The story of what happened when we went back to London after 15 months away in Thailand
A typical scene from our life in Thailand
Since starting a new life among the people of North Thailand, we have thought little of going back to London. After 15 months in Thailand, we have made a name for ourselves as the Man, Woman and Dog that travel around in an old car making cinematic videos about the things we experience. In Chiang Mai people ask to take our photo and say how much they love our stories and movies. We get emails from people thanking us for the things that we do and share on the internet. It feels good to be around such a positive vibe. That is what life is like for us in Thailand right now.
During our time living in Chiang Mai, we have grown accustomed to certain things. The heat and the sunshine, the people and the landscapes to name just a few of them. So when we planned to return to London after 15 months away to renew our B Type Visa, we weren’t sure how to feel. We just bought our flights, got some travel insurance, left Eden in the care of our friends and set the plan in motion.
Eden looking at Mooshu the cat at our friends house
Eden feeling right at home with Chris’ stroke
We sat in the departure lounge at Chiang Mai airport, staring out of the window at the little puffy clouds sitting on the top of Doi Suthep. A little twinge of excitement ran through us at the thought of being reunited with family and friends.
We stood and made our way to the gate where the lady at the counter gave a coy smile. She tore the ticket stubs and pointed the way to the aircraft. Just as we began to leave she stopped us and said almost in a whisper, “I really love your videos, thank you.” We boarded the plane knowing that somehow we were doing something right.
The view from Chiang Mai airport
Then things started to change…
As soon as we boarded the Bangkok to London flight there was something very different about the people on board. Everybody seemed agitated and standoffish. Nobody was smiling or laughing and there was a sense of tension all around us. Almost immediately a European male passenger shouted at me for not putting my camera bag in the correct slot despite his one being totally empty. I moved the bag and sat down, turned to Sacha and said, “I don’t like how this feels.”
Leaving Thailand behind
After 16 hours of travel amongst people whose holidays were clearly at an end, we touched down at London Heathrow. The same place that we left with Eden over a year ago to start our new adventure. Predictably the skies were grey and overcast with cold rain drops falling from the sky, exactly how we remembered it to be. But things were about to start getting better.
Reunited with my mother
My mother and oldest brother were waiting for us at arrivals and we were whisked away into the heated Peugeot 206 for the hour journey back to ‘Sunnyside Drive’, the home I used to know and grew up in.
Sacha sharing a joke with my mum on the journey home
It felt strange to be back at my parents house, back in the room where we packed all our belongings into two backpacks and sold the rest. Not much had changed in that time and it made us imagine how our year would have panned out had we not decided to move to Thailand.
Sitting down for breakfast with my parents and looking out of the patio door at my mums’ garden, we planned out our stay. We spoke about our life in Thailand and our future plans. We talked about ‘settling down’ and how those two words will never really apply to us in the traditional sense, and we explained how if our plans work out the way we want them to we will always be doing some kind of travel (even if we have kids). The conversation was inevitable but it was nice to be able to explain things properly in person. They seemed to absorb our answers with excitement and acceptance, having seen firsthand how we were really trying to craft something new out of an old mould called life.
Having a chat with my mum & dad
The following 10 days were packed full of activity. My brothers had taken some time off of work to spend with us and show us our own city from a tourist’s perspective. Because that’s how it felt in a way, we were tourists in our own country. We had no car or motorbike and relied on internet research to make the most of our time in England. We explored the city of London in a day, visiting museums, famous buildings, cathedrals and bridges.
Us at London Wall
We went to the eerie wasteland of Dungeness on the coast of Kent, met various friends and family for meals out, we saw ‘man of steel’ in special DBOX Cinema seats that simulate the action on the screen, ate Indian food at the famous Brick Lane, lost £10 on roulette at London’s only casino, had an Epic BBQ dedicated to our return and played Ping Pong at a city bar in central London.
Discussing Tactics at Bounce Bar London
Getting such an intense exposure to friends and family was a good way to help us remember the people that we left behind when we made our decision to move 8000 miles from home. But it was hard to suppress the thought that if we weren’t planning to return to Thailand, what would our lives become? Would everything we had worked so hard for in the past year go to waste? Would ‘8 miles from home’ work in England?
Sach in the Abandoned Tractor at Dungeness, Kent
Most of those questions will never get answered, because we did do it. We took the risk and threw ourselves at the mercy of the world in the hope that maybe this time, the reward would outweigh the challenge. Someone once wrote a phrase that said “life will always take the path of the least resistance if you don’t steer its’ course,” and that saying rings true for everything we have experienced on our adventure so far. It even showed its’ relevance to the people we spoke to in England whose lives hadn’t changed in the slightest since the day we left. Some of those individuals were content with that, others weren’t. But the fact remains that if we hadn’t taken control of the direction our life was heading in, it would veer off onto a path that we didn’t choose and maybe never achieve the things that we are all capable of, but most never try.
As my time came to an end in the UK I became charged with a new enthusiasm for the goals that we were pursuing in Thailand. But I also came to a realization of the importance of those relationships I had spent the last 28 years of my life building in England. Family bonds and real friendships take a long time to properly form, and my return visit to see those people helped me to understand the effect our decisions can have on them too. One of my more honest friends told me that he has seen and heard people that we barely interact with, being influenced by our dream chasing move to Thailand. That information came as a surprise to me, but it was a good surprise. It was further ammunition and reason for us to keep on trying. To keep producing videos and exploiting the limits of our creativity, to never give up on finding the lifestyle that makes us happy and content. Because ultimately I believe that is what all people crave, to find a lasting inner contentment.
Jmayel El-Haj – 8milesfromhome.com
Services we used on our trip to the UK
This trip back to the UK was a last minute snap decision that we had to make due to a change in our work circumstances. So everything was organised quite quickly. We decided to use British Airways this time (instead of Thai Airways) because we wanted as direct a flight as possible which cost us more than we wanted to spend (£890 each!). We also knew that we would be bringing back some rather heavy / valuable camera equipment so the extra 3kg luggage allowance helped.
Also we usually always forget to buy insurance until the very last minute and this time was no exception. But on our way back from the UK to Chiang Mai we were recommended to purchase Travel Insurance from Debenhams Finance to cover the equipment that was in our checked luggage, along with all the other disasters that can occur when you travel. Thankfully we didn’t need to use it this time.
We Flew Domestic from Chiang Mai to BKK with Bangkok airways instead of Air Asia this time and found their flights to be very reasonable and comfortable. On the Air Asia website flights always seem cheaper but once you’ve added all the luggage costs per flight it actually adds up to be more than flying with BKK airways who include the luggage cost in the price of the ticket. We would use them again.
- Return flights to the UK from BKK (Return)
British Airways – www.britishairways.com
- Domestic Flights from Chiang Mai to BKK (Return)
Bangkok Airways – www.bangkokair.com/eng
- Travel Insurance (Single Trip Cover)
Debenhams Finance – finance.debenhams.com