I had visited Australia before – I have old friends that have lived in Perth for years, as well as other friends scattered across this huge country. I also have many Australian friends who I have made either though work or diving, so I had a very good insight into what the country had to offer. With enthusiastic optimism, high expectations and general excitement about a new stage in my personal life, in late November 2012, I packed up two bags and my bike and headed to Perth.
Perth is a gorgeous city and one of the world’s best kept secrets. This is probably due to its isolated position both in relation to the rest of the world and within Australia. Perth is of course famous for mile upon mile of stunning beaches and a vibrant economy, driven by the mining and the oil and gas sector booms, as well as more steady economic drivers such as agriculture. I had done enough research and advance ground work to evaluate there were opportunities and a market for my skills. Plus there were of course other reasons that drew me to Perth.
Summer was just getting under-way when I arrived, so I wasted no time embracing the beach lifestyle so unique to Perth and part of Australian culture. You can read about my first attempts at boogie boarding here. I also investigated another essential element of Australian culture at an annual camping exhibition. The size of India, Western Australia is one of the worlds biggest camp-sites and you need to be serious about camping if you want to explore the state, as you can see here.
Another element of Australia I was keen to see and learn more about was the wildlife. Although not indigenous to Western Australia, I saw the resident colony of koalas at Yanchep National Park. You can read about it here. On my regular cycles from the Northern Perth suburbs to Yanchep I also saw kangaroos, either peeking at me from the edges of the bush, or as road-kill. I also saw reptiles such as lizards and snakes, again as road-kill. Outside the urban sprawl, Australia really is a huge wilderness.
During my stay, I was in a northern suburb. Perth’s economic growth was reflected in its housing development north and south of the city centre. Each suburb pretty much looked the same. Single storey homes, fake lakes, small strip malls with essential shops and services plus fast food outlets and a pub. Larger suburbs had fantastic sports centres and bigger malls. A train service connected the north and south suburbs to the city centre, so most of Perth was pretty accessible.
On the professional front, I did have some success to a point. I was fortunate to have a small handful of utter diamonds in the Central Business District who offered superb encouragement and opened doors for me. However, the reality for a prospective migrant presenting myself to the economy just as a downturn hits in an election year was not good a good combination for me. Cracking Perth professionally was a tough nut, I wasn’t from Perth or had permanent residence.
My initial optimism and enthusiasm started to turn to despondency. This was a first for me. Despite offering so much and so many words of encouragement before arriving, Perth became a huge disappointment on several levels, including the personal front.
Although there was an air of inevitability about it, making the decision to leave was a very difficult one. So I packed up. Again. It was a very sad day when I left Perth in mid May 2013, and despite all my luggage, I think I left a bit of myself behind in Perth.
The last time I left anywhere unexpectedly was Afghanistan in 2005. It is coincidence that on both occasions I have headed for Thailand. This time, it was because I have some friends here, obtaining residency was very straightforward, the cost of living is extremely reasonable and it is a lovely country – also with amazing beaches.
I live about two hours by road from Bangkok in Rayong province, and about 4 km from the beach. My house is in a small Thai village and this is my “office” view…
My cats arrived from Abu Dhabi a few weeks after me – here is Latte exploring after the journey…
Life here is obviously very different and I am gradually adjusting. Language is my biggest challenge. Despite mastering a little Macedonian and Arabic, I find Thai incredibly difficult to pronounce. But I seem to get by. I make almost daily trips to the local markets, which are amazing, and am picking up essential Thai there i.e. numbers! Here is typically what I can buy for 300 Thai baht – about £6 or US$10
… and here is my Thai mussel man… a bag of his ready to eat delicious mussels is 30 baht – 60p or US$1!
… and when I go to the Friday market, I have the bonus of feeding one of the local elephants… I have very private views about this, but I still feed it and stroke its trunk.
As the food is so good in Thailand, I try to keep fit and run with the local Hash House Harriers every fortnight. Road running is OK but the street dogs are a pest – they seem to be everywhere and I don’t like running near them as they can quickly become vicious. Hashing is new running for me, as it is in the jungle and I often find myself running though banana and tapioca fields. No more clean shoes!
Overall however, the jury is still out on Thailand. It has many charms and the people are incredibly kind, but I am not close enough to “action” and had a few distractions during my first few months here… for example, I am no good riding a scooter….
…and I am now one cat down. Thai street dogs really are vicious…
I also received news about my friend Clare Francis two weeks after arriving here.
Thailand however is a lovely country, is good for the soul and really is the land of smiles. I am just getting on with things and developing my communications consultancy, The Jungle Compass. I am also starting to do a bit of regional travel, as part of my business development activities. I really do love this part of the world. There is so much diversity, incredible food, great weather – and of course diving!
The last 10 years have been great and I have met so many wonderful people and made some life long friends. I am also very thankful for those friendships, particularly over the last few months. I don’t know what the next 10 years will bring, but there are two things I do know – I am done with packing and moving about, and want to stay in one place … preferably near the sea….