My Enchantment with Tropical Island Life
I always wanted to live on a tropical island. I’m not sure why but it could have all began while growing up watching the Gilligan’s Island television series. It was not always Ginger or Mary Ann that captured my imagination as a boy (though I won’t deny that the two young beauties played a good part in my cognitive development), as much as it was the beautiful beaches, all the coconut trees, and the turquoise blue lagoons. It was every episode and re-run that Gilligan threw at me that drove my fascination with discovering and living in my own tropical paradise, wherever it may be. I knew I needed to get one of those sailor caps that Gilligan used to wear. After graduating high school, me and my best friend immediately migrated to the closest place that we knew had palm trees and warm weather (thanks to the technology of television) and we settled in Orlando, Florida. It wasn’t long before I ventured out even further and landed in Key West, where I discovered the famous “Cheeseburger in Paradise” culture of relaxation and peacefulness. Ah, the life in “Margaritaville” and the tropics. I quickly learned however, that without money and some form of sustenance, I was destined to return home to reality – the now even more dreaded snow-belt of North-central Illinois, where I just knew I would live the rest of my life growing up living between a bean field and a corn-stalk. I needed a plan and it wasn’t long before I placed my bet…I would take my chances and join the U.S. Navy.
At least I could start with the Gilligan hat!
After returning to Illinois, it wasn’t long until I was swearing to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution, without any reservations (well, maybe a couple). The Navy guaranteed me photography school but as sure as the world turns, “stuff” happens, and I found myself accepting an assignment to “Weather Observing” school (Lakehurst N.J.) after boot camp. I was going to become an Aerographer! How prophetic this was, as I can remember during my late teen years, my late father quite regularly accused me of walking around with my head in the clouds. And this was the result of my armed forces aptitude test??? Okay I thought, it was a good fit. Whether it was prophecy or irony, I was resigned to a career of watching the clouds AND getting paid to do it. It was more than a good fit, it was perfect! I can remember some of the strangest looks on my friends faces when I told them I was going to get paid for staring at the sky. And, It just kept getting better as my living in the tropics destiny would have it – my first set of orders after “Weather” school landed me in Guam, U.S.A., where America’s day begins! Not only was it lush and tropical, but It was also in the Domain of the Golden Dragon. Nice beaches, coral reefs, coconut trees, and the Asian fiesta. Many, many fiestas! Did I mention the tropics? I figured life couldn’t get any better than that. After I landed there (at the ripe old age of 19) I found myself working a great job all the while getting paid to live in paradise. Eight of the next twelve years found me living, working, or visiting somewhere between the 180th meridian and the Indian Ocean, mostly under the tropical sun. It seemed to always follow me…from Guam to the Philippines, Singapore and Hong Kong, to Diego Garcia, and back to the Philippines, where I met my match…and my Filipina bride (1984).
As everybody’s road map in life consists of funky twists and turns, and even an occasional unplanned U-Turn (or three), mine was no different. The bulk of my non-government sponsored lifestyle (after the Navy) found me living and working in the U.S., and like many others in recent years, have been sucked into this working-class rut of a “work-to-live” lifestyle scheme, all the while being witness to an obvious demise of culture and the once powerful American middle class. Our mutual cognitive dissonance forced us to make a decision…either we work-to-live, and take our chances with some form of a late [non-guaranteed] retirement, or make a run for it back to the tropics where we could relax and live life to its fullest.
Our choices were:
- Keep working hard to pay bills
- Shell out much of it to insurance companies
- Pay ever-increasing taxes and higher costs of living
- Live with increased regulatory compliances
- More healthcare complexities
- Witness a continued erosion of individual liberties and loss of personal freedoms
- Live a life of stress
- Liquidate all assets and become less materialistic
- Join the family
- Enjoy a more stress-free lifestyle
- No house payment or large monthly obligations
- Live under the warmth of the tropical sun
- Enjoy un-crowded beaches with more coconut trees than Gilligan and the professor could count together
- Retire in the Philippines
This was not an arduous decision. As a matter of fact, once we gave ourselves the green light, it didn’t take me long to pack my complete wardrobe of shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops and like a true sailor, I was ready to get underway on a moment’s notice. And…believe it or not, I still had my Gilligan hat!
At the time of this writing, it had been just over 6 years since we purchased a corner lot and began construction on our home in a small fishing village outside of Calbayog City, Samar. It suddenly became much easier to make a decision to retire a little earlier than we previously planned, and once that decision was made, our focus then shifted to getting as much of the new house completed as possible before we actually left the U.S.
Shortly after selling our Mississippi home of nearly 18 years, we found a temporary rental. We liquidated all remaining assets and continued to sell all the personal items that we didn’t ship to the Philippines. When we were down to our suitcases and two cats, we departed. I’ve never looked back.
Visit my “Before Paradise” section of this blog to read about the “There-and-Then” chronicled events leading up to our retirement to the Philippines. It should provide a good idea of what it takes to prepare. Visit often as I continue to document the saga of living in paradise, through my own personal perspective, of the “Here-and-Now.”
Also visit and Subscribe to my YouTube Channel for some of my Philippines experiences and see what living here has to offer.
If you are considering a retirement move to the Philippines, and with some steady-as-she-goes planning, you too could someday find that some coconut tree, on some deserted beach somewhere, has your name on it (you’ll need two for your hammock). You just never know.