and learned new things at all of them.
And just now we celebrated our first New Years Eve together in over a decade. Due to Katie’s previous work requirements, she was always on the clock when the ball dropped. Spending it together was a really nice change. We rang in the new year in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where it’s tradition to light paper lanterns that float into the sky. We didn’t personally contribute to the scattering of litter throughout the local landscape, but we did enjoy the show.
While it may feel like it’s been forever since we’ve had a job, the reality is that we are still pretty new to this retirement thing. We will continue to learn, grow, and perfect this new life of ours. 2019 was one amazing year, and it will be nearly impossible to top it going forward. But there’s no reason not to try. Happy New Year!