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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Interview Garry Holmes

We at Retire Early Lifestyle like to bring you stories of other travelers and retirees so that you can enjoy their perspectives and tips. Here we have an interview with Garry Holmes who has lived and traveled in Asia for years. At the time of this writing, $1USD = $1.08 AUD but you can check out the currency converter below.

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Retire Early Lifestyle: Could you tell us a little about yourself?

Garry: Iím a young 69 year old from Australia and after being to many counties I decided to settle in northern Thailand.

Garry Holmes

Garry Holmes

REL: Do you consider yourself retired?

G: I receive the Australian Old Age Pension = AUD$1,575 per month but I donít feel retired because there is so much to do.

REL: What brought you to Thailand, and how many years have you lived there?

G: I came to Thailand in 1995 and worked as an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher. The first 10 years were in Bangkok and then I moved up to Chiang Mai. I actually retired in 2012.

REL: What challenges did you have making the transition into the Asian culture?

G: I was really lucky because I had already travelled widely in Malaysia, Indonesia and Burma so I was accustomed to the food and many of the things that irritate a lot of foreigners.

As an Australian we eat with a knife and fork Ė the fork in the left hand and in Asia we eat with a SPOON and fork and NEVER eat with the left hand because it is considered "dirty" Ė it is the hand used for cleaning yourself after going to the toilet so it is very offensive to locals who have never heard of or used toilet paper. Toilet paper (if there is any to be found) is used for blowing your nose.

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REL: What do you like most about living in Thailand?

G:  What I like most are the people.

From north to south and east to west you find a gracious people who share everything with you. I know they are not angels and there are the bad things that happen, but generally speaking I have found that they can be happy with very little.  In the country areas they are not bitten by the "consumer bug" but of course in the cities things have been changing with young people affected by the latest fads.

Garry helping out at the homework club

Garry helping out at the homework club

REL: What do you average in spending annually? Does this include health insurance? Do you have health insurance?

G: I spend money on all the things I want. I donít deny myself but I do ask myself, "Do I really NEED this?" So I have TV, computer, hi-speed internet, micro-wave (used for making hot water for coffee) and I eat 3 times a day. I have air-conditioning in my bedroom but I usually only need it on a really hot night.

You see, I live in Chiang Dao which is at the foot of the third highest mountain in Thailand so our weather is quite nice year round.


I spend 30 Baht a meal ($1AUD) = X 3 X 30Baht = $90AUD a month. I never cook, I buy from the local market and in particular, one lady whom I know is a good cook and clean in her habits.

That is basic but I do go to a buffet Ė an all you can eat restaurant which costs 139B = $4AUD+ and I think that is great. I think that I might spend, totally, $200AUD per month on food.

Electricity is cheap and for 3 months of the year and during the cool season I donít use enough to get a bill Ė the other months it comes in at about $3 or $4AUD per month.

I have a well with beautiful water and it costs nothing for water Ė just the electricity for the pumping. I also have instant electric hot water for the shower.

Remember, Iím in a rural area about 63Km from Chiang Mai.

Thereís a bus nearly at my front door that costs 40Baht ($1AUD+) to go into the BIG city if I ever need to go.

Heath and Dentist

I donít have health insurance as the medical care is good where I live. My Doctor speaks English, like all doctors in Thailand, they learn English during their university training. It only costs me $1AUD to see him and my medications for blood pressure, Type 2 Diabetes cost me $12AUD per month.

Iíve had a few extractions at the hospital dentist section Ė very modern and only $6AUD per extraction.

There was a time I had to stay at the hospital for 4 days and I had a single room that was $25AUD a day including food and nurse.

I was lucky when I was back in my 50ís to have had AIA (AIG) Health Insurance. Back then in Bangkok I was able to have my hernia repaired and my cataracts removed under the insurance plan so the costs were very small.

In my opinion, there is no need to have those high health insurance packages unless you already have known diseases. You can walk into any of the large city hospitals, government or private, and see a specialist of every kind. You donít need a referral from a General Practitioner.

REL: What could one expect to pay for housing in Thailand on a monthly basis?

G: Housing in the rural areas is still quite cheap and even in Bangkok you can get a "studio apartment" for about 5,000 Baht a month (about $167AUD) but that is a very basic apartment. The same money in a rural area gets you a complete house and you can grow your own organic vegetables (or have someone as a "gardener" for $200AUD a month).

Some people find it just as cheap to live in a Guest House where the room is cleaned and the bed sheets washed regularly and there are people from all over the word to talk to. In Chiang Mai you can still get a Guest House for about $400AUD per month (two people) and no bills !!!!

REL: Do you need a vehicle to live in Thailand?

G: I had a number of vehicles over the years but nowadays I find one not to be necessary. Buses are cheap, taxis in Bangkok are probably the cheapest in the world, (if they donít scam you by taking you the longest way). I use a Honda Dream 125cc motor cycle around town and in Chiang Mai I used one too.

I donít need a vehicle to go to Chiang Mai as the bus is convenient and easy to get around once you are there. I used to think I needed a vehicle but they are a waste of money really if you calculate insurance, wear and tear, fuel etc.


REL: Thai can be a difficult language to learn, is it necessary to master Thai to live there?

G: It is true that Thai language is difficult to learn to speak and more difficult to learn to write. After all these years of being here I can say my Thai is very weak, just enough to survive, but all children from 6 years old to 17 years old are learning English at school and when Thailand enters the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015, all business between the countries will be in English so there is a big push for everybody to learn it. This makes it easier for foreigners to do everything they need in English.

Some other countries have an advantage because English was widely used in their past, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Burma (Myanmar) but if someone doesnít understand there is usually another person nearby who can help.

It is much easier these days with the language issue than about 14 years ago.

REL: I understand that Thailand visa regulations change constantly. Could you tell us what the latest requirements are for someone wanting to move there?

A view of Chiang Dao mountain - 3rd highest mountain in Thailand

A view of Chiang Dao mountain - 3rd highest mountain in Thailand

G: The VISA rules do seem to change a lot but the "core" rules have remained very constant.

Iím on a Non-Immigrant O visa for retirement. It gives me 1 year and then I have to renew it.

There are two ways to get it.

1.     Have 800,000 Baht in a Thai bank for 3 months before the time of renewal.

2.     Have a letter from your Embassy saying you have a Pension of "XXX" Dollars per year and 400,000 Baht in the bank.

These rules are found in a web site, Thai and they are the experts on Visas.

Some people get a multi-entry tourist Visa which gives them 60 days and an extension of 30 days (90 days total). They do a border crossing and come back in again for another 30 days or go travelling in one of the neighboring countries which is so convenient.





REL: Whatís there to do for fun in Thailand?

G: There are so many things to do for fun. It could be living with the people in a Thai village, riding elephants, learning Thai cooking, helping in a myriad of "childrenís homes" and so on. I met a man once who was a reptile specialist and every day he would show me photographs of snakes and other reptiles that he had seen that day. There are others who are bird watchers. Anyway, there are so many different types of things to do that a person would never be bored.

I know of a place down on the sea coast near Chanthaburi where people can rent a genuine fisherman's cottage for about $300 per month and they go fishing daily.

REL: Where have you traveled?

G: Iíve been lucky to have travelled all of Thailand from top to bottom and Iíve loved it. The North has so many cultural things to see Ė the hill tribe people for example, Lahu, Karen, Lisu, Mon, Thai-yai, Akha to name a few. In my village we have thousands of hill tribe people come down for the market day every Tuesday. It is so colorful.

REL: Share with us your best money-saving secret.

G: I donít spend much of my income as Iím single, donít drink or smoke. I go to Church on Sunday and enjoy every day by being involved in my village. I find by buying my food that there is no waste. I am hoping that this year I will take up a new hobby of growing strawberries. That will be fun!!! And bring in a few dollars too.

REL: What are your greatest passions in life?

G: I have been a writer for some years now and belong to a Writers Group in Australia. I have to write a short story every week as my homework and I really enjoy that. Some of the group are great poets and I love to read their work too.

I love being able to assist in our "homework club" after school when 30 to 40 little kids (aged 6 to 12) come to do their homework. I help with the English homework and they become more confident to speak with tourists in English.

My life is simple but full. I also help in my fruit tree orchard. I have about 400 longan fruit trees, many mango trees, jack fruit, lots of lemon and grape fruit trees and banana trees. Itís not as intensive work for trees like it is for vegetables. Oh yes, I do have range free chickens for eggs and meat.

REL: Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?

G: In 5 years Iíll be getting on, still young but I have to be realistic.

It is true that Asian people do still respect their elderly and I have a Thai family who love and care for me daily. I remember someone telling me that the three things that keep them going are:

1. Loving others

2. Being loved by others

3. Doing good to others

And so that is what I want to be doing.

I will stay as long as Iím not a burden to anyone but when I become frail Iíll be heading home to Australia as it truly is a "lucky country" and they care for the aged very well.

I want you to know that I have enjoyed your travels and stories all these 8 years and have saved every letter to re-visit your adventures. Retire Early Lifestyle is one of my favorite blogs!

Thank you Garry, for those kind words and we want to let you know how much we appreciate you taking the time to answer our questions for this interview. We know our Readers have benefitted from your insight and wisdom.

For more interviews with Successful Retirees and Captivating Characters, click here  

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About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurerís Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on

Retire Early Lifestyle appeals to a different kind of person Ė the person who prizes their independence, values their time, and who doesnít want to mindlessly follow the crowd.

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