Moving to Thailand is No Magic Solution for Life Problems

I was inspired today by a blog post by Lani on The Tell Thai Heart. One comment in particular moved me; she wrote

And that when someone falls into the deep well of misery, their cries echo but ultimately they have to help themselves. The well is an illusion, just like the idea that Chiang Mai Thailand will make everything better again.

This is so true. I think there are a lot of us who believed that moving to Thailand would be the magic solution to all our problems. We saw it as a fresh start. I know that when I first moved here it seemed certain that the tropical climate and new culture would be my salvation. The reality was that the things that were making my life miserable before just followed me to the new location. I was like a dog with shit on its fur moving around to escape the smell; when I was moving it didn’t smell so bad but once I settled the shit became hard to deal with once again.

It doesn’t matter how much we love Thailand during the early days this intense hopeful feeling is going to wear off. When you live anywhere for a while it just becomes normal living. It is then that our bad habits and personality flaws will start to noticeably resurface again; in fact they never go away but we just get distracted. We can begin to feel disappointed because Thailand didn’t live up to our expectations; it didn’t fix us. Those of us who have no insight into our minds will blame it all on Thailand. We will look for a fresh start somewhere else or just turn into an ex-pat malcontent.

What do you think?
Can Thailand (or any new location) be a magic solution to our problems in life?

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31 thoughts on “Moving to Thailand is No Magic Solution for Life Problems

  1. Paul the short answer to your question is no! I agree with your sentiment totally. That’s not to say a fresh start can’t help you overcome issues, but the issues needing dealing with first.

    BTW as an aside I love the Twitter newspaper-great idea and thanks for the inclusion.

  2. Hey, thanks for the props! As soon as I opened your page I thought, What a coincidence. We wrote about the same thing. Duh.

    I moved to Thailand to pursue the dream of living and working abroad but I also was leaving the States behind because I had tried so many places to fit in.

    The reality of it is my problems were magnified in Thailand. I think this is true for many expats. Something about a different culture stirring up all the bits that need attention.

    But when you get through it (ie realize where the smell is coming from), life can be really lovely. Thailand has been good to me.

    1. Hi Lani, you make some good points (as usual). I think many of us are protected a bit from ourselves when we live in our own countries. Those around us know what we are about and can make allowances for our less desirable qualities. A lot of us don’t appreciate this supportive function until we are in a different country and we no longer have it. In some ways this is a good thing because there is a thin line between making allowances for people’s flaws and enabling them to be shitheads.

  3. “The grass is always greener on the other side” “Wherever you go you’re always the same you” And a few more old sayings I can’t remember off hand.

    Sayings for the most part are good and certainly can have a ring of truth to them. However, I don’t actually think that’s the whole story. If you go out and consciously change your life by noting down where your problems / faults may be then you have the power to change them.

    Doing new things = new outcomes! Just doing the same old thing over and over again will result in getting the same old results. This applies also to thinking. More of the same or different? The choice is always yours.

    The initial big buzz that one gets from living in Thailand or anywhere else for that matter is normally referred to as the honey moon period. After it finishes then the real work begins!

    1. Hi Mark, people can definitely change – I’m evidence of that. The way we change though is by fixing ourselves and not the external world – in my opinion. I was once homeless in London and got to meet people who were in a lot worse shape than I was. I knew a lot of lads who were taken off the streets and given council flats; I was given one as well. Most people ended up back on the streets because they just couldn’t manage the responsibility that comes with having a flat. The problem was with them and not the accommodation. If people aren’t right mentally you can stick them in nicest location in the world, with lots of spending money, and they will still find a way back to the gutter.

  4. Hey Paul–

    Same thing I said to Lani: My friend and I joke that we believe in geographical solutions to personal problems (that was originally going to the title of my blog–seriously!). I’ve moved around a lot, thinking that it’s the place that’s making me unhappy, and while place does have a lot to do with it, I think it’s more about what’s inside. It took me a long time to realize that, though. So, yeah, I was hoping that this move would make me happier, and it has to a certain extent. But I can always find something to make me miserable. Never happy. *Sigh.*

    1. Now I’m not sure which of your blog titles is better; ‘Bangkok Reality Smackdown’ is catchy though. I honestly think that when I’m feeling good mentally I could be happy almost anywhere; of course I’m always going to have preferences.

  5. I have been lurking around your blog for some time–and enjoying it very much–as a way to do research about retiring in Thailand. I can’t say whether a new country will solve any of my emotional/spiritual issues. But I definitely face the stark choice of being poor in the USA or comfortable in a country like Thailand. That seems like a magical-enough solution to me. 🙂

    1. Hi Marsha, thanks for commenting. I suppose the main thing that your research here will show is don’t do what I did 🙂

      The cost of living here is a lot cheaper then some places; at least in the beginning anyway. My bills have skyrocketed since starting a family, and I’m always at the mercy of exchange rates.

  6. Paul, I didn’t move here for a fix but because I don’t feel like I belong in my birth country. And every time I go back for a short visit, the feeling is reinforced.

    1. Hi Catherine, I think there are a lot of us who can feel that we don’t belong in our home country – especially those of us who have lived abroad for a long time. It is like we are an outsider in the host country and in the home country. I remember an old-timer once warning me that this would happen to me if I left Ireland for too long – he was right.

  7. Its my belief that many of us don’t really confront our deepest patterns of thinking and other types of behavioral and cognitive habits that form our selves, and ultimately contribute to our choices in life and its consequences.

    Those types of cognitive break-throughs are indeed possible, but they are difficult to achieve, and usually take a great deal of self-reflection, education/guidance, and an outside “inspiration” of some sort (usually a negative one) to jar one out of negative types of thinking and other such behavior.

    So yes, definitely agree that without such self-transformative moments or processes, the simple act of moving to Thailand in itself won’t be the magical solution one might hope for!

    1. Hi Tan, you make some important points that I fully agree with. The way I look at it is that life keeps sending us lessons and if we don’t’ learn from them we won’t progress beyond where we are. We can move to any corner of the globe but until we get past whatever is mentally blocking our path we are stuck. The sad fact is that a lot of miserable people don’t really want to change or don’t believe that they can; they waste a lot of time trying to fix the externals.

  8. If you are successful in life you’ll be fine in Thailand. If you a worthless drunk in your home country, then you’ll be that times 10 in Thailand. Change comes from within; all moving does is changes the external part. Every time I come back to the US I feel less and less at “home”. There’s nothing wrong with that..we’ve grown apart from each other. If you want to have a good life anywhere outside your own country, I think you need to be an introspective type who understands WHY you want to live somewhere else. Be honest about your ‘why’ and you’ll be fine. I knew a LONG time ago that I wanted to move to a Buddhist country (I think it was all the Southern Baptist beatings I received as a child that turned me off on the whole Jesus myth)…Thailand happened to be the place that worked for me.

    1. Hi Gene, when I came to Thailand I could be fairly described as a “worthless drunk”. Things did go bad for me in the beginning but eventually the pain got so intense that I had to change or hit a rock bottom (a rock bottom that there would be no getting back from). I agree that understanding why we want to live somewhere else is going to make things go a lot smoother. I’ve lived outside of my home country most of my life and my views towards it have mellowed over the years – although I do feel like an outsider there.

  9. Paul, it’s kind of ironic. We moved here temporarily because we didn’t have any problems…life was good, but a bit on the slightly, boring rutt side. I think we’re in the minority though, judging by what we see around us here.

    Being in a foreign country, not speaking the language, unable to read and in amongst a differnt culture is part of the challenge/excitment for us. But, I can well imagine that if one came with ‘baggage’, it would only be amplify any problems.

  10. I don’t think either, that moving to Thailand, carrying your old luggage with you, is the solution for personal problems. I think though, that it could help to get over some problems or at least make one’s life a bit better, to escape the cold, grey winters in Europe and enjoy winter time in Thailand instead. Sun can be a great therapy.

  11. Dear Paul,

    I have today come across your web pages, articles and blogs. They have been informative and helpful that there are other people out there that go through some serious issues in life. I wasn’t sure where to post this blog as it could fall under any of yours, one for me wanting to relocate to Thailand and also drinking throughout life. I apologise for it being a bit long winded, and hope I do not bore your readers, but it has just helped me a bit just by writing this today.
    What’s brought me to this stage of my life are the following:
    I am a 41 year old caucasion male, born in Lusaka, Zambia. It’s a small useless town where most “white” folk have nothing better to do than gossip. Hence pretty much of my life I have been a loner.
    I was born with Craniosynostosis in 1969 and had to have skull surgery, this did not help me growing up throughout my boarding school days being teased about being an”egg” head due to its strange flattened shape. My early years were terrible and I often was depressed though never showed it. I always wondered why my parents couldn’t give me any information on our history as I was and still am stuck with a Zambian passport though obviously am not African and don’t belong here. My drinking sprees for escapism started.
    Much later on I went onto marry and have a beautiful son, this marriage didn’t last as my ex didn’t like Zambia and I was given the ultimatum to leave. I think it was more to my continued drinking from some inner hate that I had. I had attitude back then and didn’t accept and so we went onto divorce and never saw my son growing up apart from the odd holiday here or there.
    The next issue for the town to thrive on was when my folks split four years ago and this really knocked me down low as I was closest to my Mom but she just disappeared to a neighboring country with a young man, younger than me!! My drinking has continued.
    Time passed since then and all has been calm until my world was rocked yet again. This last Friday I found out or was told by a friend that I was an adopted child! I approached my father in a drunken fury in the morning and asked him to which he admitted. A long story short is that I am my mothers sisters biological child, she got knocked up at 15 from some RAF guy here on holiday and that was that I don’t want to go on with the details but its all been so damn hard.
    Thankfully in the last 6 years or so I have been able to travel vastly and have made some good friends along te way as I do not have any friends here. One of my all time favorite countries is Thailand. I have been there for several holidays, most of them just for booze and women, some for a sober day of golf. I am deeply enchanted with the country and its culture, I am seriously thinking of changing and following Buddhism.
    Anyway since I have been visiting there I have really wanted to relocate there and now since my last saga to hit the headlines I really am ready for it. Thankfully enough I have not been on an all out boozing rampage since the last issue and so hope that my more mature side is helping keep the calm. I know too from reading your blog and comments that leaving doesnt solve the problems but I honestly feel that a change is exactly what is required for now as I need to embark on a new journey of self discovery and change.

    1. Hi Shane and thanks for sharing a bit of your story. I think maybe you have some good reaons for wanting a new start, and the good thing is that you can do that. You already seem aware that moving doesn’t make everything turn out completely magical by itself. I managed to get my life together in Thailand and I’m happier then I could ever have imagined; maybe the same is going to happen for you too. I hope you keep visiting my blog; your words can help other people who are feeling similar things.

  12. it could be the see some people like myself are motivated purely by living a peaceful,stress free live with little worry about money. i like the idea of living not quite like a king but close to it in thailand..all in due time

    1. *life …i dont care much for grammar lack of punctuation and correct grammar could be an indication of my laid back demeanor…why dwell over trivial things

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