Hey Everyone, Junior and I are back from our 5 week trip to Thailand. It was a good trip, but traveling isn’t as much fun as it used to be. That’s surprising because I was crazy about traveling when I was younger. Traveling meant seeing new places, meeting new people, eating out all the time, and getting away from work. What could be better, right? Well, I’ve suspected for a while now that I’m going to like travel less as I get older. That prediction came true on this trip.
In my 20s and 30s, I loved traveling like a backpacker. Mrs. RB40 and I used to pack lightly and we’d gone off on various backpacking adventures. We’d stay at cheap hostels, move to a new location every few days, and haul our backpacks everywhere. This style of traveling was thrilling for us. We maximized our vacation and saw a lot of the world that way. Now, backpacking isn’t as much fun anymore. We probably have to change the way we travel to really enjoy it again. This last trip was the least fun trip I’d ever taken. It was good, but not great like previous trips. Moving every few days was not fun at all.
Having fun wasn’t our primary goal
Of course, I probably shouldn’t compare this most recent trip to Thailand to my previous travels. Fun wasn’t the primary objective on this trip. The main goal was to help my mom resettle in Thailand and visit her relatives. Viewed through these lenses, the trip was a huge success. My mom is doing amazingly better in Thailand than she was in Portland. The warmer weather, familiar language, and friendly faces made a huge difference. Our primary objective was accomplished.
Having fun was the secondary goal. On that front, we were somewhat successful. We had fun, but having fun was much harder than I thought. There were some obstacles in our path.
- RB40 stayed in Portland because she had a few things to deal with. The trip would have been much better if she came with us.
- Traveling with an energetic, fidgety 7 year old boy wasn’t easy. Our interests rarely intersect. He wasn’t very interested in the things I wanted to see and do and I had to do a lot of convincing before we went anywhere.
- My mom’s health was always in the back of my mind. At the beginning of the trip, I had to keep a close eye on her. Just getting to Thailand with a layover in Los Angeles was a long trip already. Once in Thailand, we moved from city to city in order for her to visit all her siblings. Her condition wasn’t good with all that moving around. We weren’t sure if she could transition well to life in Chiang Mai, our final destination. If it didn’t work, then I’d have to figure out an alternative very quickly.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom, though. We visited several places I haven’t been before and we ate so much delicious Thai food. We did have some fun.
Thai food at the local market.
5 weeks in Thailand
So what did we do in Thailand on this trip? Well, our trip was divided into 3 parts. Let’s go through them.
Part 1 – Visiting family
My mom hadn’t visited Thailand for 5 years and she wanted to reconnect with her siblings on this trip. I thought that was a great idea. However, this entailed a lot of driving and moving around. We visited 5 locations in about 2 weeks. It was stressful for everyone.
We stayed with relatives most of that time and I felt like we were imposing on them even when they insisted we stay with them. They all have their own lives and problems to deal with and I didn’t feel right staying with them. It was good to see my relatives, but I didn’t like moving around so much.
Part 2 – Settling in Chiang Mai
After we visited my mom’s relatives, we went up to Chiang Mai where my dad lives. He volunteered to take care of my mom. This was the easiest option for everyone. There were other options, but they would have been more difficult.
In Chiang Mai, we all stayed at my dad’s condo, a studio. It was too small for 4 people, but we could handle it for 2 weeks. I needed to be nearby to help out anyway. Actually, this was the best part of the trip for me. We didn’t have to move around and we could explore the area in depth. I even had time to blog a bit in Chiang Mai.
My dad’s condo is near the Nimman area and there are plenty of things to do. RB40Jr enjoyed going out in the evening after dinner. We walked to have dessert, listen to free music, play games at the arcade, shopping, and more. In Portland, we rarely go out after dark. There aren’t many things for kids to do at night here.
Part 3 – Adventuring…
For the last week of this trip, Junior and I went adventuring on our own. I figured we’d hit the beach and explore Bangkok for a few days. I didn’t research much and found a couple of cheap tickets to Phuket so that’s where we went. Phuket is Thailand’s biggest island and there are beautiful beaches there. It is a very popular destination. Mrs. RB40 and I visited about 20 years ago, but I don’t remember much about it.
On this trip, I wanted to explore the less popular part of Phuket and booked a hotel near Kata beach. This location is a bit further south from Patong, the busiest beach in Phuket. Kata beach is beautiful and shallow. It was the perfect place for families with kids. I thought it’d be less busy there. Unfortunately, the less busy part of Phuket is still super busy. There were tons of tourists on the beaches. (Interestingly, 90% of the tourists were Russian.) We had fun, but it would have been a lot better if it wasn’t so crowded.
Also, Phuket is super expensive. The food cost about twice as much as in Chiang Mai and tasted a lot worse. Patooey! No wonder, I didn’t see any Thai tourists there. I don’t think we’ll go to Phuket again. It’s too popular for me. (Okay, I exaggerated. We had a couple of good meals there.)
Oh, Junior had fun at the beach so that was good, but he got tired of going to the beach by the 3rd day, though. He just wanted to stay in the hotel room and watch YouTube and play games on the tablet. I had to drag him to the beach, but once there he always had a lot of fun.
Next, we explored Bangkok for 3 days. First, I had to take care of some business. We went to visit 2 nursing homes in case my mom needs more help in the future. Unfortunately, the patients in these nursing homes are all older (80s), many are bed bound and need serious assistance. It looks like Thai people don’t send their elders to a nursing home until it’s the last resort. There must be a more active retirement community in Thailand, but I haven’t found it yet. I’ll have to keep looking.
After that, we visited the Erawan Museum, Wat Po, Wat Arun, the Sea Life aquarium, and various super malls. These were all good and Junior didn’t complain much. It would have been a lot more fun if Mrs. RB40 was with us, though. She would have helped entertain Junior and minimized the conflicts.
Lastly, we had a 20 hour stop in Hong Kong on the way home. I booked a tiny hostel in Kowloon and explored the nearby area. We really didn’t have much time, but at least we had delicious dim sum and visited the famous Temple Street Night Market. Junior was tired of adventuring by then and complained ceaselessly. I got mad at him and we had a little scene, not good. Anyway, that was the last part of the trip and we got on our flight home early the next morning.
So while we did have some fun on this trip, I think we’ll need to modify the way we travel in the future. It was too tiring to deal with Junior and keep moving around. Here are my ideas.
- Stay in one place longer. Instead of moving every few days, it will be easier to stick to one place and get to know it more.
- Mrs. RB40 really needs to join us. I need Mrs. RB40 to help out with Junior. We have too many fights when I had to supervise him 24/7.
- Minimize transit time. The last week was fun, but it felt like we spent a bunch of time at the airport, on the train, in a taxi, and on buses. Transit is not fun.
- ??? What else can I do to make travel more enjoyable again?
The one thing that’s clear to me now is that the backpacking isn’t a good fit for us anymore. We’d better take it slow and relax more. Also, my life in Portland is pretty close to perfect. It’s not as fun to get away as when I was still working. Why leave when things are really good at home? Maybe RB40Jr will be a better traveler as he grows older. 5 weeks is a long time away for a little kid.
What about you? Do you enjoy traveling? Is it less fun than when you were young? Have you changed the way you travel over the years?
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Source: Retire By 40
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