Here we are in this perfect place. A comfortable room with all we need. An outdoor kitchen with a covered terrace where we can enjoy breakfast and quietly sit and work. In the background is the sound of whistling birds, gently rustling leaves and the thumping waves of the sea.
The room is situated in a tranquil garden where birds, undisturbed by any dogs or cats, can quietly flit around. The garden set in a lush environment with rice fields and palm tree plantations and coconut trees, surrounded by hills and the sea. It is the ideal location for a morning run, a long afternoon walk or an evening stroll.
The owner, a retired Australian, is as friendly as can be. Happy to pick us up on arrival, he already gave me a lift while going for some shopping in town. It is a place where cooking becomes a luxury, as there are so many small eateries with tasty and reasonably priced options for lunch or dinner, all within walking distance.
A place where there is not much to distract me from the things I want to do. No shops to go to, no party to miss, no unnecessary stuff floating around nor major chores to attend to. It’s a place to fully unwind. A place, just to be.
It almost seems like a dream, with nothing to worry about. A place where, at least for us foreigners, peace seems possible and easily accessible for all. Almost unreal, too good to be true. It is one of the places where you fully understand why so many foreigners choose to leave their hometown and settle in Thailand.
I also realize that as a short-term visitor, I don’t see it all. I don’t see the silent and hidden struggles mostly likely going on between the people who live here permanently, the kinds of struggles people have all over the world. I don’t have to deal with the rules and regulations, red tape or corruption.
Having lived for years in other countries, I know, from experience, that as a foreigner, it can be all very different when you live somewhere for a longer period of time. Having to organize visas, work and other permits, insurance, a telephone line, electricity connections and payments, or a plumber when your toilet is blocked, can be just be as stressful as anywhere else. Sometimes more so.
So I am not surprised to hear our Australian host complain about his Thai ex-wife who cheated him out of money. And feel sorry for him that all she saw in him (according to him) was a ticket and visa to Australia. I can sympathise with the frustration our Canadian host in Chiang Mai expressed while driving. It is difficult to get used to the unexpected moves and unwritten rules of fellow drivers in other countries. And I can connect to the feeling of the French restaurant owner that he has to close the business when he and his wife go on a visa run to Malaysia. From experience I know how difficult it is to trust someone else with something that is important to you. So I get it, that he lacks the trust in the Thai staff to provide the same quality of service he is so proud to offer.
And even though I am no stranger to their point of view, especially remembering my experiences in Angola, it is disturbing. It is confronting to hear them moan and groan and long for greener pastures while I am idealizing this place and enjoying the friendliness of the people we meet, and the easy and peaceful pace of life. It is a shame to see how they seem to feel trapped, not being able to go back to where they came from because it is too expensive, or because they have nothing left to go back to. And to hear them idealising their home country, which they previously were so eager to leave.
It is especially disturbing because I recognise it so well. Coming across similar stories time after time, makes me realise how often I end up in a similar position. How often, when the novelty or initial excitement and joy of a new place, assignment and sometimes even friendship fades away, I am trapped in the same situation.
Like the foreigners I meet, I will be longing for new adventures, looking for greener pastures, just anything to avoid this feeling of discomfort I was trying so hard to run from. A feeling which was previously overruled by the feeling of excitement and joy, but which I know, will eventually pop up wherever you are, just because it is part of life. And it is in this perfect place I surrender, and finally accept discomfort as part of daily life and where I intend to stop the daily fight. And if it doesn’t work out, as a digital nomad, I can also just move on.