Over 50 & Thriving Series

From Surviving to Thriving ……

April 24, 2019
From Surviving to Thriving in Retirement

Are Surviving or Thriving in Retirement?

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you just said ‘enough’ and changed your life? Not only change your life but move to another country! That is exactly what my next guest, Vivien Cullen and her husband did and in her words:

And now, three years into this new life, I feel like I am thriving. I feel like I have re-invented myself.

I’m inspired by those who take a chance and have the courage to follow through. Be inspired by Vivien and pop over to read more posts on her blog Retired Aussies in Asia. You can connect with Vivien through her links at the end of her post.

From Surviving to Thriving in Retirement

It’s Sunday afternoon, and I’m lazing in the gazebo, the pool is beckoning. I sigh, with a sinking feeling. The weekend has disappeared again in the blink of an eye. I check my work diary for the following week. Great! More meetings, two days of travel, another 60+ hour stress filled week and I mentally set aside the coming Saturday to catch up on the week’s work. The following week is worse, it is just the same thing over, and over and over. I try to be positive, but it just feels like Groundhog Day.

I’m not unhappy in my life, but not happy either.

Honestly, I feel like I’m just surviving. With my work colleagues, we often joke about keeping the snorkel just above the water line. I allow my mind to wander, and ponder how and when I can get off this treadmill. I’m in my early 50’s, married without kids, and still have a mortgage and financial commitments.

I fantasise about working part-time, getting a different job, or becoming a grey nomad dragging a 20-year-old camp trailer around Australia. But the options are not fully viable or entirely appealing. Fortunately…. that is all in the past!

We changed our paradigm.

In late 2015, we started an entirely new chapter in our lives. We don’t work now (unless we want to do some writing or other things). We enjoy a relaxed breakfast with delicious tropical fruit on our balcony surrounded by palms and flowering orchids. I go to the gym or run on the beach at a sociable time of the day, catch up with friends, and have time to learn about things I want to know more about. I love waking up each day, life is stimulating, I feel like I am thriving and I do what I want when I want, (sometimes my husband has a say too!).

How did we change our world?

This window opened for me on a flight to London to see a friend. My husband Michael nudged me from slumber and said ‘how would you like to live overseas?’ He had my attention, we had tried a few times to get work overseas but had not been successful. I read the newspaper article he handed me, which featured Australian retirees living in various South East Asian countries on the way less than it cost in Australia. This article was one of the best things I’ve read from a newspaper and the catalyst for change.

We started researching in earnest. One of the most valuable sites was International Living, although at that time it was tilted more towards American and Canadian readers, it had loads of information. We crunched our numbers, sought professional advice and checked out countries like Panama and Ecuador. This process took a year or two and was like an emotional rollercoaster. Although it was financially viable, we didn’t have a lot of money behind us. To make it work, we felt the best option was to sell our house and sell or dispose of everything.

This venture was the most significant decision I had made in my life. One minute I felt a massive sense of excitement and exhilaration, the next I would be frightened and wondering if I was nuts. I would be leaving a well-paid and somewhat secure job, selling our lovely little Queenslander house with tropical garden, farewelling friends and relatives. And we would be exiting a beautiful country that felt safe and secure.

We managed to pare back our possessions to 75kgs (plus three boxes in storage) and took a one-way flight to Thailand. We decided to go to Hua Hin, often dubbed ‘The Royal Coast’ because the Royal family have built some summer palaces here. We liked it so much, we bought a fully furnished two bedroom, two bathroom house with a pool and settled into a relaxed and fulfilling lifestyle.

From Surviving to Thriving

And now, three years into this new life, I feel like I am thriving. I feel like I have re-invented myself.

It costs a lot less living here than in Australia, we estimate about a third. The living costs make it doable. However, it’s a lot more about lifestyle. Every day is like a holiday.

It’s hard to put the finger on why I feel like a new woman, but I’ll give it a try.

Firstly we have made lots of friends; expats are welcoming and come from all around the world, making socialising stimulating, as I learn more about other countries. Expats are often on the move, visiting other countries especially those that are inexpensive and attractive to those on a tight budget, and again conversation is lively.

Living in Thailand, we continuously learn about the language, people and culture. The people appear more relaxed, happier and satisfied with their way of life. We find travel here easy – the roads are quite good, and we have driven north, east and south, exploring backroads and loved every minute.

It is also much cheaper for air travel, a flight to KL or Myanmar is $40AUD. And there are those simple things you see every day that makes you smile. The little old Thai lady who pulls up beside you on her blue Harley Davidson, no helmet of course! Or the monk blessing our neighbour for their offering. Or perhaps it’s the craziness of a Thai roundabout. Importantly, I feel thankful every day for having made the move.

Sue’s site ‘Sizzling Towards Sixty’ inspired me to share my story, in case I help other people look at alternatives to spicing up your life. 

Meet Vivien

Vivien hails from Queensland and spent over 30 years masquerading as a Human Resources Manager in the hospitality, tourism and retail fields in Sydney, Brisbane and Yulara / Ayers Rock. She had tried to get overseas postings during her career, but hadn’t quite pulled it off. When she read an article about people retiring to countries with affordable and comfortable living, she embraced the opportunity.

In 2015, she and Michael sold up, trimmed to 72kg of belongings, and moved to Hua Hin in Thailand. With newfound freedom, she has travelled around Thailand, Myanmar and sailed to the Andaman Islands. With a passion for language she is learning to speak and read Thai and learned about the Thai culture and history. She has developed new friendships with people from around the world, and now has time to train for mini marathons.

Connect with Vivien

Website: http://retiredaussiesinasia.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/retiredaussiesinasia/

If you are Over 50 and would like to contribute to the Over 50 & Thriving Series, I would love to hear from you. Send me an email at sue@womenlivingwellafter50.com.au and I can provide more details. Click here to catch up on my previous guests in Over 50 & Thriving Series Or you can subscribe here so you never miss a post and receive a FREE Copy of my latest e-book ’10 ways to start Thriving today’! Don’t forget to post your Instagram photos using the hashtag #over50andthriving.


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  • Reply Gilda Baxter April 24, 2019 at 18:04

    Vivian, your new life sounds great. I love Thailand and could easily see how a life there is exciting. Having the courage to make changes can be hard, but sometimes you just have to take the leap. I will be checking our your blog.

    • Reply Sue Loncaric April 27, 2019 at 04:51

      Hi Gilda, Vivien’s life does look wonderful doesn’t it and it certainly was the right decision for her and her husband. Fear of change is the biggest hurdle in anything we do isn’t it? Thanks for visiting and I’m sure you will enjoy reading Vivien’s blog.

  • Reply Miriam April 24, 2019 at 20:52

    Love this. What a wonderful example of taking up an opportunity, starting over and reinventing your life. Sounds like it was a fabulous decision.Thanks for sharing your story Vivien.

  • Reply Debbie April 24, 2019 at 22:35

    Wow, this was a great read Sue. It’s lovely to meet you Vivien and to hear about your lifestyle changes. It sounds a wonderful life you’ve made together.

  • Reply Retirement Reflections April 25, 2019 at 00:40

    Hi, Vivian – It is a pleasure to meet you here. My husband and I lived and work in Beijing, China for fourteen years. We loved that lifestyle and remain very grateful for the experience. While there, we made several trips to Thailand — which was one of our favourite places. Congratulations to you and your husband on taking this leap of faith, and for inspiring others to live their dreams.
    Thank you so for featuring Vivian. This is such an encouraging read!

  • Reply Christina Daggett April 25, 2019 at 03:16

    It was such a treat to read your story, Vivien. My husband and I have a similar story. We left the US, back in 2009, after my husband retired from the USPS. We first got residency in Ecuador, but after living there for 18 months, we decided that we wanted to continuously travel, mostly in Europe, and we’ve been doing that for the last 8 years. I just started blogging about our travels last year. Thanks for sharing your story. I really enjoyed it.

  • Reply Joanne Tracey April 25, 2019 at 07:44

    Okay, this is a big call, but I think this is your most inspiring piece ever – partly because it’s a dream, partly because that stress bunny is me at the moment & partly because the idea of complete immersion into a different culture is a very very tempting one. Thank you!

  • Reply Leanne | www.crestingthehill.com.au April 29, 2019 at 23:48

    I love reading stories like this – Vivien you’re certainly living a dream life – and in an affordable way. I wonder if you were freer to sell everything and leave because you don’t have children/grandchildren to hang around for? I think about living somwhere like Bali and it’s very appealing in some ways, but I know I’d never leave because I’d miss my family too much. But never say “never” because who knows? You’ve made me think!

    • Reply Sue Loncaric April 30, 2019 at 03:55

      Hi Leanne, I thought the same thing after reading Vivien’s story. I said to Mike that it would be great to do something like this but I couldn’t leave the family. Living an hour away now rather than 10 minutes is far enough for me! Vivien and Michael are certainly enjoying their retirement though and good on them for having the courage to make the change. x

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