Life is going better than I ever could have expected here in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Of course, there’s not much to dislike. There are a few drawbacks. Every place has its drawbacks, but it’s pretty easy to love living the FIRE lifestyle in Thailand.
It’s become my home over the last couple years.
I’d actually argue it feels more like home than the United States ever did for me. There’s been no culture shock. If anything, it’s been the opposite.
Just because you’re born somewhere, that doesn’t automatically mean it’s a good fit for you.
In the end, a place is just a giant rock. There’s much more to a place becoming home than where you’re physically located or where you were placed at birth.
For me, there are a number of issues with the States in regard to me living there full time.
Chief among the issues keeping me away are related to healthcare, gun crime, overwhelming political correctness, cost of living, the prioritization of money above all else, a general feeling of unhappiness/anxiety among people, the rat race, politics, male-female dynamics, race, and an overall sense of divisiveness and tension.
That all said, the US can be a great place to live. And it’s exactly that for millions of people. People from all over the world clamor to visit or live there. I can appreciate that. Not everyone wants the same thing as me, thank goodness!
There’s the modern infrastructure, cleanliness, freedom of speech, quality and variety of amazing food, culture clashing, vastness of space, massive economy, and ability to do and buy almost anything. If you’re a wealthy person, there are few places in the world that offer more ways to spend that money.
Likewise, there are numerous opportunities to work hard and get ahead.
I went from growing up in a crack house to financially independent. It was incredibly tough to move myself up the economic and social ladder. But it would have been nigh impossible almost anywhere other than the US.
I will forever be grateful for the opportunities I had to excel and move up.
And while I’d argue luck is at least as important as hard work as it pertains to success and happiness, being born in the US in the early 80s (especially as a white male) is pure luck.
I’m very happy here in Thailand. And I have no plans to leave in the near term or long term.
However, I thought it’d be interesting to discuss some reasoning that would prompt a voluntary move back to the States.
The idea for this piece came to me after fielding a few emails from readers where I was asked if I ever thought about coming back.
The five reasons you’ll see below are the top ideas I have in mind as to why I’d ever come back to the country.
Now, this is a voluntary move I’m discussing here. I’m factoring out any kind of forced (economic, political, military, etc.) move that would make it necessary to leave Thailand in short order (this is highly unlikely).
Let’s get into it…
The Dysfunctional Healthcare System Is Largely Fixed
The US healthcare system is nothing short of a total mess.
It wasn’t the only, or even really the biggest, reason I left. But it was very much on my radar, pushing me away from staying there.
My monthly premium (on a bronze plan with a massive deductible, no less) was likely going to be $500+ per month in 2018. Likely even more for 2019. All for the privilege of paying thousands of dollars more in case something actually did happen. Yay!
I remember the “Just Say No” drug campaign from my childhood – it was especially prevalent in Detroit back then. Well, I’m “just saying no” to the US healthcare system.
Even if the healthcare system became nationalized tomorrow, it’s still unlikely I’d move back.
But living in the US would instantly become a more attractive place to live, in my mind, if the healthcare system as it exists were drastically improved.
No Visa Issues
A preference for a lack of bills and paperwork in my life isn’t even about the money. It’s really more about the hassle.
My overall exposure to hassles is much lower in Thailand relative to the US. No doubt about it.
My apartment in Chiang Mai is a great example of this, as I have just one monthly bill that wraps in my rent and all of my various utility charges. It’s awesome.
However, a good chunk of that lower exposure is offset by a juggernaut of a hassle: ongoing visa concerns.
No matter how long I live here, I’ll always be a ‘farang’ (that’s Thai for foreigner). And part of that includes going through the visa motions to stay here.
Moving back to the US would solve this; I’m a US citizen who doesn’t need to be concerned with such things.
That changed/improved dynamic would be more than balanced out with all of the numerous hassles that living in the States comes with, however, so this wouldn’t be that big of a benefit.
Still, though, not needing to ever again deal with an immigration office would be nice.
A Job Or A Physical Business
Yes. A job.
This is simultaneously the most likely and least likely reason I’d move back to the US, strangely enough.
Look, I don’t want a job. Don’t need a job. I’m very happy to be job-free (not jobless).
I work. I work really hard. And I love to work.
But having a job is a different beast altogether.
If I ever did come upon a point in my life in which I craved having a physical job again, or if I wanted to build some kind of physical business (not an online business), though, I’d probably pursue that avenue in the States. It’s just much easier when considering the legalities, language barriers, etc.
For example, I’m a certified personal trainer.
Not only that, but I’m as enthusiastic about fitness as I am finance. I spend just as much (if not more) time and energy in my life dedicated toward the betterment of my physical self as I do my financial self.
If I wanted to exercise (pun intended) my expertise and licensing in the fitness field, I’d probably start that journey at a gym. And this is something that would be much easier to accomplish in US. I could then, later, build some kind of personal training business.
I actually thought about working as a personal trainer before I relocated to Thailand. There were some gym openings I checked into, with the thought of using that as a starting point for a PT business of some kind.
But the idea of getting a job, even for a short period of time, just seemed like such a bummer. It felt like I was moving backward. I don’t think there’s any job in this world that I’d enjoy doing.
And it was pretty much an either/or scenario: either get a temporary job in the fitness field, or move abroad to build out the life I had envisioned years prior.
Relocating abroad was a much more appealing idea at the time. There’s no world I can imagine in which I think I’d be happier if I had took the other path instead.
However, I could, possibly, see a future world in which I decide to move over into the fitness industry down the road. It’s not likely, but the odds are greater than zero. If I had to put a number on what the odds might be of me actively chasing after some kind of job or work in fitness over the next ten years, it’s around 1%.
This entire concept is just as valid if I were to ever want to open a business of any kind in the physical realm. Anything I were to do in the physical space in which I’m paid for my time/service/knowledge/efforts, I would want to do in the States. A job is interchangeable with a physical business in this particular case.
If I did decide to pursue a new field, especially in which I’d have a physical job/role, I’d probably do so in conjunction with moving back to the USA. And so the odds of moving back to the US at any point in the next decade are probably in that 1% range, too.
Part of my comfort with living in Thailand is rooted in the fact that I don’t have very many relationships back in the States.
I’ve discussed my tragic childhood many times, which left me with no parents and few childhood friends. And I ended up letting go of most of the little family I had left after I realized they resented me for my relative success in life.
Furthermore, my adoptive parents turned out to be truly terrible people who did some horrific things.
As such, I can count on one hand the number of relationships I maintain back in the States.
But it’s all about quality, not quantity. And the relationships I still have are with wonderful people.
I suppose there’s always a gravitational pull of the heart that tugs on an expat just a little bit to one day return back to their home country, even if that tug is irrational. Even though I’d tell you I’m a very pragmatic person, almost to the point of having very little emotion, I still miss a few people.
It’s just that it’s much easier for me to develop and maintain healthy relationships over here, especially the romantic kind.
I feel like male-female dynamics have eroded over the years in the States. There seems to be some kind of tense, adversarial type of environment going on over there which I’m not a fan of. But it’s the complete opposite over here. My relationship with Oh is one of the best and most fun interpersonal relationships I’ve ever had in my life.
Plus, it’s much easier for me to make friends here in Thailand due to a number of factors that coalesce together.
Chiang Mai has a lot of people doing really interesting things that are more in line with my values. There’s a measure of serendipity that exists here that simply cannot be replicated in the States.
However, the relationships I do still have in the States are old, deep, and ingrained into my identity.
If I were to ever return to the States, those relationships I maintain would certainly factor into that choice.
I love Thai food. I mean, I really love the cuisine over here.
And I love the physical benefits almost as much as the taste, value, and quality.
That’s why I eat the stuff every day.
However, it’s possible that I’ll one day be a little tired of eating Thai food all the time. Maybe even a lot tired.
The natural and easy solution to this is to simply take a break and eat non-Thai food for a while. The issue with that solution, though, is that the non-Thai options over here are relatively limited.
Now, you can find pretty good burgers over here. You can even get some decent Mexican food. The same goes for most international food options you could think of.
But we’re talking an ant compared to a jumbo jet in scale terms if we’re comparing Chiang Mai to any fairly large US city. And that’s just talking quantity. Taking quality into consideration only serves to amplify the distance between these two worlds.
Living in Bangkok, however, would probably fix this. The international food options down there are are substantially better in terms of both quantity and quality.
Actually, moving to any large, international, and cosmopolitan city would largely solve this, so the US isn’t really the only (or even primary) option.
I would never move back to the States solely because of food. And I honestly love Thai food just as much as I ever loved anything “American” (although I’m not even sure what American food is).
But if I wanted a job and/or business in the physical space, certain dynamics in the US changed for the better, and if I missed certain people enough, I could see the thought of a broader variety of quality food crossing my mind as part of a larger discussion on life, happiness, and location.
This was just a hypothetical post for funsies. I don’t plan on moving back to the US now – or ever.
But if the consideration ever seriously came up, these five reasons would be why.
Any one of these five reasons alone would not be strong enough to make a move likely. But if all five ideas popped up simultaneously – a US healthcare fix, getting tired of dealing with visa issues, wanting a job or a physical business of some kind, missing people, and craving the food – moving back would probably be something I’d at least contemplate.
The US is a phenomenal country. I don’t ever wish my writing to be construed into something that dogs the US. I’ll forever be appreciative of everything the country gave me. It’s a fantastic place for millions of people. That’s great.
But Thailand feels more like home to me. I’m very happy here. Happier than I ever was in the States, really.
And so it’s unlikely I’d ever move back. I plan to visit at some point in the next few years, but living in the US isn’t something I find realistic or tempting.
If I were to ever want/need to leave Thailand, it’s more likely that I’d actually move to somewhere else in this part of the world. The US would not even make my top-five list of countries for relocation, if the idea of moving elsewhere ever came up.
But maybe if I really, really, really miss the pizza! Just kidding… kind of.
What do you think? If you were to retire abroad, what would possibly pull you back?
Thanks for reading.
Image courtesy of: vectorolie at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
P.S. If you’re interested in becoming financially independent and retiring abroad, take a look at some fantastic resources that helped me do just that in my 30s!