After two years of rice, motorbikes, and an absence of beef and American T.V, I’m finally making the trip home.
That’s right, I’m flying back to America for three weeks.
Now first and foremost let me just say that I am stoked to see my family and friends.
Also, words cannot describe how excited I am to have hot showers on demand, a plentiful supply of cheeseburgers, and the option to play video games.
Look out first-world wonderland, here I come!
That being said though, it would be a total lie if I were to say that I am not terrified of coming home.
Planning my trip back to the states has been an unexpectedly nerve racking experience, an experience that has been much more stressful than the initial move to Thailand ever was.
Part of the reason I decided to write this self-indulgent article is because I wanted to see if anybody else has felt the same pressures that I have been feeling. So please, if you can relate to any of the things below, comment and let me know!
Give me some reassurance that I’m not a crazy person, and the only one who is stressed out about visiting their home country.
So here we go, 7 reasons why visiting home as an expat is way more stressful than leaving ever was.
1) Reverse Exchange Rate & Atrocious Airfare
I came to Thailand with a fist full of American dollars (and a ten year student loan plan), feeling like the kid from Home Alone 2.
Before I came to Thailand I was fortunate enough to have a steady income, and to have saved a good chunk of change. I welcomed the USD to Baht exchange rate with open arms and embraced the monetary advantage with something akin to a kid in a candy store.
Fast forward two years of being on a Thai teacher salary, and a $900 plane ticket, and suddenly I abhor the exchange rate.
Ever since I booked my trip home I have been fantasizing about the robust flavor of my favorite dark beer, the salty juicy taste of a french dip sandwich, and best of all, the celebration that is eating tacos…
And then I think about the price of eating out in America and quickly realize those fantasy meals are going to cost 2 to 3 times the price of my average Thai meals.
After two years of living in a city with no western food options, there’s no exaggeration when I say a man could easily sacrifice his entire retirement fund (and waistline) for three weeks of top-notch American cuisine.
2) Packing and Downsizing
You would be surprised how many souvenirs, kick-knacks, artworks, and instruments can be accumulated in two years.
Even though I’m coming back to Thailand, I will not be coming back to my studio apartment in Isaan.
Which means I have to pack up two years of expat-life and traveling into one checked bag, and one carry-on.
It’s a process.
Pack. Downsize.Realize you still have too much shit.Drive your old clothes to the temple.
Pack again, downsize, and repeat.
** Curious what to pack for a move to Thailand? Check out this awesome post!
3) Pressure t0 Spend time with Every Possible Family Member
My family is a coffee-sloshing pack of busy bodies who eat dinner standing at the kitchen counter, work full-time, and book their free time with concerts, sporting events, and dinners.
Grandma Eva wants to have dinner, but she can’t on Thursday because she is giving an architectural tour– Friday works, but that’s the only day Uncle Nick isn’t promoting his new rap album, and he wanted to go see the hockey game– so maybe we’ll just aim for next week, but next week my Mother has already set aside Tuesday and Wednesday for a trip to the beach….
I think you get the picture—
On top of that, my girlfriend who has been in Thailand with me and is also visiting America, her family is expecting me to come and visit them, and they live two hours away from where my family is. So now I have two family schedules to juggle through.
Two years is a good chunk of time not to see your family, and am I so grateful that all of my family wants to set aside time to spend with me…but damn if trying to squeeze dinners and quality times into the nooks and crannys of everyone’s schedules isn’t like some sort of space-gravity algorithm.
4) Dividing Time Between Friends and Family
And as if trying to speed date through my family wasn’t tough enough, don’t forget about my friends!
Friends that now are all working way too much, getting married, watching their new babies, and trying to set aside some valuable personal time so that we can grab a beer or spend a few hours jamming out, and having a laugh.
Wouldn’t it be easier if your friends and family could just put their lives on hold, quit their jobs, leave their babies on the couch, and everyone pitched in money to rent a giant RV which we would all stay in for three weeks while I’m home?
Ok, so maybe .that actually sounds like a mild form of hell, but the point is, even six weeks in America wouldn’t feel like enough time to hangout with all my favorite people.
5) Feeling Poor & Dependent
I imagine coming home, and my friends saying something like–
“Hey let’s go check out that hip new Mexican restaurant and tequila bar downtown,” and at first, I’m all for it.
Then I think:
hip, new, tequila, downtown—
And I reply like, “Hell yeah! you guys talking about that Taco Bell spot?”
Fortunately I have a car at home, and that is truly a godsend because at least then I can go out and meet people, and won’t be dependent on friends and family going out of their way to pick me up and drop me off.
But car or no car, I am still staying in my family’s guestrooms, and on my friend’s couches for three weeks. And although I’m sure none of them really mind, for the first time in five years I feel like a complete dependent.
Friends and family go to work, and I’m stuck alone in their homes, wondering if I can wear my shoes on the carpet, and trying to think of non-intrusive housework I can do to help out.
The idea honestly terrifies me.
6) Getting Another Thai Non-Immigrant B Visa
When I come back to Thailand I will be starting a new job with a new company. Which means, you guessed it, I need to get a new Non-Immigrant B Visa.
Unlike when I first came to Thailand though, and I had all the time in the world to get my paperwork sent into the embassy, this time I have a three week deadline to get all the paperwork in and situated.
Which means I need to hit the ground filing.
Day 1: Hug mom, scramble all my documents together, and then I’m off to the post office for express shipping to the embassy. Just what everyone wants to do after 24 hours of air travel.
Yaay! No pressure there…
** For more information on Visas, and the necessary requirements and funds to move abroad and teach in Thailand, check out my cost breakdown & essentials post here!
7) Bucket-List Selfishness
Living in Thailand means giving up a lifestyle back home that you (presumably) enjoy. For me living in Thailand has meant cutting ties with my PlayStation 2, my electric guitar, and all the crazy sound pedals with it.
I used to love seeing live musicals at the local community theaters, going to cheap local bands, and breathing in the fresh mountain air on the beautiful hiking trails all around Washington.
And after two years of not enjoying the aforementioned pleasures, my bucket list is in need of some serious crossing off.
With my short time frame back home, I have a startling fear of returning to Thailand having not achieved my personal list of things I want to do.
Spending time with family and friends will always be the number one priority for visiting home, so part of me feels guilty for wanting to do anything other than spend time with the people I love.
But it’s been two years since I’ve gotten to enjoy my favorite American past-times, and who knows the next time I’ll be back stateside. Nothing is going to stop these fingers from smashing some x buttons, and bending some distorted pentatonic tones.
All in all I couldn’t be happier to have the chance to visit home, see all the wonderful people in my life, and spend some quality time in the US of A.
A rather self-indulgent post, I just needed to vent my anxieties on digital life, and check to see if anyone else could relate to these issues.
Anyone else feel like this? Am I just freaking out? Let me know, comment below!
**Interested in more expat-life laughs? Check out my expat holiday post here!
Thanks for reading, and happy travels!