How we moved to a tropical paradise

November 5, 2008 - Filed under Planning, Travel

Some of our readers have asked us, “Why did you move to the Philippines?” To which we often laughingly reply, “Why not?” Kelly and I both had a serious case of the travel bug shortly after our trip to Brazil a year ago and we had decided that we would (and could!) turn nomadic freelancing into a full time reality.

The real answer is; it came down to almost a year of planning and research. Weighing the best locations to live long term and cheaply in a tropical destination with reliable internet access. Many of our original preconcieved expectations were adjusted over that period. I remember initially thinking, “I can live like a king for next to nothing!” and “Wouldn’t a hut with sand floors, right on the beach be perfect?”… and while both of those are still ideals we’re searching for, we’ve settled for a more realistic situation combining the right measure of cost and comfort together with the necessities needed to carry on business in a country with substantially less IT infrastructure than we have at home. Besides, who can type in a hammock?

Initially, we started checking out regions we were familiar with from previous trips. Surprisingly, Kelly and I have been to many of the same places at nearly the same time, but not while traveling together. Kelly lived overseas in Amsterdam for a couple of years around 2002, travelling around Europe while working for a local design company. We both love Thailand, having been there back in 2004. Kelly also visited Vietnam, and Cambodia. We were also both in Costa Rica in 2005. I visited the Dominican Republic in 2006 while Kelly went to Egypt. Lastly we went to Brazil together for a month in early 2007. So we’re definitely warm weather people.

We then started looking at both tourist and working visa requirements in various areas of Central America, Southeast Asia, and the Caribbean. Plus a few more radical places like South Africa and Fiji. After we Googled hundreds of consulate and immigration websites, as a Canadian, most countries will allow you a 3 month tourist visa. Some, only 1 month. We weren’t too interested in working 9-5 for local currency along our travels, so a working visa (which would require sponsorship from a local company) wasn’t really on the boards. Finally, we found a post mentioning that the Philippines had extended their tourist visa limit to one year! Wait, we love Asia! We checked the Philippines consulate website and… nothing? There was no mention of the extension. So, we dug around expat sites and eventually confirmed that the extension was actually up to 16 months, with the condition that you renew your tourist visa every 2 months and fill out some extra paperwork and fees every few months. The biggest benefit was that we didn’t have to leave the country to renew our tourist visas, whereas many countries like Thailand require that you do so, and often only up to 6 months. The Philippines is made up of 7,107 islands. So flying in and out of the country every odd month could have been quite costly.

We did an initial budget and hundreds of hours of online research trying to find what kinds of costs we could associate to rental accommodations, food and beverages, diving, and most importantly internet availability options. This was the hard part. There are bargains to be found on rental accommodations once you’re actually in the country, and haggling isn’t best done over email. We found that many sites do not list long term options. Those that do are usually listed at an exorbitant rate in hopes of snagging a big fish. Plus, we felt that we’d be more reassured if we just booked a night or two in the area to check it out before committing to a long term rental. Even after we arrived, we found that many resorts wanted more than they had advertised online… in low season! In this country, nearly everything is negotiable.

At this point the decision was pretty much made. Budgets were looking doable, tourist visas were about to be sorted. The only real question remaining was, “Where in the Philippines?” We spent a lot of time reviewing places on and reading travel blogs like our own. We read both the Lonely Planet and Rough Guide travel guidebooks. Diving locations played a big part in our selection process. We finally narrowed it down to a few places by emailing small bed and breakfast type places and asking about the availability of internet in the area.

Then comes the leap of faith. Buying your airline tickets. Selling everything you own. Saying goodbye to friends and family. Landing in a foreign country and asking yourself, “What was I thinking?” Then, slowly… as the weeks go by and the culture shock wears off, you realize the freedom in not being tied to a condo, an office, the usual patterns of day to day life at home. Sure, we’ll miss our friends and family. I horribly miss bathtubs and toilets where you can flush the toilet paper. Kelly raises votes for Clamato juice and risotto… But all else aside, we wouldn’t give up this experience for the world.

Posted by: Shim

4 Comments so far

  1. jolayne November 9, 2008 6:52 pm

    so good to hear/read “we wouldn’t give up this experience for the world.

    having lived in three different countries myself, i know that the trials and tribulations can be tense at times no matter how small – missing family and friends and the simplicities of your life in Canada can wear on the soul but… you know you will be back someday and nothing much will have changed – enjoy ever step, even the sharp ones. cheers guys. may the adventures continue! xojolayne

  2. Shim November 16, 2008 5:03 am

    Thanks Jolayne! Totally agree that there’s a lot of emotional adaptation when moving to a new country. We’re definitely gonna be missing all the family and friends come Xmas! And while we’re still feeling a bit like outsiders sometimes, I’m constantly amazed by how normal everything that shocked and amazed me the first week has become.

    The new place we moved into has good old flushing toilets and we’re on the doorstep of the biggest bath in the world. So, I guess I got everything I wanted. We just need to come across some Caesars and risotto rice and life will be complete for both of us!

  3. Dad November 16, 2008 9:43 pm

    We love your new home – the view is wonderful. Kelly you look fantastic and extremely happy. The rum test looked a bit challenging – we’ve tried the cheap rum and after one or two you don’t want anymore. That stuff definitely comes back to haunt you. Kyle and Kelly were out to see us – she is definitely pregnant and looking forward to the baby coming. Have a great day – pictures are wonderful.

  4. Lydia Stewart August 21, 2011 8:46 pm

    Themelis Cuiper’s SocialGarden Business streams of social media & e-commerce had a link to your weblog. Any idea why? So your internet site is example of something.

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