When most of us think about traveling with family, I guess, it’s an usual 1-2 week holiday spent in one place that comes to our minds first. But it’s possible to do it differently. Let’s take for example this adventurous Latvian family’s journey.
Last autumn they made a decision and moved to Thailand for a year. To live there and to travel to neighboring countries from there. This way learning more about local culture and having more time for traveling. Well, when you are in Thailand already, then even a longer weekend is enough to visit let’s say Myanmar, something that wouldn’t make any sense while living in Europe.
Continue reading and you will learn, how you can do it yourself, too! As in this interview we are talking also about the practical side of such a move, including cost of living in Thailand.
– Please, tell us a little bit about yourselves!
We are a young Latvian family of three – Karlis, Kristine and Emma. And about a year ago we decided to take a break in life and step out of everyday’s never-ending cycle, moving to Thailand. Because we believe that colorful world experience is a great treasure.
– Are you working in Thailand?
Yes and No. Actually we are still working in Latvia. When planning this adventurous step, we were ready to quit our jobs and just go for it. But luckily we were able to manage to continue working remotely. Not as much as back home in Latvia, but enough to help us financially to travel more and see more of Asia.
– Moving to Thailand with family – whose idea was it?
It was a cold, rainy autumn day in Riga. We had just returned from 2 weeks vacation in Thailand. And that’s when we asked to ourselves – wow, what was that? What should we do to return for more…
We were thrilled by super-friendly people, nice weather and delicious food. We wanted more of that. And soon after our return an idea popped up in my (Karlis) mind. What if we skip Emma’s first school year and go out for old-schooling instead?
Only how to support it financially?
– Tell us about your previous travel experience!
We’ve traveled criss-cross Europe, been to USA. When I went to Asia for the first time (with my mate Normunds) I was amazed by what I saw. We traveled to Malaysia, Singapore and Bali island in Indonesia.
During this trip I fell in love with hot and spicy Asian food, and the way how they are dealing with everything here.
Two years later we visited Thailand together with Kristine (without Emma this time), and that was a breaking point. We came to conclusion that yearly 4-week vacation just isn’t enough for us. But what can we do about it?
– How long it took to turn this idea into reality?
Almost a year. First three months were necessary to carry out this idea in our minds. But first big step was buying one way tickets, and then introducing our plan to family and friends.
We put together like a puzzle all the small parts of information that we could find on internet about living in Thailand. Got our visas from Thai embassy in Oslo. Then sold our car, got rid of unnecessary stuff, saved a bit of euros and rented out our flat.
– Did you face any significant obstacles during this period of planning and preparation?
I can say that everything went well. Though we had an issues of getting back our passports from Thai embassy in Oslo, but at the end it worked out well, too.
– As I know, initially your plan was to be in Asia for 1 year. Has it changed?
We’ve been thinking a lot about this.
Now we can confirm – we will return this august. Emma will go to school in Latvia.
– Where have you been during the last year?
Our idea of traveling was to do it slowly, to explore more in depth, to understand culture and to learn language.
4 months we have lived in small town surrounded by the mountains and rice fields – Pai (Mae Hong Son).
Now for 4 months we call Chiang Mai our home. And for the last 4 months we plan to settle down in Krabi in Southern Thailand, to explore more of the Andaman seaside and beautiful islands.
We have explored most of the Northern Thailand.
We’ve been to Myanmar. Traveled with our own car to Laos. Met inspiring people everywhere. Now we’re looking forward to travel to Vietnam, and to go by car to Malaysia.
– How it is to travel with a child?
At this age it’s easy. Emma is now 7 years old. And I can say that Thailand is the most welcoming country for children. Thais just love children. For them Emma is like the most beautiful child – white skin and long curly hair.
Seeing her, they often say “Laaw” which means handsome. When we go to some remote places like villages in mountains where they don’t see white people too often, they are double surprised seeing Emma. Though in Myanmar at some moment it started to feel quite disturbing, because everyone rushed just to touch the white skin.
She’s used to that traveling lifestyle now. Would it be an 11-hour flight, 8-hour bus drive with locals in Myanmar or crossing of mountains in a trunk off a pickup truck.
We were concerned about how Emma will react to Thai food, as it tends to be quite spicy.
But there is always non spicy options to choose from. Pretty much everywhere you can get “Khao pad”, fried rice with an egg and vegetables or Chinese noodle soup. Of course there is also available western food in supermarkets and restaurants.
While we were traveling in Myanmar Emma was eating only plain rice all the time and had no stomach problems unlike us.
– How Emma feels about living in Thailand and traveling around?
She’s a very curious little girl. She loves the never ending summer, tropical flowers and animals living here. Beaches, palm trees, warm water. She’s interested in Budhist temples and pays a lot of respect to this religion.
I think this will be an unforgettable life experience for her. And that later she will continue to explore this beautiful world herself.
Of course she misses her friends in Latvia. But now she can easily make friends no matter which language they speak or what is their nationality. She speaks fluent English now. And it took her only 4 months.
While parents are working, Emma is also doing homeschooling in Latvian. We got all the materials for first graders. So, when we return, Emma probably will start school from the second grade.
– .How much does it cost to live in Thailand? What is your monthly budget?
Thailand is a very big country (2000 kilometers from North to South). And the prices vary through out the country. The North is much cheaper than South and Bangkok. Tourist spots tend to be much more expensive as well.
Get away from them, eat like locals do. Don’t expect to have pizzas and hamburgers but instead visit local markets, buy fresh tropical fruits. It will help you to lower your costs.
Although Thailand is much cheaper than Europe, there are things which cost you more than back home, especially imported Western goods like wine, cheese and chocolate. Thailand is famous for it’s street food. It’s all fresh and delicious and costs just 20-60 baht per plate (0,5-1,5eur). Lots of curries, different meat on the sticks, grilled seafood, fried rice, noodles, fresh fruit smoothies are available here.
Our 3 person family’s budget is about 1000 eur per month (40 000 baht).
Here is our monthly budget breakdown:
- House rent – 175 eur (80 sq.m., 2 bedroom) (in the outskirts of Chiang Mai);
- Electricity bill – 14 eur (for 150 units (kWh));
- Water bill – 4 eur;
- Drinking water from the reverse osmosis filter station – 1 eur/month;
- 15l gas tank for stove and shower heater – 10 eur;
- Home internet 30 Mbit download/ 3 Mbit upload – 20 eur/month;
- Mobile internet (3G) – 3GB/month – 11 eur;
- Food and household items – 400 eur/month. Breakfast and lunch we make at home from the fresh goods from the market. Every night a dinner we have out in the town (5-6 eur for 3 persons). On weekends we have 2 meals out;
- Petrol and LPG for the car – 70 eur/month (0,60 eur/l patrol; 0,4 eur/l for LPG);
- Scooter rental on the weekends – 20 eur (including petrol). 24 hour rental costs 2,5-3,5 eur and 1 eur you pay for damage insurance;
- Emma’s kindergarten – 120 eur/month (three days a week);
- Emma’s art classes – 22 eur/month (one day a week);
- 2 Local trips – 220 eur/month. Short trips on weekends for 2-4 days with stay in hotel rooms, 3 meals a day and transportation costs. We choose the hotels with triple rooms, starting from 12 eur for simple, small, but clean and air conditioned room. Spacious comfortable room with hotel pool and breakfast costs about 30 eur.
– 5 places you would recommend to visit in Thailand
It’s hard to recommend some particular spots you must definitely visit, because people and interests are so different. An important thing is – don’t build up expectations about places you go, just go and embrace yourself with everything around you.
Thailand has more to offer than you can imagine – it’s not only the beaches. Thailand is so diverse country, with lot of places of interest. Get off the beaten track and see for yourselves. Beautiful nature, mountains, waterfalls, remote villages, ancient history, rain forests and interesting wildlife.
You can follow the journey of this Latvian family on their Facebook page – Gap Year Latvians.
All photos used in the article are taken by Karlis or Kristine.
Author: Kaspars Misins
Kaspars is a long term traveler and travel blogger from Latvia. He loves going on long walks, reading non fiction books and spending time outdoors. Together with his girlfriend Una they are traveling – volunteering – working abroad since 2013. On WeAreFromLatvia.com they share their experience and things learned along the way.