...and live in paradise on just $1200 a month"
My name is Gary Orman. I’ve been living the dream for nearly a decade in what I consider paradise... in a little known 'gem' of a city in northern Thailand. I've lived all over the world, but found Thailand to be the perfect country to call home, and found Chiang Mai to be the perfect city in all of Thailand. [Read more about me and my world travels]
The American Dream is just a fantasy
Life in America - or UK or Europe - is not going to get easier. Whoever's fault it is, the nation's debt will never be repaid in our lifetimes. The extravagant lifestyle fueled by un-repayable credit that we've been living these last 40 or so years is coming to an end.
It's going to be our children's (and possibly even their children's) problem now. For us older people, we have other problems. It will no longer be affordable to live decently. And healthcare is too expensive, costing $12,000 and maybe even as much as $20,000 per year per family.
How are we going to be able to afford to survive, let alone live with dignity?
Work until you die
A recent CNN article titled: “Delaying Retirement: 80 is the new 65”, says about a quarter of middle-class Americans won’t expect to retire until they’re 80, 2 years longer than the average person is expected to live. It’s depressing to realize that we are expected to work until we die.
About three-quarters of Americans plan to continue working past age 65, but not because they want to. They have to just to pay their bills.
And if most people in retirement age are barely getting by, how will they be taken care of? Can you afford a retirement home, or medical or nursing care? These costs are out of reach for the majority, except for a lucky few with still enough wealth left over after the horrible housing and market crash of ’08.
Unfortunately, I fear the economy in America is only going to get worse because living costs, unemployment and the strains on health and well-being seem to be spiralling out of control. It’s unlikely that new jobs will be created in a shrinking economy, so incomes and the purchasing power of what money you do have will continue to decrease indefinitely.
It’s time to change your thinking
There is a solution. Some may say it isn't patriotic. Some may even say it's cowardly. But I say it's perhaps the bravest thing you can do – leave your old life behind and start a new one. Live the American Dream, but just not in America! Rekindle the pioneering spirit that once made America great.
America is still great, but it's being consumed by greed and incompetence and irrational fear. It will be great again, but not in our time. It's up to our children to rebuild America. The best we can do is to no longer be a burden to our children's generation and to sap the resources for those who are trapped in poverty-stricken America and cannot leave.
There are many places in the world where the quality of life is much higher than in America… countries not so greed-driven by a superficial emphasis on material wealth… where happiness, health and love are still cherished values.
I've travelled and lived in many of these places. Every country I’ve visited had its pros and cons. For example, in France, I loved the food, the relaxed lifestyle and easy access to outdoor activities like hiking and cycling and skiing. But it’s very difficult to make really good friends with the locals, even if you are fairly fluent in the language.
In Germany, the people were much friendlier but the food was horrible. British food can be horrible too, but at least in England, you can easily find authentic Indian, Italian, French or Mediterranean food. I loved living in Switzerland and Luxembourg, the expat life is exquisite. But it’s very expensive. I could easily afford it as a high-flying business consultant, but the moment I left the corporate life and became an independent entrepreneur, my personal income was slashed.
South Africa, particularly around Cape Town, is probably one of the most beautiful, idyllic and cosmopolitan places in the world – but sadly it’s mired in political ineptitude, uncontrollable violence and a stagnant economy.
After traveling extensively, what now I call home is I think the best country that has the perfect balance of great food, friendly people, and low cost of living.
This country is Thailand.
I've lived here for seven years now. At first I didn’t think I'd live here for long. I knew nothing about it before coming here for a one-year assignment. It seemed at first like an overwhelming, untidy, disorganized jumble of a place… but the more I got to know about Thailand, working and living and travelling in the country, the more I realized how sophisticated it really is – as an economy and as a culture.
It's no longer classed as a Developing Nation. Despite the criticisms of corruption and incompetence (do you know of any government that isn't?), new roads get paved, old roads are maintained, a new airport gets built, fiber optic cables branch out to the country villages, new housing developments and condominiums and giant shopping centers go up, the Skytrain gets extended… and the people are no longer quite so poor as they used to be.
Thailand is flourishing as a nation, with a booming middle class enjoying many modern luxuries that we’ve taken for granted.
The solution to affordable health care
Medical care is one of Thailand's biggest 'tourist' industries. With highly-trained doctors (many of them schooled in the US) and equipment as sophisticated as in any US hospital, you can get any treatment under the sun for around 1/10th of the price of the equivalent treatment in America.
Ram Hospital in Chiang Mai
Medical tourists come to get their tummy tucked, their face improved, their heart fixed, their breasts augmented or even their sex changed; and the cost of the treatment plus flights and accommodation in a top hotel is still a fraction of what it would cost back home.
And with no waiting time. You can walk in to any major hospital without an appointment and usually get seen within an hour. You can then have your surgery the next day and be discharged within a week.
Enjoy the comforts of home for much less… in Thailand
As for food and the overall shopping experience, it's a country of many nations – pizza, burgers, pasta, steaks, sushi, Indian curries, shishkababs and pita bread are popular dishes, and even the cheapest Thai food served on the street is as delicious and nutritious as anything you'll experience back home. My family of five often enjoys a delicious, filling lunch at a local Thai restaurant for around $6/£4. We then spend at least as much again on coffees and dessert at the ‘Western’ coffee shop next door!
Food in Thailand is safe and sanitary. Thais take cleanliness and hygiene seriously, no matter what their social status is.
Thailand also has many well-known restaurant chains like McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Subway & Pizza Hut.
Even Ronald greets you Thai style
Material goods, clothes, computers, cell phones, furniture, DVDs, toiletries, make-up, etc. are all available in the vibrant shopping centers – ranging from the open air markets selling anything under the sun (including animals and art) to sophisticated up-market air-conditioned shopping malls selling genuine Coach, Michael Kors, Gucci, Nike, Levis, etc.
Central Airport Plaza Mall in Chiang Mai
As for coffees and pastries, Thailand has Starbucks and other high-end coffee shops. But you’ll find cheaper and sometimes better coffee run by locals, selling their fresh grown Thai coffee for about half the cost.
It’s ironic that there's more misery and poverty in the world’s richest countries like USA and UK than in a comparatively poor country like Thailand.
Thailand has grown up as a country. It has many of the Western trappings without the Western problems of grinding poverty and violence and despair. There are few if any bums on the street and no tent cities. There is little if any graffiti; there is no vandalism, very little theft and virtually no violence.
What makes Thailand so irresistible
Thailand has everything you could possibly ask for. A booming economy, year-round warm weather, delicious food, friendly people (who love westerners), a modern infrastructure, affordable and modern healthcare, low crime, low-cost living and a sense of freedom.
Sure, there are similar countries that are equally pleasant to live in; and Thailand has it’s problems. But I don’t think there is any other country on the planet that comes close to having all of the positive traits that Thailand has.
Thailand is one of the gentlest, safest, comfortable yet exciting and friendly places to live in the world.
I liked it so much that I decided to settle here, with my family, permanently. I'm not yet retired (though I could do so if I wanted to). Thailand is the base of my international operations. We will travel and work overseas, but Thailand is now our home.
We feel welcomed here. On the whole, there is little if any animosity or jealousy towards us unlike in many other countries I’ve visited. Thais welcome Americans and westerners. In France, we were known as Les Étrangers (the foreigners) in a mildly disparaging way. In Japan I was known as a gaijin (which is a slightly pejorative term). In Thailand, we are known rather affectionately as Farang, which simply means 'westerner'.
Sure, Thailand is literally half-way around the world, and it’ll take you about a day (and $1200/£800) to get here. But once your plane touches down, you’ll immediately know the trip was worth it as this is a world like no other. People are happy and welcoming – and you’ll quickly see why Thailand is known as the Land of Smiles. You’ll feel a positive and exciting vibe in the air.
If you’re on a journey of excitement, adventure, freedom, romance, tranquility, enlightenment… Thailand truly has everything you could ask for.
This is amazing Thailand!
Live the affluent lifestyle on just $1,200 a month
Thailand is a paradise. And it's cheap, but not because of poverty, like Mexico and most of central and south America. It's beautiful and hot, so there’s no need for winter clothing.
In Chiang Mai in particular, you can live a modest, comfortable lifestyle on a mere $900. If you have a budget of $1,200 then you can live fairly affluently. This includes having a nice modern house or condo with maid and laundry service, your own transportation, three (or more) delicious meals at a restaurant per day, including coffee and alcohol. And you’ll still have plenty left over for entertainment so you’ll never live a dull day in your life.
When you’re ready to live a better life, I can help
Having lived in Thailand for eleven years, I know how things work. The first couple of years were a challenge, and I’ve made a lot of financial mistakes through time-consuming trial and error. I devised an easier way to learn the language and now run accelerated Thai language workshops for foreigners. Because of this, I’ve been able to uncover some of the secrets of Thai culture and get to know how Thai people think on a very personal level. I’ve gotten to know know more about Thailand than most foreigners living here.
Many people I now call my friends in Thailand visited Thailand just once and loved it so much that they went home, liquidated their assets and is moved back here, permanently.
This is the wonderful impression that Thailand gives most visitors. It’s love at first site. And once you’re here, there’s no desire to go back.
Take the short cut
But beware - there are slippery little traps that many newly-arrived expats not familiar with the Thai language and culture can fall into. Some are honey traps, some are nastier but just as subtle. Without prior guidance and continuous coaching, moving here can be unneccesarily costly, stressful and time consuming.
Although you can go it alone, it always helps to have an experienced, local contact to smooth the way. I pride myself in being a smart and experienced traveler – but I still made all the classic (and costly) mistakes. Most of the mistakes are due to our substantially different upbringings and points of view.
We Westerners place a lot of importance on personal freedom and independence and money and financial transactions, while for Thais it’s about building a long-term, trusting and inter-dependent relationship. This can lead to fundamental misunderstandings and bitter recriminations. We can help you to avoid these. Many people don’t want to take our advice, believing that they are shrewd enough to do their own research, make cost-effective decisions and see through deceitful behavior.
But even if you feel this way, it’s still worth keeping in mind my professional and qualified opinion – so at least you can enter into an arrangement or relationship with your eyes open – and hopefully be aware of the signs if things don’t go according to expectation.
A word of caution: When you come here, you’ll be transformed forever.
Most people that come to Thailand experience withdrawal symptoms when they return home. They soon realize how unsocial and guarded people are in their home country, where striking up a conversation with a stranger is awkward. They miss how friendly and romantic relationships happened much more naturally in Thailand.
When you return home, you will begin to notice even more how expensive things are. Thailand isn’t “cheap”; it’s just that North America and Europe have become outrageously expensive.
People that have been to Thailand miss the tasty Thai food that, in our opinion, is the best food in the world. And they yearn for the genuine friendly service that they got at the open-air restaurants and roadside cafes… where tipping is completely optional. Dining out, among other things, will never be the same at home.
Thailand truly is a magical place that has changed many lives – and you’re likely to become addicted to this wonderful country and call it your new home, too, just as thousands of others have.
The number one most affordable place to live in the world
Thailand, particularly Chiang Mai in the north, is the world’s most affordable place to live in the world according to US News. Ecuador, Panama, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Malaysia, Cambodia, Columbia… don’t hold a candle to the overall affordability of Thailand.
There are only three potential disadvantages to Thailand that you will need to consider:
You can live very well on just $900-$1200 per month, and have all the luxuries that only the rich can afford back home. Particularly if you come and live in Chiang Mai, the "Rose of the North" in Thailand - rated as one of the top retirement cities in the world.
$900 a month is the total living cost for a single person, living modestly in Chiang Mai - but still comfortably enough to enjoy Western food, and indulge in drinking & smoking and other occasional pleasures. You can live on even less, but then you'd have to live like the Thais do (who somehow manage to live on $300!) - and I don't recommend it. On the other hand, to live luxurously, you only need $1200/month.
Living costs wil be different for a couple, of course ($1500 for a basic life, $2300 for a more luxurious one). Add 30% if you choose to live in Bangkok or Pattaya. And add 50% if you choose the island life in Phuket or Krabi or Samui.
Chiang Mai is the second-largest city after Bangkok, in the cooler mountainous northern region of Thailand. A deceptively sophisticated city masquerading as a quiet, ancient town, where people are genuinely friendly, polite and honest - and amazingly tolerant. Thailand is lightly regulated and the police will mostly ignore you; yet there is virtually no violence or vandalism. There are no bullet proof glass barriers between you and the bank clerks, civil servants or government officials. For a somewhat chaotic country, many government and consumer services are remarkably efficient. And it's safe for women to travel alone and at night.
It's one of the few places in the world where you can live an exciting, yet stress-free life - not to mention - if you're a single or separated man - start a new life with a pretty, loyal and loving Thai partner who appreciates and respects you for your age and your kind-heartedness, rather than your looks.
An essential collection of items for your trip to Thailand, whether for a short or long stay. Find your way around, avoid unneccessary costs, keep in touch with friends, get help when you're stuck, and a lot more...
Don't leave home without it.