On July 12, we set out for our first international move as a family. Along with our tribe, we checked nine bags and carried on two, plus the running stroller and two cats.
Not only was this our first time moving overseas, it was our first time traveling overseas as a family of six (the cats are family too!). The longest flight we’d ever taken was about six hours, so we knew twenty-four hours of travel was going to be tough—especially the second flight, which was eleven-and-a-half hours.
We arrived in Phuket, Thailand, on July 13, after a slight delay in Seoul, South Korea. My husband and I were bleary eyed and our kids and cats were understandably exhausted.
Upon arrival, we met our driver, who took us to the Airbnb we’d rented for the month.
Our first week revolved around overcoming jet lag and finding food. We explored the beach nearby—an unswimmable stretch of sand that is nonetheless breathtaking.
The week was full of exploration and learning. We convinced our five year old to try pad thai, which she loved. We learned to say “no sugar” whenever we order coffee or a smoothie; ate fresh coconut, mango, dragon fruit, and pineapple; wandered helplessly around Tesco Lotus, the local grocery store; ate at a beachside restaurant while wild pigs roamed nearby; set up our phones with help from new friends; ate delicious Indian food; visited Central, the big mall here; and swam in the ocean.
We also drove up a winding road to Big Buddha, a stunning buddhist temple atop a hill.
We are still in the Airbnb—a two-bedroom place we found for a good price since it’s low season here in Thailand. Unfortunately, it’s 45 minutes from the school we chose, which means lots of driving back and forth between Surin, where we’re staying, and where we’re moving. I love Surin—I wish we could live here, but it’s too far from Lily’s school. Along with a peaceful island vibe, I have a favorite fruit vendor and coffee shop, where I work nearly every day since I don’t have a home office set up yet.
This is our third time moving to a developing country: Dominican Republic in 2009, Vietnam in 2010, and now Thailand. But in the past, it was just my husband and me. No kids, no cats. Two bags. No one to be responsible for or worry about.
I knew it would be harder this time. I expected it. But I’ll tell you straight up: I am exhausted. We have several things to nail down before we feel like we finally live here, including our home, our daughter’s school, and a long term car rental. Once those are done, we can really start to get to know this country.
But in spite of the exhaustion, I am invigorated. We’ve already made friends, had incredible adventures, and eaten great food. I’ve regained that feeling of daily intrigue: that sense of out-of-place-ness that gives me a thrill. I am most at home when I am out of place. There is something special about knowing no one and nothing, of figuring things out for yourself—or, more accurately, with a lot of help from kind strangers.
I think we’re going to love it here. This island will feel like home before we know it.