I realised the other day that I have been here in Thailand for a year, a year which seems to have gone past quickly ! While not every day has been perfect, I can honestly say that most of them have been a lot better than they probably would have been if I was still a wage slave back home.
My lifestyle and routine is a lot more enjoyable, certainly less stressful and healthier than it was when I was working. I can tell you that being a chef might seem glamorous on TV shows but the reality of working in a commercial kitchen is not so pretty. I would come home from work with aching knee joints from standing on hard floors all day, or stressed out because the boss wanted cost savings again, or worrying about the staff observing sometimes petty food regulations. All those cooking “reality” shows are not that real, I can assure you.
I do sometimes still get those aching knees if I walk around all day, that’s a legacy I’ll have to live with but my grey hair is from age not stress. My diet is healthier, I may not be eating as much fresh tropical fruit as I should or could but it’s better than when I was too busy to eat properly at work, just a morsel here and there with perhaps a quick stirfry at home later, or takeaway washed down by a bottle of Coke
Financially I am no better or worse off, I am saving about as much from my retirement income as I was from my salary so my nest egg is still growing. I’m only bringing about 60% of my income over to Thailand, and I’m not spending all of that so my Thai bank account is also growing despite an occasional need splurge for new camera gear
So what do I miss ? I do miss my garden, with my organic vegie patch, and the (IMHO) pretty good landscaping I put many hours of work into, the nearly 80 orchids in my shadehouse or on trees around the garden. Here my “garden” is a few orchids hanging off the balcony wall ! I miss my 4WD and the ability to just jump in it and head bush for a few days on a whim.
But do I miss “home” ? Where is “home” ?
And he never talked about going home. And he told me once the reason why. He said, “Home’s not where you’re born. Home is where a man’s prepared to die”. ( Graeme Connors, “Sicilian born” )
I guess I have always been a bit of a nomad, my father was in the Royal Navy and when I was a kid the family moved from base to base in England, then out to Australia. Then I joined the military and got posted from one side of the country to another every few years, then when I left the army I still changed jobs and locations regularly. The ten years or so I spent at Maitland before retiring was the longest I had ever stayed in one town ! I owned a house there, but it certainly was not where I was “prepared to die”. It would have been a lingering, stagnant death by boredom.
Earlier this year I read a post on “theelliotquest” asking the same question, just where is home ? For him at the moment it is on the road for now. He describes his last trip “home” as
It soon begins to feel like you had never left. I remember sitting on my parents couch, home alone. Everyone was at work, doing the same thing they were doing before I left. Everyone was hanging out with the same people, dating the same people, going to the same pubs and hangouts every night.
When I would go to the local pub in Maitland there would be an inevitable deja vu about it, you knew the same people would be drinking with the same crowd, talking the same topics, usually Rugby League . A newbie from interstate would be an exotic novelty, tolerated as long as he was not a Green, a ‘poof” or an Aussie Rules supporter (so I never talked about footy !). If I’m drinking at my regular watering hole at the local night market now I could find myself talking to somebody from anywhere in the world, with a variety of jobs and interests, not just coalminers and truck drivers. My regular drinking buddies nowadays include a Dutch/South African tugboat skipper who moves oilrigs around, a British pro golfer, an Irishman who works in New Guinea, another offshore worker in the African mining business, a couple of New Zealander entrepreneurs, a few of the inevitable English teachers and the Thai partners of some of these. Add the tourist who has wandered off the beaten track, a tom/dee (lesbian) couple and the occasional katoey(ladyboy) and our alcohol fuelled discussions are much more varied and interesting !
Am I going to stay in Bangkok for ever ? No, probably not, but it will do me for now. Life is never boring here in the Big Mango. Over the past year I’ve seen political turmoil, mass protests, martial law and a military coup but I’ve never felt threatened by any of it. Of the 13 people that started in my Thai class, about 8 were would-be digital nomads or entrepreneurs. None have lasted the distance and have moved home or on to other places. For one reason or another they decided that Bangkok was not for them.
“regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again, too few too mention”
Some things have not worked out the way I had hoped. When I came here I was in a relationship of sorts but that did n’t work out, but I may have found myself a new lady so we will see how that goes…. love changes everything I have not yet seen as much of the country as I hoped, when Thai language school finishes in a few weeks I hope to rectify that. Speaking of which, learning Thai has not been as successful as I had hoped. While my reading skills are progressing, and I can make up and speak sentences, when it comes to comprehending what somebody says to me in Thai it just seems like a wall of sound unless they slow right down. My brain just cannot pick out the individual words.
The last couple of days have probably been the worst times since arriving, I came down with a bad case of the flu on Saturday, and then to make matters worse on Sunday morning I pinched a tendon or muscle or something in my lower back during a coughing fit so that every time I coughed or sneezed a bolt of pain went through me. Agony ! Every time I felt a cough or sneeze coming on I had to brace myself against a doorway to keep the pain to a minimum. A massage did n’t do any good, but I managed to alleviate the pain later with a long hot shower aimed at my lower back, with a bit of self massage and stretching while in the shower. It still aches now but getting better by the hour. My girlfriend usually stops over on the weekend, but I told her not to come this time as I did n’t want her catching the flu off me, no sick leave for her …no work no pay . If a couple of days of flu and back pain are the worst for the year, I think I’ve come out ahead of the game this year.
Long term expats often say that around the six month and the 4-5 year points are when most give up and go home for one reason or another. Of course that would depend on a person’s situation, some might have to go home for career advancement, or to raise children. Unless you are a highly paid expat who can afford the fees for an international school Thailand is no place for your child’s education. As an old retiree I don’t have to worry about either of those particular situations.
Are any of you dear readers living and working far from “home” ? How was your first year as an expat ? Do you see yourself sticking it out long term, or going home in the foreseeable future ?