by Codie Kostechka (July, 2008 – July, 2009)
I moved to Surat Thani, with my husband Caleb, mainly to have a year of adventure and to immerse myself in a completely different culture. We travel a lot, but miss the beauty of becoming part of a foreign community. The rewards of becoming an insider, instead of a tourist hitting the hot spots recommended by Lonely Planet, are tremendous and cannot be found during a two to three week vacation. We also needed a change of pace. Caleb and I are both teachers in the States; we both love our jobs but they can be stressful. It felt like life was flying by too fast and we wanted a year to change it up and slow it down. Our year in Surat Thani has definitely achieved these goals for us.
What a different year! For the past year I’ve read zillions of books, played music, ridden by bike, played games, traveled, made friends, stayed in touch with friends and family back home, taken naps, snorkeled, explored, attempted to learn a language, gotten into yoga and have eaten the most wonderful food. I’ve had almost too much time for myself (i.e. addiction to Facebook). Teaching here is a full time job, but when it’s done it’s done. I don’t take any work home and I certainly don’t take any stress home. Back in the US, I would make excuses for not exercising, not riding my bike to work, not learning Spanish, not reading books for pleasure, etc. Here there are no excuses (well I guess you could say it’s too hot…it really is hot) There is enough time to learn how to play the guitar, become a Reiki therapist, fall in love, become a dive master, organize social events, cook farang food at a local bar— whatever makes you happy. And there is definitely enough time to travel and explore Thailand and the surrounding countries. Super English teachers have a lot of time to travel throughout the year (the downside being making less money, but personally, I’d rather travel). I think this year, in a culture that has a much slower pace and a different focus on what it means to be happy, will help me create a more balanced life back in the States. For that alone, I’m glad I came to Surat Thani for a year.
There are many other reasons I’m glad I took a break from normal life and spent a year in Surat—too many to mention in this brief note. Probably the main reason I found the year to be rewarding was living in a typical Thai town (I ♥ Surat Thani). Becoming somebody other than a tourist in a foreign country isn’t easy, but completely worth it, and living in Surat it’s a goal that can be achieved. I love having some sort of other status in this community other than a traveler “stuck” in Surat Thani for a night on the way out to the islands. The locals in Surat are overall so kind and appreciative that people chose to spend a year to teach their children and community members. When I speak my very bad Thai to people or when they learn I am a teacher, doors of friendship and understanding are opened. Surat Thani has enough of everything to be a nice home base for a year. There are plenty of foreigners to bond with, but not too many. There are things to do, but quick escapes to fabulous tourist places when the city gets a little stale. The food and night market scene is untopable, and there isn’t a week that goes by where I don’t discover a new place to check out.
I recommend checking out teaching in Surat for a year. Good luck!