We researched. We talked to Julia’s ex co-worker. We talked to a friend of a friend, and a *different* friend of a friend. Everyone that spent a substantial amount of time in Southeast Asia said the same thing: every country is great, but Thailand is simply the best – specifically, Northern Thailand. The main reasons given were that the people were the friendliest in Thailand (especially to foreigners!), and that the food was the tastiest. All of the countries are beautiful, and cheap to live in, but that’s what set Thailand apart. Southern Thailand – both the beaches near Phuket and the big city of Bangkok – are wonderful as well, but they have more of the touristy, “big city” feel that we aren’t really looking for. So, we had a plan! Get certified to teach English, and find work in Chiang Mai!
Thankfully, there is no shortage of Americans who have gone down the same road that we want to travel on. After some more research (mostly on Reddit), we settled on the CELTA course at International House Chiang Mai. This school is very reputable and even has job placement at the end of the course! The course is four weeks for $1600 which covers just the course itself, or $2495 which includes room and board. That sounded like a great deal to us, but $895 for a month of room and board is actually not a bargain at all in Chiang Mai, so we opted for just the course itself. There is a somewhat lengthy application process, but from what I read online you have to be pretty dim not to get in. Having a plan was so exciting!
Researching the average teaching gig in Chiang Mai, the salaries are a lot less than in Bangkok. The upper end of what we could hope for is about $1000/month (each), which is more than enough to pay for our expenses in Thailand. However, it isn’t close to paying for our expenses back home – mainly, our mortgage on our house in Tacoma. Even with our savings, and the bonus that I got from Morphotrak, we’d burn through everything in probably six to seven months. So, we needed a way to make ends meet. That meant renting our house out. Thankfully, we knew a few different people who had rented their house, so we decided to talk to them about the process (side note: research on the internet is great, but having a network of friends to talk to in order to get that first-hand advice is second to none).
The advice we got? In short…don’t do it. Not that renting your house out is inherently a bad thing, but in our particular circumstances, it probably wasn’t going to work out. For one thing, it is usually a good idea to rent your house with no furniture in it – if a tenant damages the furniture, it can be very tough to recoup the losses. So, moving out the furniture would be very time-consuming, but renting out our house at $2,000-$2,500 per month for a year or slightly more should be worth it, right? Well, the other issue is that when we decided to come back to the states, we’d want to move right back in to our house – which our tenant might not be flexible with. So, ideally we’d find a tenant who would sign a one year contract about when we left for Thailand. So we’d have to move all of our stuff out…and find a (reputable) tenant who needed a home to live in for a year but not more than that…who was willing to live in (and pay for) a four bedroom home…
In the end, we decided that it was probably going to be more trouble than it was worth. We would basically need the stars to align in order to rent our house out in a manner that would make financial sense, and it would probably be a big headache being a landlord half a world away. So, we decided to go with our backup plan of simply spending an extended vacation in Southeast Asia. As I write this now, I’m a little sad that we are missing on the opportunity to *really* do something different in our lives. However, our backup plan has a lot in the “pro” column. For one thing, having a job in Thailand is still having a job. It would be pretty tough to visit other countries, with only weekends and two weeks a year on average available for travel. With no jobs, we can go wherever we want, whenever we want and have more actual time to explore the region! We don’t have to worry as much about money, because we can just come home early if we need to. We don’t have to worry about the (remote) possibility of spending $3,200 on teaching degrees and then finding out that we don’t like teaching.
But MOST of all, spending the entire year in Thailand would make us miss so much back home! We’d miss Peter’s high school graduation, Julia’s 30th birthday party would be not nearly as fun, we’d miss Tristan and Sarah having baby #1, Corrie and Lukas having baby #1, Kurt and Michelle having baby #2, we’d miss playing games with our friends, and we’d just miss spending time with everyone! We may still be connected with all of you while we are away, but we’ll still be gone a long time and email/Whatsapp/Facebook are not a replacement for quality time spent with you.
So while our plans are not set in stone, we do know that we couldn’t possibly be gone for the entire year. Right now we are anticipating coming back in the first couple weeks of May. Thailand’s festival of Songkran takes place on April 13-15, which we’ve heard is an unforgettable experience. We plan to leave Southeast Asia shortly after that, but spend a week or two in Japan (another country that we have both been dying to visit) on the way back. If our plans change (which they are wont to do), you will be the first to know!