20 years ago, the first time I was on Koh Lanta, I experienced a monumental event. Not because I was on a tropical island for the first time, and not because I was new to Thailand, nor somewhere so remote. It was because of the brief overwhelming feeling I experienced, like a eureka, of my future in retirement.
It felt so good!
At the time, this was very odd as I’d never really thought about retirement – it was decades away. I decided this crazy feeling was caused by experiencing extreme heat and didn’t think about it again for years.
The next year, I returned to Koh Lanta for my winter vacation to once again get away from the below zero temperatures in Canada. I stayed in the same beach bungalow and even met some of the same tourists from the year before.
I continued to vacation on this tropical island each winter, meeting more people, both tourists and locals. During those first years, I spent my days on the beach, swimming in the turquoise Andaman Sea, walking the beach, and enjoying the variety of beach restaurants close to my bungalow.
I loved being a tourist on Koh Lanta and structured my work back in Canada so I could take more time off during the winter months. I began to explore the island, the markets, the trails, and the other beach villages. There was a lot happening on this small island, and I found I was spending more time off the beach.
People told me that it was the natural progression, for those who returned each year, to transition from a tourist to a local expat. At first, I laughed at the idea, but then I realized that this was exactly what I was doing.
I was exploring the island to figure out what living there would be like, away from the tourists. I loved what I was discovering. In addition to the beauty of the island, there was a large expat community of people from all over the planet.
There were all kinds of people, especially many artists which nurtured my creative side, and lots of retired women, who were active and engaging. I developed a great circle of friends and regretted returning to Canada at the end of the winter. While in Canada, I longed to be back on Koh Lanta.
Each year I’d accumulate things and leave them with a local until I returned the following year. Around my 7th winter on Koh Lanta, I started thinking about getting a place. My two-week vacation had turned into many months, and it would be cost-effective to rent somewhere for a few years. I could have my own space with my own things and call it home.
The following winter, I looked around for a place off the beach. While many of the homes I saw were amazing, they were either too expensive or too big. The ones that were affordable were either too far from the beach or in terrible condition.
The next year I continued my search. Again, I was shown unsuitable places. I instinctively knew what I was looking for, but nothing was available. That year, I actually realized that I wasn’t searching for a vacation home, I was looking for my retirement home.
My time on Koh Lanta each year was full of great people, wonderful food, and terrific adventures. While most of the time my life was wonderful, I did get myself into some harrowing situations. I always figured out how to handle myself, and learned how strong I can be, when the occasion calls for it.
I began to study Thai and started to speak with the locals, which introduced me to the Thai culture. This was definitely an eye-opener, as this culture is very different from the Canadian way of life.
I learned when yes means no, to never ever exhibit frustration or anger, and to always have a smile on my face. As a Canadian, I’m used to always apologizing, but on Lanta I learned to also say thank you in almost every sentence. Sounds crazy, but it feels good to smile all the time and express gratitude about everything.
Do I exaggerate? Not really. I learned that by being humble and respectful, things seem to work out for the best.
Just when I’d given up on finding a place on the island, I found the perfect villa. It was a one-bedroom bungalow, inside a large walled-in property. It had the most enchanting tropical garden and was a short 5-minute saunter from the beach. I bought the place. I couldn’t see ever wanting to leave, so buying it was a no-brainer.
That was 10 years ago. I’m still living on Koh Lanta and have never, not even for a nano-second, regretted buying my home and retiring way out there on a remote tropical island. I’m happy, healthy and my life is full of the things I love to do. I eat fresh food from the markets, and exercise daily to keep the body, mind and spirit healthy and strong.
Retired Way Out There: My evolving life on Koh Lanta, Thailand is the story of my transition from tourist to retired local, way out there on an amazing island in southern Thailand. It includes my many trips to the island, and my decision to retire there and get a home.
You can marvel at all my adventures, perils and discoveries on my journey to becoming a local expat. The book also includes a chapter with helpful advice for those thinking about retiring abroad.
I wrote this memoir as I love sharing my story and approach to retirement, encouraging others to be positive, make good life choices and find happiness each and every day on the journey through life.
It’s all good!
Are you living the expat life? Where have you settled? If you’re not there yet, are you considering moving abroad? Which location would you choose? What’s stopping you to look for your perfect home away from home?