The following is taken from my follow retirement bloggers Billy and Akaisha Karderli’s, very informative Retire Early Lifestyle.

They asked the question, Are you afraid to retire?

One person answered the following:

Thank you for your web site, at 53 I have 25 times what I need in retirement income. I really think that that is enough, 4 percent withdrawal rate. I am having trouble with severing the ties and just doing it, retiring. I seem to be so institutionalized to work that the fear of retirement is real.

I think that this is a pretty common feeling for people getting ready for retirement. They’ve saved and lived frugally all their lives and now that they’ve reached a certain age and the conditions are right to make that next lifestyle change, they balk.

If they have enough money to retire then the questions arise like “What will I do with my time?” “Will I get bored without the stimulation of a job and responsibilities?” “Will I be satisfied spending time just going out and playing golf?”

I am loving being retired just as much as I loved how I used to spend my working time – but now I am home just hanging out, like I always dreamed of. And now I have so many things I am interested in doing that I could never find the time to go back to “work”.

So I thought I would share some of the activities that I have taken up in my retirement. They are not suggestions for you. More like examples of “If I can find all this ‘stuff’ to do then I am sure that you can too.”

Here are some of the things that I have started doing since retiring.

Writing

As you have probably guessed I spend a lot of time writing. Besides this blog (This is the 79th monthly post in a series that gets about 2,000 hits a month.) I also contribute to the Thai Learners’ website Women Learn Thai – and Some Men Too with posts on learning the Thai language.

I have written a few eBooks, a number of English textbooks, now turned in apps for smart phones and tablets. I wrote a retirement column for Chiang Mai City Life for 5 years, then retired from that. Now with only a couple of monthly blog posts to produce I have cut down some on writing and I have time for other stuff.

Piano

I always used to joke that in my next life I wanted to be a blues pianist. Then I thought, hey, retirement IS my next life, so I started teaching myself how to play the piano.

Really, my goal was to play well enough to accompany my singing. I bought myself an inexpensive keyboard. I used the Internet to find out how to play all the piano chords I needed, and then I downloaded the lyrics and chords for the songs I wanted to sing.

The next part is the hardest, and the most fun. I sit banging away on the piano for hours every day fantasizing about singing songs that any lounge-lizard-piano-man would sing. I am now up to 300+ songs that I sing and play well enough to keep the door to my room locked tight. It might be awhile before I open it, but right now I am having loads of fun pretending to be Billy Joel or Elton John.

Literature

With raising a family and work, the time I had to read was cut way down. But now I can turn on the stereo with some Mozart or Springsteen in the background and read as long as I want. I have made a bucket list of all the great books I have never read and it will probably take me into my 90s. Don’t get me wrong, I still love reading mysteries and detective novels, and the Game of Thrones and Hunger Games series, but now I can read some of the stuff I am “supposed” to have read.

Currently those are Melville’s Moby Dick, I read one chapter a day because it is just too overwhelming to read more; the very recently passed away Nobel Prize winner Gabrial Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, a much cooler book than I thought; a thousand page history book Gettysburg, The Last Invasion, Allen C. Guelzo, the U.S. Civil War has always fascinated me; and Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, saw the movie, had to read the book.

I’ll be adding to the bucket list as I go along but I am not sure when Tolstoy’s War and Peace or Joyce’s Ulysses will be added to it. I just might have to wait for my next life for them.

Opera

I never knew much about opera, but now I have the time to check it out. YouTube has complete operas and there are lots that can be downloaded. Here is what I do. I search for an opera, say Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Then I go to Wikipedia and copy off the synopsis. If I can find a version of the opera with subtitles, that’s great, if not Wiki works out fine. A friend just told me that if you can’t get a synopsis of the opera here is how it usually goes: “The tenor falls in love with the soprano and the baritone tries to get in their way. And usually the soprano dies at the end – and sometimes the tenor too.” And if the cellos are playing in a minor key then something really bad is going to happen.

Then I sit back and get blown away – often with tears in my eyes (Check out Maria Callas singing arias from La Traviata for a good cry even if you don’t know what she is saying.

I never knew that the human body could make sounds like that? I recently watched the Queen of the Night aria from The Magic Flute sung by Diana Damrau and my jaw just dropped. Now remember, I’m no want-to-be dilettante and I didn’t know anything about opera until just a few weeks ago. I love crying so it looks like opera will work for me. You can watch The Queen of the Night from The Magic Flute here.

I’ve changed my mind. In my next life I want to be a coloratura soprano.

Animals

I have written previously about the mountain tortoises that we saved from the cooking pot. We raised them in our garden for a few years and when we found a suitable place away from hungry poachers (the Chiang Mai Zoo offered us a protected area at the base of the Doi Suthep mountain) we released more than 100 tortoises that we saved back into the wild, and the more than 30 babies that were born in our garden are now living at the zoo itself. Our thinking was that the babies would probably never developed the skills to live in the wild.

Now we are content with a few rescue rabbits and a flock of parakeets. I can hear the babies calling out for more food right from here.

Travel

My bucket list for places to travel to and visit has mostly been accomplished since I have spent so many years overseas, but now we are planning to visit lots of the towns and national parks and beaches right here in Thailand itself. That should take a couple of decades.

Garden

Our garden is a daily taskmaster and I can spend from 1 – 2 hours every day working in it. Pikun doesn’t let me make any decisions about what to plant so I am the guy who waters, and carries the cow manure, and prunes the trees and rakes the leaves.

I found out that there is a Thai monk who has developed a meditation technique while sweeping and raking. Now all I need is one for carrying cow poop.

Golf

The activities we plan for our retirement should be things that will last us a lifetime (as much as we have left anyway); gardening, and learning the piano and reading and learning about operas will take me a while. But not as long as it will take me to learn how to hit a gold ball straight I am sure.

I have written before that golf is the hardest sport I have ever done. It is so hard, Tiger Woods once said that the golf swing uses every muscle in your body and because of all the other things involved, distance, ground, and weather, the variations to the swing are basically infinite. That makes getting out onto a beautiful setting surrounded by trees and grass and lakes and streams and trying to hit a golf ball where you want to just perfect for the guy who has the rest of his life to play with.

Sometimes I even have enough time to do the things I used to do before retirement like study Thai, go bird watching, and hiking, and hanging out at open air markets, and volunteering, and my day wouldn’t be complete without some TV and movie binge-watching.

And I always make the time to take at least one power nap every day.

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Many readers of this humble blog about retiring to Thailand are currently mulling over some basic questions: “When should I retire?”, “Do I have enough to retire?”, “Should I consider retiring abroad?”, “Could Thailand be that place?” All the answers they are looking for about retirement can be summed up by answering one simple question:  “What is my comfort zone?” The question is simple, the answer may not be.

Comfort Zone: a place or situation where one feels safe or at ease and without stress.

We all have lots of comfort zones. If you have an unlimited amount of money then you would always be in your financial comfort zone. If your cash is limited, say you are on a pension or Social Security, then your comfort zone would be determined by your lifestyle. Used to living lavishly? Opps, out of the zone. Have always lived frugally? More chance of being in the zone.

Hyperactive? Uncomfortable being idle and not under pressure? A sedentary retired life would put you out of the retirement comfort zone. Happy having lots of free time and lots of ideas about how to spend it? You’re probably out of the zone if you are now holding a 9 to 5 job, but retiring would put you in it.

Have you traveled much? Seen and enjoyed the different cultures you have encountered in those travels? Then you would have a better chance of feeling “safe or at ease” in the retiring abroad comfort zone. Been mostly a stay-at-home person with limited overseas travels? Living abroad may be more stressful than you can manage unless you can adapt.

Just because we aren’t presently in one of these zones doesn’t mean that we can’t adapt. The most successful of us are the ones who have adapted to the different situations we have been faced with.

Just yesterday a visitor to our house went into the bathroom and we all heard a loud screech. She came running out, face drained white. “I just saw the hugest spider I have ever seen in my life. It was terrible.” she said pointing back at the bathroom door as if the zombies from The Walking Dead were going to come out. “Oh, that big guy.”, I said. “Yes, we leave him alone. He catches all those giant flying roaches. He’s a friend.” I just about had to run and catch her from fainting right there.

You see, I reacted to my first hand-sized Thai spider in almost the same way. But now I have adapted and old “spidey” is well within my comfort zone. My guest has a little ways to go yet.

Living here in Thailand can have many challenges. I’ll throw a few situations your way here for you to see if they fall within your comfort zone or not, and if they don’t, would you be flexible enough to adapt to them

  • Right now it is 101F (38C) and the weather report says it will be the same for the next 10 days
  • I just drank a lemonade that had at least a teaspoon full of salt in it.
  • I was making a left turn this morning and just as I got to the corner a motorcycle zoomed right past me on my left cutting me off and causing me to brake hard.
  • I forgot to tell the waitress at lunch to not put any chilies in my papaya salad. When I tasted it it was so hot I thought I was having a seizure and came one digit short of dialing “191” (the Thai equivalent to our “911”).
  • My next door neighbor decided to burn his dry leaves this morning even though the haze is so thick that the air is literally a solid.
  • While writing this post my Internet went down 3 times.
  •  At least once a year you will have to go to immigration and spend upwards of 6 hours waiting around to renew your retirement visa. And every 90 days you go to the same place to let them know you are still here.

And that’s just today. I have to admit that it took a long while for me to adapt, but currently, all of the above now fall safely within my personal comfort zones.

The Sleep test

There is a way to determine whether the things you encounter in your life fall within your comfort zones. It is called “The Sleep Test”. Here is how it works.

Let’s say you have invested in a stock. When you go to bed that night you toss and turn, worried about whether you have done the right thing of not. Not being able to fall asleep is failing the sleep test. If you fail the sleep test then you are not in your comfort zone and by definition you have not done the right thing.

If you cut your investment in half and then are able to sleep then you’re good. Still not able to sleep? Sell and get out. When you can sleep like a baby then you’re back in the zone. Sleeping babies are always in the zone.

The sleep test works for just about everything. Can’t sleep because you’re thinking about huge spiders, because you can’t get Thai traffic out of your head, because you are so angry about that leaf-burning neighbor, wondering if you should get involved with the young girl who tells you how handsome you are, deciding whether you should buy that house for your paramour and unsure whether she will kick you out after the papers have been signed? If you can’t sleep thinking about any of these then you have a problem. Know yourself, know your comfort zone, adapt or you’ll be an unhappy retiree here.

So this is why I have always advised people who are considering retiring to Thailand to do a staggered retirement first. Come for a short time. Not everything will fall within your comfort zone.

Next come for a longer time. And make sure you come and experience all the seasons here. Maybe you’ll love the heat or maybe you’ll feel like you’re living in an oven. But maybe you can learn to slow your life down, turn on your air conditioner during the hot part of the day and binge watch TV shows and movies while you wait for the coolness of night time (my trick BTW).

After testing the waters here, do you still stay awake tossing and turning wondering if this place is for you. Are you Sleepless in Thailand? Then this may not be the best place for you to retire.  But are you willing to put in the effort to adapt and overcome the problems you encounter so that you can then fall asleep? Then maybe you are in your comfort zone and Thailand is the right place for you.

My hope is that wherever you end up that you fall squarely within your comfort zone and, may you sleep like a baby and, as the Buddhist saying goes, “May you find happiness.”

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