Fed up with the cost of living crisis and Britain’s cold climate, 75-year-old Telegraph reader Steve Irwin sold his home in Morpeth, North East England, and embarked on a solo adventure in South East Asia.
Steve, a retired quantity surveyor, is no stranger to travel, having spent most of his life outside the UK. He says simplicity appeals to him the most, speaking from his current base in Nha Trang, Vietnam. “All I have to do is two things: decide what I’ll wear in the morning and where I’ll eat. I feel great.
“I read the newspaper in bed, then I take a shower and eat breakfast. Afterwards, I go for my daily walk on the beach and meet my friend at a place called Louisiane Brewhouse, which is a bar and restaurant with a pool and sun loungers.
“I don’t have to vacuum, vacuum, cook, clean, wash and iron – good God, what a waste of time!”
Having bought a new home in 2018 after his divorce, Steve explains that he hardly spent any time there, preferring to travel. But then Covid came along and he was forced to resist his explorer nature and stay put.
“I was stuck until roughly early 2021 when I was able to travel again. So I went to Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia for four months and when I returned to the UK I put the house up for sale.
“I don’t know many people in the UK and the cost of living in the crisis and inflation was the last straw – the amount of money on the bills was so worrying.”
With a grin on his face, he recalls the “15 fun minutes” he spent canceling all direct debits after the sale of the house was completed. “They came to £4,000 a month and that was before gas and electricity prices went up.”
When it comes to travel, Steve’s budget is £3,000 a month. He sold his house for £246,000 but has yet to invest in that money. Instead, he finances his travels from state and private pensions and small investments.
“I’m in a lucky situation and the money comes in a little faster than it goes out. At this hotel I am currently staying I am paying £23 a day to stay here. Normally I would spend even less,” explains Steve. “For £30 a night you can have a lot of choice.”
He also emphasizes how cheap living in Vietnam is: “If I eat breakfast, I’ll spend £4-5 in the morning. And for dinner, well, I spent £8 last night.”
When asked if there is anything he misses about the UK other than his children and grandchildren, of course, Steve simply says no. “The cost of the life crisis was the last straw. But I was also sick of snow, ice and cold. So I thought, that’s it, I’m out of here.”
That said, he explains how he couldn’t help but support the Three Lions on their trip to the World Cup in Qatar: “The quarter-final against France was where I was, at 3am and I couldn’t find a hotel to show it. I ended up having to follow it live on the Telegraph.
“I was very happy to read the referee’s verdict to award a second penalty to England. And then I had to wait three minutes to read the two most depressing words in the English language: “Kane misses.”
As for the future, Steve’s journey won’t be over anytime soon: “If my health continues, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing. The money I got from the house is being put aside because at some point in my life, I’m going to need another house, but I’m in no hurry.”
His “loose plan” is to eventually buy a house or apartment in Spain: “Spain gives me free medical care, same as the UK, so that’s the thinking there and it’s not too far for my kids to go out and visit . If I lived here, I would never see them, so Spain is a compromise.”
Steve’s son encouraged him to go and enjoy the world – “Let’s do it! Spend your hard-earned money!” – but his daughter struggled when her dad, who had just spent money renovating the house, decided to sell.
“It’s not enough to have nice furniture and a nice garden when you live alone,” explains Steve.
She will return to the UK at the end of January for the big event of the year: her son’s wedding in February. After the ceremony, he has not yet decided where he will go, but he has plenty of ideas.
“I’ve never been to Turkey, and it’s easy to go there because there are no visa problems, so it might be my next destination. I just need to make sure it’s not too cold.”