Finding Wellness, Health, and Inspiration in Asia

“I Said to Myself ‘This Feels Right, I Can See Myself Living Here’”

Name: Darryl Jones
Age: 68
From: Buffalo, New York
Living in: Chiang Mai, Thailand

“Let’s sit by the river near this 300-year-old rain tree,” Darryl Jones suggests. It is easy to see why it’s one of his favorite places to enjoy lunch. It’s just one of many beautiful places to sit by the Ping River, just a short walk from Darryl’s condo.

Chiang Mai, Thailand was once simply a vacation destination for Darryl. “I just gravitated towards Chiang Mai. I didn’t think much about that. I said to myself ‘this feels right, I can see myself living here,” says Darryl.

My medication here is very affordable.

It was after a holiday in 2012 that Darryl seriously began to think about changing his life for the better. “When I got back to the States I thought about retiring a little bit early. I sat down with my financial advisor with the facts and figures. In the end, he told me to go for it.”

A healthy lifestyle was a priority for Darryl, as he lives with Type 1 diabetes. “I have to watch everything I eat, how many carbs and things of that sort. I find it easy to do here in Chiang Mai if I am cooking for myself,” he says.

“When I go out, I manage it. I often find alternative things, healthier options like salads, but that doesn’t stop me from going out and getting a pizza or pasta dish every now and then. It involves a bit of planning and adjusting my insulin…its really no different than what I would do living in the States. There is such a wealth of fruits and vegetables here which are very conducive to being low carb and low sugar, like dragon fruit and green mango, at very reasonable prices.”

Darryl is very happy with his 700-square-foot, one-bedroom condo, which costs him only $480 a month. “I have a kitchenette with a stove, a microwave, and a small oven. Between all that, I can create what I need.”

International healthcare coverage was important to Darryl, and he pays $470 per quarter. “My endocrinologist is very good. Like many of the doctors here, she is associated with the University of Chiang Mai, so she is teaching as well as practicing at the hospitals,” says Darryl. “My medication here is very affordable. Right now, my medications are a fraction of the cost that I’d be paying in the States, and that’s including insulin.”

A healthy lifestyle helps too. “I investigated the gyms here, and I latched on to one that is within walking distance. It is in a hotel, but it has a gym and swimming pool,” says Darryl. The gym membership costs $375 a year; he regularly does weights and cardio work. “The last couple of years they have had a one-day special price. If you join up then, you can save a hundred dollars or so.” And because the city of Chiang Mai is relatively flat, Darryl bought a good quality, new bicycle for $562 to run errands and to explore the outskirts of the city.

“Recently, I just completed a trip up to Lamphun, which is a 40-mile round-trip. Once you get out of town you have very little traffic, so you really get a chance to look around and enjoy it.”

Even within the city limits, you can relax in Chiang Mai. “I love the tropical feeling with the lush vegetation going on. There are so many places with that lovely feeling in Chiang Mai. You can go down a little laneway and find a peaceful oasis right in the middle of the city. I often visit the Buddhist temple across the street when they run their evening meditation. I don’t understand the language or the mantras, but it is just such a nice spiritual feeling.”

Darryl also acknowledges a sense of community in Chiang Mai. “I love having conversations with other people from different parts of the world in local restaurants. There is such ambiance here and I can’t think of anywhere in Buffalo, New York that compares to this.”—Rachel Devlin.

“It’s a Lifestyle That I Probably Wouldn’t Have in the States”

Name: Raffaele Longobardi
Age: 60
From: Denver, Colorado
Living in: Da Nang, Vietnam

Set alongside beautiful beaches facing the South China Sea and ringed by winding country roads, small villages, and lush mountains, Da Nang is a perfect destination for exploration. It’s Vietnam’s most progressive city, with ultra-modern buildings, beautiful bridges, and dozens of new resorts. But for a place with a metro-area population of more than 1 million, it’s surprisingly laidback.

Raffaele Longobardi moved to Da Nang nearly three years ago, and he likes how much simpler his lifestyle is today than it was back home in Denver. “It’s an adventure living here and, fortunately, I like adventure,” he says.

I live well. I don’t really scrimp on anything.

“There are things that I absolutely love about living here,” says Raffaele. “Da Nang is a big city, but it still has a small-town feel. I love the fact that there are people from all over the world coming here. There are things I miss from back home, like Costco, but I don’t miss how busy everyone is and the general stress and anxiety of living there.”

Raffaele was a long-distance runner for 30 years, but he says that his knees aren’t cooperating now, so he stays fit in other ways. “I go to My An Gym most days. I do lifting, swimming, and work out on the treadmill. Their pool is Olympic-size, and I swim a mile twice a week. There are rarely many people there during the day when I go. It’s a nice gym, and I paid only $240 for an eight-month membership.”

Raffaele enjoys Da Nang’s diverse food scene, too. “I like the food, and that there’s good places for international cuisine, and lots of great resorts that I can take advantage of. Last night, I went to the Sheraton for their seafood buffet. They had sashimi, sushi, tempura, and a huge dessert tray. It’s a beautiful hotel, and dinner cost just $21.45. There’s quite a few buffets like that here,” he says. “It’s a lifestyle that I probably wouldn’t have in the States.”

Raffaele enjoys traveling, both abroad and around Da Nang. “I’ve always been a traveler,” he says. “I was in the Philippines a couple of months ago; it was my 55th country. I had intended to travel in my retirement, and the idea of being based in Southeast Asia appealed to me. When I’m in town, I enjoy motorbiking around. Son Tra Mountain is the green lung of Da Nang, and it’s one of my favorite places to go. The monkeys will come down right to the road.”

Eating well and eating healthy are important to Raffaele. Though he often eats out, he’s easily able to find enough to stock his cupboards. “There’s everything I need here. I can get good vegetables and fruit, and there are decent stores where I can find sugarless peanut butter, organic spaghetti sauce, almond butter, homemade baked goods, and other comfort foods from back home. There’s nothing I really miss.”

Raffaele pays $550 a month for his furnished, one-bedroom apartment just two blocks from the beach. “Altogether, my budget, without traveling abroad, is about $1,800 per month. I live well,” he says. “I don’t really scrimp on anything.”—Wendy Justice.

“My Pace Has Slowed Right Down”

Name: Amy Wallace
Age: 46
From: North Carolina
Living in: Bali, Indonesia.

Amy Wallace relocated to Bali in 2012 and hasn’t looked back. From North Carolina, she says living a healthier lifestyle in Bali is profoundly easier than in the States.

“Life is simpler. I drive a scooter; live in a modest, beautiful bungalow; and nature is abundant. My pace has slowed right down. There’s no ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ mentality, and the Balinese people making living here healthy for the soul,” Amy says.

I can easily find clean and organic food in Bali.

Located 22 miles from the international airport and the tourist hub of Kuta, the town of Ubud dates back to the eighth century, when it was discovered by a Javanese priest. Since then, it has been highly regarded for its natural healing and medicine. The name, from “Ubad,” translates as “medicine,” and many of the original temples and monasteries have stood for over 400 years. The town is elevated 650 feet above sea level, and cooler weather prevails for most of the year. With a total population of around 35,000, it has a strong expat community.

Ubud’s art, music, literature, and Balinese traditions are also what drew Amy to the area.

“The Balinese culture, with the vibrant colors, loud music, and deep traditions, set the tone for a life of pure gratitude. Almost every day there is a ceremony to be witnessed in the streets around me.”

The town has become a focal point for wellness on the island of Bali, offering alternative therapies such as yoga, sound healing, chakra balancing, and Pilates. Then there’s the healthy dining scene, ranging from native warungs offering the tasty local fare (always including the steamed rice and vegetable dish nasi campur), to fine dining and an abundance of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options.

Amy loves Mexican food. “Hands down, my favorite restaurant is La Casita. I love their guacamole tacos, and the whole place has a groovy feel to it.” She cooks too and buys fresh ingredients from the local markets. But, she says, it’s just as cheap to eat out, and she can find easily find clean and organic food.

A typical day for Amy begins with freshly brewed coffee, which allows her to ease into her day. Life in Bali has allowed time for her indulgences: morning meditation and writing in her journal.

“I began journaling back in the ninth grade, and I love the inspiration it gives me. Living here, I certainly have more time for my writing.” Amy is a teacher of Pilates and promotes a mindful lifestyle in a place where people come to heal, recharge, and reboot. She loves that she can inspire them to create new routines and a new lifestyle to take back home.

Her own workout is a run through the rice fields or an online Pilates class that allows her to stay on top of current trends and routines. She gets home in time to catch the sunset from her little bungalow, which overlooks the Ayung River.

“I’ve made a nice circle of friends, and we often meet up for dinner out, or I indulge with a night in and have my food delivered to me. Then a bubble bath and a chilled glass of sauvignon blanc to end the night.”

The Balinese beliefs of savoring the moment and allowing all experiences to unfold are practices Amy has embraced. She loves the lifestyle Bali offers, and the lifestyle she’s able to lead here.—Josephine Brierley.

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