Names: Pam Manning, Rachel Devlin
Age: 77 and 49
From: Blue Mountains, Sydney, Australia
Living in: Chiang Mai, Thailand
A typical day for my mother, Pam, begins at 8 a.m. at the Gymkhana Golf Club. She is having lessons to improve her swing. Pam has been an expat in Thailand for five years.
“My lessons cost me $15 for an hour, and my coach was a professional golfer,” says Pam. “I have a bad knee and elbow and my coach has helped my swing, so I don’t hurt my joints.” It was the prospect of a more enriching life in Chiang Mai that first appealed to Pam when her husband (my father) passed away.
“Many of my friends were really counting their dollars and couldn’t really afford to go out for lunches or see shows back home,” says Pam. “My life was lifeless and beige, and I didn’t even get to see my only daughter very much, because she was working long hours. I knew I needed more.”
After a trip volunteering as a teacher, Pam knew that Chiang Mai offered all the things that she needed. The thriving Expat Club was a great place to make new friends, she found a fantastic art scene, and she loved all the Thai festivals.
Naturally, I flew over to Chiang Mai to visit my mother. I was delighted with what I discovered. My mother was busy, stimulated, and very involved in the community. She volunteered with the Chiang Mai Expat Club, was doing courses with the Payap University’s Life-Long Learning program, and was often out socializing at one of the many local restaurants.
“I knew my daughter was working hard and I wanted a better life for her,” says Pam. “So I planted the seed that she should retire early and move to Chiang Mai, too. It took her two more years to think about it, but eventually she worked out a way to come.”
I’m grateful that my mom gently nagged me to change my life. I sold up, moved to Chiang Mai, and bought a townhouse for $90,000 (on leased land). It’s just around the corner from my mother, and life couldn’t be better.
I had to laugh when I did finally move over, because my mother said to me, firmly, “You know, I have my own life over here, Rachel.” I guess she was setting her boundaries. I’m actually really happy she has such a full and busy lifestyle.
I feel lucky to be able to spend more time with my mother, and when we get together we have a lot of fun. We meet once a week for lunch and a sketching class, sometimes do the grocery shopping together, and I cook Western meals for her when she needs “a taste of home.”
When I travel with my husband and teenage son, my mom is there to feed my cat. In turn, I look after her dog if she gets itchy feet. We help each other out. “Even though there are fantastic support systems for elderly expats who are on their own in Chiang Mai, I love having my daughter here. Knowing she is just around the corner is so wonderful,” says Pam.