What a wild year 2020 has been! I rang in the new year in Taichung, Taiwan, helping my parents settle back into our home after 20 years of living in the United States as immigrants. The homecoming was bittersweet for them, and I was grateful to be there as emotional support. At the time, I had no idea that I would be making this announcement 10 months later: We are bidding farewell to our lives in Saigon, and relocating to Taiwan to be near my family!
Re-evaluating Priorities During COVID-19 Quarantine
As outlined in my one-year review of Saigon living, this city hasn’t been a love-at-first-sight for us. This became apparent during the COVID-19 quarantine. For six weeks, we were confined to our 70 sqm apartment. Like most office workers, we spent our days in front of a computer, attending video conferences, and other office job tasks. In between, we would fit in lots of cooking, some puzzles, and short walks in the neighborhood. With so much time together in a small space, we began reflecting on whether we are living the ideal life right now.
Why Are We in Saigon?
After one year of whirlwind travel, we craved some stability and community. We also needed to make some money again to replenish the bank account. When an opportunity came up in Saigon, we jumped on it. It took us months to feel like we actually live in this city, and not merely passing through as we had with other destinations over the previous year. We were drawn to the excitement of Saigon and the challenge of living in a new country. We achieved what we had set out to do. But when asking the question, “Is this the ideal life?” The answer is no.
What are the Important Qualities in Life?
When we think back on making the decision to move to Saigon, we didn’t exactly go through a cost-benefit analysis or put up a big pro/con list. We had been on the move, and life as a nomad meant we were adaptable. Our attitude was that in any worst-case scenario – we could leave. This approached has always served me well. Sometimes, overthinking a big life decision and all of its risks makes us less likely to leap.
Nearly a year into a less nomadic life in Saigon, we begin to think about qualities we would want, approaching life more as a long-term resident. It quickly becomes apparent that we really would like a life with more nature and less noise. Our requirements now have expanded from simply having a fully-stocked kitchen to also include nature and quietness. In essence, the opposite of Saigon. The hustle and bustle of this city are exciting, but also incredibly exhausting.
Perhaps, defining the important qualities in life is much like dating – a few trial and errors are essential to determine which values are absolutely essential, and what other “must-haves” are actually “nice-to-haves.”
Why Not Move to Taiwan?
Our quarantine life brainstorming was put on the back burner when life resumed in May. Life routines took over, but there was always a tinge of dissatisfaction. We told ourselves that year two will be better. We will move into a quieter neighborhood, closer to the city center, and Saigon will grow on us.
Then, in late July, my sister announced that her family will move to Taiwan. Her decision is fueled by months of being trapped in the US with a toddler. The desire to be closer to our parents and be in a country that takes COVID-19 seriously makes total sense. As she recounts her plans, she casually asked, “why don’t you guys also move to Taiwan?”
It’s one of those questions that once it’s on the table, it seems like a no-brainer. Who knows how long this COVID ordeal will last, and when travel will resume. What better time to reconnect with my roots, re-discover the city as an adult, and create a beautiful full-circle? This year’s theme was to live more intentionally, and prioritizing family seems like the best way to be intentional with my time.
The Importance of Financial Freedom
“Do you have a job?” This is often the first question when we announce our move. The answer is no. Leaping into a new life without a job isn’t new for me. I made the same bold move to China in 2012, and that worked out wonderfully. Back then, I leaped with $120k of debt. Now, we are doing so with a decent nest egg. No worries whatsoever.
The uncertainty of this season highlighted the importance of having a certain level of financial freedom. The trading class that appeared recently, along with our many skills to earn income, give us plenty of confidence to take a leap toward realigning our priorities. We will continue our journey toward financial independence, meanwhile recalibrating to seize life’s many opportunities.
Full Circle Back to the Motherland
The decision to leave Saigon feels like a relief, but also slightly bittersweet. I always believe in giving a place at least two solid years to really get a feel of a place. Leaving Saigon after just a year feels like we didn’t give it a fair chance. Nevertheless, we had made the best of our time in the city, and perhaps our paths will cross in the future.
For now, I’m excited about the chance to get to know my own country/city again. I had left Taichung in 1998 at age 12, and only visited Taiwan a handful of times since. Reacquainting with the island and getting to know all that it’s become is such a thrilling prospect! I am also beyond excited to live in a less chaotic and very walkable city that is near many hiking trails!
What a full-circle journey this is. I had written about the passport privilege of owning a US passport. Yet, I’ve never been more grateful that I also hold a Taiwanese passport. Let’s see where life takes us from here! Please send me all of your best Taiwan/Taichung recommendations. I can’t wait to properly explore my childhood city as an adult!