Thailand Addiction Can Lead to Misery

We hear about all types of addictions these days; people who are addicted not only to alcohol or drugs but also things like the internet, coffee, or even sex. During my time living in Thailand I’ve come across plenty of westerners who seemed to have developed what could be best described as Thailand addiction. It could even be said that I was once one of them; although the idea makes me feel a bit embarrassed these days. Thailand addiction can really turn a person’s life upside down. Individuals have been known to not only abandon careers and security but even to walk away from their families. Like other addictions it not only impacts the addict themselves but also those around them.

It would be true to say that I developed a mild form of Thailand addiction when I first arrived in the country. Like many other people I had become disillusioned with life in the west, and I was on the lookout for something a bit different. Thailand certainly fit the bill. I had done quite a bit of travelling before arriving and had not met anywhere as different as the land of Thais. Within a couple of weeks I was hooked and determined never to leave.

I claim to have contracted the milder form of Thai addiction because I probably had less to lose than other people. I arrived after having spent some time in Saudi and now had nowhere pressing to go. Moving to Thailand would not involve walking out on my family or leaving my job; in many ways I was already a free agent.

Other people I have met have what could be described with the more serious form of the addiction. The worst cases are those who decide to abandon their wife and kids on the basis of having just having had a wonderful tropical holiday; there is usually a Thai love interest involved in these decisions but not always. There are also those who make the rash decision to abandon their stable career and use whatever savings they have to start a business in a country they know little about.

My move to Thailand has worked out to be a success; at least by my reckoning. Many other people have likewise managed to build successful lives for themselves in the Kingdom. The majority of people that make the move don’t seem to be as successful; many live to really regret it. Thailand can be a great place but nowhere is perfect. The more that people sacrifice to come live in Thailand, the more they may later have to regret. At the end of the day it is only a place, and nowhere stays exotic for long. In a previous blog entry I discussed Thailand culture shock; you can read that here.

I remember how limiting life felt when living in the west, but the truth is that happiness is more about what happens inside the brain rather than geographical location. It is certainly possible to make a successful life in Thailand, but people do need to have realistic expectations.

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20 thoughts on “Thailand Addiction Can Lead to Misery

  1. Well Said! But a hard lesson, if it can be learned at all. It is always better somewhere else, probably a human condition. My ex-wife use to say I was like a Gurnsey Cow chewing grass in a field, not sure what she meant, but always took it to be a compliment ( not intellectualy challenged, happy in any field)
    Thanks Paul,

    1. Thanks Ivan, I used to have very itchy feet and wouldn’t stay anywhere for more than a couple of years. This desire seems to be now gone from my life; maybe it is because I’m married.

  2. Ditto on it being well said. Once the rose-coloured glasses are stripped away, Thailand is Thailand.

    I do know that if I leave Thailand – since April/May the subject has been brought up daily – I will miss it dreadfully.

    1. Hi Cat, are you really thinking of leaving? Thailand is the first place that I’ve ever felt settled. I can’t imagine leaving here any time soon, but who knows. I do believe though that it is possible to be happy almost anywhere.

    1. I think moving around every so often keeps people young, but I’ve kind of had enough of it – at least for now.

      You have me curious now about where you might want to go next. Will your next website be Women Learning Mongolian? 🙂

  3. I thought I’d had enough too… until April/May. Moving is how I was raised, so I get nervous every so often and want to go somewhere else.

    No, I won’t be writing about learning another language. I do have plans to study Italian and French (the courses have already arrived), but Thai will be my main second language.

  4. That’s good Cat. I think Women Learning Thai is the best resource on the web at the moment for learning the language.

    I always know when it is time to change paths – the thought won’t go away and my current path becomes more difficult. If it is time for you to go then …

  5. Thanks Paul. I love writing/researching for WLT so I don’t see it stopping soon. Evolving maybe…

    I never know when it’s time and in the past I’ve made mistakes. Moving back to the UK for that year was one mistake but it turned out great (leaving is a sure way to get your employer to double your salary!)

    During that move was when I realised just how much I love SE Asia (this was before I moved to Thailand). So I don’t want to do that again without being better prepared = a lot more money.

    But no matter where I end up, a part of my heart will be in Thailand.

  6. Paul, I call it Thailand fever, for which in my book there is no cure, but perhaps you’re right, its more of an addiction that can be tackled.

    Personally I have always been a bit of a rolling stone, started when I joined the army,we moved every three years or so. Once I left the service I found I missed the three year cycle.

    Trouble is I substituted changes of relationship for moving around which sort of messed up my personal life.

    Moving here was probably part of my three year thing. Now I am almost three years here but so far I don’t have itchy feet so maybe Thailand has actually provided me with an opportunity to break my three year cycle and settle down?

    1. Hi Mike, I do believe people change – or at least they can. I was actually fairly similar to you. I was moved around a lot as a child and this continued right up until the time I moved to Thailand. I’m always a bit envious of those people who grew up and stayed in the same place; I have no lifelong friends. I want my son to benefit from living in the one place at least until adulthood. We’ll see how it goes.

  7. Paul the bit about lifelong friends rings true for me, I have many acquaintances all over the globe, but true friends are different matter.

    I would encourage my children to travel but as for moving around, I’m not so sure.

  8. Hi,

    Maybe with western culture it is much more prevalent to move every few years, as my parnets move every 3 years. Although Once I got married and had children in 1973, the moving slowed down to a 10 year cycle. I to missed having the life long friends that folks accumulate from grade 1 into their adulthood, However on a funny note, My oldest daughter would lament on how she would have prefered to move a lot instead of staing in the same community from grade scool through High School?? So? What to do?:-)


    1. Thanks Ivan, maybe it is just a case of the grass is always greener on the other side. I have two sisters who are younger than I am and they had a far more settled life. One of them really has the travel bug now though.

  9. There is such a thing as Thailand addiction. Some people tend to use the phrase “Thailand is in your blood around” to describe it.

    I knew one guy who retired at 65 sold his house in the U.K and decided to live in Pattaya on the proceeds.

    His plan was to buy a big house in Pattaya which he did and then marry his bar girl girlfriend. The house was bought, the furniture was bought she moved in and he moved out. Right back to a cosy little bedsit in the U.K.

    Time taken… approx 2 months. The above is a pretty grim and true scenario. The person in question was told about the possible outcomes of such a stupid venture, but decided to ignore the well meant advice of his friends.

    1. Hi Mark, some people are lucky enough to be able to learn from other people’s mistakes but most people have to learn the hard way. For the big prizes in life it is often required to take the biggest risks – sometimes we pay the price. Many people who arrive in Thailand have their judgement impaired because of alcohol, easy availiabiity of sex in tourist areas, the sun, or being in such an exotic place – they can take extreme risks.

  10. Just got back from Thailand first trip and was looking to see if anyone else was addicted, it really scary how you want to leave everything and go there plus what’s amazing I’m working in Saudia too so it really drives you crazy coming back here haha

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