A decision as big as moving to another country involves a good bit of groundwork to make sure things run smoothly. So before moving to Thailand whether during a gap year, for a sabbatical or retirement, or simply because you want to start a new life abroad, here are five things we’re glad we did in preparation for our move (and think you should do, too).
We understand that certain situations may prompt a sudden move to Thailand. After all, life is unpredictable. However, even in unique situations, we don’t recommend suddenly jumping ship and moving to Thailand without adequate preparation. We suggest taking the time to get all your finances and belongings in order, getting support from your friends and family, doing your research on Thailand’s towns to see which one is best for you, and if possible, visit Thailand before you commit to moving here.
01 Pay Off Debt
We rid ourselves of debt from credit cards, a college loan, and two car payments before moving to Thailand. Why? Because we didn’t want those payments hanging over our heads before starting our new life abroad. We (correctly) assumed that our income would be much less in Thailand, which would make it very difficult to continue paying off our outstanding debt.
To pay off our debt, we cut back on eating out and completely stopped buying new clothes, entertainment items, or objects for our apartment. We took it easy on the holidays prior to our move and focused our efforts on spending more time at home and doing things that were free or cost very little. We sold one of our cars two months before moving (at a loss, but it saved us money in the long run) and carpooled to work.
Even if our plans to move to Thailand fell through, we would have completely rid ourselves of our American debt. It was a great feeling to make our last payments on our student loan, cars, and pay off our wedding, which was the majority of our credit card debt.
02 Sell (Almost) Everything
With the exception of the items we took to Thailand and a few extra things we left in storage, we got rid of everything we owned. It was both liberating and anxiety-inducing, but letting go of our material belongings was a good life experience.
We put in storage a small box of important paperwork (medical documents, taxes, 401k, and banking and credit card information), one box each of cold weather clothing (in the event we visited our family in the winter months) and (don’t judge!) a box of some really expensive kitchenware.
Everything else was sold including our cars, furniture, clothing and accessories, home décor, electronics, cooking appliances, and sports equipment. We only had two checked bags and a carry-on each that we came over with, which saved us hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in shipping expenses. Selling our belongings and starting afresh also helped fund our first year and a half living in Thailand.
03 Research Like Mad
We left no stone unturned during our research before moving to Thailand. Even before settling specifically on Thailand, we had done months of searching for information on other countries including Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Vietnam.
Once we agreed on Thailand, we spent more time narrowing down a city in which to live. We spent long afternoons digging through online forums, watching YouTube videos, and reading what we could from other travelers or expats. It was challenging finding information back in 2012 when there was much less than there is now. That’s part of what inspired us to create this blog!
We focused on the cost of living, safety, expat communities, and infrastructure. For us, Chiang Mai fit the bill and had nearly everything we were looking for.
04 Visit Thailand First
Before quitting our job, selling all our stuff, and booking a one-way ticket to Thailand, we actually visited Thailand first. This may be impossible for some people due to schedule conflicts or lack of funds. But for us, (well, for Angela) it was necessary that we visit Thailand before saying goodbye to our old lives and starting something new abroad.
And so we honeymooned in Thailand and spent two weeks exploring Bangkok, Krabi, and Chiang Mai. And while most people may not be newlyweds as we were and have the excuse to leave town on a long honeymoon, it’s still possible to take the trip in between jobs, ask to take leave without pay, or rigorously save up time off, even if it’s just for a week.
And you know what? Visiting Thailand for those two weeks was by far the best decision we could have made. Seeing and getting a feel for each town helped us decide if Thailand was really right for us.
While we felt that the areas of Bangkok (Sukhumvit) and Krabi (Ao Nang) we explored were fun but a bit touristy, we immediately felt at home in Chiang Mai. It was an amazing moment when we realized that it would be totally possible to move to Thailand’s biggest northern city.
Believe it or not, we even took a whole day visiting a realtor’s office to see what housing would be like and took a tour of a big chain supermarket called Tesco. We were that serious!
05 Gain the Support of Our Families and Friends
Before moving to Thailand, it was a priority to get our family and friends on board with our big decision. While arguably it was our life to live and we
should could do whatever we wanted with it, it was important for us to have the support of our loved ones before we made such a leap.
We started early and went easy on everyone and made no ultimatums. We shared articles we had found and pulled up videos about Thailand to share around the dinner table. We anticipated questions and ensured that we were prepared for almost anything.
Our biggest skeptic was Angela’s dad, who couldn’t believe we were throwing away our government jobs, our education, and our nice apartment and cars. He warmed up a bit after we had been there for a year and he saw that things we going well. It all changed when he made a last-minute trip to Thailand and spent nearly two weeks having an experience of a lifetime. He’s been on board with us ever since and still has plans on coming back one day.
Preparation Before Moving to Thailand Will Set You Up For Success
There is no one-size-fits-all way to prepare yourself before moving to Thailand. And it’s not something that you can put a dollar amount to. But for all the people who are thinking about moving to Thailand, we hope that this sets you in the right direction.
Is there anything else you think is a necessity to do before moving abroad? If you’ve already made the big move, what was your experience?