Billy and Akaisha
particular skills that they bring to their retirement lifestyle. Bill
Clevenger has a down-to-earth practicality and robust sense of humor that is
contagious. Well traveled, Bill has been living an Expat life since 2002.
Bill, we understand
that you spent some time in Bangladesh. Could you tell us about that
In mid 2001 I accepted a
12 month contract as a management consultant with electric cooperatives in
Bangladesh. I had always wanted to retire early and live abroad so I sold
everything and relocated to polluted, chaotic and exotic South Asia. My job
took me to small villages and provincial cities by car, air and river
ferries; I was both repulsed and engrossed by the extreme poverty and the
Bengali peoples resigned acceptance of their plight.
Where do you call home
Thailand. I have a
retirement visa, renewed annually, so it is easy for me to stay here. I
“discovered” Thailand while working in Bangladesh and decided I wanted to
settle here after retiring. My original plan was to retire in Mexico
and perhaps someday I still might. I think I could live there for
the food alone.
You recently spent
some time in the Philippines. Would you consider moving there?
In a heart beat! How can
you not love a country comprised of over seven thousand islands? I can never
resist a bargain and overall the Philippines is a bit cheaper than Thailand.
Superficially the Philippines appears more westernized but it’s still very
Asian so it is both familiar and exotic. The Filipinos are great, fun loving
people and can they ever sing!
How long have you been
retired and what prompted that decision?
Finding myself suddenly single, I became disenchanted with work and spending
all my “free” time maintaining the house and other possessions. Bangladesh
was my trial run and I discovered that I actually enjoyed the minimalist
lifestyle. So my last day of gainful employment was October 31, 2002 and I
never looked back.
Tea break at
a Bangladesh river crossing
Do you consider
yourself a Perpetual Traveler?
Definitely. I don’t own a
house, car or any other possessions that would tie me down or hinder my
One of my personal goals is to travel to six continents - I’m giving
Antarctica a miss - and I have made it to
five already. I also want to spend more time in South America so
maybe I will base myself there at some future point.
Where’s your favorite
place to people watch and how do you meet new friends?
I’ve meet some colorful
characters at the small family run guest house where I am staying now. They
have a table near the street, so I hang out there with the regulars and
chill out with a cold beer. The street scene in Thailand is so vibrant: food
vendors making dishes to order, hawkers peddling fake Rolexes and DVDs;
couples strolling in the evening and the occasional beggar requesting “small
money.” Last night our group consisted of two Brits, two Australians, one
Norwegian, one Canadian and yours truly. I’m usually the only American, but
I am accepted - or at least tolerated - by all. (Laughter) Seriously though,
I’ve meet some great people during my travels and I socialize much more
abroad than I did back in the USA.
out at a Thai funeral
family and friends back in the States can be expensive how do you manage
They all rejoice that I’ve left the country. (Laugh) I mainly rely on Skype
and e-mails. I can call my parents back in the states for 2.1 cents per
minute on Skype. With a fast connection the voice quality is almost as good
as a landline conversation. I also have a cell phone so I can be contacted
immediately if there is a real emergency.
If you had twice your
net worth, would it change your life?
Hmmm, good question! Due to a strong market, my portfolio is up 50% since I
retired but I did not increase my personal budget by the same factor. I am
pretty conservative financially speaking, so I probably would not blow a lot
of money on “stuff.” Being a Perpetual Traveler instills automatic
discipline on shopping; I can only haul so much around, so the more I buy,
the more I have to dispose of. I do admit to owning five pairs of shoes
How do you handle
finances while on the road?
With my trusty laptop I manage all of my accounts online. If there is a
glitch, I fire up Skype and yak away with a customer representative. My
sister sends me new ATM and credit cards so that is an enormous help too.
Eve in a Bangkok Soi
What do you do about
I am uninsured so I just
pay as I go. Medical care is top notch in Thailand and relatively cheap
compared with the USA. (Thailand has a strong tradition of medical science;
King Bhumibol was born at Cambridge, Massachusetts while his father was
studying medicine at Harvard) I try to take care of myself and I am
naturally healthy, so maybe I’m just lucky.
Do you ever consider
returning to the States to live?
I have always felt that I would return to the USA at some point, maybe when
I am older and want more familiar surroundings. I would probably settle in a
Recreational Vehicle community and still live part of the year abroad.
What do you miss about
the States that you cannot get in Asia?
This may sound corny, but
I miss the inherent kindness and decency of the American people. The US
military conducts annual “Cobra Gold” joint training exercises with other SE
Asian nations and there are a ton of US service men on shore leave in
Pattaya, Thailand. Many people of all nationalities have commented
positively on their polite and friendly behavior. I do admit to missing my
Mom’s cornbread as well. (grin)
What would you
recommend to others who are considering becoming an Expat?
Just do it. Sure, you will encounter problems but deal with them and go on.
After all, if you truly are homesick you can always go home.
Enjoying Kho Chang, Thailand
What makes you unique?
I don’t feel unique but I
do feel fortunate to be living my dream. As a kid, I would go to the
library, grab an atlas and a stack of National Geographic magazines and
travel the world. Now I’m doing it in real time.
What books are you
The Poe Shadow by
Matthew Pearl. It’s a great read that I just stumbled onto.
In one sentence, what
is your philosophy on life, or your motto?
“If you think you can or
you think you can’t, either way you’re right.” Henry Ford.”
We want to thank
Bill for taking the time to share his life here and for providing us with
photos of his world travels.
To read more
interviews with Expats, Early Retirees and Interesting Characters,
About the Authors
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kind of person – the person who prizes their
independence, values their time, and who doesn’t
want to mindlessly follow the crowd.
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