My Journey Towards FIRE in Thailand

airplane-sunset

About 10 years ago, I was on a flight from Thailand going home to visit my family when I had an epiphany that would change my life and set me on the path to FIRE in Thailand.

It’s always uncomfortable sitting in a plane for half a day surrounded by people who often have diverse ideas of what acceptable behavior on an airplane is, and I knew this flight was going to be one of the worst ever as soon as I got to the gate.

We departed over two hours late because 25 wheelchair passengers needed to be loaded first. I had never seen such a mass of wheelchairs before. For a fraction of a second the priority boarding of anyone who needs assistance reminded me of the queue at Chaeng Wattana Immigration when the door opens right at 8:30am to let the falangs inside, and everyone who is from a country where line-ups are something to take advantage of because you can simply ignore them and go first because you’re more important, rushes to the front to get in ahead of everyone else, resulting in a pile of hundreds of people trying to squeeze through a single door since Somchai won’t fully open the double-door because he’s amused at watching the anarchy (from the moment he wakes up he probably can’t wait for his 8:30am door opening routine every morning, but on the other hand it may seem completely normal to him).

What I saw in front of me at the gate was that same scene, but this time with wheelchairs all trying to funnel through the narrow space where boarding passes are checked. I quickly remembered I was now leaving Asia behind for a while and could replace those visa renewal and 90-day reporting nightmares with peaceful and joyful memories of home.

There was no way I could sleep or even come close to relaxing on that flight. I remember at least five babies crying, the guy beside me crossing his leg and putting his stinking foot on my knee, the kid sitting behind me pounding on the touchscreen in the back of my headrest, and at least one person leaving their window visor open which lit up the whole cabin with daylight from outside.

It wasn’t until the guy sitting on the other side of me pulled out some kind of plastic flask from his carry on and spilled some of the most rotten smelling whiskey on my pants while trying to pop the lid off, that I finally asked if I could change seats.

I found a flight attendant in the back of the plane, and she proceeded to inform me that I was getting old and that’s why all those things were bothering me.

That hit me like a brick!

I’d never been called old before in my life. Was it really true? It must be since she was young and hot. I suddenly realized her calling me old meant I couldn’t pick up girls like her anymore.

As I made my way back to the cesspool in the middle of the plane, my mind was rapidly trying to process all the implications of now being old. For some strange reason, I was not distracted by many of the people I had to pass in the aisle who were originally in wheelchairs but were now magically walking just fine, even on a surface that was bouncing up and down. Some were handling the turbulence even better than I was, and I worried that I may have aged 30 years in the past five minutes.

As horrible as not being able to pick up young, hot girls anymore was, I realized something else that shocked me even more, believe it or not. If I was old I must be close to retirement, and if I’m going to retire then I need money, which I didn’t have very much of. I always knew someday in the distant future I wouldn’t be able to get girls like that flight attendant anymore, but this was the first time the reality of retiring in Thailand hit me. The thought of working my whole life, but ending up with nothing and not even being able to buy food terrified me. I was painfully aware I didn’t have a pension plan that was going to pay me close to $1,500 per month for 35 years like my grandma had from the government.

As I leaned back and closed my eyes to contemplate my future, I was easily able to ignore the screaming babies and constant pounding on the back of my head from the kid playing a game on the screen in my headrest. I remembered a financial documentary I’d seen while scrolling through the in-flight entertainment options. It was called Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki.

rich-dad-poor-dadI figured I should watch it right away since I wasn’t getting any younger. Having lots of money would probably solve both the retirement and girl problems at the same time.

Rich Dad Poor Dad captivated me the entire time. It was as if all the distractions around me had never existed. My mind was solely focused on everything he was saying about money, and at the same time I was almost furious I didn’t know it years ago.

I instantly connected with Kiyosaki’s message of financial education. It was like I had just found the most important information of my life that for some reason was deliberately kept from me during 20 years of schooling.  I had found the missing link that would solve the major problems in my life.

By the end of the flight, possibly by absorbing some of the magical healing energy that permeated throughout the airplane, or by feeling Kiyosaki’s own energy come through the screen and personally touch me, I didn’t feel old anymore and I knew there was a way to save for a successful retirement. I was relieved and excited at the same time.

I bought three of Kiyosaki’s books as soon as I landed.

Kiyosaki can be controversial, but he set me on a path of financial education that I haven’t deviated from since that flight home. I read more than 25 finance books over the next couple years, paid off all my debt, started investing and accumulating wealth, and eventually found FIRE in Thailand.

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