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7 Reasons why Visiting Home is more Stressful than Leaving Ever was~ Expat-Life: Thailand

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After two years of rice, motorbikes, and an absence of beef and American T.V, I’m finally making the trip home.

That’s right, I’m flying back to America for three weeks.

Now first and foremost let me just say that I am stoked to see my family and friends.

Also, words cannot describe how excited I am to have hot showers on demand, a plentiful supply of cheeseburgers, and the option to play video games.

Look out first-world wonderland, here I come!

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America F*** Yeah! Photo Credit: Zach Dischner

That being said though, it would be a total lie if I were to say that I am not terrified of coming home.

Planning my trip back to the states has been an unexpectedly nerve racking experience, an experience that has been much more stressful than the initial move to Thailand ever was.

Part of the reason I decided to write this self-indulgent article is because I wanted to see if anybody else has felt the same pressures that I have been feeling. So please, if you can relate to any of the things below, comment and let me know!

Give me some reassurance that I’m not a crazy person, and the only one who is stressed out about visiting their home country.

So here we go, 7 reasons why visiting home as an expat is way more stressful than leaving ever was.

1) Reverse Exchange Rate & Atrocious Airfare

 

I came to Thailand with a fist full of American dollars (and a ten year student loan plan), feeling like the kid from Home Alone 2.

Before I came to Thailand I was fortunate enough to have a steady income, and to have saved a good chunk of change. I welcomed the USD to Baht exchange rate with open arms and embraced the monetary advantage with something akin to a kid in a candy store.

Fast forward two years of being on a Thai teacher salary, and a $900 plane ticket, and suddenly I abhor the exchange rate.

Ever since I booked my trip home I have been fantasizing about the robust flavor of my favorite dark beer, the salty juicy taste of a french dip sandwich, and best of all, the celebration that is eating tacos…

And then I think about the price of eating out in America and quickly realize those fantasy meals are going to cost 2 to 3 times the price of my average Thai meals.

After two years of living in a city with no western food options, there’s no exaggeration when I say a man could easily sacrifice his entire retirement  fund (and waistline) for three weeks of top-notch American cuisine.

** Want to know if it’s possible to save money while teaching in Thailand? Check out these posts. Bangkok—- Isaan.

2) Packing and Downsizing

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A minuscule fraction of the stuff I have to pack…

You would be surprised how many souvenirs, kick-knacks, artworks, and instruments can be accumulated in two years.

Even though I’m coming back to Thailand, I will not be coming back to my studio apartment in Isaan.

Which means I have to pack up two years of expat-life and traveling into one checked bag, and one carry-on.

It’s a process.

Pack. Downsize.Realize you still have too much shit.Drive your old clothes to the temple.

Pack again, downsize, and repeat.

** Curious what to pack for a move to Thailand? Check out this awesome post!

3) Pressure t0 Spend time with Every Possible Family Member

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Just a couple of the good looking lads from my Family

My family is a coffee-sloshing pack of busy bodies who eat dinner standing at the kitchen counter, work full-time, and book their free time with concerts, sporting events, and dinners.

Grandma Eva wants to have dinner, but she can’t on Thursday because she is giving an architectural tour– Friday works, but that’s the only day Uncle Nick isn’t promoting his new rap album, and he wanted to go see the hockey game– so maybe we’ll just aim for next week, but next week my Mother has already set aside Tuesday and Wednesday for a trip to the beach….

I think you get the picture—

On top of that, my girlfriend who has been in Thailand with me and is also visiting America, her family is expecting me to come and visit them, and they live two hours away from where my family is.  So now I have two family schedules to juggle through.

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My beautiful girlfriend and her family on grad. day!

Two years is a good chunk of time not to see your family, and am I so grateful that all of my family wants to set aside time to spend with me…but damn if trying to squeeze dinners and quality times into the nooks and crannys of everyone’s schedules isn’t like some sort of space-gravity algorithm.

4) Dividing Time Between Friends and Family

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A couple of my awesome friends~ Slash, Captain Jack Sparrow, Aphrodite…Method Man

And as if trying to speed date through my family wasn’t tough enough, don’t forget about my friends!

Friends that now are all working way too much, getting married, watching their new babies, and trying to set aside some valuable personal time so that we can grab a beer or spend a few hours jamming out, and having a laugh.

Wouldn’t it be easier if your friends and family could just put their lives on hold, quit their jobs, leave their babies on the couch, and everyone pitched in money to rent a giant RV which we would all stay in for three weeks while I’m home?

Ok, so maybe .that actually sounds like a mild form of hell, but the point is, even six weeks in America wouldn’t feel like enough time to hangout with all my favorite people.

 5) Feeling Poor & Dependent

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Photo Credit: sonyblockbuster

I imagine coming home, and my friends saying something like–

“Hey let’s go check out that hip new Mexican restaurant and tequila bar downtown,” and at first,  I’m all for it.

Then I think:

hip, new,  tequila, downtown

Translation= EXPENSIVE.

And I reply like, “Hell yeah! you guys talking about that Taco Bell spot?”

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The not quite as popular franchise Tacos Bell~ Chiang Mai

Fortunately I have a car at home, and that is truly a godsend because at least then I can go out and meet people, and won’t be dependent on friends and family going out of their way to pick me up and drop me off.

But car or no car, I am still staying in my family’s guestrooms, and on my friend’s couches for three weeks. And although I’m sure none of them really mind, for the first time in five years I feel like a complete dependent.

Friends and family go to work, and I’m stuck alone in their homes, wondering if I can wear my shoes on the carpet, and trying to think of non-intrusive housework I can do to help out.

The idea honestly terrifies me.

6) Getting Another Thai Non-Immigrant B Visa

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When I come back to Thailand I will be starting a new job with a new company. Which means, you guessed it, I need to get a new Non-Immigrant B Visa.

Unlike when I first came to Thailand though, and I had all the time in the world to get my paperwork sent into the embassy, this time I have a three week deadline to get all the paperwork in and situated.

Which means I need to hit the ground filing.

Day 1: Hug mom, scramble all my documents together, and then I’m off to the post office for express shipping to the embassy. Just what everyone wants to do after 24 hours of air travel.

Yaay! No pressure there…

** For more information on Visas, and the necessary requirements and funds to move abroad and teach in Thailand, check out my cost breakdown & essentials post here!

 7) Bucket-List Selfishness

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Photo Credit: PiaCarrot

Living in Thailand means giving up a lifestyle back home that you (presumably) enjoy. For me living in Thailand has meant cutting ties with my PlayStation 2,  my electric guitar, and all the crazy sound pedals with it.

I used to love seeing live musicals at the local community theaters, going to cheap local bands, and breathing in the fresh mountain air on the beautiful hiking trails all around Washington.

And after two years of not enjoying the aforementioned pleasures, my bucket list is in need of some serious crossing off.

With my short time frame back home, I have a startling fear of returning to Thailand having not achieved my personal list of things I want to do.

Spending time with family and friends will always be the number one priority for visiting home, so part of me feels guilty for wanting to do anything other than spend time with the people I love.

But it’s been two years since I’ve gotten to enjoy my favorite American past-times, and who knows the next time I’ll be back stateside. Nothing is going to stop these fingers from  smashing some x buttons, and bending some distorted pentatonic tones.

PRS PD

Not my guitar, but playing a PRS is like finger-surfing a sea of butter

Conclusion

All in all I couldn’t be happier to have the chance to visit home, see all the wonderful people in my life, and spend some quality time in the US of A.

A rather self-indulgent post, I just needed to vent my anxieties on digital life, and check to see if anyone else could relate to these issues.

Anyone else feel like this? Am I just freaking out? Let me know, comment below!

**Interested in more expat-life laughs? Check out my expat holiday post here!

Thanks for reading,  and happy  travels!

 

Family Pic

My parents and I.Can’t wait to see these people

 

 

J.G:)

7 Comments

  1. All of these are so true! What I’m most scared of for when I decide to head home is the reverse culture shock, a lot of which has to do with how expensive everything will be there…..reaaaalllly not looking forward to that…

    Where are you and Krissy going to be/what are you doing next year?

    • Hey Jennalyn!

      Thanks for checking out the article. Going home certainly can feel intimidating haha. Krissy and I are going back to work for Xploreasia in April, and we will be with them through most of 2016. I’m looking forward to the future.

      What are your plans?

      J

  2. Justin, it was very interesting reading this. After 6 1/2 years of living in Malaysia, I have just returned to the UK for 3 weeks. I felt some similarities to what you wrote, & some big differences.

    My trip back to the UK was totally unplanned. After 10 days of traveling around West Malaysia, I enjoyed 3 days in Singapore & immediately noticed that the Malaysian Ringgit doesn’t buy much, but hey, I was only there for 3 days, so just splurge & enjoy!

    My troubles started when I headed back to Johor Bahru in Malaysia. I had planned to spend 2 evenings dining with friends before flying back to my city in beautiful Sabah on the island of Borneo.

    Malaysian immigration officials decided my passport was full & no room to stamp, so I was declined entry & had to take a bus back over the bridge to Singapore. They were merely being difficult & Singaporean immigration officials took my stance.

    I had little cash left & had forgotten to transfer my credit cards to a different wallet. No problem. I called my Personal Assistant & said, “Book me a flight to the UK tomorrow, as I am tired & need to sleep now, so just check me back into a hotel in Singapore.” The trouble with the UK nowadays is that one can’t go to the closest embassy to buy a new passport. One has to either return to the UK, or I was stuck in Singapore till my passport was mailed back, possibly in 6 weeks’ time. My easiest option was to fly to the UK.

    Next day I trundled off to the airport with my small backpack containing clothes for tropical weather only. That’s when homesickness really hit me. Not for the UK, but for Malaysia, my friends, my adopted kids & my students at the language school I own. After flying to Dubai I spent seemingly half my life waiting for my next flight to Edinburgh in Scotland. I have a close friend there who would help me out until my cash was transferred via Western Union. My own family I knew would be more difficult.

    I stepped out into an icy cold night in Edinburgh wearing track pants & a vest only & waited for my friend to arrive. -2 Celsius if I remember right. Thankfully he had brought a warm coat for me & drove me to his home in the Scottish Borders, where a warm fire awaited me. I was close to tears as I chatted with my adopted sons in Malaysia on Skype & assured them I would try to get home as soon as possible. We missed each other terribly.

    Transferring the large sum of cash I had requested my PA to do is no easy feat nowadays. First of all, getting approval was irksome, then fining a shop which carried the amount of money my PA had ordered was nigh on impossible. My friend a few years my senior became daddy, handing me money for several days until I was able to receive my cash. The huge weight was lifted from my shoulders when the call came back; there was a shop 40 miles away that had the amount of cash I needed. I called my PA & requested a flight to Birmingham in England, where I had lived for many years before emigrating.

    En route from Singapore, I had dreamt up a list of meals I wanted to experience that are difficult to find in Malaysia. Fish & chips, a BEST (bacon, egg, sausage & tomato) sandwich, doner kebab, grilled steak, steak & kidney pie, Cornish pasty, full English breakfast, my favorite Indian curry, all washed down with my favorite beer or Guinness. Gradually I ticked them off my list. Each meal was followed by the horrified shriek, “How much? Oh my God!”

    Transport costs were also a real shock. A train ticket cost me £12 for a 40 mile journey, a short bus ride was £2-30.

    Finding time to see long-lost friends was really difficult to organize. Juggling the time to hang out with them became a game of cat & mouse, & sadly I didn’t get to see them all.

    Finally the day came to get my new passport. My father drove me to the nearest office, Newport in Wales. Passing by lush green hillsides speckled with sheep was now an alien landscape to me, but a welcome distant memory had been revisited.

    Now armed with my new passport, I could finally call my PA, “Book me a flight to KL on Monday.”

    The last 4 days continued with a juggling game of spending time with my sister, her husband & 4 kids, 2 of whom have come into the world since I emigrated, my parents & my friends.

    Finally the day came when I handed the borrowed coat back, stopped by at a supermarket to stock up on British food to take back to Malaysia, & full steam ahead to the airport.

    I felt a tinge of sadness to leave behind my family & friends as the giant bird took off, but mostly I relished in the delight that I was returning home to Sabah, to my friends who have become my family, my students who are like my own kids, but most of all to the 2 Malay & 1 Chinese boys I adopted all those years ago.

    Finally I touched down in Kuala Lumpur & it was a wonderful feeling to step out of the arrivals hall into a climate that didn’t cause me to wince & yelp, “Oh my God, it’s bloody freezing!” Next & final stop was Sabah, where my PA was waiting with my car, to take me home to my sons!!!

    • Hey Dan,

      Thanks for checking out the article! Sounds like you had quite the hassle getting back home! The weather over here in SE Asia sure is great, so I could only imagine the shock to the system when you got back home.

      It sounds like you’ve built a really nice life for yourself in Malaysia, and that you have really made that country your home. They say “home is where the heart is,” and as cliche as that sounds, I’d say your heart is now in Malaysia.

      I guess when you travel and get time away from home you start to really see what you miss. Sounds like you had that experience.

      Anyway, thanks again for stopping by the blog. Enjoy that tropical Malaysian weather.

      J

      • Hey Justin!

        Fact is, I haven’t considered UK as my home for many years. I’ve lived in 8 different countries & have always been happier elsewhere than in UK.

        I’ve finally found a home where I feel that I really belong. Whenever I’m abroad & people ask where I’m from, I always say I’m from Malaysia. Because I feel that I truly am. Even when I was in UK I told people I’m from Malaysia. So u are totally correct; home is where the heart is, cliche or not!

        There will always be things I miss about UK, but there are things I miss about all the countries I’ve lived in. But overall I’m happiest in Malaysia.

        Of course nowadays with our mass communication systems, we can keep in touch with family & friends on Skype & see each other, so I can still feel a close connection, even though there is nothing that can beat a real hug!

        Enjoy Thailand!

  3. Brother man,

    Nail on the head. I am also switching jobs, need to get a new Visa, AND have to get everything finished within 1.5 weeks! Luckily my friends from home pitched in to surprise me with a ticket home. However, that makes pressure! I should see them as much as possible. They paid for the ticket! But what about my family? How about my other friends? In a short 1.5 weeks? Oh boy..

    Being dependent. I don’t want to even get started on that. I feel like an ass. I want to rent a car but that translates to what? You know it! Khun phud lao! … expensive! Food, you talkin’ bout that PizzaHutandTacoBell?

    Also, if you want to get some more part time work I can refer you to a job teaching online at VIPKID. Only 7.5 hours a week but its about 14-19 USD an hour depending on what you are hired on. Working online is great because you can still work while you travel. Working online sucks because you still work while you travel.

    With the time difference of teaching Chinese kids online, I’m not sure I’ll ever get over the jet lag. I guess that can be a positive when I return back to Thailand.

    Really man, everything you spoke about I feel the exact same way, or minimally different.

    Goodluck in your visit home, man! Enjoy it and let some others buy ya some of those dark beers! 🙂

    Check out my latest post on my blog:
    The Hair-Raising Death Museum and Bangkok Art
    http://theventureon.blogspot.com/2016/03/hair-raising-death-museum-and-bangkok.html

    • Thanks Harrison! Haha… good to know I’m not a crazy person. Good luck on your trip home, and thanks for the job tip! I’m gonna head over to your blog now

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