People are always asking me why I chose to live in Thailand. Although there are lots of reasons, they really all came down to a feeling that this was “home.” I first visiting the country more or less on a whim in 1987, and the feeling was almost instant. The best explanation I’ve ever found for this feeling can be found in a book by W. Somerset Maugham: Moon and Sixpence, a novel very loosely based on the life of Paul Gauguin. Here’s what he has to say:
“I have an idea that some men are born out of their due place. Accident has cast them amid certain surroundings, but they have always a nostalgia for a home they know not. They are strangers in their birthplace, and the leafy lanes they have known from childhood or the populous streets in which they have played, remain but a place of passage. They may spend their whole lives aliens among their kindred and remain aloof among the only scenes they have ever known. Perhaps it is this sense of strangeness that sends men far and wide in search for something permanent, to which they may attach themselves. Perhaps some deep-rooted atavism urges the wanderer back to lands which his ancestors left in the dim beginnings of history. Sometimes a man hits upon a place to which he mysteriously feels that he belongs. here is the home he sought, and he will settle amid scenes that he has never seen before, among men he has never known, as though they were familiar to him from his birth. Here at last he finds rest.”
That, at least, is as good a description as any of how I felt 25 years ago when I first visited Thailand, and why I moved to Bangkok five years later. It wouldn’t exactly be truthful to say I still felt that way. I still love Bangkok, but the feeling that this is where I belong has faded over the years. Perhaps people change as they get older, or maybe I’ve learned what I came here to learn. I’m not making any plans to leave just yet. I’m just open to the possibility that it’s in the cards.