Visitors and Friends

March 1, 2011

Last week our friends came to visit.

One of the things we think about when moving overseas to retire is how are we going to keep up relationships with the people we care about when they are so far away. Skype, Facebook, and email are great, but they are no substitute for spending physical time together. Mark and I were teammates on the 1964 Long Island University freshman basketball team and had only seen each other a few times since graduation. And his wife Barbara had never met my wife Pikun. So their trip to SE Asia, including Viet Nam and Cambodia, was extended a few days so they could come to Chiang Mai and visit us. It was a long-awaited visit and it was great to be able to spend some “face” time together.

Teammates 47 years later.

Children of the 60s still looking good.

Of course we could travel back to the States anytime we want. The problem with that is we really don’t like the United States. It’s boring there and all they have is American fast foods. Whenever I am there for even a few days I begin to miss rice. And their Thai restaurants are sooo baaad. Home is a great place to live, but visiting the U.S. can be more expensive than going to Rome or Paris and nowhere near as interesting. So, we rely on friends visiting us to keep up our relationships.

Luckily for those of us living in Thailand, we have chosen a pretty popular place to visit. But a lot depends on where in country you plan to live. We live in Chiang Mai, one of the top tourist spots in all of Asia. And the number of visitors we have each year attests to that. In fact, we see old friends that would never take the time to visit us in Seattle but would travel half way round the world to see Chiang Mai. Other tourist locations in Thailand like Bangkok (which I myself rarely visit), Phuket, Pattaya , and some of the islands are equally attractive to the people who may be on their one “journey of a lifetime”. If you are like us then you might have closer face time with friends here in country than you would have by staying at “home”.

But lots of Expats have chosen to live up country. Nothing wrong with that and a life in the countryside can be just as rewarding as one lived in a tourist Mecca. But you might have lots fewer guests. I have a good friend living in the middle of Thailand’s nowhere, loves the small town atmosphere, loves his Thai in-laws, and wouldn’t trade his life for one in the city. But his visitors are few and far between. Only the real adventurists could even find him on a good map. He doesn’t seem lonely at all though, but I know I would be. So depending on your own personality, and your need to see your friends and family from back home, you will need to choose an appropriate place to settle.

Traveling around the world (My family is from New York, about as far away from Chiang Mai as one can get and still be on this earth.) is not for everyone. For some it’s just too expensive and for lots of people traveling to strange lands is a scary enterprise. Here is one way to get around the cost problem. Send your loved ones a ticket to come visit you. I know it is expensive, but it doesn’t cost any more than for you to fly home and in fact would probably be lots cheaper if you totaled in those hotel stays and all those fast food meals.

We have done that a few times. A few years ago we spent a wonderful 10 days with my brother and sister-in-law. We spent more time together then than we have spent since we were children. And am I glad we took the opportunity when we did to reconnect and get to know each other better. They are both currently having health problems so it would be very difficult to get them here now. If you have the means and aren’t living hand-to-mouth here (I will have something more to say about that kind of lifestyle in a future blog) then you could not spend your money more wisely than by giving your loved ones that “journey of a lifetime” experience.

And as a bonus, whether you pay for the airfare or they do, when your friends visit, you will get to go to all the tourist attractions which you rarely have time to visit normally. I love elephants and the only time I get to go to one of the camps is when I am showing my friends around. So I love it when they visit.

Barbara loves elephants too it seems.

To my friends and readers in New Zealand: Our thoughts and prayers are with you. Stay strong.

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3 Responses to “Visitors and Friends”

  1. Ernie Geefay said

    Great article. Regarding the cost of living in Thailand, it can be just as expensive in some respects.
    ..especially for imported or luxury items. A Toyota passenger car can cost way more than the price you’d pay in the US. Cheese, wine and other western foods are expensive. Bicycle, tools, sporting goods, appliances that are made abroad…expensive. Furniture…even though made in Thailand is pricey too.
    Gasoline and electricity aren’t much cheaper than in the west.
    I think Food and labor in Thailand are the best bargains.
    But in order to live inexpensively you have to make sure you can live on the “Thai level”.
    What do you think

    • I live on the Thai economy and rarely buy imported stuff and my car, motorcycle, and bicycle were bought used. I shipped all my own furniture from the States. Once in a while I will splurge and buy some cheese or a lamb chop. The best thing to do is to live here for a while and see what your monthly expenses are and then budget for that. Mine are just about what I get in what my SS check brings in. That means the extras like traveling will come out of whatever investment income I have (which nowadays is not great). Also, where you live in country will make a difference. My friend living upcountry spends about $500 a month. some living in Bangkok can’t get by without $5,000. To each his own.

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