At the end of 2004 I hit Ctrl+Alt+Del a few times and I rebooted my life.
I ordered my passport, packed up my stuff, used up my accumulated frequent flyer miles to buy a ticket halfway around the globe to a place I had never been and never even known anyone to vacation at.
My reasons for leaving deserve a full book, or at least a few sections in a biography so I’ll leave you to my brief bio here at AFA if you’re curious.
Maybe you’ve considered how to go about re-starting your life. You’ve wondered if it’s possible. We all have commitments to things we’d rather not break… work, friends, family.
What if you took a year off to see another part of the world? Is it possible?
I’ll bet in many cases, it IS possible and you just can’t seem to make yourself do it. I’m going to give you some reasons for rebooting your life, what you do with it all is, as the Thais say, “Up to you!”
Reasons for rebooting your life by moving internationally:
1. You’re facing some traumatic life event: Death of a loved one; Bankruptcy; Job loss; Love lost; etc. Once the initial sting has passed and you’ve been comforted by friends and loved-ones… brutal life events will be a lot easier to get over while overseas.
Why? Nobody can call you. Nobody can harass you. Nobody can mail you anything. Nobody can visit you. You set the tone for nearly all your social interactions when you move overseas. If you dont’ want to talk to anyone – dont’ give anyone your phone number. If you want to make friends with expats living in the country you live in – then do so. If not – don’t. If you’re having severe financial trouble and you’re about to throw in the towel that is the perfect time to go on an extended international hiatus. Stay away 7-8 years and your credit rating is magically restored!
Any other kind of major life-crisis is a good reason too. Divorce, failure of your business… you’ve lost someone special. These are all great reasons to go off on your own and find yourself. Major life crisis’ can be made much worse if you remain where you are because you’re constantly reminded of the problem and it’s bringing you down on a recurring basis. Don’t you hate hearing love songs that were special to you and your ex? I’ve got a whole head full of them (many ex’s). I haven’t heard one of them for four years here in Thailand though.
2. Broaden your worldview. The town I grew up in had under 5,000 people living in it. I was comfortable there growing up. I had everything I needed. However, when I went to see Ocean City, NJ I realized that the world was waiting to be discovered. The ocean was an amazing beast that I was captivated by and would chase later in Hawaii, Miami, Clearwater, and Thailand.
As I grew up I realized that the ocean, mountains and everything I could explore about a place were the most amazing fun. Snorkeling, swimming, free-diving, hiking, biking, running, climbing, seeing new waterfalls or mountain peaks or wildlife was what I lived for.
Then as I started getting older I started thinking about the people. Wow… the Canadians I met vacationing in Hawaii were amazing people – well grounded, and taking life much ‘lighter’ than we Americans. I met people from Guam, Fiji, Hawaii, Samoa, Germany, England, Cuba, Ghana, France, China, Thailand, Laos, Israel, and every part of the USA.
I realized that people are even more interesting than places. That was what really kicked me in the head and got me into high gear to go explore a different part of the world for a year.
People are living MUCH differently than you are in the USA. We’re weird in the USA – but you wouldn’t know that until you got a sense for how some of the other 6 billion people on the planet live. Americans are used to being in the majority – because they don’t leave the country much. The majority of Americans will never see another country. We’re too comfortable. We enjoy being number one, well taken care of, and knowing what to expect.
Challenge yourself to shatter your comfort-bubble and move overseas for a year trial.
3. You’re gay, Buddhist, Muslim, or something else that doesn’t mesh with mainstream American culture. There are places in the world you can go if you’re gay that are paradise compared to America. Thailand is actually really gay-friendly. If you’re Buddhist, you’d have a hard time finding any better country to live in than Thailand. If you’re Muslim – you could live in the south of Thailand.
Whatever you are that makes your lifestyle conflict with traditional America is a great reason to move to a country that does accept you. I couldn’t imagine living as a gay person in America once I’ve seen how the Thais tolerate and even encourage young gay males to be what they’re going to be. There are upset parents here, don’t get me wrong, but Thailand is a haven for gays compared to America or most other countries.
4. It’s very hard to reboot your life in the USA and stay there. Very few people have the self-control, or the self-drive to reboot their lives and change everything about it that they want to and yet remain in the USA. It’s an exercise in futility for most people because they are wishy-washy about it. They’ll change some things, but within a year, two years, they’ve fallen back into the same rut. Why? They’re surrounded by the same environment – the same people that haven’t changed and that treat them the same way they have for years.
Moving overseas forces you to redesign everything about your life. There’s nothing that remains the same. Most areas of your life overseas after you moved have already changed for you, you just need to adjust. There are many areas of your life you can re-architect as you choose. Literally anything about your life that you don’t like – can be changed with a move internationally.
Nobody knows you where you’re going. Nobody treats you as anything other than how you act. When you act in a way you want to be treated – people treat you that way. If you want to be an artist – move to another country and BE an artist. If you want to BE a political commentator online – do that. If you want to be gay and proud – do that. If you want to be a writer or a loner or a nightclubber, do that. You are what you choose when you move overseas.
The Freedom to Change Your Life…
Moving overseas can give you the freedom to be you again. See, most of us – we graduate high school, go to college or find a job and we change over the years – we want different things, but our lifestyle doesn’t match what we want. We want another chance to do the things that now seem like fun. We want to change it all – but few of us have the guts to do it. It does take a lot of determination and confidence to sell your car, sell or rent out your house, quit your job and tell your family you’re moving overseas for a year, or more if you like it.
I did all those things. I left the USA with less than $5,000 in my pocket. I had sent email back and forth with another American I’d never met face to face that was living in Patong Beach, Phuket and I asked him a lot of questions to help prepare me for the move but it was basically just moving out here cold because I’d never been to Thailand before.
To be honest, I had been to South Korea once for a military training exercise for a few months. I had a slight idea about the culture shock I’d be facing. You may need a week or 10-day visit to the country you choose just to see if you think you could go through with the big move.
If you’re in a position where you have saved enough money for a year overseas then you’re in a better position than most. You might choose to just live off your savings and tour the country or countries and get a feeling for what it’s like to live in another country without any of the stresses of working or keeping a vehicle, house, and other responsibilities.
In many countries you can teach English to the locals. In Thailand this is possible. Pay ranges from about $900 USD per month to a couple of thousand dollars per month depending on whether you’re teaching in Bangkok or for a private international school or not. Teaching classes after regular school hours is an option that many take up – making an extra few hundred to another $1,000 per month on top of their teaching salary from the school.
My living expenses in Thailand can be as low as $250 per month including room and food and motorbike rental. If you were making $1,500 USD you could use $1,250 to pay off bills back in the USA if you needed to. I’ve met many people doing exactly that.
With the recession going strong as it is moving overseas might actually HELP you get through it because you won’t have all the normal costs of living associated with life in the USA.
Reducing Your Stress…
Your stress level will drop ridiculously once you move overseas. If you’re stressed out almost to the point of being neurotic or psychotic moving overseas can help you get your balance… your peace of mind back. This was one of the prime reasons I moved away from the USA – my peace of mind was shot. I felt like I was on the verge of a serious breakdown! It took just about a year to regain some sort of peace again – some level of stress free living that made it all worthwhile. Today I’m in a good state of mind, though I know within a month of returning to the USA I’d be on my way to a mental problem over stress.
Here’s what I experienced in four years away from the USA:
- I’ve never worried once about driving too fast. I’ve never had a ticket for driving without a helmet… My registration is always up to date (once/yr.) Police here are friendly and don’t really care if you go through red lights, and do any of 30 other driving no-no’s in the states. As long as it’s not endangering someone else it’s a non-issue.
- English teaching jobs are available in every big city and many small cities. The starting pay is almost always about $900 USD and goes up from there. If you stay at one school you’ll get regular raises. Thai students have off MANY days throughout the year and a couple of months of vacation (3) October, April and May if I remember correctly (I don’t teach anymore). At a good school you’ll get paid during holidays and months off.
- I’ve heard the word “Don’t!” about five times in four years. Thais don’t use the word. It’s such an amazing way to go through life without hearing this word. Think about it…
- Insurance for the motorbike is paid once per year and it’s about $25 USD. I thought about insurance for a vehicle exactly 4 times in 4 years. How many times did you think about the subject?
- Medical insurance isn’t really worth getting. Hospital stays are dirt cheap. When I ate the scorpion I shouldn’t have an my breathing slowly died away… it took an overnight hospital stay and some anti-histamines to clear me up. Total cost: $47 USD. A friend had 2 weeks in the hospital and two brain operations after a motorbike accident. Total cost: I forget. Somewhere about $1,200 USD.
- People mind their own business. If you want to get to know people you introduce yourself and get to know them. If not – no worries. We know our neighbors casually, nobody cares what we do here.
- There is western style food here too. In this medium sized town we have Kentucky Fried Chicken, Dairy Queen, Burger King, McDonalds, Pizza Co. (like Pizza Hut), and Swensons Ice Cream. Thai food is of course, delicious and the variety is overwhelming.
- A large beer with 5-6% alcohol is $1 USD. If you have two of these it’s equivalent to 4+ beers in the USA which have 2-3% alcohol. All drinks are cheap, entertainment is cheap. Theater is $2-3 dollars. Breakfast, lunch, dinner is $1 and up – depends on what you’re looking for.
- I’ve not thought about what shirt I wear with what shorts or pants or what shoes in four years. There’s just no point, Thais have their own sense of style and I can’t figure it out. There are expats from every country in the world here and everyone is wearing whatever they choose to. There’s no sense of fashion here that I or anyone else need adhere to.
- Thais are not gung ho about anything. They are not talking to you about their latest business idea and they don’t have an agenda to push on you when you meet them for the first time. I’d say Americans in general do, and it’s annoying as hell.
- Things are so much cheaper than in the USA that it’s a huge relief. Stress just disappears when you realize to go across the country by sleeper train will only pull $22 bucks out of your pocket. Rent for me is $100/mth. Water? $3. Electricity? $5. Garbage disposal? Zilch. 1 minute talking on mobile phone in Thailand? 3.4 cents and I’m not on the cheap plan. Gas? Just over $2/gallon but I’m on a motorbike so I go 70+ miles on a gallon.
- No talk radio and no TV. If you sat down today and tried to realize just how much TV news and radio news stresses you out and makes you fear on a daily basis it’d be one of the best things you could do with your time today. I’ve ignored all TV for four years and listened to no talk radio or internet talk shows. I’ve been completely ignorant about what’s happening in America until recently with the election. Did I suffer because of it? NOPE! In fact, I’ve taken back thousands of hours of my own time to do with as I choose to do with it. I didn’t donate thousands of hours of my mind to stupid unfunny TV shows that are there just to manipulate my mind and ease the money from my pocket.
There are many ways I’ve experienced a stress free four years. The above was just a sampling. If you are stressed out in the USA and you think maybe you’re on the verge of a breakdown… or maybe you need a lot of time by yourself… or maybe you just want to get a different perspective on life… Why not move across the world – or at least to another country and see what you learn in a year?
I’ll bet it’s the most amazing and adventure filled year you’ve ever had.
I’ll bet you’re so happy you did it that you wouldn’t trade it for anything.
I’ll bet you grow as a person and come to the realization that life in the USA is full of stressors we really don’t need to add to our game of life.
I’ll bet you stay more than a year or move to another country and try it there too.
If you already live in Hawaii – just stay there. Lol. Dramatically downsize all your expenses and just stay right there in paradise.
All images © Apornpradab Buasi.