Thursday, 3 June 2010

Moving to Thailand: Talen, Thailand, Land Of Smiles

Over the course of blogging here at JF I get a fair amount of feedback from people considering moving to Thailand.

If I move to Thailand what job can I do? Is it nice living outside of Bangkok? What about my children? It safe to live in Thailand? Is there hot water? Have you ever been bitten by a snake? The list goes on.

My answer is always the same - I can't possible tell you if you should move to Thailand, it depends on personal circumstances.

In the past I've recommended reading blogs in Thailand as they are often excellent sources of information. Bloggers covers many issues of life here, the good, the bad (the ugly?), regularly reading a number of blogs can help paint a picture of what life in Thailand *could be*...but again, it really depends on each individual.

This post is the first of two combining typical 'moving to Thailand questions' with the wealth of knowledge and experience in the Thai blogosphere.

I've asked a few questions to two bloggers who are planning a big move to Thailand. If you're making, considering the move yourself their opinions may be of interest.

So first up here is Talen from Thailand, Land Of Smiles.

The man behind the hugely popular (and recommended) Thailand, Land Of Smiles blog, Talen.

You are living in the USA at present but with aspirations of moving to Thailand. What is it that makes you want to move to Thailand?
Everything! The weather, food, culture and definitely the beautiful women. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I definitely feel like a better version of me when in Thailand. I can't put a finger on it but I think it has a lot to do with learning about and exploring the country. It's all so new and crisp and there is always something around every corner to delve into.
Why are you waiting to rather than moving to Thailand straight away?
Originally I was going to make the move to Thailand 2 years ago but my mother became ill and soon passed away followed by my father's cancer returning. So, my plans were put on hold while I helped to take care of my parents.
Do you have a plan or timeline for making the big move?
My father just recently passed away and as soon as the family takes care of the last of the estate issues I'll be leaving for Thailand. I'm hoping to hit the ground sometime in late July or early August.
When did you first release your desire to live in Thailand full time?
Right after my second trip to Thailand in 2007.
My first trip was great but that was the first vacation I had in a very long time so I spent most of my time in bars. The second trip I really started to see the country and the cultural aspects of Thailand and I just knew this was the place I wanted to be.
I was talking about Thailand so much to anyone that would listen that I had to start the blog so I wouldn't keep annoying people.
How often do you visit Thailand?
Aside from the past year I had been going to Thailand at least every six months since my first visit in 2006.

Talen and his other half Pookie

Do you have plans to work whilst living in Thailand? If not how do you plan to support you and your partner, Pookie, in LOS?
I've saved a nice nest egg to get me going and have been building a blogging empire (joke), But I do have a few blogs going that are starting to turn a decent profit that I am hoping I can live off of in the future.
If all else fails I can always be the second or third falang Kathoey to shake my stuff around Pattaya :)
Hmmm...lets hope this doesn't inspire anyone, Talen.

Do you have any advice for those considering a full-time move to Thailand?
Definitely do your homework and make sure this is something you really want to do. Visit Thailand as much as possible and for as long as possible before you make the move so you understand what you are getting into.
The language barrier and cultural differences are a big stumbling block for many would be expats. I've spent a good bit of time up country in Issan as well as the more traveled areas of Bangkok and Pattaya and I have yet to run into anything that would put me off...including cold showers and squat toilets in Mukdahan.
Also keep in mind that while a lot of things like food and shelter in Thailand are very cheap by western standards there will be other expenses that won't be and shouldn't be neglected like health insurance, visa's and car or motorbike insurance if you live anywhere that isn't easily accessible to public transportation.
Another thing to consider is having a bailout plan. You never know whats going to happen with the government and visa rules have a way of changing quickly in Thailand.
With the events of the last few months, I posed an additional question which is probably going through the mind of anyone considering a visit to Thailand, let alone coming to live here.

Given the recent political turmoil in Thailand, which has claimed more than sixty lives, do you find yourself reconsidering your decision to move to Thailand?
Not in the slightest. Knowing I will be living in Red shirt country might add an air of danger, considering some of the conversations I have been having with Pookie over the last few weeks, but I don't think that I would
be worried about my personal safety at all. Besides I just got a new DSLR and I'm itching for some good pictures.
With the protests now all across the northeast it might give me a better perspective on the ground even though I have very real doubts about the UDD leadership.  In all seriousness though I really hope for Thailand's sake that the worst is behind us and somehow the people can move forward and repair the damage somehow and get back to being known for the smiles instead of the violence.
A big thank you to Talen. My condolences for your recent losses, I'm with you that right now family is one of the few things that would move me and the family back in the UK. In time, we shall see though.

Good luck with the packing and planning, Talen.

Check back later to this week to see which blogger's answers are part 2 of this mini-series.

UPDATE: By "later this week", I in fact mean next week (tease) as tomorrow is Friday already. My excuse? Am in Malaysia on a extended break, somewhat out of sync from the norm.


thetefldon said...

Jon, a great idea and a very useful post. I know Talen has been doing his homework and you have covered many issues. Perhaps you might like to add something (or a question) regarding accommodation, housing etc. Since if you rent and shop around there are some great bargains to be had. Equally will he or your other interviewee be buying property/land-albeit through a third party?

Jon said...

Great question, I'm sure Talen will pass by and answer it.

I think also the visa issue, how is he planning to stay in the country, is an important one too. Sadly I didn't answer it, it can be difficulty being on the number when you run Q&As over email.

thetefldon said...

I know what Talen has in mind for the visa, but I will let him comment on that if he wishes. I think your questions are fine, I reckon this is where DIQUS is useful.

Talen said...

Jon, Thanks for the opportunity to answer your questions...I know I have often thought about moving to Thailand and all that it will entail but I never thought about it from the perspective of others contemplating the move and what they may need or want to know.

A very good question added by mike as well. For me the answer is renting for now. I know I can rent a house in Nakhon Phanom for between 6-8000 baht a month which is very cheap but more importantly it will give me the time to really figure out what I want to do without being out of pocket any kind of serious money.

As for the visa I am currently weighing 2 options. The first is an ED visa which is very easy to get through an accredited school teaching the Thai language. 2 birds one stone kinda thing. The classes would cost about 23,000 baht a year and the visa would be free with a 1900 baht extension fee every 3 months.

I'm also still exploring the multiple entry O visa which can be difficult to get from a Thai embassy in America. But I think I will have all my ducks in a row come visa time and may very well be able to get one. Of course I would have to leave the country every 3 months to do a visa run but considering NP is right across the Mekong from Laos I'm thinking a visa run may take all of a half hour or so.

martyyn said...

Jon you have posed some great questions and Talen has given some very thoughtful answers once again (see Thailand Musings interview).

To be hitting Thailand full time at Talen's age must be a wonderful thing but what stands out from his responses is that he has thought long and hard about any major obstacles he may have to overcome. I don't like to use the term but he has a 'road map.'

Looking at the photo of Talen and Pookie holds for me the real secret of surviving in Thailand. To be with someone who believes in you and vice versa has got to be the major card in your hand. I think between them they're holding a Royal Flush.

Jon said...


Certainly sounds like you are moving prepared, which is the best approach, though I suspect your rent may be cheaper than that. Around here a decent place is anything from 4,000 THB upwards, but I suspect you'll find this on the ground.

Re Visa. I would certainly plump for the ED visa. Not only would I love the chance to get in the classroom and brush up/improve my Thai (at what seems to be a very reasonable price) but Visas are one of the things the government has often tinkered with - at one point was maximum 14 days crossing by foot, though this has been changed back.

Jon said...


Absolutely agree with you, having a reliable person by your side is a big deal...not just for moving to Thailand but staying here too.

I must admit my move here was nothing like as organised, I've had to pick myself up over here so appreciate the effort Talen is putting in, it will likely pay off in a big way.

Lloyd said...

I will play the devil's advocate.

Why would you make a move to a foreign country without the ability to retire or live without any "major" concerns about future income, a trade or career that would make it easy to seek permanent gainful employment, or be at such an age where youthful exuberance allows a greater freedom in choice of work and career path?

Given that in most "modern" countries less than 1 in 5 new businesses survive or show a true profit beyond the first 2 years why do people believe they can move to a foreign country and "make a living" and support a family? The belief that anyone can survive on blogging alone is fanciful but hardly a reality, even Facebook has yet to show a true profit and it has nearly 500 million users! Not to say it cannot be done, and I certainly do not wish to detract from your dreams, but how much time and effort is required to achieve a "comfortable" income from blogging to a minor audience and just how would it likely defeat the benefits gained.

Having lived and travelled throughout Asia for more than 20 years and spent the past 11 months living "the dream" in Thailand I would say, stop think about what it is you are really looking for in life, be it freedom, to be with your partners or to get away from what you see as a boring or unfulfilling life, then think about if you could achieve what it is you desire without permanently leaving your "home" country or region. It is inherently far more difficult to build a lasting business or career in a foreign country for a person who is in their mid to late 30's onwards, yet it is relatively easy to change your circumstance to put yourself in a position where you can retire or move with a degree of wealth that changes your requirements to live a more comfortable life in a foreign country.

What about your partner, do they not have dreams of travelling abroad and seeing and experiencing the different cultures, have you considered this, and how hard it will be to satisfy such dreams on money earned in Thailand, given the low wages and exchange rates?

If I was Talen I would take 6-12 months out of your current life and live the life you are dreaming of, get a taste for what life could be like without the worries of having to provide a stable income for you and Pookie, get to know what Pookies dreams and desires for her own and your possible future families are, then sit down and think about just how much you are really going to need earn and do to achieve all your goals, dreams and desires. Would you achieve a better long term lifestyle if you were to return "home" with Pookie and work and save for such a time as you can move without a high degree of concern about how you will support your family at the same time giving Pookie a chance to experience a different life and travel.

After 11 months of spending nearly every day with my wife I have chosen to temporarily forgive my own dreams of being a perpetual traveler and have returned to Europe to work and live with my wife, to travel throughout Europe and enjoy experiencing different cultures with my wife and seeing her learn and grow from all that life has to offer. Then in time, possibly 4-5 years, we will look at returning to Thailand without any concerns about supporting the lifestyle we desire and with an abundance of shared memories to relive and share with family and freinds in Thailand and Asia.

Jon said...

Hi Lloyd,

Appreciate you taking the time to give this insightful and interesting perspective

I get the impression that Talen is doing exactly as you have advised. Taking time away from work to live in Thailand and see what happens. Perhaps this didn't come across...or I am mistaken?

Re an income through blogging, I would say it is possible but not easy, ultimately it depends on the lifestyle you wish to live (cutting cloth accordingly etc) and existing savings you have too. Living outside of Bangkok certainly makes it more possible though only Talen knows the details of his blogs, traffic numbers etc. I doubt he'd out it forward as an option if it didn't have the potential to be one.

You are also assuming that all Thais want to travel, this is not always the case, particularly as Talen's partner has a young child who she may not want to displace to an English-speaking country.

You are in the enviable position of working (in a non-teaching role) in Thailand and the options that are afforded to you. Most foreigners in Thailand are teachers which has little value on a career at home and can provide for a comfortable life but certainly not a jet-setting existence.

In that respect, I think Talen is right to look away from teaching but, for me, having a career-oriented job in Thailand is the most important element to planning a long stay here. It's taken me close to eighteen months but I'm just about there, though it isn't something I could have arranged from abroad I needed to be out here to find it.

Talen said...

Lloyd, I have saved a considerable nest egg to assure that I will be more than fine for a few years or more. Aside from that I have quite a few online entities besides Thailand, Land of smiles and they are turning quite a nice income, modest for now, but nice none the less and growing.

The mindset that one has to be tied to a job is a dead mindset and those that subscribe to it are going to find it increasingly harder in the next few years to decades to exist. Employers and governments only use you and spit you out...only you are in control of your destiny. Sink or swim.

Could I fail....absolutely, but I wouldn't miss the chance to fail doing what I believe in for anything and when I die I will certainly not be dwelling on what ifs.

My home country is America and I am quickly watching it become the new third world country of the world. Our debt will overtake the GDP in 2 years and there is nothing being done...the middle class are now becoming the lower class and the poor are just forgotten. Western society is not all it's cracked up to be.

I am going by your advice though. I am giving this grand experiment 2 years and will then re-asses everything. There is no doubt Lloyd that what I am doing is risky in many ways and while the rewards can be amazing the defeats could very easily be just as dismal.

Either way I'm hoping for the best...

Talen said...

Martyn, "at my age" that made my day...but I am getting older and will turn 45 this July. The roadmap is in place but some of the legend is missing as well as mile markers. Although there is a lot of organization it's also a case of controlled Chaos.

I think with Pookie at my side things could turn out extremely well...Her family though will be yet another obstacle.