The Thailand Project: lifestyle mapping for nomads-at-heart
We’re spending two months in Thailand over the first half of British winter. But this isn’t a holiday, it’s a first step towards re-engineering our lifestyle, work-lives and expectations of married life.
Emms and I married 9 weeks ago, and now I’m faced with answering the question I’ve been posed for years; “what happens when you get married, have kids and settle down?”
Do I carry on adventuring? Do I swap the nomadic life for an office? Or would our family life look very different from the average?
Firstly, to answer the silent question: no, Em is not pregnant. But we are talking about the possible pitter patter of tiny feet (or BabyCorns) in a couple of years, and are very open about how that will (likely) change life as we know it.
These last three years I’ve been face-to-face with the settling-down demons — added responsibility, increased cost of living, ambition-killing-comfort, limited scope for creativity forced by limits on time and money— and I haven’t coped so well. I wrote more deeply about this, here.
The need for change rarely comes from a comfortable place, and I see the past three years as a guiding stick for a re-map of what the next stage of life could look like. There are dreams to chase and swamps to avoid, so let’s start with the bits to cut-out and learn from:
- Cold winters: we live on a boat and the last winter in the UK lasted for five months. We weren’t there for the whole winter, but the other 5 weeks were spent above the Arctic circle on a Norwegian island. That was awesome, but no sun and a feast of general darkness is no way to live.
- Working space: I need my own space to work in, and this needs to change frequently. For two years Em and I have both freelanced from home. And when home is a 45ft widebeam houseboat and the only viable office is in one room, distraction is high and creativity is cramped.
- Prohibitive cost of living: I earn well but in recent years I’ve put a considerable share of my earnings into community work and this has coincided with paying London rent/prices, which feel so unnecessary when life has felt more enjoyable in previous less costly scenarios/ places. Not saving much for a rainy day, future tiny humans and new investments/ projects/ expeditions just to have the same roof overhead feels like standing still.
- Lazy belly: Living in a city, even if it is on a boat, doesn’t excite me anymore. Even worse, motivation to get out and ride, paddle and move is limited when the nearest considerable green space is at least half an hour away. Spending life sitting down is deeply unhealthy. I’m not image conscious, but I’d like to look in the mirror and be happy with what I see physically (this isn’t the same as looking internally — I’m pretty content with the person I am). This is a health thing, not stigma or self-loathing!
A realistic blueprint for home, work and family in the future:
- What I choose as a lifestyle must also satisfy the needs of Emms. Marriage is not just for September.
- Freedom: many of my biggest pain points since buying a home in the UK in 2016 have revolved around a lack of room for manoeuvre, in the expectations I have of those around me/ they have of me and in an inability to pursue exciting work without being held back. After living freely and nomadically for a decade, I didn’t know how to stay in one place and still maintain the momentum that had formerly been powered by shifting location and focus.
- UK: The majority of our work, friends, family are in the UK, so being there during Spring, Summer and Autumn feels right and makes a lot of sense. Our main project, The YesBus, is a fulfilling priority and in 2019, at least, we’d like to live nearby rather than endure the current two hour journey each week.
- Winter sun: While there are more pleasant climates available, choosing to be damp, cold, Vitamin D deficient and frankly miserable for 4 months is bloody stupid. The only catch is that Em loves Christmas.
- Water: I love it. And more specifically, being in and on it — especially when it’s not cold. What I’ve learned from the past couple of years is that even living on the water and being able to waterbike and paddle daily isn’t enough. Proximity to water that doesn’t want to kill me — ie.warm, swimmable, accessible, soothing water— is the only medicine I crave.
- Movement in nature: Whatever the season, wherever we choose to live, it must be within nature. An enjoyable, peaceful environment to exercise in daily and maintain physical and mental health.
- Work: A healthy balance between personal and community work. One should not override or suppress the other. My best days of work are not necessarily location-dependent but when I feel unstoppable, ideas pour out like water and possibilities and potential are endless. Positive response from new partners, my team and community are fulfilling. Successful events and creations are icing on the cake. But I need to be free in decisions and actions: this means not having to chase the company admin and tax — someone else should cover this — I’m much better at shining a light on others than sitting in a dark room doing dark work. I get more joy from having a silly idea, chasing and making it a reality, then sharing the lessons.
- Family: I can’t see my kid(s) in the standard English education system. I’d love them to become independent, problem-solving, light-at-heart / strong-in-mind characters, with an empathetic global view. I’d also love them to have more of a social childhood than I did — which means finding community for them as well as weening them on intrepid behaviour.
So, to start the process of redefining and redesigning our lives, we’re spending the next few weeks on the Thai island of Koh Phangan in the Gulf of Siam. We’re here to reset and re-energise, to look after ourselves and each other, and to start researching some of the unanswered questions that stand between now and the blueprint above.
Is it cost-effective monetarily and emotionally to spend a proportion of the year in a tropical climate?
Is it practical to be here? What compromises need to be made compared to living at home in the UK? What are the pain points and are there easy solutions?
Ok, so the photos are great, but what are the real benefits of living in an Instagram-friendly place/climate?
Can we find potential partnerships out here to work with SayYesMore?
What is it really about water that makes me tick? And how can I use this longing/ passion to help others?
At a time when our mental health could use some nurturing, is just a few weeks on an island sufficient medicine? And if not (in part or full), can the lessons this new perspective teaches us transfer back to life in the UK, or somewhere else?
I write this on Day 12. We’ve based ourself at a just metres from the sea, at a co-working space called BeacHub in Koh Phangan. Fast internet and a community of other freelancers creates a positive working environment, and our paddleboards are happy to be spending at least an hour a day out on the waves. There’s colour in our skin and a satisfaction at the end of each day. A couple of fresh adventures are brewing and so far, the experiment is working.
In a month or so, as our final days in Thailand draw nearer, I’ll re-visit this blog and see how many questions have been answered
Thanks for reading, if you enjoyed this article please do leave a comment, a like, an applause, and even better — share with one person who you think would appreciate it.
My website is stocked with over 13 years of adventures, blogs, projects, photos and films. I share these in the hope that others will experience similar feelings to those that I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy.