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Chris and Angela’s Success Story: How We Sold Our Crap, Paid Off Our Debt and Moved to Thailand

in Do What You Love, Pay Off Your Debt, Sell Your 'Stuff', Success Stories

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Headshot for BioCurrently living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, newlyweds Chris and Angela Scott sold everything and paid off thousands in debt in order to trade the corporate grind in the United States for a location-independent lifestyle. They help guide prospective expats toward simpler lives abroad at Tieland to Thailand. You can also keep up with them on Facebook and Twitter.

Why we weren’t fulfilled by the nine-to-five

We used to work the conventional nine-to-five when living in northern Virginia, USA.

We thought we were successful and measured it by our nice corner unit apartment, the accumulation of toys and home decor, and the expensive dinners we treated ourselves to at upscale restaurants from time to time.

But we slowly realized that our lifestyle wasn’t as fulfilling as it was when we first started making good money together as a couple. We found ourselves becoming content in life, settling for what we had, simply going through the motions of the daily grind, and looking forward only to the next weekend or the next vacation.

After a two consecutive vacations to the Caribbean, we got the travel bug. We couldn’t imagine spending the rest of our adult lives (the next 40 years!) in a cubicle or to wait until the conventional retirement age to explore the world. That is when our eyes opened wide and we had our aha moment…

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…why the heck should we work 50 weeks a year in exchange for a mere two weeks of vacation when we could take control of our lives, set out on our own, and go on a permanent vacation?

One of our biggest motivators was fear of growing old and having nothing to show for it except for monthly bills and years of accumulated belongings.

Our attitudes changed and we wanted to be rich in experiences and not rich in material things.

We were afraid of sacrificing our healthiest, most enthusiastic and energetic years to the confines of a cubicle. We wanted to explore the outdoors on foot, dare to drive through city streets on a motorbike, confidently eat the local food, and rough it if necessary without risking our 65-year-old bones and intestinal tracts.

Settling for a three week cruise to “see the world” at the ripe age of 70 did not appeal to us in the least bit. From that moment on we made it our mission to escape the status quo.

How we sold everything we owned in six months

Roughly six months before we made the big move, we began selling our belongings to fund our adventures in Thailand. We conducted nearly 200 individual sales through Craigslist, yard sales, eBay, consignment shops and private sales to friends and family, which earned us $15,000. We also made an additional $12,500 off the sale of the car we owned.

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Our most successful method was selling our household items on Craigslist. We learned a ton from the Man vs. Debt community and even developed some techniques of our own. Though it was a bit exhausting having people come by almost every night to buy our stuff over the course of six months, it was all worth it in the end.

These were some of the last things we had left to sell before we moved to Thailand.

(These were some of the last things we had left to sell before we moved to Thailand!)

How much consumer debt we were able to pay off

All of it.

We paid off more than $30,000 in consumer debt in a year. We actually came up with a plan of action to pay off our debt prior to our plan to move, and were already diverting funds from our paychecks directly toward our more significant debts.

These are some additional steps we took that really kicked our debt payoff into high gear. If you are having trouble finding a good starting point then we recommend that you consider adopting at least of these today:

  • We curbed our expensive restaurant dining habits.
  • We paid off our debts in order from highest interest rate to lowest.
  • We paid our bills as soon as we received our paychecks.
  • We canceled small monthly bills that we no longer could justify.
  • We sold one of our cars a few months before moving, carpooled, and applied the monthly car, insurance, and gas payments to the next debt in line.
  • We earned free flights using a loophole method of accruing big airline miles bonuses without actually having to spend money to meet the minimum spend requirements of our rewards credit cards.

Why we chose Chiang Mai, Thailand

Before choosing Chiang Mai, Thailand, we looked at several countries, including Vietnam, Guatemala, Belize, and Nicaragua. We spent months of research before narrowing it down to Thailand.  Only after visiting Bangkok, Krabi, and Chiang Mai on our honeymoon were we able to happily confirmed that Chiang Mai was the place for us.

We learned that Thailand, in general, is very safe, and that Chiang Mai had a large expat community, so we could fit in a little easier. English-speaking Thais are prominent in the city, and we knew we had access to major stores and entertainment facilities that might not be as available in other cities or countries.

When we came we experienced of visiting Chiang Mai for the first time, it just felt like a town we could call home and not just a place to pass through feeling like tourists. Oh, and did we mention Chiang Mai’s unbelievably super affordable cost of living?

Monthly cost-of-living comparison – USA vs. Thailand

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“Household” is the only area in which we spent more in Thailand than we did in the United States. This is because we nearly stopped buying items for the Virginia apartment but had to buy some essentials once we moved to our new place in Thailand. We hadn’t brought much with us to Thailand – only two carry-ons and one checked bag each!

Expenses we no longer pay

  • Car payment – $900/month - We purchased a motorbike outright with a portion of the money from the sale of one of our cars.
  • Car insurance – $175/month - Purchased up-front for $130 a year, and covers both emergency care for us as passengers, and repairs or the replacement of our motorbike.
  • Health insurance – $180/month - Medical care in Thailand is approximately 80 percent cheaper than the States, so we self-insure. A routine trip the hospital has never cost us more than $10.

Where we stand today

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It has been about eight months since we paid off our debt and seven months since we moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand.

We are happy to report that we are still 100 percent debt-free. We owe much of it to Man vs. Debt for motivating us early on, well before we even realized we even wanted to quit our jobs and move halfway around the world.  What started out as cleaning out our spare bedroom’s walk-in closet turned out to be the beginnings of a life-changing journey.

Where will your journey take you?

{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

Bethaney - Flashpacker Family October 17, 2013 at 12:01 PM

Great story! I love these guys. :)

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Chris & Angela Tieland to Thailand October 19, 2013 at 3:17 AM

Thanks! We love your blog too :)

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Kimmy @ AfterGlobe October 17, 2013 at 12:07 PM

Great article, Chris and Angela. I always enjoy reading about other couples who are trying to do the same thing as my husband and I. I’ve read through your website and find it to be a wealth of knowledge for once we get to Thailand. Cheers to remaining free of debt.

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Chris & Angela Tieland to Thailand October 19, 2013 at 3:20 AM

Thank you, Kimmy! We know you guys will do great. From what we have seen you both are well on your way to tackling your debt challenges. Best of luck!

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Kimmy @ AfterGlobe October 21, 2013 at 12:35 AM

Thanks, so much! It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it.

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gary October 17, 2013 at 12:20 PM

Do they have jobs their??

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Chris & Angela Tieland to Thailand October 21, 2013 at 10:32 AM

Angela is a teacher and Chris (me) is working hard to keep the blog updated and explore other online opportunities.

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Mary Ann October 17, 2013 at 12:24 PM

Good job!! Great idea!! Don’t wait until retirment to try to figure a way to eek out a living, create your life and make living now! Thanks for sharing.

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Chris & Angela Tieland to Thailand October 19, 2013 at 3:41 AM

We definitely believe in living it up while you are young and able…not to say that we wont be hard charges when we are older too! :) Thanks for the kind words!

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Lisa October 17, 2013 at 12:28 PM

This was so encouraging to read!!!! My husband and I are in the middle of our debt repayment journey with hopes to move to Thailand as well. Awesome!

Thanks!

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Chris & Angela Tieland to Thailand October 19, 2013 at 3:39 AM

Our goal was to be a source of motivation and encouragement to those wanting to take similar paths, or those that just want to lighten their load and pay down some debt. Good luck to you and your husband. Feel free to contact us if you ever need some advice or help with your transition as expats in Thailand. Take care!

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Michelle October 17, 2013 at 12:37 PM

Love this article! This is something that we think about a lot. Now that we have more time to travel, the hard decision now is just deciding WHERE we should go :)

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Chris & Angela Tieland to Thailand October 19, 2013 at 3:24 AM

Thanks! What destinations have you considered thus far? We were also looking into various countries in Central America.

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Claire October 17, 2013 at 12:52 PM

Ah, what an inspiration! We spend the best and healthiest years of our lives laboring for people in organizations that aren’t fulfilling us 100%, then when it comes to having time enough to travel etc.., our bodies aren’t always up to it! Totally agree with fearing that all we have to show is an accumulation of ‘stuff’ at retirement. That is a pretty sobering thought! Live life while you can, and best wishes for your adventures. You won’t regret a second of it. :)

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Chris and Angela October 18, 2013 at 1:05 AM

Very well said! We both had a mini “mid life” crisis and said that there was no way we could continue working the way we were for several more decades before finally having the time and money to do what we really wanted to do. We’re glad of our decision!

The best part is, if it doesn’t work out or if we miss home, we can always go back. See, that’s not so scary!

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jmayel & sacha October 17, 2013 at 1:23 PM

You guys are legendary when it comes to this kind of stuff. The airline loop hole thing still confuses me! lol

Glad you moved to Thailand. & Congrats on the guest post feature. Thats another tick off your acheivements list. ;-)

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Chris & Angela Tieland to Thailand October 19, 2013 at 3:25 AM

Thanks guys! It means a lot to have been featured as a success story on THE blog that inspired our journey :)

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Vince October 17, 2013 at 1:33 PM

I love the photo of the last few things in your apartment. Looks very familiar. 55555

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Chris & Angela Tieland to Thailand October 19, 2013 at 3:27 AM

HAHA yes, it was bare at the end, and there were a ton of different emotions flying around. We just had to remind ourselves that it was just crap that we no longer needed and get over the attachment. Experiences are much better than things in our book!

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Jonathan Welford October 17, 2013 at 1:48 PM

Wow such an inspiring story, and so refreshing to hear a success story where people have achieved what they’ve set out to do.

More of the same please. It’s so uplifting to hear stories like this.

Paying off debt is no fun, seeing the light at the end of the tunnel will undoubtably make other see it can be done.

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Chris & Angela Tieland to Thailand October 19, 2013 at 3:23 AM

Thank you, Jonathan. It was a battle, but we put our minds to getting our loose ends tied up before we moved to Thailand. Way better to start a new chapter in your life when the slate has been wiped clean!

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Amanda October 17, 2013 at 1:52 PM

Nice job! I am already mostly out of debt and would like to move to Thailand in the next few years. The only issue I have is how to support myself in Thailand, but you have given me some ideas. I have lived in Thailand before as a student, have Thai ties and speak, read & write to a certain extent. I am looking forward to following your progress.

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Chris & Angela Tieland to Thailand October 19, 2013 at 3:29 AM

Thanks you! Glad we could bring some ideas to the table and wish you the best of luck in your goals. Maybe we will see each other in Thailand one day :)

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Cru October 17, 2013 at 2:22 PM

What better place to realize the dominion of the rat race, and resolve to escape, than that of mercilessly overpriced Fairfax.

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Chris & Angela Tieland to Thailand October 19, 2013 at 3:31 AM

Tell us about it! Fairfax is grossly overpriced. Thinking back to how much we spent on a monthly basis makes us a bit sick to our stomachs. We are very thankful that Man vs Debt woke us up…

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Denise October 17, 2013 at 2:44 PM

This is all nice and good for an extended vacation, but what is the plan for income. The $27,500 these two made for selling their stuff is a pretty small amount. it won’t last forever. What is the plan once the money runs out? Work part-time jobs in Thailand? Return to office life? Borrow? I am curious.

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Chris and Angela October 18, 2013 at 12:57 AM

Angela works in Chiang Mai as a teacher and we are currently working on a few online ventures. Once those investments generate enough funds to meet our monthly expenses, then Angela will no longer teach. As for the money we earned selling stuff back in the States, we spent some of it buying our motorbike and getting situated into our new home, but most of it will remain untouched until we want to move. If we do go back to the US, we will use our savings as a “reintegration fund”. But we don’t think we’ll ever return to the office life :)

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DClark October 19, 2013 at 6:00 PM

Do you plan on becoming citizens there as you said “If we do go back to the US..”?

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Chris & Angela Tieland to Thailand October 21, 2013 at 10:29 AM

No, we will definitely be back for about a month or so out of every year, but don’t think we will live there for quite sometime, if ever. We want to spend our days traveling the world. Plus it is near impossible to get Thai citizenship from what we hear. The US will always be home in our hearts.

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ev1lchris October 17, 2013 at 3:00 PM

What do you do for income?

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Chris & Angela Tieland to Thailand October 21, 2013 at 10:33 AM

Angela is a teacher at all wonderful school here in Chiang Mai.

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Misha October 17, 2013 at 7:47 PM

I live in Honog Kong (US expat), so if you think the “rat race” swollows you up in the US, just remember, it can always get worse. After 9 years of living in China, I’ve had enough and I’ve decided at looking to buy a house back in the US between the next 3-6 months. I’m not fully encourraged of this fact as I am quite aware of what the cost of living can be/is there. On the other hand, I’m paying nearly double for a lower standards cost of living in “lonely” Hong Kong, so what you get back hom in the US is quality of living. Not to mention a choice of a lifestyle (freinds, family, hobbies). I’ve travelled to Thailand many times and in general, I’ve nearly always had a good time. It’s changed in regards to new brand of tourists, in the tourist areas and has really wierded’ up the place (thanks Russia). I would love to live there and have quite a few friends that have successfully made the transition, but this place also has pitfalls that more often than not, chew you up and spit you out. It’s a crap-soot. Thais’ are wonderful people and it is a beautiful country. The cost of living can be really cheap and many who retire there (retirement visas) can live the dream. Young/ middle aged professionals… you need an income. There’s really not point in living abroad unless you already have a steady/ reliable way to justify such a leap($). Thailand is full of well meaning western folks with who are broke and often turn into aimless drifters, moochers or alcohoholics. The visa laws also make it cumbersome to stay for long periods of time. The Thai gov. is interested in your money, not your good intentions. Just make sure you have a good plan and you’ve prepared an escape hatch if paradise turns up on its head.

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Chris and Angela October 18, 2013 at 11:51 PM

Misha, you are absolute right about being prepared financially before making the leap to move to Thailand. With enough money coming in, whether by working in Thailand, through investments, or via retirement money, living can be great. But just because it is more affordable than Western living doesn’t mean you can be frivolous with your money and be under prepared for what may happen (medical issues, dealing with the law, etc). We agree that lifestyle choices still must be practical!

We personally have monthly income coming in, in addition to short term savings and retirement savings, so we have a backup plan if things fall through. As the demographics of Thailand change due to the influx of tourists and their demands, we may move around to areas that suit us better.

This type of move and lifestyle takes a lot of planning and is not for everyone. Thanks for you sobering but truthful message!

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Jonathan Welford October 18, 2013 at 1:25 AM

If the people who were asking what they do for jobs, if they click the link to their website, they list down the costs and that Angela immediately trained to teach english doing a TEFL course there (Teach English as Foreign Language) and teaches at a local school in Thailand. Chris is studying for his International Business Management certificate (which is paid for by the GI Bill (as an ex Army person) also he’s developing his photography and is certified personal trainer and a certified nutritional consultant.

The income they own covers the cost of their living costs, house and lifestyle. On their website (http://tielandtothailand.com/) it lists down everything in a very comprehensive and fun way (with some great photographs)

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Tony Courser October 18, 2013 at 7:26 PM

Misha, Thanks for all of the wonderful information. Chris and Angela Scott will only have to pick up the phone and they will have plane tickets in hand to come back to the U.S.. I served with him in the Military and that’s what we do. We take care of each other. I will always have his back. That my dear is his escape hatch.

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Chris & Angela Tieland to Thailand October 19, 2013 at 3:36 AM

Tony, thanks for the reassurance and kind words. You know it goes both ways. I am here for you as well if ever you or your family ever need anything. Hope things are well with you and yours, and if you guys ever take a trip out here let us know. We can put you up for as long as you want to visit. Take care!

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Jenny October 19, 2013 at 9:49 AM

I really applaud you guys for making such a turn around!

However, having lived in Bangkok for nearly 3 years, I’d like to point out the following for anyone thinking about moving to Thailand: cost of living in Chiang Mai is MUCH cheaper than Bangkok. And I’d be willing to bet even in Chiang Mai the electric bill could go way up in March, April, and May – the summer hot months, so prepare for that. Though it is pretty cool, if you get by with fans you might survive without an electric bill worse than in the states, as I had for two consecutive Aprils. If you find yourself in Bangkok in what is deemed an ‘industrial’ rather than ‘residential’ district, be prepared for ridiculous electricity prices.

Health care in Thailand is cheaper, and really quite good, but be careful nonetheless. This is one area I ran into my biggest expenses and saving setbacks – especially when I ran into things my employer didn’t cover, like physical therapy. I was employed as a teacher.

One expense I don’t see listed on here at all is visas, work permits, or visa runs. This is a category you wouldn’t have back home, and if one of you has a valid employment visa and work permit the other can get the spousal visa, of course. But if neither of you are teaching, as it sounds like is your eventual plan, you’ll need to figure the cost of visa runs into your expenses to maintain your legal status in Thailand. Even if one of you has a valid business visa – those require a ‘visa run’ every 90 days. Only teacher Non-B visas are exempt from the visa runs; and then you still have to do your 90 day reporting. I’m guessing you haven’t gotten that far in your journey yet, but I wished I had known a little more before I had 24-72 hours to get things taken care of.

Feel free to email me if you have questions about Thailand. I do love the country and miss it dearly. I moved to Shanghai a couple months ago.

Best of luck, enjoy Chiang Mai, it’s one of my favorite places in Thailand.

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Chris & Angela Tieland to Thailand October 19, 2013 at 10:53 AM

Hello Jenny,

Thanks for the tips and the kind words!

We actually have got our visas all knocked out since we have been living in Chiang Mai for around 7 months now (arrived last March). Angela teaches and I am on a dependent visa, and we both have multiple re-entry permits. We get to immigration early and our 90 day reporting only takes us around 20 to 30 mins. We have articles on our blog about how we managed all of it for anyone that is worried about this process.

Our electric bill in Chiang Mai is consistently under $30 USD in the rainy and cool months, and jumps to about $40 USD in the hot months. We have government rated electricity, but we have heard that some condo and apartment buildings charge a much higher price per unit.

You are right. Medical expenses have been a breeze and about 80% cheaper than back in the states. Veterinarian expenses for our cat have also been super affordable.

Enjoy Shanghai. Maybe we will see you back in Chiang Mai one day :)

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Jenny October 21, 2013 at 6:34 AM

Oh, ok I didn’t realize you arrived in March. Glad you’ve got that taken care of. It can be really daunting to deal with Immigration. Some of my experiences were, less than smooth. To put it mildly.

I do miss Chiang Mai. Oh how I’d love to be there for Loy Krathong this year again.

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Chris & Angela Tieland to Thailand October 21, 2013 at 10:35 AM

Yes, we learned quick that if you want to be seen quickly at immigration then you need to get there before the sun comes up. Heard that this is only an issue in Chiang Mai though.

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TakingTheBigBreak October 19, 2013 at 10:03 PM

All sounds familiar! (Although we are traveling instead of staying put.) It is a fun, wild adventure, isn’t it? :)

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Chris & Angela Tieland to Thailand October 21, 2013 at 10:37 AM

Yes, it definitely is! We are having a blast and are extremely happy with the new (nonconformist) path we created for ourselves. We highly recommend it! :)

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Mel @ Trailing After God October 21, 2013 at 6:00 PM

Wow, that is amazing. My inlaws spend 5-6 months a year in Thailand because it is so beautiful and inexpensive. My husband and I are looking at selling everything and going to Haiti as missionaries. This is so encouraging! Look forward to reading more of your story.

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daz October 31, 2013 at 1:14 AM

Congratulations guys. I had wanted to do this too but I keep hitting the brick wall on two things:

a, when you have kids, where will you send them for schooling?

b, if you choose to retire back in the states 40 years from how, how will you fund it considering cost of health care is way more than Thailand?

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Chris & Angela Tieland to Thailand November 1, 2013 at 1:13 PM

Thanks Daz!

We have thought about a lot of things, including the two issues you have raised. These were things that we took into consideration when making this decision and are questions that we answered many times when telling others about our plan. These are also things that we think prevent most people from ever deciding to make drastic changes in their lives because they think that there aren’t any other logical options available to them.

To answer your first question, we will send out kids to international private schools.

We have talked about what we might do after having kids. During the first 6 months to a year of their lives we will go back to the states and live with our families so they can have some good quality time with their grandparents. The next 4 years will be spent overseas, and when they reach kindergarten age we will research private schools in whatever country we are in (there are excellent schools abroad). We think it would be great if they were bilingual too! Chris grew up and went to school in 3 different countries. He knows firsthand the benefits and drawbacks of being exposed to the rest of the world early on, so we are confident and comfortable with our plan.

As for retiring back in the states, we do not foresee that ever happening.

One of the reasons actually is because the healthcare/insurance in the states is a overly pricey compared to the rest of the world. There is a reason why many health insurance plans overseas will cover you anywhere in the world except for in the United States. Thailand leads the world in medical tourism. Care is almost 75 to 80% cheaper than in the US while maintaining comparable standards. We should also mention that the overall climb of the cost of living in the US also worries us whenever we try to picture spending our retirement years stateside..

We absolutely love our country and we will always be Americans. With that said, in our opinions schooling and healthcare aren’t things that the US is leading the charge on anymore. Some people even consider them reasons enough to make the move to a foreign country in the first place. Many things motivated us to move, our want for travel freedom and lives lived on our own terms being the major two.

We wish you the best, and urge you to reconsider looking into what options may be available to you in whatever country that you were thinking about moving to. We hope we helped you to understand our thought process a bit more.Take care!

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daz November 4, 2013 at 2:50 AM

Thank for the reply, much appreciate it.

About a year ago, we looked at moving to Malaysia (we loved there for many years when we were kids), unfortunately, the international school is like US 10-15,000 per year for each child, depending on age.

Since we have two young toddlers, our savings would be depleted rather quickly. Rather scary prospect, so we did nothing :(

Apart from this, we could have lived very well in M’sia for indefinitely.

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Vincenz Buhler January 5, 2014 at 10:28 PM

This is way cool guys!! I actually spent a gap semester before college as a volunteer in Phrao, right north of CM, and spending the weekends there convinced me to live there for a time in the future. I would like to ask, though, if you know of many other industries that expats from English speaking countries are prevalent in. I’m currently studying engineering in the US and am graduating soon. As exciting as working as a tour guide or teacher would be for me, I do have the goal of taking advantage of my degree. Any tips are greatly appreciated, as my experience there was only concerned with NGO work in educating children to get them out of the sex trade. Hope you’re doing well!!

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