We are Paul and Vicki Terhorst. We retired young and are now perpetual travelers.
This page lets you know our whereabouts, how to contact us, and what's going on in our lives.
We updated this page from Bangkok, Thailand on October 22, 2015.
To read articles by us in Live and Invest Overseas scroll down to TIMELESS .
Find Vicki's Contemplation Photos at the very bottom of this page.
We are settled in Bangkok. Settled for us anyway. We'll spend November in Chiang Mai, plus Paul has taken a couple of short trips including one to Siem Reap. Paul took some photos, below, and wrote about his brief Siem
Reap visit for Live and Invest Overseas:
The Bangkok rainy season hasn't quite ended yet, so we make it through the rain to find new niches to visit here,
including the Alliance Francaise Cultural Center and Folies (a French bakery).
We joined the 21st century and bought smartphones. We use them more as portable entertainment
centers than as phones. On our phones we recently listened to a talk by Tal Ben-Shahar
who teaches positive psychology at Harvard.
Listen on Youtube to a 2012 introduction to this uplifting discipline: Happiness 101 with
In 2013 we went to the wedding of our dear friends Tum and Benjamas.
This August their first
child arrived. In the photo below Vicki holds baby Toh (pronouced 'tdough') while sitting with
Toh's two grannies, who have moved in with Tum, Benjamas and Toh. Yai (grandma) Vicki visits
with Toh weekly, plus Benjamas sends Vicki baby photos or videos daily.
The Hundred-Dollar Rule
Vicki and I just spent three months traveling around France and Spain. Here are some notes
from the road… and a side note on a recent FTC decision in the United States.
In this space I write about budgets and other money issues abroad, so I'll start with the
numbers. In 1982 Vicki and I traveled around Europe and spent US$50 a day. We came to refer to
the fifty-dollar-a-day rule, our budget guide to very early retirement.
This trip we spent twice that, US$100 a day. (Accounting for inflation since 1982, US$50 a day
is now equal to US$124 a day.) We changed travel patterns from 1982. Back then we stayed in big
cities, this time in smaller cities and towns. Back then we stayed in pensions and one-star
hotels, this time we stayed in two-star hotels, Airbnb, and with friends.
We were pleasantly surprised with our hundred dollar rule. Estimate US$50 for lodging, maybe
US$25 for food and beverage, and US$25 for everything else (in our case including train
Note the hundred-dollar budget excludes airfare to and from Europe.
We've emphasized how costs in Europe have fallen with the lower euro, and our experience puts
numbers to the story. As a comparison, on this trip we ran into group travelers who to us they
spent about US$500 a day per couple. Travel with groups and you have fewer logistical concerns.
Then again you spend a lot of time in buses, and waiting, and doing go-and-see travel, and
otherwise spending US$500 a day.
We found that food and beverage, trains and buses, cost twice as much in France as in Spain. W
ell, France is the world's highest tax country, no surprise that food providers must rachet
up to pay the vig. Unfortunately we found that high costs have tended to hurt the towns and
cities in rural France. In one city, Agen, we found all family-run hotels closed and only a
couple of chain hotels open in the center of the city. Many restaurants in small cities were
open with limited service, for example only for lunch on weekdays. We guessed the owners of
these restaurants cook as a hobby, not as a living.
Beyond the numbers, we found nearly everyone in both France and Spain upbeat, content with
their lots in life. If anything the French were more cheerful after the recent bad times than
in the good. Economists have never found a link between prosperity and happiness, maybe
they should try to link recession and happiness. Maybe they'll find that a sense of camaraderie
takes over when everyone gets hit.
In France we found the French trains prone to failure. The French high-speed TGV train system
was developed 40 years ago, and the first TGV train (Paris to Lyon) went into service in 1981.
Other trains are even older, and the system shows its age. We took over a dozen trains
in France, and about a third were delayed or canceled. A heat wave, fire, switching failures,
and so on took the blame. We saw some delayed or canceled trains on every departure board. In
the worst case, in Tours, trains were canceled for a week. We had to get our tickets refunded
and make other plans to get out of town. Luckily we never encountered strikes (so common at Air
France) on long distance trains and buses, or urban transport systems.
Third, we confirmed the high-alcohol rule in choosing wine. Our high-alcohol rule says that
when choosing between two wines of about the same price, choose the one with the higher
alcohol, ideally 13.5% or higher. Higher alcohol means the grapes had higher sugar content,
which means the fruit was riper: more mature, tasty, and developed.
On this trip we tried local wines in every region we visited. We'd call over the owner of the
wine shop, have him show us his regional rack, and choose the one with higher alcohol. Simple.
Fourth, we ran into the triple lie: local hotels and their banks ripped us off by converting
charges from euros to dollars at bad exchange rates. I call it the triple lie because first,
the banks make me sign a chit saying "I realize I have a choice of currencies." What an insult
to force me to sign something that's patently untrue. I wanted to pay in euros but the bank's
machine refused to allow it. Second, the bank informed us that it stepped on the exchange rate
as a "hedging charge." That's the second lie, because when the rate moved against the bank,
instead of taking the difference out of the hedging charge. the bank retroactively charged a
plus to my account. The third lie: everyone does it. We found that only small hotels, and their
small banks, forced the issue. Larger banks (BNP, Credit Agricole) and larger hotel chains
(Accor, Ibis) gave us the option to pay in euros.
Next, we found that Airbnb offers more options in France than in Spain, even though I suspect
both countries try to block the Airbnb service. We also found that Airbnb required a lot of
time on our part to sift through the fine print on smoking, Wi-Fi, bathrooms, pets, and so on.
For stays of less than four or five days hotels probably serve better. Airbnb pretends to save
about 30% off the cost of hotels, a big number if you're staying a week, not so much if you're
staying a day.
Conclusion: head to Europe if you can, you'll find the place on sale (except in July and
August) and the locals in good spirits. Plan for flexibility when taking French trains. Prefer
wine with high alcohol content (more than 13.5%). Pay cash to avoid the triple lie, and get
your cash from large banks like BNP, Credit Agricole, or Bankia. Stay in Airbnb lodgings when
the option arises.
Best Time To Be On The Continent…
Living out of small backpacks for three months, and moving around fairly often, tired us out
and sometimes put our nerves on edge. We made the mistake of hitting Europe in high season. We
purposely avoided August, always a tough time in Europe with so many bars, restaurants, and
bakeries closed. But we found that July, too, filled up with tourists. We had to work around
full trains and full hotels, especially near the beach resort areas. Next time we'll go in
April, May, and June rather than in July.
We advise staying five to seven days in most places, to relieve the strain of moving around.
Again, because we found full trains and hotels, along with demand pricing, we had to move more
often. We advise Airbnb apartments with kitchens, washing machines, and other homey features.
A Final Note About The Fine Print…
In the United States the FTC recently ruled, yet again, against consumer interests, this time
on the matter of resort fees. I was unaware of the practice, but some hotels in Las Vegas,
Orlando, and other places charge resort fees up to US$100. Resort fees are supposed to cover
the pool, gym, and other amenities. But the hotels exclude the fees from their room prices, m
isleading guests into thinking that rooms are cheaper than they really are. The FTC recently
ruled that excluding resort fees from published prices, and then tacking them on to the bill at
checkout, makes for fine business practice.
We at Live and Invest Overseas never expect much help from the government…we figure we have to
watch out for ourselves. Still, such a blatant sell-out to big hotel chains sticks in the craw.
Next time you check into a high-end, chain hotel, make sure to read the fine print on resort
After an intense travel year in 2015, we decided to keep the end of 2015 and all of 2016 fairly simple -
SE Asia (Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore), Europe (Paris and still-to-be decided),
USA (two visits for Vicki) and Argentina (Vicki will most likely go in the late fall).
Paul's recent writing, two articles a month, has been for Live and Invest Overseas subscription newsletters: "Overseas Retirement Living" and "The Simon Letter".
Click on TIMELESS to go to our Timeless page which has links to old articles by Paul and a few by Vicki about our travels and reflections. These articles are available for free on the Live and Invest Overseas website.
We wrote Cashing In on the American Dream, published by what is now Bantam Doubleday Dell, in 1988. Even though the book is out of date and out of print, it is still considered a classic read for anyone considering early retirement.
Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.