Uprooting: A “How-To” Series

When we were deciding whether or not to stick it out in DC, hoping to find jobs before we went completely broke, or move to Thailand on little more than my savings account and a dream, I was continually and completely disappointed on the lack of resources out there for people like us.  Sure, there are plenty of expat forums and clubs, but most cater to people who have retired and are simply looking to settle somewhere in affordable luxury.  Likewise, there are plenty of websites for backpackers, working their way around the world one country at a time on a shoestring.  At this stage of my life, I fall outside of these groups.  I’m young, but I’m kind of over sleeping in 20 bed dorm rooms of questionable cleanliness.  I don’t feel the need to rush and see everything there is to see all at once, because I live here now and will have a few years to explore.  I grow tired of making friends who will be here for the day and then off to a new destination, our paths unlikely to cross again.

On the other extreme, I don’t have a reliable source of income unless I’m working.  Even though I make three times more than a well-paid local, I can’t afford to simply hang at expat joints all the time, and even if I could afford it I wouldn’t want to.  Did I also mention that we’re at least 20 years younger than most other expats?  And while there are of course many people who are exceptions to this rule, expats who have retired in foreign countries tend to stick to groups of other expats, and can develop the bad habit of complaining about the cultural tendencies of the locals despite their deliberate choice to live among them (and their ability to leave).  Hearing people react this way to their new home leaves me simply frustrated, and I have found that the only way to avoid these conversations is to avoid the circles where they are prevalent.

The few resources I did find useful were, by and large, the blog posts of other young people or families who had made the leap and moved abroad.  But there was still a problem – these posts addressed the after, the house or job they had found when they’d arrived, sometimes how it was different, for better or worse, from what they’d expected.  What I never found was someone talking about making that choice to leave, and what it meant in practical terms.  Even as someone who has lived abroad before, I had so many questions and doubts about how to make the transition.  The big difference this time was, I wasn’t going solo – I was going with my partner, and even though this meant I’d have someone to lean on it also meant I’d have to take someone else’s needs and desires into account.  How do you nurture a new marriage in the midst of so much upheaval?  How do you talk about finances when you don’t know when or where you’ll find work?  How do you plan for the future and live in the present all at once?  I was completely overwhelmed.

And this isn’t to say that I’ve figured it all out – far from it.  But it is saying that, almost a year out from when we first hatched this crazy idea, there are a lot of things I wish I’d known then that I know now.  And so, in addition to my regular postings about our life and adventures, I’ll also be blogging about how we made the move.  What we figured out about the student loan system and staying on top of our debt (while still putting aside some of our salary as savings!).  How we broke our lease and sold everything we’d both bought and built with our own hands.  What role letting go of the material had in this journey, and how it still affects me.  A few nuggets of pure gold on visas and how to live within the law without too much inconvenience or hiring a lawyer.  Some of the posts will be specifically about Thailand or Chiang Mai, since this is where we moved and what I know about.  More will be general, about leaving for The Great Unknown.  In the midst of this, I will try to decipher how to blend a semi-nomadic lifestyle with a nesting instinct and an occasionally irrational desire for order.

In other words, Uprooting will be awesome.  And hopefully useful to someone one day.

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