The time has come to say goodbye.
Some expats are not responding well to the change. They’re bending over backwards trying to stay, moaning and groaning while doing so.
Personally, I look forward to change. So that’s not the avenue I’ll be taking.
Change is the only constant in this life. When change comes, you have a choice. You can fight it. Or you can roll with it. The latter will almost certainly lead to better results.
I won’t say that things have become stagnant for me in Chiang Mai, but I’m not sure there was much more personal growth to be had here. Two years is enough. I came, I saw, I conquered, as a certain Roman general was fond of saying.
Chiang Mai has given me so much. And I’m eternally grateful to have had the experience. All the same, though, I’ve taken what it has to give. I’m ready for new experiences.
Usually, when a situation like this comes about, I’d simply leave. I have no emotional connection to physical places. Maybe I’m weird, but I live my life in a methodical way that prioritizes expediency. I think it’s best to live in a place that’s most advantageous, with advantageousness being subjective and depending on what exactly you want. If a place is no longer welcoming and serving me, I leave.
That said, having a relationship with a wonderful woman has complicated that worldview. I don’t mind leaving Thailand. But I do mind leaving her.
So Oh and I had a series of lengthy discussions on all of this.
We wanted to make sure we could stay together while simultaneously satisfying individual aspirations.
It’s clear that we could not continue to keep things as they were, but we also didn’t want to just end the relationship.
This required threading a needle.
I first had her tune into the visa news so that she could have an educated perspective on what exactly is happening here, as a Thai citizen would ordinarily not be aware of these things.
Then we ran through our options on how we could both be happy and still stay together.
Here are the three options we considered, as well as what we ultimately chose to do:
Option #1: Get Married
This is the option that Oh campaigned for. It was an obvious idea that required very little change, particularly on her part.
To be fair to her, it’s the most straightforward option. And it’s the one that most people in this type of situation would probably choose.
However, I don’t think dating for two years is long enough to justify a lifelong commitment. That’s just my personal opinion on the matter. If marriage really is forever, then there’s no need to rush. With divorce rates at ~50% in the States, more people dating for longer might not be a bad thing.
Truthfully, I’m not a big fan of the concept of marriage in the first place. I’m even less a fan of marriage if one is being kind of pressured into it in order to secure a visa. In my view, that’s a terrible motive to get married, even if it’s not the only motive.
Furthermore, a marriage visa is no cakewalk in Thailand. Maintaining a marriage visa involves a large amount of ongoing rigmarole that I’m not even going to get into here. Suffice to say, it’s not like you get married and you’re done forever. It’s a devotion to dealing with immigration on the regular. And it’s only gotten worse over the last year or so.
I’m not against marriage. I’m open to it.
But not right now. Not under current conditions.
If we were to get married, I might see more value in bringing Oh to the US. It’s far less long-term rigmarole – which is really saying something about what’s become of the immigration situation in Thailand. Plus, the US passport (after getting US citizenship) would be a valuable asset for Oh to have. Our long-term plan, which I’ll discuss below, is somewhat restricted in scope because of Thai passport limitations.
Option #2: Split The Cost Of An Elite Visa
Thailand offers what’s known as an Elite visa. It’s basically a pay-to-play visa program that allows one to fork over a big chunk of change in order to stay in Thailand.
The Elite has been around for some time now, but I’ve read reports stating that applications are recently way up and the waiting period has subsequently increased quite a bit. I’ll let you read between the lines.
Anyway, there’s a low-level Elite visa that allows a five-year stay for 500,000 baht. That’s about $16,500 at the current exchange rate. Adding in the opportunity cost means it ends up being significantly more expensive than that over the long run, however.
It’s not a life-changing amount of money, but I’d never in my life consider shelling out more than $16,000 to stay in Thailand – or any other country. There are places all over the world that will welcome me for next to nothing. It’s not even about the money. I’m against this visa on principle alone, frankly speaking.
Imagine having your choice of a dozen different partners to date. And one of them is asking for $16,500, while the others want almost nothing. Even if the one who wants the money is the more attractive partner on the face of things, I would never think of writing that check. It’s a total turn-off to be asked. The very idea of it turns an attractive partner into an unattractive partner. Likewise, this purposeful funneling of expats into an expensive and exploitative visa system turns me off to Thailand.
Now, the only reason to even consider the idea is to stay with Oh. While a dozen different countries will welcome me with open arms, only one of them has Oh living there.
Oh and I chatted about it, almost as a throwaway idea. I gave her my reasons as to why I’m against the visa on principle, even though I can easily afford it.
She understood and concurred, but then brought up the idea of splitting the cost.
An extremely kind gesture, no doubt.
This makes the Elite visa a lot more palatable for me, as she’s essentially making it a less bitter pill to swallow – the only reason for me to stay (Oh) is helping me to stay. If not for her, I’d never buy it. Her helping me on the cost does change the calculus, even if the help is only symbolic in nature (I couldn’t actually take that kind of money from her).
However, we ultimately both agreed that it’s way too much money for what amounts to kicking the can down the road for a few years. There are a million other ways to more effectively and enjoyably spend that money without having to sacrifice principles.
Moreover, I’m not in distress about having to spend significant time outside of Thailand from here on out. I had already planned on doing so as part of the next phase of my life. I like to change it up and keep my edge sharp. Things are admittedly happening faster than I had in mind, and I wasn’t thinking about spending most of the year outside the country. But that’s okay by me.
Committing to living in Thailand full time for the next five years isn’t terribly appetizing, and every month spent outside of the country (with the Elite visa) is throwing money down the drain.
Overall, this option doesn’t work.
Option #3: Leave Thailand Together And Go Traveling
If marriage and the Elite visa are out, there’s no viable way for me to stay in Thailand.
That left us with accepting the inevitable. I have to leave.
However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t stay together.
It simply means that Oh would have to leave, too.
That brings us to the third and final option.
I offered her the opportunity to travel, go on an adventure with me, and see parts of the world together.
If she would be willing to sell her house and quit her job, I would be willing to cover her way and take responsibility for our finances as a team for as long as we’re traveling.
This option would require a big sacrifice on her part. No doubt about it. She’d have to give up everything she’s ever known.
However, with mutual trust and open-mindedness, we could spend more time together, get to better know each other, and have a super interesting lifestyle.
Taking that Elite visa money and traveling with it, instead of blowing it on a temporary visa, sounded far more appealing to me.
Oh is on the same page.
So we spent a lot of time conceptualizing what amounts to a “digital nomad” lifestyle together. The more we chatted about this, the more excited we both became about it.
And this is the choice we decided would be best for us as a couple moving forward.
I see this compromise as a win-win.
We get to stay together, which was the main goal.
In terms of my position, we get to hold off on marriage, avoid shelling out on the Elite visa, spend more time together, visit new places, and grow as people. Also, we’ve been slowly moving Oh toward a more flexible and free lifestyle that’s closer to what I believe in, write about, and live. This option is a coup; it’s a massive leap forward with regard to having her better experience what I believe is a phenomenal way of life.
From Oh’s perspective, she would love to travel and see new places. Her job has also been stressful lately, so she’s not all that upset to quit and take a break for a while. She’s currently renting her house, but she’s come to see a house as an albatross. Her moving in with me over the summer eliminated some of her bills and responsibilities, which was an eye-opening relief for her. Oh has expressed admiration for what I’ve done, as well as a desire to emulate some of it. Coming along with me on a nomadic lifestyle supercharges all of that progress on her side. She can kill multiple birds with one stone.
I’ll reveal more details about our new nomadic lifestyle soon, including when we’re leaving Thailand and where we’re going first.
We’re somewhat limited on the countries we can stay in long term because of her Thai passport. But we have enough options, especially in ASEAN, to make it worthwhile.
Now, I will say that I don’t see this as a long-term lifestyle. We won’t be traveling like this for the next 10 years. It’s not sustainable, in my opinion.
But it’s an exciting proposition that works as an effective solution to bridge the gap between where we’re at now and where we might want to be in a few years.
Life is short. We have the time and money to do something like this right now, and the deteriorating long-stay visa situation in Thailand was all the incentive we needed to give it a shot.
Change is scary. But it’s also exciting. I’m very happy with the compromise we’ve come up with.
The fact that Oh is willing to trust me and make so many changes to her life shows me her true colors. It proves to me that she truly does believe in what I advocate. Not too many people in this world would give up their career, house, and homeland for an uncertain future. It would have been easier for her to let me go. I’m lucky to have such an amazing partner. And I’m looking forward to taking good care of her and experiencing an awesome adventure together.
Onward and upward. It’s going to be a very exciting 2020!
What do you think? Does a digital nomad lifestyle interest you? Is this a good solution for our situation?
Thanks for reading.
P.S. If you’d also like to be financially independent and able to travel the world, check out some fantastic resources I personally used on my way to becoming financially free at 33!