As a noted introvert and proud homebody, leading a quiet and introspective life has come quite natural to me.
And I’d say that’s a lifestyle that is somewhat easy to slide into when living in the US, especially for someone who has long embraced a life path that is so radically different than what most Americans would choose for themselves.
However, I’ve found that I’ve become significantly less introverted (and thus more extroverted) since moving abroad to become a dividend expat.
In fact, a neighbor of mine here in Chiang Mai, after having read my description of myself at the top right of the blog, insisted that she didn’t see me as an introvert at all. This came as a shock to me, as few people would have ever argued that point when I was living in the US.
But after some thoughtful reflection, I realized that she was right. I’m less introverted than I used to be.
I have a greater social network than I ever did in the States. I’m getting out of the house way more than ever before. And I find myself constantly busy, with a schedule that’s totally filled with events, meetups, dates, and gatherings.
And I believe this is for a few key reasons.
Greater Concentration Of Like-Minded People In A Small Area
My decision to permanently relocate overseas was only partially driven by the value prospects. While spending less and/or getting more value for my money is something that’s intuitively appealing to me, I would say that the low cost of living here in Chiang Mai is really only part of the puzzle.
A major benefit of living here is actually the strong concentration of like-minded people in such a small geographical footprint.
What do I mean by like-minded?
Well, this city is a bit of a hotbed – a mecca, if you will – for young people who are also building/running online businesses as digital nomads/entrepreneurs and seeking out passive income/freedom, eschewing a more typical lifestyle in the process.
As such, it’s easy to meet people who have something in common, as one doesn’t just accidentally end up in a place like Chiang Mai, Thailand. You don’t take a left when you should have taken a right and then find yourself here by accident. That’s not what happens. It’s most often a purposeful decision to come and stay for a while.
Whereas in the States, one feels like an outcast when they deliberately live radically in order to chase after a more free and meaningful life, one instead feels like they’re part of a family here. Instead of quizzical looks when they discuss what they’re up to, one receives nods of understanding, excitement, and approval.
Now, I live by my own inner scorecard in life. I don’t need others to agree with me. I have long known that what I’m doing is right for me. However, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t feel good to be around people who share a common vision.
As an introvert, it takes energy out of me to open myself up to people and seek out social interactions. But I’ve found that it takes less energy to do so here, because I’m no longer fighting through the thick fog of opposite viewpoints in order to find a diamond in the rough.
Plus, once you do find like-minded people with which to spend time with, the odds are pretty good they’ll have some time to actually meet up and do things, which is much different from what I’ve found in the States (because everyone is working so much). It’s not uncommon to casually hang out on a Wednesday evening here in Chiang Mai.
It’s Cheaper To Go Out
No matter what your idea of “fun” is, it’s going to be cheaper over here. Actually, it’s probably going to be a lot cheaper.
I’ve been open about living extremely frugally, noting some of the lifestyle changes I had to make in order to save and invest as much as possible so as to become financially independent as soon as possible.
One of those changes involved going out less.
That meant far less frequenting of almost all social establishments (restaurants, music venues, coffee shops, etc.), as they very often cost money. Couple that with a dearth of like-minded people with which to enjoy these establishments, and it was pretty easy for me to almost completely avoid them.
However, with a greater social network comes a desire/responsibility to enjoy these establishments more often.
While I still spend time at home, I find myself engaging in activities like, say, eating out of the house, bowling, and watching live music far more often than I ever did in the States. In fact, I find myself doing this stuff more now than when I was much younger – way before I started to chase after financial freedom.
But this is largely possible because of the much lower cost structure.
I’m not a big drinker (I rarely drink), but I’ve noticed how much cheaper it is to grab a drink with friends here. I was at a swanky rooftop bar not too long ago. You could get tapas for a few bucks. Even fancy cocktails were running about $4 each. And this is at one of the nicest places in town.
My girlfriend and I went to a bowling event with about 15 other people not too long ago. We were there for over two hours. We bowled multiple games. We rented two pairs of shoes. The grand total was around $10.
I spend a lot of time with a great friend of mine from Australia. He and I have visited a local jazz bar a couple times. It’s free to go. No cover charge. Drinks are a couple dollars. A few hours slip by, you have a great time, and you go home a couple dollars lighter.
So on and so forth.
When you don’t have to worry about breaking the bank, you find yourself getting out of the house a lot more. And you’re not stressed when you’re doing it, opening yourself up to having a much more enjoyable time.
Apartments Tend To Be Smaller
My apartment is a bit over 400 square feet. That might sound small, but it actually feels a lot bigger. And regardless of how much money I might eventually end up with, I personally prefer a smaller space that fits in well with my inner minimalist. I will never buy/own a home. And I’ll likely never again live in a place that offers more than ~400 square feet per person.
Nonetheless, having such a small space encourages one to get out and explore the world. I don’t mind this at all.
The United States has this trend where people build and love big spaces. Be it an apartment or a house, bigger is thought to be better. Of course, when one is working way too much, and when going out is so expensive, it makes sense to have a personal space that allows one to spread out and relax.
But I don’t have a job anymore. And getting out of the house is now enjoyable and cheap.
So when you’re able to totally change that typical work-spend-work dynamic, smaller is actually better.
Plus, cheaper and smaller apartments over here free up a lot of capital for other areas of spending. And when you find that going out is also a lot cheaper, you just end up in this zone where you feel so happy and free to do anything, be anyone, and go anywhere.
Being a dividend expat is like living in a dream where you’re making all the rules.
And you find out who you really are. When money no longer becomes a motivating/deciding factor behind decisions, you learn a lot about yourself. You end up living a truly authentic life that reflects who you are inside. It’s a wonderful exploration and evolution process.
What I’ve personally found through this experience is that I’m a bit less introverted than I always believed I was.
I’ve noted before that my career made me more cynical and introverted than I ordinarily am. But what I never realized was that living in the United States also made me more cynical and introverted than I actually am.
I still enjoy my cozy time at home. I still get that feeling of relief when I come home after a long day.
But I no longer live a life that is almost completely bound by the walls of my personal space, which has totally redefined my definition of “personal space”. Personal space is, for me, now an entire world. That’s freeing and exciting in a way that’s hard to put into words.
What do you think? Have lifestyle changes you’ve experienced made you more or less introverted?
Thanks for reading.
Image courtesy of: Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
P.S. If you’re interested in becoming a dividend expat, or if you’re interested in becoming financially independent at all, I’ve compiled some excellent resources that helped me build this amazing and free life. Check them out!