How it all started 

It all started on a random night after the day had ended and the baby had slept, when my wife suddenly asked me which country would I go to live out the last leg of my life, with the wild assumptions that there would be no constraint on money, commitment to others, nor pride to savor.

Instantly, I wanted to call out a number of countries.  Those picture perfect landscape already flooded in my mind: aurora night sky, snow covered mountains, turquoise see throught water bungalows, just to name a few..

As I paused to reorganize my thoughts, I realized these countries are perfect only for short term tour and definitely not so “to live out the rest of life”. I ended up hugging my wife while giving a safe and out of context answer “I just want to live with you for the rest of my life”, solely for the interest of getting enough sleep for the next day, for both of us.

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After the night, I had pondered on her question for weeks without getting any answer. Initially, I tried listing the criteria for a country, e.g. safety, language, weather, air quality, education (for our children), and then ranking the countries based on the scores for each criteria. It didn’t work out because each country has its own pros and cons, and the scores ended up very closed. I then tried asking Google by searching keywords like “best retirement city”, “top expat country”, “where best to stay long term”. The search results concurred with my criteria scores.

Until one day, when I woke up early before the sky breaks, and with a fresh mind, I realized that I had been over complicating things (as what my wife has always nag about me). Everything is so simple.. The country “to live out our life” should be somewhere we had been to and had always wanted to go back. I’ve lost count the number of times we had been to Japan and number of times we had wanted to go, but ended up didn’t make it.

Yes, Japan. That is where we want to spend as much time as possible for our remaining life!

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Why 3 months

“Go check your email and tell me if the itinerary I’ve just email you is OK?” It was just a few days after that night and my wife had made a move. Don’t you find it strange for my wife to check with me if I’m available for a holiday? One of my retired friend used to mock me back when I was still working “You know the hardest thing for someone who’s not working? He never got a day off.”

However, I did check my email, not to check on my availability but to confirm on my hunch that she had indeed booked some promotional tickets to Japan. She was more free now after quitting her job late last year.  Jokingly, I asked her why aren’t we going for a year instead of a week since both of us were not working. I’ve no idea that my question had started a series of hard decision making..

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Japan visa

We visited the  Japan embassy to find out the how long can we stay in Japan as a tourist. Thankfully,  Singaporean can stay up to 90 days without any visa, as stated in the Japan embassy site.

Visa –  checked.

Kids

videotogif_2017-02-27_17-39-52Who will take care of my elder daughter if we brought the baby along?  My elder daughter, who is in her first year of polytechnic, is going for a 5-week school exchange programme in China in a month’s time. Just nice for us to go vacation with our baby during her trip. She could squat at my in-laws house after she came back if we were still away (thanks to my sister in-law who has just moved out).

How about the day care for the baby? We could get back our deposit by giving a month’s notice. The kind principal assured us that she would waive the registration fee should we continue with the school after our trip.

Kids – checked.

Car

My lovely Hyundai Avante has been with me since 2007, and her 10-year COE was expiring in a month’s time. Nice timing for us to go for a long vacation without incurring any depreciating/fixed cost for a car (about S$800 a month if I were to buy a new car now). I went ahead to offload her with barely a week of COE left. $1,200 (on top of the ARF) was the highest bid from a group of car exporters I’ve solicited.

There are still 20+ years to go for our HDB mortgage. However, we’ve got the remaining amount fully covered by our CPF (who doesn’t want to take advantage of the low interest environment? ). While vacant, my parents could always help to look after my house whenever they are free (they ARE very free).

Car & house – checked.

Budget

A guesstimate of $20k for a 80-day trip looks cheap considering that it as one of our bucket list. It is also manageable after offsetting the savings gained from the car fix cost and day care school fees.

  • air tickets $3k, lodging $8k ($100 per night),  transport $2k ($20 per day),  food $5k ($60 per day), misc $2k

Budget – checked

My wife wasted no time to change the dates of the air tickets to a 80-days itinerary and then made the payment. We had no idea of where and which part of Japan we’re going to spend for nearly 3 months. At least we still got about 20 days before we depart..

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