My Enchantment with Living in the Pacific

Living in the Pacific with coconut trees

Loving That Tropical Island Life

I always wanted to live on a tropical island. I’m not sure why, but the desire likely began when I was first introduced to the popular American television sitcom series, Gilligan’s Island. It was not always co-stars Ginger or Mary Ann that captured my imagination as a boy (though I won’t deny that the two young beauties played a role 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 grew up knowing that I needed to get one of those sailor caps that Gilligan donned.

After graduating high school, my best friend and I immediately migrated to the closest place that we knew where palm trees and warm weather existed – thanks to the technology of  broadcast television – Orlando, Florida. It wasn’t long before I ventured out even further, hitchhiking south to Key West, where I discovered first-hand the famous “Cheeseburger in Paradise” culture of relaxation and peacefulness. Ah… 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 my fate was to live out the rest of my life between a beanfield 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!

“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” ~ Pat Conroy

Where I Once Imagined I Could Live
Where I once imagined I could live… not today though.

After my return to Illinois from Florida, only a few months would pass before I was swearing to uphold and defend the United States Constitution, without any reservations (well, maybe a couple). The Navy had guaranteed me photography school but as sure as the world turns, “stuff” happens, and I found myself accepting an assignment to “Weather Observing” school in Lakehurst N.J. once I completed my basic training. I was going to become an “Aerographer!”

I didn’t really understand how prophetic this was, but I can remember back to my teen years when my father quite often 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, maybe it was a good fit. Whether it was prophecy or irony, I was resigned to a career of staring at the sky AND getting paid to do it. It was more than a good fit, it was perfect!

I can vividly remember the strangest looks on my friend’s faces when I told them I was going to get paid for watching the clouds. And, it just kept getting better (as my Cheeseburger in Paradise destiny) would have it – my first set of orders after “Weather Observing” school landed me in Guam, U.S.A., where “America’s Day Begins!” Not only was it lush and tropical, with waters the color of turquoise, azure and sapphire, but it was also in the Domain of the Golden Dragon. Beautiful beaches, coral reefs, coconut trees, and the “Asian Fiesta” – many, many fiestas!  Did I mention the tropics?

At this point, I knew I had hit the Lotto (about 15 years before the first Lotto drawing was ever held). Life just couldn’t get any better than this. When I landed on Guam at the ripe old age of 19, I found myself privileged to be working a really cool job in one of the largest computer centers in the Eastern Hemisphere at the U.S. Navy’s Fleet Weather Center.

Me – back in the day when a single computer filled an entire room!

Living in paradise was just a side benefit now. Eight of the next twelve years found me living, working or traveling  between the 180th meridian and the Indian Ocean, mostly under the tropical sun that 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 in 1984, who would later become my bride.

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 on the U.S. mainland.

And just like many others during the latter half of the new millenium’s first decade (2000’s), I had been sucked into the working-class rut of a “work-to-live”  lifestyle scheme, all the while being witness (from many a perspective) to a slow and protracted demise of American 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:
a) continue with…

  •  Keep working hard to pay bills
  •  Shell out money to insurance companies and taxes
  •  Pay ever-increasing cost of living
  •  Live with increased regulations
  •  More healthcare complexities
  •  Experience the erosion of individual liberties and loss of personal freedoms
  •  Live a life filled with stress

b) or we could…

  • Liquidate all assets/become more minimalistic
  • Enjoy a reduced-stress lifestyle
  • Have no house payment, large bills or pay taxes
  • Live under the warmth of the tropical sun
  • Enjoy un-crowded beaches and more coconut trees than Gilligan ever imagined
  • Join the wife’s family
  • 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. 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!

House Under Construction in 2012
House Under Construction in 2012

It was in 2007 that we purchased a corner lot in a small fishing village just outside Calbayog City, Samar, and where construction of our retirement home had been in continued progress. After making a trip in 2012 to inspect the property, it inspired us to retire earlier than originally planned. The house was almost closed-up at this point and our focus was easily shifted from planning to execution.

“Minimalizing” was now our goal… in addition to eliminating all remaining bills, building our cash savings, while still getting as much of the new house completed as possible before we actually departed the U.S. of A.

Shortly after selling our Mississippi home of nearly 18 years, we found a temporary rental where we stayed for about 4 months until we liquidated all remaining assets and sold all the personal items that we chose not to ship to the Philippines.

When we were down to just our suitcases, two cats, and our bank account, we departed. Me, I’ve never looked back.

Our Home Today
Our Home Today (2018)

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 will  provide you with a good idea of what events take place prior to such a big move.  I invite you to visit this blog 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 “One Day at a Time” tropical experiences. Witness first-hand what living in this part of the world has to offer. Then when you catch up, you can follow me back to Guam as I come full circle in paradise!

If you are considering a retirement move to the Philippines (or any other international destination), 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 (Note: you’ll need two trees for your hammock).

You just never know.

Digital drawing commissioned for Living in the Pacific by: Jeric Gal, Barangay Tomaligues, Samar

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12 thoughts on “My Enchantment with Living in the Pacific

  1. You said it Randy. I suppose everyone can’t or won’t make the decision to move here, but they sure are missing out. I guess if everyone comes, then maybe it wouldn’t be so wonderful.

  2. Well Randy, we are both ex-navy, ex-Illinois, married to Filipina’s from Samar, and both expats. I’m here now in Zambales waiting for 2013 and my trip down to Northern Samar. Shoot me an e-mail

  3. Wow! You don’t happen to like digging through dry summer Illinois river bottoms for turtles to make turtle soup, do you? Just kidding. 😉
    To be honest, I’m not surprised of the irony. I could easily live in Zambales too but because the wife’s family is so wonderful and all live in Calbayog City, that is where we have been building. We traveled up to Subic last April to meet with Paul Thompson and his wife and enjoyed several cold ones together. We are just waiting for the house to sell here in Mississippi and we will be on our way. You can connect with me on fb at at your convenience. Thanks for visiting and hope to see you here more often.

  4. Can’t look at Hawaii now. I’ve never been there. I’d like to go for a few days though, or even a week. Maybe someday.

  5. Sorry Dennis for such a late reply. Music in my vids is usually taken from royalty free selections offered by YouTube or my video editing software. Also, you can find royalty free music online. As a photographer, you should consider joining the “Steemit” community where you can post your photos and get paid. Here is the link:

  6. Shipmate, found your blog while searching expat sites, I read your story and am seeing myself in your tale, but just a few years behind you. I was a USS MIDWAY Sailor back in ‘87 and then to Cubi Point and stayed there until the bases closed and retired in 2016. I am now in that “working to live” mode you wrote about. My asawa of 28 years and I are currently living and working in Okinawa and planning out our exit strategy to Legazpi City. Looking forward to checking out more of you site and videos

  7. Good to see you found my site. I have had comments turned off for some time now because of all the trolls and spammers inundating the site with crap. Anyway, your comment found it’s way. Good to know we will have neighbors in Bicol. Don’t settle too close to Mt. Mayon, she’s been real tempermental of late. Make sure you connect with me on my facebook page.

  8. I enjoy your blogs,We r from Rockford,il, I grew up around Chicago.We decide to move too the Philippines about 5 or 10 years.My Beautiful Wife is from Danao, Bohol.We bought land near the Beach in Dauis,Bohol.I knew I wanted to live there,Simple Life,Fresh fish from the Sea.I want to thank you for your blogs.It show me that We r doing the right move. thank u very much.

  9. Hi Dale, sorry for the late reply. I’m also from the Chicago area and never going back for sure (to live)! After spending nearly 5 years in Samar, we have decided to come to Guam and plant some stakes (or steaks – not usually in stock in PI). We will treat our home in Calbayog as our “retreat” and travel back and forth. A long stint of time there tends to change one’s outlook on things. Some more than others. We have travelled to Bohol and while it reminds me a lot of Samar, it is also just as isolated. I will agree with you on the points of a more simple and organic life for sure. Thanks for visiting.

  10. Hi Randy,

    Just found your site. Great to hear you found your true bearings. We have been returning to PI on an annual basis now for a few years and plan to retire in 2020. We have a homestead in Santa Rita Samar. Looking to connect with you on medical information, doing our taxes in PI, and a few other things before we head off into the sunset. Looking forward to hearing from you soon. Take care.

  11. Hey Robert. Personally, we are not happy with the medical situation there as it leaves much to be desired. That is one reason we are now in Guam and am traveling back and forth from here on. We have built a nice home there and will use it as our vacation retreat several times per year. Taxes are not a problem as long as you have internet. You can use one of the many online tax prep softwares like Turbo-Tax or H&R Block. Recently I have used TaxSlayer. As long as you can obtain all your tax docs online, you should find it easy,even if you are doing long form. If you are filing as a corporation, all bets are off. At least you will be closer to Tacloban, which doesn’t offer much more than Calbayog does, but it is a larger city.

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