Take a Seniors Gap Year in SE Asia

Andrew Leeson


Take A Seniors Gap Year in SE Asia

Family, Friends, and Freedom: Choosing Between Motorhome Trips Or A Seniors Gap Year in Southeast Asia

Leaving family and friends behind is the second most stated reason why people won’t consider living in SE Asia in retirement. I get it, our lives revolve around a network of close-knit friends and family, and it can be daunting for many to consider picking up and leaving that network behind and having to make new friends. This concept seems to be much harder still when there are young grandchildren involved. The idea of a Seniors Gap Year, taking time to explore new places while keeping connections strong, resonates deeply with this sentiment.

Moving to a new country is not for everyone and that’s life. My parents would never consider moving to SE Asia for a Seniors Gap Year, but they would pack the 4wd, hitch the caravan on the back, and head out onto the open road for over a year at a time. Seemingly the only concern they had was not the friends and family they left behind, but the rose bushes they left behind.

This got me thinking, what’s the difference between touring around in a caravan/campervan/motorhome etc for a year-or-two and living in SE Asia for a year-or-two when it comes to family and friends during a Seniors Gap Year?

I know my parents felt they were never far from home when they were travelling around Australia, but I reckon it’s far easier and quicker to get home from SE Asia than most places they ended up when they were on the road. Australia is a huge place. And this would equally go for Europe and North America as many citizens in both jurisdictions, like to travel around on wheels. 

Why Not Take a Seniors Gap Year to SE Asia?

Seniors Gap Year in SE Asia
Hmmmm where next?
Gap years should not only be for the young to have a bit of fun before embarking on university or a more permanent and serious job. Why not a ‘seniors gap year’ for the retiree? To explore and to also have a bit of fun, perhaps at the start of the retirement phase in life? It can be a useful and fun way to plan the rest of your retirement years’. Let’s face it, with life expectancies rising all over the world, this could realistically be up to one third of your life i.e 20 to 30 years.

Retirement Visas

SE Asia makes it easy to stay long-term. Countries like Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines have easily accessible 1-year multi-entry retirement visas that are easily renewed year-on-year. Malaysia did also up until last year, unfortunately they changed their retirement visa eligibility criteria, and now you are required to have some decent coin to be eligible.

For those countries that do not have an (accessible) retirement visa, countries like Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia for example, there are the standard 30, 60 and 90 day visa options available (depending on the country), where you will be required to leave the country, then return to restart the visa term after those days have expired. This is called ‘doing a visa run’ and is quite common.

Keeping in mind how close each country is to each other, and how affordable it is to get around this is not a daunting prospect. For example, if you are living in Penang, Malaysia, or Hoi An, Vietnam, it would be as little as US$100 return or even less, and as little as an hour to fly to many other countries in the region for a short holiday and have some fun. 

Plan to Achieve Something during your Gap Year

Seniors Gap Year in SE Asia
Feel the elation of achievement…as corny as that sounds

Think of what you can do in 1 year in SE Asia, without the distractions of being back home and with all the time in the world.

I have given many presentations to expat clubs in SE Asia and generally spoken with many expats in many countries. Here are a few goals that have been achieved by individual expats in SE Asia: 

  • Get fit: One gentleman from the United States was considerably overweight most of his adult life. His main goal in retirement was to get into shape. He enrolled in a live-in fitness camp for 3 months when he first moved to Thailand. There are many such camps of varying comfort, quality and price. Suffice to say this business is booming in SE Asia so you will find something that suits you if this interests you. This could be a great way to kick off your retirement. Plus living in the tropics, you tend to walk, swim and be outdoors far more and generally it’s easier to keep the weight off.
  • Take up a sport or get better at one: Golf is a good example here. In a year how much can you improve on your handicap? But many others take up sailing, swimming, kayaking, hiking, badminton, tennis, scuba diving. One gent I spoke to took up paragliding.
  • Learn to cook: SE Asia is huge on food culture. There are lots of cooking schools that teach all kinds of cooking classes from beginner to advanced. You could go home after 1 year and be the best and most diverse cook on your block.
  • Travel and become a travel writer/vlogger: There are countless places and cultures to explore. Start a web site, write articles, and post photos so others can follow and enjoy your adventures.
  • Charities: If you like to help others you will be spoiled for choice. Immerse yourself in a charitable foundation or non-profit and make other lives a little better.

These are great ways to meet people also. Which brings me to…

What to Expect from an Expat Community

Expat Community in SE Asia
Friends are easy to find in the expat world
Expat communities are generally open and welcoming, and you will not find it hard to meet people to socialize with if you get out and join in. I have found this to be the case for two main reasons:
  1. The type of people that choose to pick up their lives, then relocate somewhere else willingly are generally open to exploring new things, and this means open to meeting other people. I have personally found this to be the case in every expat community that I have been involved in, and
  2. Out of necessity. One thing that all expats have in common is that we all come here alone or just with our partner or immediate family. We leave our friends and broader family behind. This forces people to be open to meeting other people. The alternative is to be quite lonely and that provides a great incentive to be inclusive.

So, please don’t be concerned about moving to SE Asia, even for a year. If you make the effort, you will find a social group to enjoy the experience with. In fact, don’t be surprised if you make new lifelong friends through your shared experiences. 

You Don’t Need to be Away from Family and Old Friends for the Year

It needn’t be a year away from family and friends. In fact, I think you’ll be surprised by how many will visit. I’ve heard many stories about how people back home visit ‘too much’.

If you don’t want to be away from loved ones for a whole year, then plan for them to visit over the holidays, after all they will have free accommodation, so they just need the airfares which these days are quite affordable. Plus, you could go home once or even twice if required.

Therefore, why can’t your gap year have it both ways – a year of fun and difference and still spend time with loved ones? 

You Never Know… You Might Put Down More Permanent Roots

Let SE Asia Grow on You

SE Asia will grow on you over time

It’s easy to fear the unknown and moving to SE Asia is certainly in that category for some. It’s a big life changing event. Having a senior’s gap-year is an easy way to tip your toe into the water financially and mentally, thinking that it’s only a longer holiday. It’s a great way to explore and to discover whether this is something you would like to do for a while longer.

And information is key. There is a huge difference between being somewhere on holiday or living there as an expat. As an expat you will be involved with the expat community, and this comes with a wealth of information and knowledge that you would not find as a short-tern tourist. This additional information will enable you to make more informed decisions as to what you would like to do for the rest of your retirement.

Beware… most people that come for a year stay much longer. But that decision is up to you.


If you’d like more information or have any questions, please feel free to call 1800-961-377 or email in**@re**********.au and let the team at Retire to Asia help make your dream lifestyle a reality.

Andrew Leeson

Andrew Leeson

Over 20 years of experience helping people live a better life in SE Asia. Having worked in financial services in Asia I understand the challenges when moving to and living in a new country. I have travelled extensively throughout the region and experienced what SE Asia has to offer to retirees.

One Response

  1. how many expat americans live in penang, IPOH , MALACCA? is the healthcare very good there?

    how does the humidity compare to that in costa rica?

    I have a pension. How easy quick is it to get a temporary residence visa, and then long term residence visa?

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