Dubai To Thailand… The Transition

As I massacred a spider as big as my hand with a broom that was thankfully close by, I couldn’t help but think to myself, they didn’t come that big in Dubai. But, here I am in Thailand and that’s one of the things that I’ve adjusted to (umm, not really) since we moved to the beautiful island of Phuket almost seven months ago.

The transition has gone relatively smoothly and we love our new life here. We’re surrounded by beautiful plants and flowers, we listen to the birds singing happily every morning as we drink our coffee on the balcony, the beach is a five minute walk away and the food is glorious. I constantly marvel at the burst of flavours in each and every bite. Fruits and vegetables are crisper and herbs and spices are more pungent.

But… (You knew there was a but somewhere in there, didn’t you?). There are bumps along the road of every change in life. Sometimes you can’t just swerve around them.If you ignore them, eventually you’ll hit one straight on and wind up scraping or denting your undercarriage. Oww, that smarts!

The Change

Making transitions can be tough and change, even when we choose it, takes some time to smooth out. The change of moving to Thailand was exhilarating, as we had been talking about it for a couple of years. However, there were other changes afoot. The big change for my husband was the “R” word. After 30 years in the aviation business he was hanging up his wings. Quite happily so but he’s not the type to sit and watch the world go by. He needs a project! So, while he was grappling with that I was in the midst of my “change”. You know, night sweats, hot flashes, mental pauses and paranoia. Combine that with convincing clients that I could still work for them even from Thailand and saying goodbye to the amazing friends I had made, it was just a bit rough and there were some teary moments. Fortunately with Facebook and Skype it’s easier to keep that promise to stay in touch, and we have. And, my clients love it!

Settling into Expat Life in Thailand

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I’ve read advice from others who have made the transition several times and they say it’s not good to keep one foot in your past and one in your present. For seven months now I’ve been telling myself, “Get out there and meet people! Join groups, have dinner parties, strike-up conversations with strangers.” I know the drill. But I happily isolated myself in my office busily working away on an assortment of writing projects. Oh, every once in a while I half-heartedly did a Google search for forums or networking groups in Thailand but most times I ran into a cyber wall as the majority of groups were in Bangkok. It’s not that far by airplane but too far to join in with any type of frequency. So, I dove deeper into my cave (no, it’s not just men who do that… admit it… girls do it too). I would surface periodically to go for a motorbike ride with my husband, get a massage on the beach or visit with one of my Thai girlfriends who are really wonderful. But, the ever-elusive expat community just wasn’t knocking down my door like it did in Dubai, usually armed with a nice bottle of Cabernet.

Patience is a Virtue

Then… I found ChickyNet.com. It was totally by accident and I have to believe it waited until I was ready for it. Some of the best experiences in life are the ones that are unexpected. Like the email I got from a neighbour from back home who said a friend was going to be in Phuket on business and could she get in touch? Of course I said yes. I wound up joining her on a reconnaissance mission scoping out anchorages and dive spots around the out islands, had a wonderful day and the wife of the owner of the boat introduced me to ChickyNet, an expat woman’s forum in Thailand, with a group in Phuket. There’s no way I could have planned that out! I’ve joined a book exchange group and a ‘biker club’ (everyone here drives what you would call scooters but the size of the engine technically makes them motorbikes). I haven’t attended a meeting or event yet but I’m psyched. There’s no writing group that I can find though. Oooo, I feel a project coming on!

So, the secret to smoothing out the transition and handling change really boils down to being open to new experiences, which I’ve always been, and just rolling with it, which I usually do. I still have a toehold in my past because some things (and people) are worth hanging on to but I am getting out more and have found little pockets of expat entertainment. I’ll share those discoveries in this column as I continue writing about my life in Thailand.

A published author and freelance writer, Anne O’Connell, has been an expat since 1993 when she and her husband escaped the cold of Toronto, Canada and moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. They enjoyed the sun and sand for 14 years, while she worked in the PR field, and then decided it was time for a new adventure. Heading for even more sun and sand, they moved to Dubai in late 2007 and then on to Thailand in 2011.

Anne has been working as a freelance copywriter and communications consultant since 2007, specializing in marketing, corporate communications, public relations, social media and website content. She and her husband have a passion for travel and that adventurous spirit has taken them all over the world. Anne grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia and has a bachelor of public relations from Mount St. Vincent University. You can visit her website at www.anne-oconnell.com or her blog at www.anne-writingjustbecause.blogspot.com.


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