Thailand has a wonderful culture, and the people here are amazing. It’s warm, and there is a lot to see. No one seems angry here. They don’t even blow their horns at one another during high traffic times. Yelling? No one does that. It is a place where the small stuff is definitely overlooked. It is very easy to do “stress-free” here.
However, as a foreigner, there are various types of visas to stress about. If you don’t pay attention carefully, you may find yourself in trouble. Many of the visas allow foreigners only to visit for a set number of days. As a foreigner in Thailand I am required to leave the country every 90 days, although it works out to be closer to every 60 days. For each cycle (unless you manage to get a visa that is longer) you must leave, and then apply to return. If you overstay your visa requirements by even one day, you can be banned from re-entering for a full year or more.
The wonderful thing about this is it forces you to see other countries around you. The bad thing about this is it forces you to see other countries around you. As a patient battling chronic fatigue, chronic pain and frequent doctor visits, this is not always convenient. Keep in mind that traveling, even when you are well, comes with its own set of stresses. I essentially get two months of stress-free living, and then I am required to travel because of the regulations controlling my visa.
A few months ago I went to Hong Kong, and the people were awful to me. I was lost in the city for four hours with no one willing to help me. I finally found two men who helped me navigate the public transportation to get me to where I needed to be. Talk about high stress and a potential trigger.
As I write this column, I am sitting in a coffee shop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was here that I had to run back and forth to the copy shop to make sure I met the requirements of the embassy. I was in severe pain when the day started, and then I managed to find an uneven stretch of sidewalk to fall and slide across. In addition to lupus pain, I also have a sore knee, hand and elbow from my fall. The option to slow down was not one I was afforded because the embassy will only issue visas at specific times. If you miss the appointed time, then you have to book new flights and extend room stays. More stress.
I share this story because I have had a lot of people ask me about moving abroad. I tend to share the fun parts of moving abroad, but make no mistake; its not all fun for those of us battling a chronic illness.
Each time I take a flight, I get paranoid. Lupus likes my heart, and it seems being in those lovely compressed tubes known as airplanes for extended periods always causes my heart to do somersaults for a few days after landing. It can be scary traveling to a new country every few months. There are language barriers and cultural differences of which you need to be aware. Thailand is a mostly Buddhist country and Malaysia is a mostly Muslim country. The cultures are very different, yet the same.
Moving and not knowing where you can get help, who you can rely on, or what to expect because of language and cultural differences, can be quite stressful. If you are thinking of moving abroad do your research. When you start talking to ex-pats who live abroad, make sure they DO NOT have property that they are renting. They will always make it sound like the best place in the world because they are hoping you will rent from them. Be sure to speak with someone who lives there, but has nothing to gain and will be truthful with you.
Be sure to learn about the culture. Unfortunately, many Americans arrive in countries expecting those countries to cater to them, and act as we do in America. But this is not America. Do yourself a favor and learn about the places you will be visiting. Not just to be courteous, but also to make sure you are not offending anyone or breaking the laws. That, too, could be quite stressful for a chronic illness patient.
Note: Lupus News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lupus News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lupus.