The Thailand Dream
The warm and friendly people, their sabai-sabai attitude towards life, the cheap yet delicious street foods, the very inviting flea or night markets, and the lower cost of living are some of the many things I’m enjoying as a teacher in Thailand. These are probably also the things that most people are expecting of the country.
Malaysians are known to have a soft spot for Thailand. Ask them where they’re travelling to when they post an airport status update, and they’d most likely throw you the cliché names of “Bangkok” and “Hatyai“.
Therefore it’s not surprising that after having spent some 250 days working and living my life like any ordinary Thai lad, many of my Facebook folks who have seen my status updates have come telling me how I’m living the “Thai dream” and how much they admire what I’m doing.
They’re right. The so-called “Thai dream” is what I’m living.
It feels good to be able to embrace, and to be perceived as living my life that way — as locally as I could in the land of smiles. In a land where I feel welcomed and spiritually happier.
I like it that through my Facebook posts and statuses, most of my friends get to have a glimpse into my life here as a teacher and the little “adventures” I take on outside of my work hours. I like when my posts and statuses are able to create an impact — regardless of how big it is — on some of my friends, making them feel like they should take a travel break too, and that money simply isn’t the key to living a meaningful life.
Days ago, a close friend from hometown said to me how he thought my posts have been very uplifting and that he sometimes felt inspired by the simple kind of life I’ve chosen to live. It was good to know that I was able to make even the slightest positive impact on anyone who happens to come across the content I’ve posted.
Naturally I’d be happy if the things I post on social media can be seen as encouraging and inspiring. Whether in the virtual or actual world, I don’t wish to come off as someone with a negative vibe or who likes spreading negative messages, especially when social media is already polluted with so much negative content.
Then again, it makes me cringe every time someone comes to me and goes like, “Hey man, I like what you’re doing. How can I do the same?”
It’s not that I don’t want to share good things with people. I do.
But if people are going to think that everything is as simple as quitting their job, traveling to another country and getting a seemingly fun and easy teaching job so that they can make some money as they indulge themselves in the Thai scene, then maybe they should do some reality check first.
Let me put it this way: each of us has different aspirations, likes, dislikes, talents, and capabilities, so the path that everyone will take is naturally also going to be different.
Maybe I just happen to be the right person for this job. Of course when I said that, I didn’t mean it in a snobbish way.
When I quit my job as a lecturer in Malaysia, it had never crossed my mind that I would one day be teaching in a government school in Thailand. All I wanted was to travel, maybe do some volunteer work in between, maybe meditate, or maybe enroll in some courses useful for my personal or professional development.
But I got a non-volunteer teaching job instead.
And I think I’m doing my job well because my previous jobs have always been teaching. I’ve been trained to teach.
What I’m trying to say is that if you want to pursue a long travel, by all means go ahead. Do some planning, save up some money, then tender your resignation letter.
But there is no such thing as doing what I’m doing, or doing what others are doing. You may be able to plan and work towards that, but you may not be blessed with the same opportunities. Remember you don’t get to have the final say, only the nature does.
If you’re keen to do some volunteer work while travelling, you’ll still need to do plan ahead and save up money. You can’t always expect volunteer jobs to always be there and ready for you to grab before you even look for them.
There are many NGO’s out there that allow you to sign up and volunteer, but provided you pay a sum of fee. If you have zero savings and are thinking of pursuing a trip with volunteering opportunities, then perhaps you need to reconsider your option. In the end money still matters, as nothing comes free. Even “free” volunteering jobs mostly require you to pay for your own living expenses!
Having said that, my seemingly carefree and out-of-the-ordinary lifestyle being a teacher in Thailand, my “living the Thai dream” does come with some challenges or downsides you may not know about.
For one, for the same amount of time I’m spending to pursue this adventure, my friends are probably upping their career goals away. Five years down the road, I will probably have a family living on a budget, as compared to some of my friends who may be living a better life because they’re financially better off.
Besides, my job isn’t as simple as just teaching. Teaching the content is one thing, but teaching in a way so that the children can relate to is quite another. It’s a lot of learning — you learn how to communicate with the students who don’t speak a common language with you; you learn what suits or doesn’t suit certain students. It involves a lot of patience, a lot of hard work. So if you have none of these qualities, then teaching isn’t for you.
Thirdly, as I’m pursuing this very special stint, I’m also pursuing an uncertain future. I have my own worries about it, so does my better half. Like I’ve revealed in this post, I don’t know when my job as a teacher in Thailand will come to an end. It could be a year down the road. It could be two. The journey after that is pretty vague.
As much as my life being a teacher here sounds every bit exciting, truthfully, one doesn’t need to be outside the country to be able to live his or her dream. What is important is that whatever you may be doing right now, do it wholeheartedly and live every moment.
Sometimes I may brag a little too much about my life being a teacher here, but does that mean I wasn’t living my life when I was in Malaysia? Certainly not. I was as passionate as I am now, always having something up my sleeve to work on, always being positively occupied.
This post is not meant to throw a wet blanket over whatever adventure you may want to pursue. As a person who has walked this path, I have naturally seen and experienced more; I can therefore shed some light into what is reality and what isn’t when it comes to a foreigner “living the Thai dream”. Things may not be like you may see on the media.