The time has come to hit the road. I decided in January to change paradigm and the time has come to make the move. I arrived in the Philippines two years ago with one carry-on bag and I’ll leave with the same. I haven’t collected antique furniture here or vastly expanded my wardrobe so that a couple extra suitcases figure into the plans. What little household stuff I have will go to local friends who I hope will use it long and in good health. I’ve purposefully been a minimalist here (my usual modus operandi) because I never had the sense that things were locked and loaded for the long-term. It turns out that attitude was exactly the right one to have.
The reasons for the move built up over time and finally went across a threshold that made the decision a no-brainer. I’d been fighting to get the Philippine retirement visa for almost a year when it suddenly became clear that nobody in any office I was dealing with had the remotest clue what they were talking about and I’d have to go to the main office of the Philippine Retirement Authority in Manila. I’ve written and updated another post about that nonsensical process so I’ll not repeat myself here — which is good news for my blood pressure. Recent changes in immigration law also make it more difficult for people on tourist visas to extend stays than was the case earlier. The bureaucratic double whammy was enough to crystallize the decision to leave into the work of a moment last January. In the intervening months I’ve developed a nomad plan to the level of fine detail. So while the snow flew back in the old stomping ground in the USA I enjoyed the balmy weather here in PH and got myself sorted out to start the global nomad gig. Now it’s time to walk the talk.
My new plan has a completely different baseline. After the mind-numbing hassles here in PH involving trips to government offices it occurred to me that I could sidestep that grim business by moving between countries where American citizens get at least 90 days on arrival. There’s quite a list of them. Digital nomads are a good resource for such information, as I discovered in an article by Dariece Swift (here) that gives an excellent overview from 2018.
It’s like a breath of fresh air to abandon concern about the bureaucratic nightmares associated with long-term residence. After my experience here in PH every fiber of my being was ready to lurch toward the prospect of flitting around the world without ever having to deal with visa issues. As soon as the idea came into my mind it set off an explosion. As long as a country offers me 90 days on arrival, that’s good enough. Three months in any place is enough time to do all sorts of things — most importantly to get settled in well enough to feel that your life doesn’t just consist of packing and unpacking suitcases. Some of the countries that give 90 days on arrival also make extending for another 90 days easy enough not to send you fleeing the country as the expiration date of your visa stamp approaches. Consequently, in some instances it’s possible to pass a full six months in peace and quiet without having to engage the bureaucratic torture that in many places in the world is Business As Usual when dealing with immigration bureaus.
So I’m giving up the idea of being permanent anywhere until my age advances to the point that the idea of being settled in one place becomes a priority. Even when that stage comes it’s not inevitable that I need to head back to the old stomping ground in the USA. There are other countries in the world where it’s fairly easy to get residency through one channel or another. Given the state of things in the USA with both Social Security and Medicare lurching toward bankruptcy in less than ten years, I feel that warning has been served. I need a Plan B at the ready that finds me resident outside the USA so I can afford a decent quality of life and decent healthcare at the same time. The USA becomes more expensive every year and healthcare costs there have always been absurdly high. It’s possible to get care of comparable quality for a fraction of the cost abroad. So when my nomad days come to an end it’s still not a given that I’ll repatriate. As things look now it seems likely I won’t because I can do far better elsewhere.
While I’m still going full speed ahead and damning torpedoes, however, I want to make the most of my ability to gain new experience in different parts of the world. As the strategy for that approach blossomed in my mind it immediately became clear that this time the baseline would not be a residency but rather language. I’ll flit around to places where I can easily go about my business and talk to people in their own language, thereby making connections that always have a quality different from those made when talking to people in a language not native to them. The language element aligns with a deeper kind of lived experience abroad that I miss, having lived that experience in the past. I speak fluent Spanish, French and German so the number of countries in which I can pursue this new agenda is large. If I give myself a few months to bone up on my Portuguese I could also easily add two more countries, one in South America and one in Europe.
The practical matters of a nomad life are entirely different from the approach I took here in the Philippines, where after much hoorah I finally got bank accounts opened and was able to live my life with the knowledge that my resources in the States were on tap in big chunks through bank wire transfer. When it’s a question of paying rent or buying a motorbike, a trip to the ATM won’t cut the mustard. As a nomad, however, you can use the credit card to handle many of the major expenses (if you have the right kind, and fortunately I do) and use money transfer services to supply yourself with cash. It’s not ideal, to be sure, but it’s workable. Workable is all I ask for at this point, I’m not fussy.
There will be need for attitude adjustments, no doubt. I’m by nature a homebody, believe it or not. When I’m in a foreign country it can happen that for days at a time I stick close to home, whatever that home might be at the moment. Not every day finds me bolt upright at the crack of dawn stuffing the backpack for the next adventure — far from it. There are days when I want to stay in my jammies and have coffee on the balcony for a few hours while I think about life and what I might write about for the blog. If it rains I’m not one for throwing on a poncho and sallying forth to brave the elements — I’d much rather stay in my digs while waiting for the sunshine to reappear. Three months is enough time to have days like that mingled with days when I’m out and about taking in the sights. Six months is even better. By the end of six months you begin to feel like a fixture in the place, people in shops call you by name and the neighbors have already started inviting you to birthday parties.
So I expect to have very good experience by becoming a nomad. In many ways it will take far less work than trying to be a resident. I’m taking the plunge and the energy runs high as I think about exploring new parts of the world. The freedom the lifestyle promises goes to my head like strong drink and makes my imagination fire on all cylinders. So much to see, to do, to explore — at whatever pace suits my fancy. It doesn’t get any better than that for somebody interested in expanding the consciousness portfolio through engaging foreign climes and folks.
Starting this blog last year was a promise I made to myself long ago and finally kept. It now figures into my nomad plan with an importance I hadn’t foreseen. Writing for the blog has become a mainstay of my intellectual life and it’s 100% portable, which is ideal. What’s more, my travels provide yet more grist for the mill, so it’s a win/win situation if ever there was one. Given that travel posts are far and away the most popular category — so Google Analytics informs me — I’d do well to write more travel posts and keep the excursions into speculative philosophy to a minmum LOL. I see you nodding your head up and down, don’t try to hide it … 🙂
It took the weight of experience to upend for me the notion of permanence in place. Being settled is an ideal I’ve held as a priority for a long time and it formed my core idea of retirement when I entered the “R” zone in 2015. I’m glad I gave it the old college try here in PH, but it just didn’t work. As I look at the notion from my new perspective I see that its core problem is bureaucratic reality and all the hassles that come with it. I’ve been pushed to impermanence of place by that reality but I don’t feel like a retirement refugee. I actively choose the nomad paradigm now as a positive advantage over settledness in one place. I’ve worked out my plan to the point that it feels as secure in its frequent changes of context as I would earlier have felt ensconced in a single context. I rather like the idea of moving about and having the prospect of discovery before me throughout the year. What’s not to like about that?
The time will come soon enough when advancing age puts paid to the notion of flitting about the world all the year long. Until that day comes I’ll keep things moving and strain every fiber of my being to make my time abroad yield as much experience and insight as possible. No doubt the blog will track my movements and the success I have in engaging that agenda so stay tuned, there’s plenty more to come. 🙂