At various times in our lives, we stand poised at the edge and wonder, should I jump into the unknown in a leap of faith, in pursuit of a dream?
One of the happiest days of my life was to be found in the closing years of my childhood, whilst I still lived at home with my parents and brothers in a stout house filled with flowers in a little seaside town in southern England called Southsea.
My younger brother and I took the train to school, and the train meandered through sleepy little towns and villages with names like Hilsea and Bedhampton. In the afternoons, we hung around the small town square or decamped to the beach with our friends, armed with a portable disposable barbecue kit and music. We’d whiled the whole afternoon away, drinking cheap cider.
Later, when I met my children’s father – he was from London but he came to my hometown to study Portsmouth Polytechnic – some of our most magical times were spent here, on the beach.
And one day almost four years ago whilst living in a big city, we decided on impulse to give our youngest child the same magic that we had experienced in our youth: we didn’t want her to spend the remaining years of her childhood incarcerated in a busy city. We wanted her to know sunsets on beaches and to recognise the smell of the ocean. We wanted to fill the closing years of her childhood with loveliness. We didn’t want her to grow up in shopping malls, so we moved to an island with only one mall.
We arrived in Phuket. We opted for a very simple life, because in the first year, we were jobless and had to pay hefty school fees. I was surprised at how easily I adapted to my new life and how lovely it is to wake up looking at the sea. I did not miss the city and its conveniences, despite living in an island without the conveniences. There are no direct flights, UK food are a lot more expensive here than it is at home (or even compared to Kuala Lumpur), and because of language barriers, we struggled quite a bit. Books have to be imported and would take weeks to arrive; if they arrive, that is. Internet connection where we live is so bad that it is impossible to get TV programmes at home – we have to go to sports bars to watch English Premier League matches on their TVs.
But I have never been happier. And on the whole, this is the best we could give our youngest daughter.
Her life revolves around her school, boyfriend, football, church and island life. Teenagers here don’t spend that much time in Central (the only shopping mall on the island), but instead, they find other things to do. An ice rink opened recently near the school, and they hang out there. A couple of weeks ago, my daughter’s friend had her 18th birthday on the beach. My daughter and her boyfriend explore the islands around Phuket. She often comes out sailing with us. We find that we complain if we have to sit in the car for more than 30 minutes – whilst living in the big city, we needed at least 30 minutes to get out of our town. The word ‘traffic jam’ has disappeared from our vocabulary. We walk to the beach instead of driving for at least an hour to get to a rubbish-strewn one.
“That’s Chock Dee Island,” she told us, pointing into the horizon. “It means good luck in Thai.” Suntanned and healthy, she looks a fearless island girl, comfortable and at home with the elements.
But what I cherish most is our walks on the beach and sundowners before going home to our little eyrie for dinner.
My daughter has missed out on concerts, opportunities and all the trends that are only found in big cities, but moving out of one is the best thing I have ever done. Even though it had been a personal struggle on my part to get her into medical school, as she currently attends a non-selective school. This is the one sticky point for me, given that she had previously attended one of the top schools in the world (as ranked by the Guardian) and getting into a UK medical school would have been a breeze, had she remained in the school: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2006/dec/12/publicschools.schools
But despite the challenges on the academic front, those past four years had been nothing short of magical, and am quite sad that they are coming to an end.
So if you are thinking of doing something as crazy as this, let me tell you, it has been worth it (in my case). It’s been amazing.
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