The decision to pack up your life and move to another country is exciting. No doubt about it. But it can also feel pretty daunting and there were times when my husband Alan and I almost changed our minds about test-driving our retirement overseas.
When we told family and friends our plans, some of them thought we had lost our minds. But I am so thankful that we stuck to our guns, because moving to Thailand has been one of the most exciting and fulfilling things we have ever done.
I remember when we arrived, walking the streets wide-eyed with wonder. Stopping to inhale the perfume of exotic blossoms in the intricately woven arrangements at the flower market. Watching day-to-day life flash by from inside a songthaew (red bus) as you are whisked through the city streets.
Chiang Mai is home to around 40,000 expats, many of them retirees, so it’s not unusual to see a white head of hair as you walk around Chiang Mai. When I first arrived, I would smile at every farang (foreigner) I passed. It felt like we were in an exclusive club—now I see so many that I hardly notice. Occasionally a stranger will say hello and give me a smile. It always surprises me, but I always smile back and welcome them to the club.
Before we came to Thailand our life was so hectic we never had time to do the things we loved. Friends were neglected as spare time was taken up with housework, gardening and grocery shopping, only to have the rush start again on Monday morning.
It is only now that we are living in Chiang Mai that I realise how much stress we were under back then. I no longer have that feeling that my head is going to explode and the tightness in my chest has miraculously disappeared. Life is precious—we are not long on this planet and having the time to enjoy it has been a gift.
Many people have asked, “What do you do with your time, don’t you get bored?” and it makes me laugh. Our weeks are just as hectic as at back home, but now they are taken up with the things we love.
There are many clubs you can join…bridge, computer, photographic, sewing, golf, hiking, drawing.
We have made so many friends it’s often hard to find the time to pencil everyone in. Entertaining is easy with meals out costing around $3.80. Everyone meets at their favourite restaurant and discovering new favourites is a Chiang Mai pastime.
For day trips outside of Chiang Mai we hire a songthaew for around $8.40 a day. We had great fun at Maesa Elephant Park getting up close and personal with these magnificent animals. It’s an experience of a lifetime and you haven’t lived until you’ve been kissed by an elephant (or two).
Chiang Mai is an easy city to live in, the Thai people are gracious and welcoming, English is widely spoken and all modern amenities are available.
In our time here, we have met expats from Australia, England, Canada, America, Switzerland, Italy, Japan, and India, all have taken the plunge and made Chiang Mai their home.
Any doubts we had about moving overseas feel like a lifetime ago now, replaced by a family of like-minded friends who took a chance and were rewarded with an exceptional life.
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