Living Well in Chiang Mai on $1,100 a Month

At the age of 66, Pat Corey found herself in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai contemplating the next chapter of her life. Her son was happily working as a teacher and Pat began to wonder if she’d like to follow suit.

“Just for fun, I applied for a job even though I was concerned about my age,” says Pat.” And they wanted me to start straight away!”

Pat worked as a teacher at Lanna International School in Chiang Mai and loved every minute of it. After two years she briefly considered returning to Australia. “I realised that I only had two real friends in Australia, both of them still working. And I thought, I have all of these people in Chiang Mai who regard me highly and I simply had more friends and a sense of community in Chiang Mai.”

Not only do Thai people value older people, they have great respect for them. It’s a culture of caring for and listening to older members of the community. Older expats are used to the many respectful wais (a traditional respectful form of bowing common in Thailand) they receive each day and Westerners with skills that can be used in education are well sought after.

Pat decided to stay in Thailand and devote herself to helping others. She found a volunteer job with a local charity and the organisation helped with her visa and work permit. Her commitment means that she teaches six hours per week as well as contributing to activities such as excursions.

The Australian pension enables her to do her volunteer work and she lives off a monthly budget of $1,100, which includes her rent of $400.

As the secretary in the Chiang Mai Expat’s club she attends expat breakfasts and get-togethers. She enjoys being a member of a games club and sampling coffee from the many cafes around the old city. “I buy a cappuccino every day. It is an addiction. It goes with walking into a coffee shop. I’ll pick somewhere green and delightful and order my coffee and sit and do my Sudoku,” says Pat. “It’s how I unwind after a busy day.”

Pat loves to attend live music events at the local Payap University and also sings in a choir. Her schedule is certainly busy but it’s her volunteer work she enjoys most. “It’s a greater purpose,” says Pat. “I am getting enjoyment and I am doing something useful. It’s important to have that in my life.”

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