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This week’s guest post for the ‘Day-to-Day’ series comes from Lucy, a British expat who’s currently working and living on Koh Tao, a small island in Thailand. If you’re an expat and interested in sharing the day-to-day details of your city, shoot me a message at thepaperplanesblog @ gmail.com.
Koh Tao Stole My Heart. That’s the translation of the Thai writing lovingly etched in ink on my arm, the meaning of which remains a mystery to any Thai person who tries to read it….’Koh Tao….stole your heart?’ I guess that phrase just doesn’t translate.
Koh Tao did indeed steal my heart when I first came here in 2014 with my boyfriend after six months of non-stop travelling, and a severe need to slow down. It wasn’t in the plans to visit this tiny little dot in the Gulf of Thailand let alone come back six months later, and again three months after that to live.
My day starts early. Which is insane, because back in London, I loves me some sleep and would never be considered a morning person! My boyfriend wakes up at 5 am to go diving, and if he ‘double boats’ he won’t be home until about 5.30 pm at the earliest. I try to keep the same hours as him so that I don’t become a diving widow! It serves another purpose, though, as I like to start my day with a run from the jungle to the beach, before the intense Thai heat kicks in.
Breakfast is often cornflakes (I know, not the most nutritious!) which I prepare at home with a giant mug of tea. If Oli and I happen to have a morning off together, we’ll hit up Greasy Spoon (my fave hangover spot on the island) for a big, hearty ‘Full English’ which is so big it doubles as lunch too. We do have a kitchen (a Thai style outdoors one!) however we have absolutely nothing in it bar a kettle! It’s not expensive to eat out, around 50 THB a meal (£1) and as we live on an island, stocking up on groceries to cook with isn’t usually the cheaper option.
The bulk of my day is spent indoors, as I work from home but I try to sneak out and get some sun when I can. The beaches here are beautiful, and there are so many secluded little spots where you can sunbathe in peace. My favourite is Freedom Beach which has huge trees growing out of the sand, so you get a bit of natural shade. Over the past two years, I’ve been working hard on my blog, and it’s paying off as I can support myself financially through various freelance writing and social media roles that have come my way. Before I left the UK, I wasn’t even remotely in a position to call myself location independent and relied on various temp roles to supplement my income. Making such a big career change is scary, so I try to remind myself of how far I’ve come if I have a ‘meh’ day!
I’m not great at organising my day, and find it pretty easy to slip into a Pinterest-hole or get lost on Buzzfeed for hours. I guess that’s the downside to working online, and to combat this I have to rigorously schedule my Google calendar by the hour so that I don’t dilly-dally. Although let’s be fair; as downsides go, it’s not the worst.
One of the surprisingly frustrating things of living on a small island is just that, how small it is. I’m an introvert at heart and struggle within the confines of the tight-knit ex-pat community who live here. There are benefits, of course, and I try to embrace help when it’s offered without feeling as though it’s an intrusion. As with any ex-pat community, there can be an edge of ‘I was here before it was touristy’ and that’s something I have to remind myself to ignore. Needless to say, while my love for Koh Tao hasn’t diminished, my longing for city life has increased tenfold. Life out here isn’t stressful by any means, but the re are times when I crave home comforts and to be able to do something as simple as drink water from the tap. I am often heard bemoaning the lack of a ‘proper brew’ as only a Brit abroad is won’t to do. That being said, I could never afford to indulge in weekly massages in the UK so I guess it’s a pretty sweet trade off!
When my working day is done (which is never, as I procrastinate way too much!), I hit one of my favourite spots for a quiet drink and some sunset porn! There are still a few secluded spots on the island, despite how busy it has become and I have to pinch myself sometimes at how lucky I am to live here.
Post-sunset dinner remains my favourite meal of the day for a few reasons: Oli and I get to catch up, and we are spoilt for choice with options. I used to be vegan, so we sometimes head to a great vegan Thai place run by a lovely French/Thai couple or one of the other amazing, and cheap little Thai places around the island. Having travelled through Thailand extensively since 2009, I know my massaman from my laab moo! I also know that you don ‘t get much for your baht in the south, particularly on the islands which can be frustrating. Even the 7-11’s down here have a markup!
For now, Koh Tao still has my heart, but one thing is certain; I’ll be bringing back stacks of tea bags, Jaffa Cakes and underwear on my next trip home.