“I was a workaholic,” Bob Coleman says. “Then one day I thought of all the places I hadn’t seen and I decided right there and then that something had to change.”
At age 55, Bob started his international travels by taking vacations to popular destinations in Southeast Asia, including Penang, Malaysia and the Thai capital, Bangkok. “After a few trips I realized retirement could set me free; that I didn’t have to limit myself to one location for the rest of my life.”
With this in mind, he began looking at which countries offered the best options for a retiree. “If you research the countries in Southeast Asia, you figure out pretty quickly Cambodia offers a great cost of living combined with really simple visa rules. You just turn up at the airport and pay for a one-month visa. Then you can renew it for up to a year at a time for $285.”
Phnom Penh is conveniently located in the center of Southeast Asia, with a busy international airport connected to the top regional destinations, which makes it a hub for tourists, businessmen and intrepid explorers.
But it was more than convenience that attracted Bob to Phnom Penh. “On my first visit to the city I was so impressed by the mixture of old and new. On one street you will see colonial buildings that are hundreds of years old, on the next street there will be a traditional Khmer market and then round the corner there will be a brand-new skyscraper. The city is developing fast but still has a uniquely Asian atmosphere.
“More importantly, the Khmer people are a really friendly bunch and you can’t walk down the street without somebody saying hello or giving you a big smile. I have never felt so welcome in a foreign country.”
“When it comes to the cost of living, Cambodia is cheap and I get by on under $1,000 per month. I could spend less than that but I like to eat out at nice restaurants and socialize a fair bit.
“My biggest expense is rent but I only pay $310 a month for a two-bedroom apartment in one of the nicest neighborhoods at the center of Phnom Penh. Utilities set me back $70 to $100, and I spend another $18 per month for unlimited WiFi so I can connect on Facebook and Skype with friends and family back home.”
Thanks to a booming economy, expats don’t lack any creature comforts in Phnom Penh, as there are eight modern shopping malls and several different supermarkets selling Western food and fresh groceries.
Bob normally goes to the shops once a week to stock up on the essentials but it never costs him more than $200 a month. He enjoys spending some time with other expats—there is a community of around 80,000 long-term residents—in Phnom Penh.
“At times it can feel like I am back at home but all I have to do is walk down the street and instantly return to the local way of life. This country offers the best of both worlds. The money from my pension would barely cover basic expenses back home but in Phnom Penh I get to live life with a bit of luxury instead.”
Bob still has enough left over each month to fund his regular travels, having taken extended trips to Bali, Kuala Lumpur, Phuket, Hong Kong and Ho Chi Minh City in the course of the past year.
When asked to offer his insight for anyone interested in living and traveling overseas, he says, “My advice is simple—you are never too young to start and never too old to stop.