18 Aug Preparing to Move to Thailand!
This week we’re back in the UK preparing for our big move to Thailand this Saturday! I’m ridiculously behind with sharing our European adventures on the blog but posts are coming soon about our time in Bratislava, our family holidays in Italy and Spain and my favourite city of the year: Prague. Right now though, it’s all about getting ready to head back to Thailand – here’s a look at how we’re preparing to start our new life in Chiang Mai.
Arranging our Thai Visas
This week we took an overnight trip to London to apply for 60-day Thai tourist visas. The process was quite simple; we took our passports, two photos, visa application forms and £25 each to the Thai Embassy in Kensington. We had to drop them off between 09:00 and 12:00, we got our receipt and returned the following day between 11:00 and 12:00 to pick up our passports complete with 60-day tourist visa.
Since we’ll be working online and are registered with the tax office in the UK we don’t need a work visa for Thailand. As we don’t know exactly how long we’ll be in Thailand and we’re nervous about making long-term plans after our move to Spain failed earlier this year, we’ll enter the country on the 60-day visa which we can extend in Chiang Mai for a further 30 days. We did this back in 2013 and the process was fairly painless so we’re hoping things won’t have changed too much. After those 90 days though we’ll need to do a visa run to a nearby country, at the moment we’re considering a combined trip to Hong Kong and Malaysia or a trip to Nepal.
Although it was a very short trip we were able to visit the Museum of London and spend a few hours with friends; we had a picnic in St James’s Park and popped into the pub. With all the recent Brexit hysteria I had been worried that London would seem different so I was relieved to find the heart and feel of my favourite city remains in tact.
Digital Nomad Progress Update
I’ve already revealed our ambition to become fully-fledged digital nomads and we hope to start work on this properly when we arrive in Chiang Mai. July was a very hectic travel month so our only income was a small amount from the blog and a freelance payment for some writing work I completed in June. August also looks to be a low-income month since we’ve been on holidays with family and are now focusing all our energy on getting set up in Thailand so we can begin work full-time in September.
The foundations of our digital nomad dreams have continued to solidify though; Andrew has been doing some recruitment work for our former language centre in Vietnam and we’ve had a lot of candidates for that coming through our blog articles about teaching in Hanoi. This means Andrew should get a good pay-out in September and it’s also encouraged us to consider ways we could monetise our teaching content in the future to help readers find teaching jobs in Asia. I still have a Teaching in Vietnam e-book on the back-burner that I really need to get cracking with too.
Andrew also did some training for the online teaching job he’ll begin in September and has completed some standardisation tests for an exam marking body which he’s waiting to hear back about. My freelance writing work will kick-off properly in September and I’m planning to dedicate more time each week to improving the blog, developing our video content and writing about our experiences of settling in Thailand and our new travel adventures in Asia. Once we’re settled I’m also considering looking for part-time volunteering work in Chiang Mai.
Finding an Apartment in Chiang Mai
The last few weeks of travel and living out of a backpack in cheap Airbnb accommodation (minus the amazing family holiday villas and staying with my parents in the UK) have made me long for a home again. Fortunately, Andrew and I are simple, frugal beasts so we don’t need much to be happy; we’re hoping to find a small, bright apartment close to the city with super-fast wifi and a space for both of us to work. We know from living in Vietnam that full-on kitchens are rare in Asia as but as long as we have a couple of hobs and space for a kettle and toaster we’ll be fine as we plan to take full advantage of all the amazing veggie restaurants in the city.
Last time we searched for apartments in Chiang Mai we ended up using Airbnb because it was hard to find a proper apartment rather than just a kitted-out hotel room for just a month. This time, we’re probably going to use an estate agent to find somewhere and sign at least a six-month lease; for this we know we’ll need to pay a deposit and few months’ rent in advance to get a good deal, like we did when we moved to Hanoi. I’ll document the search here on the blog and hopefully by the end of this month we’ll be set up in our new home.
Stocking up on Supplies
Chiang Mai is full of expats so it’s easy to find western comforts should you need them, unlike in Hanoi where such items were harder to find and if you did locate them, they often cost a fortune; for example we saw a Christmas Pudding on sale in one of the few western stores in the city for a whopping £15! These days, all we really miss from the UK (aside from friends and family) is good cheese, Marmite and Earl Grey tea, which we can find easily in Thailand for a slightly inflated price from either Tesco or Big C Extra.
Nevertheless, we have stocked up on a few items to take with us; a bottle of HP Brown Sauce, some Marmite, packets of Colman’s cheese sauce and Earl Grey tea bags. We’ve also stocked up on another important item: underwear! Although neither of us is exactly huge, Andrew and I both struggle to find underwear in our size in Asia. I remember heading into a department store in Thailand once, after looking me up and down the sales assistant pulled out a packet of knickers and loudly pronounced: “Extra Large for you!”
We also took a trip to this brilliant store in the UK called Home Bargains, where we bought an assortment of cheap toiletries which can be more expensive in Thailand, such as sun cream and insect repellent. Another thing I struggled to find while living in Hanoi was Acuvue contact lenses and I ended up having to use a cheaper brand which irritated my eyes; fortunately, I’ve always been able to find high quality lenses in Thailand for a good price so I’ll stock up when we arrive.
Making the most of Family Time
Since we don’t know exactly when we’ll be back in the UK next, we feel extremely fortunate to have spent some quality time with both of our families on holidays recently. During this final week in the UK we’ve been staying with my parents and making the most of the time we have left with my family, especially our two-year-old nephew Alfie who we absolutely adore. Summer is our favourite time to return to the UK and we’ve been enjoying pub lunches in the countryside, BBQs, dog walks and long, light summer evenings.
We’re ready to Move to Thailand!
Overall, we’re both feeling really good about the move to Thailand. I feel none of the dark fear, doubt and trepidation I experienced before we moved to Spain in February. Saying that, I am grateful for the bumps in the road we’ve experienced this year as I suspect we wouldn’t have arrived at this point had we not gone through that turbulent period. Yes, I am slightly nervous about the move and I know that it’ll take a while to feel settled but I feel so much better about moving to a country we both love and a city we already know fairly well. I’m grateful that we’re now in a happy place where we’re excited about the journey ahead.
Although this past year in the USA and Europe has been full of adventure, I have been surprised by how much I’ve missed Asia. Not only am I excited about setting down some temporary roots in Chiang Mai, I’m also looking forward to exploring new areas of Thailand as well as countries we haven’t yet visited in Asia. Some people have expressed concerns for us over the recent bombings in Thailand and while we’ll keep an eye on the news, we’re not too worried. We actually tend to feel safer in South-East Asia than we do in Europe where there’s a much higher terror threat level; generally though, we try not to let fear dictate where and how we live our lives.
As always, the hardest thing about moving on is saying goodbye to family in the UK. However, one of the perks of our nomadic lifestyle is that we can easily return to visit or meet up on holidays. Since we left the UK in 2013 we’ve been back each summer and spent at least a couple of months of each year catching up with friends and family; we actually feel like we spend more quality time with people now than we did when we lived in the UK and our lives were dominated by work. We also know that if we succeed in making a sustainable income through working online we have the potential to have a more permanent base in the UK in the future. We hope that moving to Thailand now will unlock a whole new world of opportunity for us.
So, see you on the other side in sunny Thailand! As always, thank you for following along on our journey, we appreciate each and every person who reads our blog, leaves comments and shares our stories.