How to Chuck In Your Job and Move to Thailand

move to Thailand

I have never been one of these gung-ho change your life kind of people until, that was, I chucked in my job, gave away my car and moved to the other side of the world with my wife and two young children. The bizarre irony is that I have worked all my life, as a counsellor and teacher helping other people change their lives. It was time to put my money where my mouth was.

At the age of forty two, with a comfortable middle class life, nice safe job teaching at a university and running a private counselling practice, things were just fine…kind of.

I had always dreamed of being one of those people you hear about who just up sticks and move to some exotic location the other side of the world where they proceed to have a wonderful stress free life pursuing their dreams running a wild life sanctuary for gibbons, or something like that. The problem was that, not only did I lack strong feelings towards gibbons (although I quite like chickens which doesn’t quite sound the same), but to be honest, really honest, I am not very good at changing.

I guess like most of us I want the end result…the stress free following your dreams bit, but without the risky angst riddled change that precedes it.

On nothing more than red wine fuelled fancy, my wife and I decided that if we were going to do something different with our lives before the children got too old, we should move to Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand where we had spent a grand total of three days the year before as part of a family holiday. It sounds as mad as hell but we just thought it was really nice; friendly people, sunny weather and the shop assistant in the duty free at Chiang Mai airport was so kind and smiled at me with such enthusiasm that it almost felt wrong not to move there. And so we did.

What made it possible was remembering some basic things that I teach as part of a large body of therapeutic work which could loosely be called “Motivational Counselling”, which is really all about how and why we change.

One of the basic interventions is to “explore extremes.” To think about the worst scenario if you did decide to go through with whatever change you are thinking of making, and then to think about the worst thing of not changing.

In a moment of rare grown up thinking I realised that actually the worst thing would be that we didn’t like life in Thailand and would simply move back home. The worst thing about staying the way we were and not changing would be that I would forever live with that little nagging thought at the back of my mind “what would it have been like if we had changed our lives and moved to Thailand?”

I really wanted to find out. I really did. What did we have to lose? A job…I could get another? A car….the insurance was too much anyway? Airfares? It felt worth it.

Another strategy that I used on myself, which was passed on to me by Bill Miller (a counsellor and theoretician who was instrumental in breaking new ground during the early days of exploring the links between motivation, change and counselling) is something I have asked others to do countless times. It really worked for me and may well work for you too. There are many versions, but this is quite specific; imagine that you have made the change and life is good, write a letter back to yourself , as you might to an old and close friend, explaining exactly how you were able to do it, what made the difference and include any helpful little tips and hints.

It’s a simple exercise but helped unlock a whole load of things that I kind of knew but didn’t really see as that important. It helped me put my anxiety in it’s place and not be ruled by it. It helped put things in perspective, but most importantly it really gave me confidence. I almost began to feel that I had already done it!

Once we made our minds up, the rest was easy.

And this simple little idea is really what the whole of motivational counselling is built upon. It’s what I do for a living, it’s how I see the world and how I think change works, and now I’ve proved it to myself. I have put my money where my mouth is, taken my own medicine, and it worked.

I really do believe that change hinges upon making our minds up. Once that is achieved, the rest, whatever it is; moving abroad, giving up drinking, losing weight, getting fit, getting married…all falls into place. We will move heaven and earth to get to the finishing line, we’ll do whatever it takes… if we really want to. The real problem is that often, deep down, we don’t.

Photo by plugged mind

38 thoughts on “How to Chuck In Your Job and Move to Thailand”

  1. I’ve quit jobs three times to do other things with my life (one of which included moving to Chiang Mai for 2 months).

    I still remember the reaction of many of my co-workers the first time I quit. Person after person told me: “Wow, I wish I could do what you’re doing”. Of course, they could have. But they weren’t willing to make the lifestyle changes and/or take the leap of faith.

    Congrats to you and your wife for being brave enough to take the leap! Enjoy Chiang Mai!

    1. Many thanks Ed
      Quitting jobs and relocating 3 times must have been hard work. I’m guessing though that having done it once you kind of know what to expect.
      Is there going to be a fourth….fifth?

  2. Great piece! Glad I did all these things before I too, made the leap. Just one year ago I was at work in NYC and knew I wanted change. So here I am in beautiful San Diego (three months in) and so grateful I did! It really was one of the bravest things I’ve ever done and proved to myself I’m capable of change and facing my fears of it. I am so much stronger for it and no longer wondering “what if?” I’m living it and loving my life! Thanks for sharing your story. I am so passing this on to a few of my friends!

    1. Hey, Mariann
      You sound really happy and I am pleased for you. Your excitement at overcoming fears, making a huge life change and living the life you want to lead is an example to so many. It is really important to get out from that “what if” syndrome isn’t it. I have met so many people now who really want to make a big life change but never get round to it, I thought that I would be one of them too but like you somehow just took the plunge.
      Thanks for writing and glad you enjoyed it. Keep on changing.

  3. I once told my husband that I wanted to move to the country and live on a farm. He responded by giving me plant fertilizer, a gardening hoe and a hat a few weeks later for my birthday. And that was the end of that.

    I’m actually quite happy living my little suburban life with my kids and friends and setup, so I’m not feeling the pull to move anywhere quite yet, but I do love hearing stories like this!

    1. Hi Rosanna

      I’m sitting here still laughing at your first paragraph…what did you give him in return?

      If you do ever feel like making the move to the country to live on that farm at least you wont get sunburnt while you’re hoeing the fertilizer.

      Enjoy your life and best of luck with your move if you do ever decide to go through with it.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.


      1. It was my birthday, so nothing but a perplexed thank you in return. And while slightly off the mark when it comes to birthday gifts, it was well intentioned and shows that he listens to me and all of my crazy ideas. And I still have the hat.

        1. I once mentioned to my wife that I thought it was a good idea to have a trouser press in a hotel room (not that I have ever used one as at the time I didn’t even have a suit). On Christmas morning I found myself unwrapping a super large and super heavy parcel and spent the rest of the day staring blankly at a huge trouser press.
          Enjoy those presents Rosanna.

  4. Really inspirational article! It can seem really frightening, but we have to learn to trust ourselves and have the courage to take the plunge and go for what we want. Life is too short to live a shadow of our potential selves, so live it to the fullest :-)

    1. Hello to Pathway to Personal Development

      Thank you for reading and taking the time to respond.

      Yes, I agree, it’s just often so hard and scary though isn’t it. It’s like the washing up, and homework, it’s all too easy to put off till tomorrow. As a child I grew up listening to my grandparents talking about moving to the country. They had it all planned out, even down to what vegetables they would grow and how many chickens they would keep. It was only when I grew older that I realised that it was just a dream and they would never leave their semi-detached house on the outskirts of a big city.

      As you say, it is important to live life to the full, it’s just that sometimes, like the washing up, it feels too much like hard work. I guess that’s when we need the extra help or push.

      Many thanks for your thoughts.


  5. Alex,

    What an inspirational story! Sounds like you enjoy really doing what you love, helping others. What a neat vacation idea, to help people make change and support them when they get back to their normal environment. (I read your website)

    I made a change last year, and I find it amazing that people who know me, don’t really believe I want a career change. I was so good at what I did, that they had a hard time believing I wanted to start with a whole new set of skills.

    I just added the skills I had to ones that I already have. This gives me a unique perspective that offers we a way to be different in my new field.

    I hope your family loves living in Thailand.


    1. Hello Susan

      Glad you like my story and our web site. Yes, its quite true what you say, I have talked to so many people who have been successful in their careers; airline pilots, lawyers, journalists, bankers, actors…all very good at their work and successful in every way in their chosen field but just want to make a change and do something different.
      I was at a conference recently in Bangkok at the American Embassy and interestingly in the opening speech the ambassador emphasized that we are moving into an age where people will move through 3 different careers in a life time, so you still have another one after this to get through. Tell your friends that! This is just the beginning.
      Many thanks for taking the time to write, and best of luck with your new chosen field.

  6. South East Asian Expat

    However the article doesn’t make mention of the recent law amendments which are distinctly anti-foreigner, from the tightening up of company registration laws, to onerous labour laws and now an increasingly restrictive immigration policy.

    If you’re planning on relocating to, or retiring in these parts, things might be a little different to when you first made the decision to move here.

    1. Hi South East Asian Expat

      Yes, I keep hearing that things are changing…no more 90 day visa runs??? Can this be true…where will we all do our Christmas shopping?
      We are really lucky to have a great attorney who has looked after us and our business…visas, work permits etc…What has been most frustrating for me though is the change in the UK passport system. I used to be able to toddle along to the consulate in Chiang Mai and then courier the forms off to Hong Kong. It took just 3 days last time when I did it for one of my children. Next year though we will have to go down to Bangkok and make an appointment at the embassy. Such is progress!

      Thanks for taking the time to write.


  7. hi alex

    Thanks for your article. i’m intrigued by your advice and am going to give it ago. i.e. explore the best and worst case scenarios and write myself a letter from the best case scenario.

    i have made a number of life changing moves including leaving an abusive marriage with 4 teenagers, leaving my job of 22 years for a small pension, travelling and moving to a city i love to live in, so although i see myself as a pretty sedentary person i can move when the decision is made.

    the problem i have is i just can’t shift a growing weight problem. it seems this requires a different kind of decision process. i have lost weight in the past and it did feel similar to my previous big decisions but it doesn’t last and my body takes over and auto corrects like a bad groundhog day novel where I’m back in my old marriage, old job, old town. Why can’t i change myself as easily as my circumstances.

    your thoughts would be greatly appreciated


    1. Hello Precious

      Thank you for your thoughts and taking the time to write.

      I would certainly try writing that letter to yourself. Imagine that it is 2 years from now and that you have managed to lose the weight that you want and everything is working out well. How did you achieve it? What was it that made the difference? What is it exactly that you need to do to change as successfully as you have in other parts of your life?

      Almost always we know the answers, it’s often a case of digging them out and acting on them.

      Very best of luck with your mission. Let me know how you get on.


    1. Hi Colin

      It sounds amazing. I wonder where you would be now if you hadn’t taken that plunge and made such a big change. I think making a big move like this is a lot more difficult with young children. Having that extra dimension of responsibility adds to the stress of having to make things okay.

      I’m really pleased that your business is working out. Long may it continue.

      Thanks for writing in and thank you for the link.


  8. That last paragraph is golden. “We would rather be ruined than changed;
    We would rather die in our dread
    Than climb the cross of the moment
    And let our illusions die.”
    ~W.H. Auden

  9. Dear Alex,
    I have left secured positions in my life already four times and started new things which I loved.
    Last month I left the final secured position of life and have come to quite an under served area of India, to start my new venture. At my age of over fifty, I am enjoying what I am doing. Many times my mind tells me if I am going to succeed fit the one last time. But every morning I tell my mind that I have never failed to swim across. I will do so this time too.

    Thanks for this wonderful piece.


    1. Hi Jess

      I’m thinking of you out there in India. I was in Delhi and Jaipur recently, I love India, but it’s certainly hard going at times.

      You sound determined to make things work out for you yet again. Starting a fresh four times over is an incredibly tough thing to do…and make it work out each time. I have the utmost respect for this Jess. I know how hard it is and wish you every success.

      Thank you for reading my story and taking the time to write.


  10. Hi Chas

    Nice quote…it’s not one that I’m familiar with, so thank you.

    I do believe that long term change does rely on simply making up our minds first of all. It sounds simple but is always much more difficult in practice. I think we often pretend to ourselves that we have made our minds up but deep down know that we are still hopelessly undecided.

    Many thanks for taking the time to write, and am of course glad you appreciate the article…especially the last paragraph.


  11. Hi Alex,

    Read your story and looked at your bussiness website, I´m really happy that you made your life change decision work smartly…
    I quitted my Job 2 years ago to travel the world for 15 months , travelled arround Asia (loved Chiang Mai) and some Pacific Islands… and I can tell you this ! It´s so hard to go back to your old life once you tried the sweet taste of freedom and experience every day a bit of a new culture. I guess once you get out of your comfort zone, life changes forever and routine stops being an option.

    Best of luck!!



    1. Hi Fernado

      Glad you like Chiang Mai. It’s funny, it has always felt like home to me, even after just 3 days.

      Everyone has told me that the longer you stay away the harder it is to return. I think for the most part it’s probably true, especially Chiang Mai where people are friendlier and not so jaded as in the bigger tourist areas of Thailand.

      Enjoy that freedom Fernando…where are you off to next?

      Thanks for writing and glad you enjoyed my story.


  12. I agree with what you said and that’s exactly what I try to teach people – it’s all in the mindset.

    If you compose your thoughts in a certain way, everything else will follow. If you develop a “can do, I’m awesome” way of thinking, you will find yourself full of energy, positive attitude and confidence in whatever you do.

    1. Hi Phil

      Yes, I really do believe that change is all about motivation. If we want to do something badly enough we will. We might need to learn new skills, get information or other stuff along the way but the real driving force of change is motivation.
      I just know for myself that when I go into something not entirely convinced that its what I want to do, with my heart only half in it, things hardly ever work out well.
      Thanks for taking the time and writing in Phil and sharing your thoughts. It is appreciated.

  13. I’ve been reading the Change Blog for a long time, but this is the first time that I am commenting on here. I’ve always wanted to live and/or study abroad, but kept putting it off (for about ten years) for one reason or another. It wasn’t until earlier this year that I realized the only thing that was preventing me from actually living my dream, was myself. So I got a work travel visa, hopped on a plane from Canada (my home) and came to Sydney, Australia. It’s day three for me, and although I’m in awe of the city, a large part of me is freaking out over finding a place to stay, getting working, and making new friends (I’m really shy). Writing a letter to myself is a great idea, and in the end it will reassure me that everything is okay, and will be okay if I have faith in myself that I can do this.

    1. I’m so pleased to hear this Shelly. I think it would be pretty weird if you didn’t feel like freaking out. From Canada to Australia is a big old leap. There’s a large part of me too that still feels like freaking out, I think it’s okay and comes from just being way out of familiar territory. I remember what my old Dad used to say “anything worth while is never easy…if it was everyone would do it.” Well done you for making the move. When in doubt keep things simple.

      Many thanks for taking the time to write, and very best of luck with everything in Australia.


  14. Hi Alex,

    I loved your article! I also love Chiang Mai, having lived in Thailand for 5 years. I left Canada in the 80’s when it was unheard of for a professional woman to quit her job and marriage then leave the country. It was the best thing I ever did! I have been global gypsy for over 25 years and see no reason to stop. Love your encouragement and wonderful advice. I encourage everyone to follow their inner pullings. Life is only a series of choices and experiences, have many!

    1. Hi Carolynne

      The odd thing is that I think I am the last person on earth to do such a thing. I never considered myself to be much of a traveller and moving away felt enormous…still does actually. I suppose though we make up our journey as we go along and sometimes breaking out of the mould happens on purpose and sometimes by complete accident.

      It must have been an enormous jump for you to leave Canada when you did. In my increasingly ageing mind the 1980’s was only yesterday…it always comes as a shock to realise that its nearly 25 years ago. It really feels to me that the longer I am here the harder it is to go back. I hear people say this but it is beginning to feel very real.
      Many thanks for reading the article and taking the time to write.

  15. Hi Alex, I’ve done a counselling course at college and I’m in the middle of clinical psychology. How much experience is needed in these fields to make a move and get a job in Thailand? My husband is also a security officer and is 11 yrs older than me. So I’m not sure how things would be with him. I’m 41 next month and my other half is 52 in July. I’ve had enough of the UK and being ex forces and always on the move I hated the UK. Your help and reply would be much appreciated. Kind Regards mags

  16. I will be moving to Thailand in the next three years. My girlfriend is Thai, and we plan on living in Udon Thani in the same home town as her family. I absolutely love Chiang Mai (it was the first place I went when I visited Thailand). I wish I could take the leap and move there today, but I need to save my nest egg up a little before I go.

    1. Hi Gary

      Best of luck with the move. I really hope all goes well for you. The weathers hot at the moment and has been a bit smokey with forest fires. Just waiting for the rains now to clear everything up. I would think carefully about whether you both want to move to Udon Thani or Chiang Mai. They are quite different and a fair distance apart…perhaps you could have a base in both! I think that’s what I would do.
      Anyway, really hope it all works out well for you both.
      Cheers for now.

    1. Hi Wendy

      Hope it all works out for you, let me know how it goes. I think the hardest part is the actual moving. Life soon trundles along as it usually does, but a lot hotter!
      Very best wishes for your move.


  17. This is a great story and one I wish I had the courage to do. I have had these change/lost type feelings for a LONG time now, hence the reason I am on this blog. I live in Glasgow Scotland and have dreamed of moving abroad many times but have never taken the plunge. I am married with a young 6 year old son.
    My wife and I travelled south east asia for 3 months in 2008 and we loved every minute. Our dream would be to live in Thailand. My concern for moving to somewhere like Thailand is what do I do for a living and my sons schooling. Do you have any advice Alex? I have worked in the television industry for 13 years but am also an apprentice instructor in martial arts. My wife is a trained beauty therapist.

    1. Hi Paul

      I think as with so many things it comes down to money. Education is expensive in Thailand, but there are good schools around and depending on where you are there’s lots of choice. As for work, without knowing more about you and your situation its difficult to say, starting up your own business will need about 60k GBP to get a work permit and get it all up and running…could you teach media at college/ university? Set up your own production company or work for an existing one here? I don’t know, I’m just guessing (which may not be that helpful) , but in Thailand where there is a will there is a way (or so my company attorney says!). Happy to help more if I can Paul, or advise on any specific questions.
      Take care up in Scotland.

  18. Hi I have been wanting to move to Thailand with my boyfriend who speaks Thai for a while now so stumbling upon your story seemed like fate. I am in the process of getting my masters in MFT and after that I want to move. The thing is, I was wondering if there are a lot of job opportunities for me out there?

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