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Preparing for your trip

My 1-Year Anniversary in Thailand + Book Review “12 Weeks in Thailand: The Good Life on the Cheap”

By | Muay Thai Training in Bangkok, Muay Thai Training in Phuket, Preparing for your trip, Training, Traveling | 6 Comments

Happy New Year everyone!  It’s crazy to think that 2013 is done with, which means it’s almost my 1-year anniversary in Thailand (Feb.1st to be exact).  While trying to figure out where all the time went, I made up a list of some highlights and goals achieved (this is a very condensed list).   This is also a reminder to myself to stay grounded and be grateful for the special opportunities life has afforded me.

  • Obviously my biggest accomplishment involved leaving behind a stable job & all familiar facets of my daily routine – and trading it in for an ex-pat life in Thailand – to try something “new” and be out of my comfort zone.
  • Did a 10-day silent meditation (vipissana) retreat at Buddhist temple Wat Ram Poeng, Chiang Mai.
  • Enrolled in Thai language school with classes 2 – 3 times a week.
  • Found part-time work for www.Aptivate.me – worked on projects for Chupa Chups and Movember (yes, the mustache fundraising campaign).
  • Traveled to other countries in South East Asia – Malaysia, Indonesia and Burma/Myanmar.

I’ve always enjoyed taking a step back and analyzing my past to see how it has shaped my current situation, as well as my future.  With that said, it’s interesting to see what I was doing exactly 2 years ago, January 1st, 2012.  As someone that’s into self-improvement/ human optimization, I subscribed to various newsletters…one of them contained a motivational speech on how to start the new year right and be a better man.  Immediately after watching the video, I decided to get off the couch and take action – try something new that makes me uncomfortable.  I searched Google for Muay Thai and chose a gym.  As you can see from the receipt, after my first free session on Jan.6th, I came back a week later to pay for another class.  This quickly became a passion of mine, which ultimately lead me to Thailand.

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Evolution_Muay_Thai_receipt

 Anyways, who is this man that became influential in my life choices?  He is Johnny FD, author of the book “12 Weeks in Thailand: The Good Life on the Cheap”  As a way to show my gratitude towards him, I purchased his book, even after I moved to Phuket.  Below is my review, which unfortunately has been sitting on my hard-drive since March, 2013.

If you plan on buying it (just $9.99), please use this link as I’ll get a small affiliate commission, thanks.   You can even check out the first chapter for free.

https://www.e-junkie.com/ecom/gb.php?ii=1196442&c=ib&aff=266642&cl=175058

BTW – Johnny now has a few other blogs that are geared towards “life-style design” ie. Tim Ferris and The 4-Hour Work Week.  They’re a useful resource to anyone considering a non-linear life or trying to get out of the 9-5 rat race (I wish these were around when I was grinding it out on Wall Street).  Definitely recommend them plus they’re all free.

http://www.johnnyfd.com

http://www.travellikeabosspodcast.com

 

Book Review – 12 Weeks in Thailand: The Good Life on the Cheap

Even though I’ve been following Johnny’s blog – www.myfightcamp.com for a while now and read almost every post he’s ever written, I still wanted to buy his book.  He’s actually one of the few people that “enlightened” me about having a better life in Thailand (he’s a pioneer in that he did this years before me) and I wanted to support his new project.

Recently, I moved from NYC to Thailand back in January of this year, on a perm basis. The book was good to have because I could use it to refresh my memory on all the little details in terms of packing and preparing for my big move (I previously made a short one-month trip).  The book is very comprehensive – it goes into detail as to where you should train, why, how to prepare, survive and make the most out of your experience, whether it’s one-month or one-year.

Although Thailand is comparatively cheaper than Western countries, Johnny talks about how to stretch your hard-earned dollars so you can stay here longer ie. tips on how to not get ripped off by taxi-drivers.  He even gives potential business plans should you decide to live here and need to support yourself.  The money you save will pay for the book itself.

Last year when I planned for my first trip, I spent most hours at work researching numerous blog sites for information (while my boss thought I was working, haha).  For me, this type of reading is actually fun..but for some people, this can be time-consuming.  I highly recommend picking up the book so all the information is at your fingertips in one-central location.  It’s a quick and easy read as well.

My favorite thing about the book is not just the critical information needed to plan a life-changing experience in Thailand, but rather the personal stories Johnny is gracious enough to share with the readers.  His experiences living “impoverished” off a fighters purse (income) and his romantic pursuits at the different island ie. Full-Moon party are very entertaining…big-ups to Johnny for having the balls to share these intimate details as I’m not sure I’d be able to do the same. 🙂

Do yourself a favor and stop being cheap (it’s only $9.99) – this book is for anyone thinking about visiting Thailand, whether you’re into Muay Thai or not.  The advice can be applied to any traveler.

If you plan on buying it (just $9.99), please use this link, thanks.   You can even check out the first chapter for free.

https://www.e-junkie.com/ecom/gb.php?ii=1196442&c=ib&aff=266642&cl=175058

Free-dom! – Farewell, Good-byes and on my way to the airport…

By | Preparing for your trip | 3 Comments

Friday was my last day at the office…the reaction from managers and colleagues ranged from shock to “yeah, everyone’s dropping like flies” lol…Being that I just finished my MBA, people thought I’d be making the jump from IT to the “business-side” ie. trader, research analyst or other fancy title at another competitor or hedge fund that pays some ridiculous salary.  But when they heard I was moving to Thailand to train Muay Thai full-time they were definitely caught off-guard.  Everyone was really happy & excited for me. 🙂

I worked for a UK bank which was later acquired by an Aussie one (Macquarie). The good thing about working for these global firms is that the people that work in these offices come from the other side of the world to NYC…they understand the whole experience of moving to another country and being in a completely different culture.  I also had an Exit Interview with the HR rep and she said this was the most pleasant one..usually people are bitter and not happy, lol. Luckily I’m leaving on good terms and didn’t burn any bridges.  Macquarie is a global firm with offices in BKK and other SE countries ie Manila, Philippines….My Plan “D” (after A, B, & C of course) would involve possibly coming back (but this is really if I’m desperate). It’s actually not that unusual here…one senior guy left to travel South America for a year then came back as a consultant.

Friday night at the office I stuck around til 8pm to send over hand-over documentation on projects I was working on and a farewell email to my colleagues.  For most of my career, I worked on the trading floor…it was definitely a stressful environment where people needed things done yesterday and every IT issue is a DEFCON 1!!! lol (“Wait, you’re yelling at me b/c your computer won’t turn on?”…BUT you didn’t even check the f**** power button?!?!  –  Mind you it’s 7 AM and I haven’t even had my coffee yet…Yes, I can be cranky, hahaha).  Fortunately I’ve been lucky to have worked with people who have turned into “friends” and developed these relationships outside of the office…this makes the grind that much bearable 🙂  I’ll def miss the inside jokes…sometimes I’d be crackin’ up at my desk typing in-appropriate jokes over Instant Messenger…hopefully no one ever monitored them, lol.

Besides the colleagues at work, I’m also going to miss all my other friends and family. When I started planning my departure for Thailand, I decided to leave right after the holidays…that way I could spend extra time during this special time of the year, which usually coincides with downtime from work.  One of the reasons January was busy for me was trying to say goodbye to everyone, which included friends from my hometown in upstate NY (Hyde Park), college friends (Binghamton Univ.), summer shore house friends (Belmar, NJ) and friends from my home of 8 years, Hoboken, NJ. I’d like to say thank you to everyone who took the time out of their busy schedules to take me out to a farewell lunch, dinner or drinks…because of you, I’ve gained a few extra lbs, missed the gym and had way too many hangovers,lol. It was also special that people (some whom I haven’t spoken to in years) sent cards, Facebooked, emailed, text’d and called to wish me luck. I truly feel loved and grateful for all the support from everyone 🙂 Leaving  the US is not easy, but when I have people behind me, it certainly helps.

It wasn’t til yesterday when I was packing up my apt that it hit me – I’M LEAVING!?!? HOLY SHIT!  WHAT AM I DOING?!??!  For the past 6 months I’ve been debating the decision, then planning for it…to be honest, the shock value of packing up and leaving kinda wore off. But now it’s starting to sink in.

Logistics
Yesterday my rents and aunt came to help me move out of my apartment. We loaded my mattress and boxes into my dads CRV and trailer. Luckily my good friend Leslie signed a new lease to my apartment and pretty much bought all of my furniture. A few other items were sold on Craigslist.  Winter clothes and some other keepsakes are being kept at my rents house.  Today I unpacked and packed up my final two suitcases.  Both of them are 50 lbs exactly and I have one carry-on back-pack.  I got to JFK/ NYC about an hour ago and now just waiting to board my flight to Doha, Qatar (12 hours), a 2 hour layover then board a 2nd flight (6 hours) to Bangers.  I’ll be spending the weekend there and meeting up with my Canadian friend Bill.  Then off to the beautiful beaches of Phuket (an island) where I’ll be based for the next 6 – 9 months.  Will update when I land.

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1 Week Left – Donating, simplifying your life and last minute errands

By | Preparing for your trip | One Comment
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, pickup van

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, pickup van

When people think of Muay Thai, they may think that it’s just a combat sport that involves people trying to hurt each other in the ring.  This is furthest from the truth.  To me, I view it as martial art and thus should influence how you conduct yourself not only inside the ring, but also outside the ring.  Being respectful, humble and “doing the right thing” are values that should be taken upon oneself…it helps me to be a better human being and grow both physically and mentally.  When it came time to figure out what do with my old clothes, it was a no-brainer to find a charity to donate it to.  The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation routinely promotes donation drives in Hoboken, so gave them a call…today I was able to give them 7 bags worth of clothing ie. t-shirts, sweaters, messenger bags, dress shirts, pants, shoes and suits, since I don’t plan on being in a corporate environment any-time soon.  And after witnessing the destruction Hurricane Sandy had on the Tri-State area, I figured somebody out there could use my stuff.  To schedule a pickup, please call 1-800-915-9955.  They accept clothes, linens, bedding, jewelry and misc items.  They will also provide you a receipt for a tax-deductible.

One valuable lesson my month-long trip to Thailand taught me was how to simplify my life.  Not gonna lie, I used to be somewhat of a shopaholic …with new disposable income, new ways were found to spend it – nice designer clothes, new electronics, watches, sneakers/ shoes, etc.  But with my new minimalist outlook, I’m trying to sell or donate as much as possible.  I don’t need material things to make me happy anymore and know what’s important to me.  This past weekend I was able to get rid of household items – my computer desk, 55in LED Samsung TV, old laptop, living room lamp and pots/ pans were sold on Craigslist.  My good friend that is taking my apartment is buying up the rest of my furniture which makes it even easier for me to move out.  This money will supplement my income since I won’t have a “formal” job anymore.  When Jan.30th rolls around and I step onto that plane, my goal is to have everything that’s important to me, fit into 2 suitcases (50 lbs max each) and one carry-on backpack.  Anything else will be kept at my parents house, ie. winter coats and long-sleeve shirts for when I come home to visit, ha.

The past few weeks have slowly started to pick-up for me with farewell dinners, drinks and lunches with office colleagues, friends and family.  But I’ve also been scrambling and trying to wrap up loose-ends for my big move.  And the nasty mofo’s at work got me see sick too…gross!

  1. New bank accounts were opened up so I won’t be hit with international fees – Charles Schwab high-yield checking (ATM fees are re-imbursed) to be used for cash withdrawals and CapitalOne Venture credit card (no international/ ForEx fees) to pay for things online and rack up travel miles.  Typical Thai ATM fees charge 150 baht which is about $5 US per transaction…plus your own American bank takes a 1 – 3% cut.  It adds up.  Some banks screw you on the dollar-to-baht exchange as well.  Why did we bail them out again!?!  >|
  2. Comprehensive international health plan with Integra (FYI – $1232 US per year / $104 per month) – This covers all over the world, except Canada & US (surprise! not…don’t get me started on how jacked up our dysfunctional health care system is).  Includes: Outpatient, inpatient, scooter accident, Muay Thai training/ fighting, air-lift, hospital stay, etc.
  3. Sorting through a different part of my apartment each night (kitchen, living room, bedroom, closets).  When it came time for my filing cabinet, I had about 5 – 8 years worth of bank statements and other financial information.  Nowadays, almost  everything is done on-line and in digital format.  Tip – Be sure to shred EVERYTHING as identity thieves would love this info.  I have a small personal shredder, but instead I brought in garbage bags of confidential papers and dumped it off at work.  My firm is a bank and have locked-garbage cans which are professionally disposed of by  Iron Mountain.  You don’t want to deal with your account being hacked!
  4. Change of address forms for mail, financial institutions, memberships, etc.
  5. Cancel cable, internet, electric, etc
  6. Medical issues – torn MCL, asthma meds, plantar fasciitis (got orthotics which were $500!), yearly checkup, blood-work, and vaccine shots (flu, yellow fever, typhoid and hepatitis).  Also had to see my dentist for my tooth implant and night-guard.
  7. Order vitamin supplements – I take about 6 – 10 pills a day and not sure how pricey they’ll be in Thailand or how regulated the industry is.  So packing a bunch with me.
  8. Thai visa
  9. Airline tickets and hotel bookings (will be in Phuket)

As you can see it’s been craaaaaaaaaaaazy!  And here’s how my last week will look:

  • Thurs – my firm is taking me out for drinks & H.R. scheduled my exit interview, hehe
  • Friday – last day @ the office & lunch with colleagues (probably hungover, lol)
  • Saturday – Dinner with Hoboken friends then partying at whatever bars
  • Sunday – Dinner at friends house
  • Monday – Finish packing up my apartment…then dinner with another friend
  • Tuesday – Rents pick me up and we move what little stuff I have to their house upstate
  • Wednesday night – Leave from JFK, NYC!

Hopefully I get everything done and survive.

-Chris

Twelve days to go…Double-entry Thai Visa secured and I’m legal! :)

By | Preparing for your trip | No Comments
My 2nd Thai Visa

My 2nd Thai Visa

12 Days to go!!! Picked up my double-entry visa yesterday and I’m legal for 3 months when I get there…then a border run to a surrounding country ie. Cambodia or Vietnam.

It’s fairly quick, takes about 2 days (one day to drop off, then next day to pickup).  The office is on 52nd between 1st and 2nd Ave (right next to my barber-shop, ha).  Bring the one page app, two mug-shot portraits and for a double-entry visa, it’s $80 US cash only.  This lets me stay for 60 days…then I have to find a consulate office and ask for a 30-day extension.  When that’s up, a border-run is needed.

For info on how to get your Thai visa, go to the Consulate website: http://www.thaiconsulnewyork.com/english/index.php

How to save $$$ on passport photos – CVS & Duane Reade typically charge $10 – 15 to take a 2 x 2 passport photo pic, which is needed for travel docs.  Instead use your own digital camera, then crop them to exact dimensions using this free website:

http://www.epassportphoto.com

Finally, save the file to your USB key and bring it to a self-service picture kiosk at CVS or Duane Reade…it will cost you $1 !!!

Good luck

New Year, New Chapter…Moving to Thailand :)

By | Deep Thoughts, History & Culture, Preparing for your trip | 28 Comments

I retire!

It’s officially a wrap…Today I handed in my resignation with a smile on my face…for the past 8 years in NYC, I’ve worked for 3 different Wall St.  firms.  This past Spring, my MBA from Baruch was completed.  The next chapter in my life begins January 30, 2013 when I permanently move to Thailand.  🙂

1 year ago, I decided to make up a New Year’s resolution, which is rare, since I’m a firm-believer that self-improvement should be constant and not relegated to one day of the year.  This time I wanted to hold myself accountable in experiencing something new that was outside of my comfort-zone…thus Muay Thai was Googled and after reading some reviews on Yelp, Evolution Muay Thai gym in NYC was chosen.  The first class was not easy to say the least.  Mind you have I have asthma and previously experienced 2 separate incidents  of a collapsed lung.  But I got through it.  After a week of rest, I was interested in experiencing more Muay Thai pain…for the next 4-5 months, this process was repeated every Saturday or Sunday, as I would trek an hour from Hoboken into the city to get my fix…I only missed 1 class due to sickness.  At this point, my addiction was obvious.

After 4 years of balancing a full time job and grad school, my MBA was nearing completion.  And so began the process of planning some much-needed time off…My last real vacation was a year ago to Ibiza…so why not treat myself to a month long holiday in the birth-place of Muay Thai…Thailand!?!  I could train, sight-see and just relax…and it was long enough for me to really immerse myself in Thai culture, something that is very important to me when traveling, as I hate isolated resorty type of get-aways.  But in the back of my mind, I had also been looking for change…somewhere or someplace to start the next chapter in my life.  I found myself asking: did I really go through 4 painstaking years, just to change career paths, start at the bottom of the corporate ladder and grind it out again for the next decade?!?!  Am I prepared to make more sacrifices to my health and well-being?  The answer that kept coming back was a HELL-NO!

To be honest, I have good job with an Australian investment bank (don’t mistake this for a walk-in-the-park, the position is still very stressful and numerous times people have tested my patience) and live in a nice apartment.  During the recession, I survived numerous rounds of layoffs and was able to move into better positions.  But at this point in my life, it’s not about the money anymore…it’s not my main motivator, nor what makes me happy.  Now it’s about my passion, my goals and my dream.

So what exactly will I be doing in Thailand? Since returning from my trip 6 months ago, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this question and coming up with a plan (which usually occurred between the hours of 9-5, Monday – Friday, lol..kidding!)…

#1 – Obviously my passion is in Muay Thai.  I want to train full-time, meaning both morning and afternoon sessions, 6 days a week.  And with this training, step into the ring to fight, once or twice a month.   The form and technique that veteran fighters showcase, whether it’s during pad-work or against a live opponent, is both stunning and beautiful to watch. I want to achieve this same level of perfection…or get as close to it as possible.  My dream would be to compete at the Mecca of Muay Thai, Lumpini Stadium (Bangkok) before it’s set to shut down in 2014

#2 – Enrolling in a formal Thai language school to learn to speak, read and write.  Now that I’m going to be living here long-term, this is a vital step in fully immersing myself in the local culture…thus allowing me to further develop my relationship with the Thai people.

#3 – Working on my meditation/ mental strength training/ spirituality…during my last visit, I attended meditation sessions which helped me to relax and think clearly.  I also believe that there are valuable lessons to be learned from Buddhist values and traditions that are prevalent throughout the country…I not only saw this in how people act and treat each other, but could also feel it.  Eventually I’d like to attend a 10-20 day silent retreat.

#4 – Volunteer work ie. teaching English or working with orphans.  At my current job, I lead the “Winter Wishes” campaign, which collected holiday toy donations for kids throughout NYC.  I also helped teach a class at an elderly home on how to use computers and technology.  After Hurricane Sandy hit my home-community, Hoboken, NJ I spent a Saturday volunteering at city hall.  I realize that I’m blessed and don’t have to face certain problems, but there are still other people out there suffering.  I’m a big believer that everyone needs to do their part in helping the world become a better place.

#5 – Digital/ Internet Marketing…I did a dual MBA concentration in Finance and Marketing and plan on putting this knowledge to use through my side business ie. SEO  The work can be done via laptop, while sitting at the beach, ha.

I’ll leave with this clip I saw on someone’s Facebook page: What if Money didn’t matter

Sabai, sabai 🙂

-Chris

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