November 06, 2017

Continued from: Why I Moved Back to Thailand (Part1)

Returning home to retire, after long years living in Thailand, I was faced with a surprising challenge.

Was Norwich England, the little town where I had been born and grown into a young man, still truly my home?

That uneasy question formed in my troubled mind after the first year “home”. Reconnecting with friends and neighbours, the familiar decorum of British manners was pleasing. The history and culture as Englishmen and women remained. However, the fascinating dimension that living in Thailand had added to my life was impossible to relate. Even when trying not to bore people with my “living abroad war stories” I found myself constantly referring back to Thailand. So much of my life and character had been formed and enriched by this land. I was slightly shocked that the treasure-trove of anecdotes I had amassed while living in Thailand was of little interest to old friends. After a few indulging nights when I first arrived, questions of my life abroad were politely replaced with the regular chat of football teams and mortgage prices, children and local gossip.

Sadly, I realized that the only way I might fit in here at “home”, was to take all I have been through, put it in some box on a back shelf of my mind and forget the lot of it. Problem was, I didn't want to forget Thailand. My memories were cherished souvenirs of my inspiring years in fascinating, foreign lands. On rainy nights at my pub, watching footy on the flat screen TVs, I felt lonely. The lad who had left Norwich years ago was long gone. How much Thailand had changed me was made painfully clear one night during a football match with our town’s eternal rival, Ipswich. When one of our lads scored a brilliant goal that sealed the match, the entire pub leapt to its feet in a roaring cheer. Try as I might, I did not share their excitement. Seated silently while the uproarious pub sang the club’s song, I realized home would never be the same… and I was not the same, either. When a Norwich lad stays seated when Ipswich is bested, he’s no longer a Norwich boy. With a sad sigh, looking around at all the happy local faces, glowing with local pride that I no longer felt part of, I realized my years abroad had changed me permanently. And so it was, I decided once more, it was time to go home.

To Thailand.

My departure was a quiet affair. There were no large “Going Away Again” parties. Dropped off at the airport by my brother, listening to him prattle on about local gossip and various civic goings on, I felt bittersweet. I was bitter that this man who was my beloved brother would forever be a stranger to Thailand. But the sweetness was in knowing what waiting for me when I flew around the planet. Buckling my seatbelt as the plane took off, I closed my eyes with pleased visions of sunny, wonderful beaches, speeding tuktuks, delicious street food, beautiful temples, enchanting locals and welcoming expats. Indeed, Thailand was the true home of this new man I had become. And home was the best place for me to retire. Unfortunately, it had taken my rather depressing trip back to Norwich to help me realize that Thailand wasn’t a place I was just visiting. That regret vanished, however, when the plane touched down in Thailand with another gentle bump. Once more gathering my things as the plane taxied towards arrival, I heard the Thai captain’s announcements. Although I didn't understand the words he was saying, I heard something very clear in the jumble of Thai tones. What I heard was: Welcome home.

Because home isn’t just a point on the map. It's a place in the heart.

The place that feels right. That’s Thailand for me.

Of course, it wasn’t a bed of roses I was returning to. All of the annoyances I was happy to leave behind me when I originally returned to Britain would still be there. I would be facing the challenges of language and culture. And every upside in the Land of Smiles had a downside that went with it. That wonderful way that Thais have of being laid back about everything? Well, it can be remarkably frustrating when your pipes burst at home and there’s water spraying all over the loo! Reflecting on this while in England, I set myself to solving the problem this posed. How could I have the best of what Thailand has to offer, and also avoid the day-to-day difficulties in getting the most mundane things done? In my retirement years, that wasn’t a hurdle I wished to clear on my own. I spent my days pondering the question on long walks through the English rain. Nights I was at the computer, sipping warm tea while seeking to find a place that bridged both the comfort and security of home, with the wonderful way of life in Thailand. After what seemed like an endless span of dark and rainy nights online, I finally found Sansara.

Struck immediately by the modern, state of the art luxury condominiums, it wasn’t hard to imagine what comforts Sansara would provide me in my retirement. Placed in a lovely seaside location, the facility struck me as a carefully considered balance between home and abroad. Indeed, Sansara seemed built as the perfect response to the challenges I was facing. The personable, lovely staff was devoted to ironing out whatever wrinkles might turn one’s Thai smile into a frown. Directed by an internationally experienced, European community manager, the level of service would match the highest Western standards, while also offering the absolute charm of living in Hua Hin, Thailand—one of the most popular retirement destinations in the world.

While the cold rain pattered on my window in England, I closed my eyes and imagined myself enjoying the sun at Sansara. It wasn’t difficult to picture. And the more I researched, the more I realized that it was difficult to find anything in Thailand offering similar services, at such a reasonable and sensible price point. Could this be what I was looking for? My frustrations in England had proved that my unique life as a long term expat required a unique solution for my retirement years. On long walks through my lonely old hometown, I mulled over all that Sansara had to offer. More and more, it seemed to be the perfectly logical fit. But more than a series of reasons, Sansara gave me a feeling.

The feeling of home.

Finally, I had found the place I belonged.