Sam Moffett on Retiring in Cambodia: Escaping the Humdrum of Life in America

“I found America to be too normal and predictable. Everybody is so much like me it wasn’t interesting,” Sam says. “I just like the idea of being different. As...
retiring in Cambodia

“I found America to be too normal and predictable. Everybody is so much like me it wasn’t interesting,” Sam says. “I just like the idea of being different. As an expat life is more exciting.”

Having lived and worked in Asia for the majority of his life, Sam feels that living in America doesn’t hold the same mystique as his time spent abroad. Born in America, but raised in Korea as the child of a medical missionary, Sam Moffett isn’t your usual expat. He speaks fluent Thai, Korean, and passable Japanese.

Upon finishing high school, Sam attended multiple universities in America and finally obtained a degree from The American Graduate School of International Management in Phoenix, Arizona. After spending his collegiate years in America, he felt the pull of Asia calling him back. It worked out perfectly when he was recruited by an American company and sent to Singapore where he stayed for five years. Due to multiple business acquisitions, he wound up working for a Belgium company named Solvay where he was sent to Thailand to manage their regional business activities.

“While I was working in Thailand I came over to Cambodia a few times on vacation and I just found it to be pretty funky,” Sam says. “It’s really one of the last undeveloped countries in Asia that you are free to come and go to.”


Retiring in Cambodia

Retiring in 2004, Sam has been living in Cambodia ever since. After five years spent in the capital of Phnom Penh, he decided it was time to move down to Sihanoukville to enjoy the simpler life, beach town feel, and fresh air. “I own a house near Santa Barbra, California but I really don’t enjoy spending time there,” he tells me. “I can’t see myself ever moving back to America. As far as I’m concerned, I’m here for the duration.”

Sam is in his 60’s and, as with many retirees, healthcare is a concern. “I have a health insurance policy through a French service provider with an office in Phnom Penh. They cover me for most everything. The coverage is primarily for Cambodia but if something happens during my first 3 months anywhere outside of the country, I am fully covered. For each month after, there is a declining rate of compensation. If I need any medical care they cannot handle in Cambodia, they pay for my travel and medical expenses to go to Thailand,” he says. Thailand is known for having exceptional medical facilities comparable to what you can find in America at much more affordable prices.


Keeping Healthy Abroad

staying healthy in Cambodia

Staying fit is a big part of Sam’s lifestyle and most days you can find him at the local spa or involved in some other sporting activity with his expat friends. “I love athletics so I spend a lot of time at the gym which helps me stay healthy. I also play tennis regularly and swim almost every day. In a country where beers are $0.50 and food is cheap it’s important to maintain a balance,” he says. “If I were to leave Cambodia for any reason it would be because there aren’t enough sporting facilities to keep me happy. I would love to see a golf course here.” He may not have to wait too long. Cambodia is developing quickly and, along with the increased number of expats moving to the region, there are more and more affluent Cambodians every day looking to enjoy the same types of recreational activities. In the last few years, three golf courses have opened in the capital city of Phnom Penh and two in Siam Reap; another popular expat destination in Cambodia.

After Sam moved to Cambodia, a couple of his long time friends from Canada came out to visit and also feel in love with Sihanoukville. They have since moved here full time and are currently living in a house a few doors down from him. He spends most of his time with them or a few other expats he knows around town.


Cost of Living and Eating Out in Cambodia

Cost of living in Cambodia

Sam lives on roughly $2,500 a month which affords him a comfortable lifestyle. He lives in a large western style home in a quiet expat neighborhood with two bedrooms and, because he isn’t a big fan of Cambodian food, eats mostly at western restaurants. “I don’t cook, so I eat out three times a day,” Sam says. “I would like to see some higher priced options for fine dining opening around town and I’m sure that will come as the country continues to develop. Right now, I don’t have a problem finding good food at a reasonable price. I can eat out as cheaply as I could cook at home. I spend about $3 on breakfast, maybe $5 for lunch, and $8 to $10 on dinner.”

Western food in Cambodia

“I’m once burned and twice shy,” Sam says when talking about his distaste for Cambodian food. “The first thing I tried here was prahok and I thought ‘my god, if this is what all the food tastes like, I’ve got to get out of here.’” Prahok is a stinky fermented fish paste often found as an accompaniment to Cambodian meals. Most expats find the smell offensive enough, let alone the taste. There are a number of other Cambodian dishes that are much more pleasant to the western palate such as the famous Amok, a coconut milk curry generally made with fish or Lok Lak; a pepper-based stir-fried beef dish. Owing to the French colonization of Cambodia in the early 1900’s, crispy baguettes, pate, and coffee have become staples of the Cambodian diet.

Living in Cambodia


Life in Cambodia

Living in Sihanoukville

“My favorite thing about living here is the ocean. I love being by the sea and the water here is as nice as anywhere in the world,” Sam point s out. “I also enjoy being outside. You spend most of your time here outdoors either on the beach or in open air restaurants and bars. Living here is conducive to a healthier lifestyle. The air is fresh, traffic is never an issue, and I like the small town atmosphere. I wouldn’t want to live in a big city like L.A. I see the same people when I am driving around town which makes me feel like I know them. By the time I find myself standing next to them somewhere I wind up saying ‘hi, nice to see you again.’”

“There are some rough edges to life here in Cambodia that some people may not want to deal with, so I’d recommend anybody considering moving out here to come and take a look first.” Sam offers by way of advice. “I think Cambodia is well suited to people who have some sense of adventure. Communication can sometimes be an issue and getting paperwork done without the help of a Cambodia friend who speaks English can be difficult at times. The infrastructure is also at a much lower level than you might find in Thailand or Malaysia, but that’s part of the fun. I don’t think it would come as a big surprise though to anybody who has done much traveling abroad.”

“Cambodia is changing faster than a lot of people realize. If you are inclined to move here, I would come earlier rather than later,” Sam says. “Sihanoukville might lose its small town feel and the visa situation could change too. Right now it’s easy to stay permanently as opposed to Thailand or Vietnam where border runs are a regular part of expat life.” One year business visas for Cambodia cost only $280 and there are no financial or employment requirements to obtain one. There is also no need to leave the country when the time comes to renew. Just head down to your nearest travel agency with a couple of passport photos and they will handle everything for you.

“I’ve visited all of the countries in Asia multiple times and I’ve been to Costa Rica which I liked, but not enough to settle down there. I find the Cambodian culture and lifestyle to be so relaxed and inviting that it appeals to me in a way the rest of the places don’t,” Sam says. “Cambodia just feels right to me.”


Author’s Favorite Travel Gear



Eceen Solar Backpack – It can be hard to keep your devices charged when on the go, but this day pack comes with a cool solar charges that clips securely in place on the front. It’s can charge anything with a USB connection, and it even has an internal battery pack for those days there are no sun.

Lifeproof Fre – If you are rough on your phone when traveling, or just want to be able to take it with you anywhere, then you need this awesome phone case. It is waterproof, I’m talking totally submergible waterproof, and can easily stand up to any drops and tumbles your phone may take. They are available for Apple and Samsung.

Titan Survivorcord – You never know when you’ll need a bit of rope along the way. Whether you need to string up a hammock or restrain a wild bear, this stuff is up to the job. It’s made up of 20 different strands of varying materials, including a copper wire, fishing line, and a waterproof waxed jute that can be used to start fires.

Brett Dvoretz

A long time traveler and recent expat, Brett wandered through over 25 countries before he decided to settle in the little beach town of Sihanoukville, Cambodia. After struggling through the process of setting up a new life abroad, he decided to start Expats and Aliens to help other expats find the info they need before making the leap.

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