On leaving

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People keep asking me if I’m leaving Thailand because of the protests. As dramatic a swan song as that would be, my reasons for heading off are far more mundane. It’s just time to go home. I landed in Thailand nearly nine years ago and have since spent about half that time in Bangkok with stints based in Phuket, Timor-Leste and, even, London. It has been a curious, often-times surprising, life-changing journey from A to B, but that journey has come to an end and it’s time to begin a new stage of my life.

When I moved here, fresh out of uni and with an overwhelming desire to rebel against "the system" as I perceived it, I vowed that I would never return to the UK. It felt good to up sticks and leave. I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do, but I knew I needed to go somewhere far away and explore the world a little. It was all rather cliché, but that didn’t negate how empowering it was to me.

So what’s changed? Well, a great deal has happened in that nine years: I’m now 31 years old, I have some solid work experience behind me, I’m married and I have a dog. These all sound like relatively grownup things, and while I still feel like I’m barely out of my teens, the reality is that I’m not as young as I used to be. I’ve lost that urge to be an expat and I’m kinda missing home.

In the time I’ve been away, friends from home have got married, been on stag weekends, had children, bought houses and done all manner of other things. For the most part, I’ve missed it all. There’s only so far Facebook can bridge that gap. My closest, best friends are almost all in the UK while the bulk of my family are there or near enough and it’s only as time has gone on that this has started to bother me.

There are a handful of interconnected reasons why people choose to live somewhere: the place, the lifestyle, friends, family, work. For a long time, it was place that was most important to me. Then came the lifestyle, then work and now we are back to friends and family. Of course I’ve made friends while I’ve been out here, some very good ones, but as the pace of my lifestyle has calmed down a lot over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed that I’ve started meeting fewer and fewer people who I’ve really had any connection with, and as a result, I’ve become increasingly antisocial.

I’m not out partying or DJing like I was before and I’m not so keen on tweetups and social gatherings. I just don’t really find myself seeking out new adventures and I feel a little fatigued by the Thailand lifestyle. I’m no longer all wide-eyed and open-jawed, as I was when I wrote The Lost Boy column for Guru mag way back when. Times have indeed changed. I don’t do all that much other than work, eat at places, go on occasional trips and attend a party now and again.

It’s not that I’ve fallen out of love with Thailand, it’s more that I’m just not in the right frame of mind to be here and my life is about more than just me now. Will I be back? Possibly. Not to live, but if work ends up bringing me here, I’ll return. Time will tell.

I don't imagine my life will be all roses and glitter back in London, but I'm certain I'll feel more contented. The cost of living in London doesn't daunt me too much at this stage as I have work lined up already, fingers crossed, but I'm sure I'll miss cheap food and transport. It will be nice to buy a house at some point in the not-too-distant future and, who knows, start a family. Maybe some day I'll even have assets other than my Macbook, Xbox and camera. Maybe.

So, Thailand, and Asia in general really, it’s been emotional. See ya.

Photo: RHiNO NEAL/FlickR

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4 thoughts on “On leaving

  1. Great read Matt. I hope Thailand treated you well in the 9 years span. :) After reading your story, I started to realize why we all should travel the world when we are young. People expect things to remain the same as time past, so they prefer to suffer now (very common in Thailand) and enjoy themselves later in life, but in reality, your mind, your thoughts will always change, and you will not enjoy traveling the same way you do in your 20s.

    I think your decision to move to Thailand 9 years ago was the right one, and moving back is also. It's a different stage in life. :)

    Thanks for the great read.

  2. I wish you all the best. I have enjoyed reading your posts, they were always original. Maybe you will find the UK a little smaller when you get back, I did when I returned from my first major overseas trip as a young man. That is no bad thing. You get a better perspective on life.

    Ironically I came to Thailand after I retired. But it was never the place, it was a very special person who is now my wife. So take care of yours, wherever you are, because "everything else is background noise."

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