A regular feature of The Motley Fool Rule Your Retirement newsletter service is our success stories -- profiles of people who have become financially independent. One of the most remarkable stories involves Billy and Akaisha Kaderli, who, at age 38, left their fast-track lives, moved to the Caribbean, and started traveling the world. We caught up with Billy and Akaisha in Chiang Mai, Thailand, after a one-month body-surfing adventure.
You may rule your retirement, but who's ruling your vacation?
Thirty days straight at the beach is a record for us. Even though we lived in a beach town in our former life, going to the beach daily was impossible, because we were both working long hours.
Now, 17 years later, we stayed a full month in the beautiful tropical island paradise of Phuket, Thailand, and strolled 30 yards to the beach daily. Traveling in the offseason, we stayed in a well-situated hotel that gave us a sea-view room for a monthly rate of $435.
Phuket can be pricey -- it's the most expensive place in Thailand, especially if one eats out for every meal. So we chose to eat breakfast in the hotel room, with food we purchased locally, and we took full advantage of the room's mini-refrigerator. We also found an excellent restaurant that served a variety of Western and Thai fare for one-half to one-third the prices of most other places in town. And it was right by the water.
Since all of our needs were close by -- waves, beach, body-surfing -- we were able to walk to the neighboring stores, and to fancy restaurants when we wanted a treat. Transportation, housing, and food expenses we had covered.
However, what about impulse buying? Souvenir shopping? Temptations were everywhere, and the temptations even come to you!
Tourists at play, locals at work
As in most countries in the developing world, the beach is a place where vendors do business. They pass by numerous times each day while you're lounging underneath an umbrella and soaking up the rays. Enticing you to purchase something you could easily do without, they'll offer you items like a hand-carved elephant or a hammock.
After saying no a few times, most sellers realize that we are not buyers, but they do still stop to say hi. And there was one young, energetic guy who was hard to overlook. He was selling board shorts, something very fashionable in today's beachwear. In the local markets, we'd seen them selling for 2,000 baht, roughly equal to $58. His starting price was just 600 baht. After bartering with him, we ended up paying 300 baht for a pair of shorts -- less than $9 -- and we were was satisfied with the purchase.
One advantage of staying long-term in a location is that we get to meet and learn about these vendors, all of whom have a story to tell. The board-shorts vendor was no different. Each day, he would stop by to see whether we were interested in another purchase. He was a businessman and understood his market and products. He was originally from Vietnam and owned a shop 30 minutes north of our oceanfront location and worked the beach on many days. When we asked him how many pairs of shorts he sold on his busiest days, he answered, "15,000 baht worth." That's very impressive for a beach vendor, considering that the average Thai wages are quite low.
Our vendor then proceeded to tell me that he sells only about 10 or 15 pair of shorts a day! How did he make so much money selling so little merchandise? He explained that during the busy season, the same shorts we'd bought for 300 baht go for 1,500 baht. Curious, we asked ask him who would pay such inflated prices.
"Oh, that's easy," he replied. "The two-week millionaires." Those are the people who take their two-week vacations with money to burn and no regard to prices. Our vendor says he can spot them the minute they set foot on the beach.
Wondering what his impression of me was (Billy here), he jokingly quipped, "key nee owl," which is an affectionate Thai expression for "Cheap Charlie." He knew me well.
We take the position that our retirement is a lifestyle and not a vacation. We get to a location, check out the pricing, and do some comparisons before buying.
And those board shorts we paid 300 baht for? We just saw them in Burma for the equivalent of 200 baht.
Our vendor won yet another battle.
Make the most of your vacation
Here are some tips for saving money during your time off.
- Travel offseason. Our ocean view room at the Kata Sun Beach Inn cost $435 for the entire month.
- Eat where the locals eat. They know where the better-value eateries are.
- Beware of impulse buying. Don't buy it if it's just going to end up in a closet back home.
- Research other hotels for your next trip. Even if you've found one you already like. And always ask whether breakfast is included.
These are simple tips, but it's amazing how much difference they make. And we still have as good a time as any two-week millionaire.
It's never too early or too late to begin planning for your own retirement. To begin your journey, try a risk-free trial to Rule Your Retirement.
In 1991, Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired from the brokerage and restaurant businesses to a life of international travel. Visit their website at RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, and check out their new CD book, The Adventurer's Guide to Early Retirement. The Fool has a disclosure policy.