How Bangkok Sucked The Sabbatical Out Of Me

My wife and I spent all of 2015 on “sabbatical”.

I type “sabbatical” in quotes instead of sabbatical without quotes, because we were our own grantors of said “sabbatical”.

You might say we quit our jobs and absconded our responsibilities as productive members of American society, only to travel the world as freeloading bums. That’s a fair cop. But I like the term “sabbatical” better.

Without sponsorship/endorsement/blessings of our plan from our employers, we were left to figure it out on our own. We weren’t too worried about jobs when we got back. I’ve made my living in digital strategy for the better part of two decades, while my wife is a college professor and curriculum designer. Both jobs are always in demand, and the experiences gained during a year long, globe-hopping “sabbatical” would more than fill that missing gap on our resumes.

So we quit, sold everything — quite literally — and started traveling as frugally as two 40-something professionals well beyond the age of backpacking could manage and still keep the lifestyle to which we’d grown accustomed.

Easy? No. Doable? Quite.

And then, just as we were happily enjoying the near lack of responsibility that can only come with a slow travel style… Bangkok happened. Or as I like to call it, the beginning of the end. I’m tempted to call it love at first sight, but that ignores the fact that we’d fallen in love with cities before. Copenhagen. Brussels. London. Santiago de Compostela. Barcelona. All of these cities had us wrapped around their finger while we were there, beckoning us to return. But it was only for Bangkok that we became completely entranced.

Da Nang, Vietnam tried very hard to entice us, with its beautiful landscape, fantastic pho, and nascent tech scene. Hong Kong nearly won us over with its international appeal and reliable infrastructure. And Australia’s Brisbane and Sydney enticed us with gorgeous beaches, exotic wildlife, and… well, everyone speaking English.

But really, it was no contest. Bangkok had us hooked when we first set foot in the country last May. Even the next three months spent in rainy, tiny Ranong couldn’t break us from the spell Bangkok had cast upon us. That spell intensified in October, as we spent the entire month here, prowling from Bang Kapi to Bang Rak, Chatuchak to Chinatown, Don Muang to Suvarnabhumi, and Khao San to Khlong Toei.

Bangkok’s next-door neighbor Pattaya couldn’t compete. Neither could the cross-country cousin Phuket. They both have their charms and we’ll visit often. But they’re no Big Mango.

Oh, we know you smell a little funny in certain areas. We know you’re not as young or as fresh as you used to be. We accept your surface flaws, your sagging infrastructure, and your tendency to spread a little with the years.

Happens to the best of us.

We see your socio-economic chaos, your 40% condo occupancy rates, your 40 baht tuk tuk scams, and we understand you have problems. We don’t expect you to be perfect. And we’re willing to forgive you as you make a few slips along the way.

Because we’re with you, Bangkok. You’ve sucked the “sabbatical” out of us, and we’re happy to be inside you. At least that’s how we feel about it six weeks in. I suppose all those quirks could become pains shortly. Well… too late. We’re in it for at least a year. Let’s see how it goes.

Welcome to us, Bangkok!


Featured image is by Simon Marussi and used under a Creative Commons licence