“Don’t give people advice, because if they take it and it doesn’t work, they blame you.” I live by this saying. But it haunted me when I was trying to shift my family to their new expat living adventure abroad. It is here where I had the idea of devising a strategic expat master plan.
You see, I was the driving force behind moving my husband and (then) 16-year-old son to Thailand. This could have potentially been a risky business. I knew acutely that if they disliked anything at any point in time, that it may well be my fault.
So, I thought to myself, I must prepare, be positive and completely strategic… even manipulatively so.
I decided to unleash a “diabolical” plan that would positively ensure feelings of fun, freedom, and optimism to prepare for our new lives. If they felt like they were winning, I would be winning! I like winning.
I knew living abroad was going to be the best thing for my family, and with my plan, I was going to conquer all, and I would force them to live a life of adventure, freedom, and pleasure.
My master plan was simple: to facilitate ‘connectedness and comfort’ for our new journey. I figured if these particular needs were met, they would be ready for anything, and victory would be mine.
With feigned military precision, I designed my plan and did so with three phases in mind.
The Immediate Plan
Heavy negotiations took place around what each of us would take. As we were going to sell our home, we had a budget to ship a few things over. I think we only had a quarter of a container. I knew my son would want to take a lot of his things, but my husband was happy to forgo his allotted container space. Phew!
So, my son was happy. He could take his beloved book collection and bits and pieces from his childhood for memories.
We also made the family decision to take our cat with us to Thailand. After all, she is a family member. I knew, of course, she would help make the strangeness of living somewhere completely foreign feel like there was some normalcy. Win-win!
The Short Term
We were planning on purchasing property in Thailand, so we had to do a reconnaissance trip. That was awesome, because we could all sneak over a few of our most favored possessions, and they would be there waiting for us after our BIG arrival later on in the year. Comfort secured.
- There were two things I knew would make my husband and son feel happier immediately. First, my husband needed something he could enjoy while he was adapting to the country. So we bought a motorbike! It was his retirement plan to fix his old motorbike, but we had to let that bike go. So, he secured a 650 Kawasaki for under $10,000. Now he had something he enjoyed doing at the ready. Freedom secured.
- In a burst of family enthusiasm, we also bought a bicycle for each of us, so we could have fun exploring the area that we were going to move into. Five years ago, a bicycle only set us back about $60 each. Connection to the new area: Secured.
- For my son, probably the most important strategy was being connected to his friends back home. I had met a British teacher on an online forum. He could do some homeschooling with my son. He even taught him how to build his own home computer, perfect for playing computer games with his mates back home. Connection secured.
- The school search took us to a multitude of international schools, and the one we liked gave him a 3-week temporary enrollment. This was fabulous. It gave him something to do while we were taking care of all the things he would consider boring, like visas, and purchasing our house. Connection to the new life secured.
The Long Term
Things went well the first few months of our move. We loved our inner-city townhouse in Chiang Mai, Thailand. My husband was happy zooming around on his bike, exploring the nearby mountains, and my son was comfortable at his new school because of his previous trial experience.
But I still needed to get them more involved in things that would continue to make them happy. Let’s face it, nobody can complain when they are busy having fun.
- Entertainment decisions: we had brought over a thumb drive filled with movies and shows, but it was time to decide on our entertainment. We chose Netflix and Prime, and that certainly filled any void. Comfort secured.
- Social life decisions/husband: we found groups on Facebook and met a lot of expats, but my husband seemed happier finding his own expat pub and restaurant and meeting people there. Connection secured.
- Social life decisions/son: It took a while for my son to find the right group of friends, and he was happy enough at school, but I thought he needed more. So we found a fantastic martial arts school. My son has been training there for the past five years. It was a winner. Connection secured.
But these were just a few of my strategies to help my family meet their needs sooner rather than later. But my master plan worked brilliantly. They are happy, and I am happy, too.
How do you plan for your big move abroad with your family? Tell the expats on TCI about your strategy. We’d all love to know.
by: Rachel Devlin