How to live in an extraordinary country and marry a beautiful woman.
How my life changed in one moment
My relationship with Thailand and my wife has been long and loving.
I first came to Thailand in 2002 for some fun, sun, and partying. I was newly divorced, and ready to see the world and be my own man.
I traveled all over the Kingdom. I saw temples in Chaing Mai, floated down the Mekong river, swam, and dove in aqua blue waters of the gulf islands, explored the remote archipelago of the northern gulf islands, and surfed in Phuket.
But one day this carefree nomadic lifestyle came to a screeching halt.
I was stumbling around Patong and saw a sign for a week-long liveaboard dive adventure. It seemed like a good deal and it was cheap. so I said to myself why not?
While I was in line to sign up, I saw this tall, long-legged, long hair smiling beauty working over in the restaurant attached to the dive shop.
I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. She looked at me, flashed her smile, and at that moment, I knew my life was about to change.
I had to step out of the sign-up line and get a closer look.
She invited me to sit in the restaurant and said she was about to get off work. I eagerly agreed to her request.
We sat for hours laughing and having a good time eating great food and drinking. It seemed so comfortable and natural to be around this woman. I was hooked.
Obviously, I didn’t sign up for the dive trip.
I asked her if she wanted to travel around her beautiful country for a while, but she said she needed to take me to her village to meet her family first.
I found out there are two Thailands
When we finally got to Chaiyaphum, we rolled up in the dark and turned the headlights off in the car. The night sounds of the jungle exploded, and the stars looked so close you could touch them.
It was then I realized I had left the comfy confines of the tourist Thailand and entered the real Thailand. It was like entering a parallel universe.
We spent long days playing, falling in love like all couples do, and I fell in love with her family.
They were dirt poor like many in rural Thailand, and I was shocked. We slept in the old house built on stilts. They had chickens that lived on the ground beneath the house, and when I woke in the morning, the place filled with smoke from the wood fire her sister was cooking on.
As the sun filtered through the smoke, I could hear the morning birds singing glorious wake-up calls. I heard monks chanting across the lake, and my mind and body soon relaxed, shedding my western prejudices and ego.
It was a wonderful time as we traveled around the country exploring waterfalls and remote beaches. Back in those days, travel was easy and cheap. $3 USD a night for a bungalow solidified my love for Thailand.
One day I couldn’t help it. I asked her to marry me, and she said yes!
The ceremony was simple and done in the Buddhist temple across the lake from her parent’s house.
And only ten days later, I found myself on a long sad journey flying back to the USA alone, not knowing when or how long it would take for her visa to be processed.
A Marriage from the other side of the planet
It was so hard to leave Thailand. When I got back home, I realized how much I had changed. I saw things from a different perspective.
I let go of a lot of ego and party boy mentality and settled into work, and went through the excruciatingly painful application process for my wife to be able to join me in the USA.
Paperwork! They wanted everything! Background checks for both of us, our marriage license, divorce decrees, high school records, on and on it went.
Shortly after 9/11, a whole new federal system had just been put into place by the Bush administration to filter out potential terrorists from infiltrating the Homeland.
It was a tangled mess that led to the US Department of Homeland Security and the formation of the USCIS, formerly known as INS.
It took almost one year for Ann’s visa to be approved.
In that first year of marriage, I racked up huge phone bills ( this was way before Skype, Line, WhatsApp, and other free video calling services), plus I made three trips back to Thailand.
Finally, the day came, and Ann arrived in the USA.
I waited outside immigration at LAX airport for what seemed like an eternity. After being grilled by immigration, they let her pass, and when she came out of those doors, I started to cry because we were finally together!
Welcome to America. The working years
Our life together in the US was flawless. She took English classes, and I immersed her into western culture. We enjoyed many fabulous trips together, meeting family and friends and seeing America.
Anybody who knows my wife can tell you she gives off good vibes, and everyone she has ever met adores her.
Ann got her first job about a month after arriving, working as a cook at a Thai restaurant near the beach where we lived in Florida,
After a few years, we started planning our future life in Thailand. We returned to Thailand for a few months and built our retirement home.
What an incredible journey it was working seasonal jobs. These jobs allowed us to be able to travel home to Thailand for a few months here and there.
We added a family member along the way. We adopted Ann’s niece after her mother had been murdered by a jealous ex-boyfriend.
Those years were some hard years enduring a long international adoption process but it paid off nicely with some wonderful teenage years spent with our daughter.
How to maintain two houses in two hemispheres and plan for the future
It hasn’t been easy, but somehow we’ve lived the American dream of owning a couple of homes on two continents. It’s sucked every dime we’ve ever made, and the retirement nest egg isn’t there, but it’s nice knowing we have roofs over our heads in two hemispheres heading into our golden years.
Ann retired in 2019 after a great career as a chef. I’m a little younger so I’ve got to work a couple more years.
Being able to work remotely will hopefully get me across the finish line by 62.
By the way, I’m typing this so I can hone my skills as a writer. If anybody reading this wants to help an old writer dude out don’t hesitate to reach out if you need writing work done for your business. I write company newsletters, case studies, and blogs.
My advice to anyone wanting this type of lifestyle is to go for it! It won’t be easy, and it will be expensive, but you’ll live a most fascinating and self-enriching life.
The trick to doing this is with grit, determination, patience, and mentally seeing your future. It’s up to you how you make your reality!