One of the best things Thailand has taught me is how little I actually need. This realization has also exposed how much I’ve always had.
(Last year, I decided to count my dresses. Guess how many I had…)
My first full-time job, teaching middle school English at a public school in Texas, paid me way more money than I needed. Yes, there are lots of teachers in the US who don’t make enough money, but I was not one of them. And while I didn’t buy anything expensive, I bought a lot of dresses. Why? Buying things feels good. (This is why Worchihan and I only go to the mall when we actually need to buy something.)
In Thailand, I make significantly less than I made in Texas and I’m married, so I keep a much better eye on my money than I used to. And you know what? Thailand is a fantastic place for foreigners who don’t want to own much or buy much. Why? Let’s take a look…
1 Living spaces are much smaller than those in the US
I love that I have a legitimate reason for not buying a lot — it won’t fit in my condo! Our condo is 365 square feet (34 square meters) and I don’t particularly like boxes stacked to the ceiling. I don’t really like stuff and am constantly trying to get rid of it.
This means that our seasonal decor consists of 2 wooden reindeer and that many of the gifts we’re given (teachers get quite a few) are passed on to others who actually need them. This means that I buy only Kindle books (when they’re on sale for $3 or less); I can buy an actual book only when we’re traveling as a souvenir (this is a rule I made for myself).
2 Living spaces are usually furnished
My Texas apartment was furnished by my parents’ extra furniture; except for a Walmart-cheap dining table and futon I bought with a roommate in college, I have yet to buy furniture. I know the American dream is to own your own house, but that’s never been a goal of mine and I’m more than happy to not fill our condo with furniture we’re just going to have to sell whenever we leave Bangkok.
Furnished also means appliances are included. A fridge/freezer (smaller than an American fridge but big enough), a microwave and a washer came with our condo. Most “kitchens” do not come with ovens/stoves, so we bought a 30L oven, a hot plate and a rice cooker.
3 Public transportation in Bangkok is fantastic
Bangkok might have the most public transportation options of any city. I’ve already written a post about all the ways you can get around Bangkok so I won’t go into it here, but Worchihan and I both love taking the bus or the train for a day out exploring Bangkok.
I can’t tell you how much I don’t miss having a car. No gas stations, no ridiculously expensive (and maybe unnecessary) repairs, no inspections, no insurance, no accidents, no overheating at 10 PM in Dallas on a school night and having to pull into a scary gas station, no driving in the snow, no driving on black ice, no getting stopped in Texas with a North Carolina license when I’m home from college in Florida because I forgot to turn my lights on…
4 The sun makes a great dryer
I lived in Fiji in high school, which is where I first learned how to harness the power of the sun to dry clothes. Guys, you just hang your clothes on a line and it dries! Hanging clothes outside to dry is standard practice in Thailand (this is what our balconies are for) and, if possible, I hope to never use a dryer again.
5 Air is also a pretty great dryer
I dried my hair every day during my first few years in Thailand. Now Thailand is extremely hot and drying your hair just adds to the heat — I’m not sure why I didn’t give up drying my hair earlier.
6 No carpet means no vacuum
Thailand has very little carpet — of the places Worchihan and I go to regularly, the only place that has carpet is the sanctuary of our church. I had a small vacuum at my apartment before we were married only because I’m not a great sweeper, but Worchihan’s an excellent (and consistent) sweeper and the broom takes up a lot less room than the vacuum. Also, the broom is about one-tenth of the price than that little vacuum.
So to recap, you can’t own a lot when you live in a small space. You don’t need to buy furniture if renting in Thailand. All the public transportation options in Bangkok mean you don’t need a car. And dryers, hair dryers and vacuums just aren’t necessary.
Wherever you are, what do you live without? Let me know in the comments. (Oh, and when I counted my dresses, I was horrified to find I had 40. Let’s just say I don’t have 40 anymore.)