Readers' Submissions

Response to a Young Man by a Recent Graduate – What do I do?



When I first started submitting to Stickman back late last year I really meant for it to be a regular thing, but to be honest my job’s been so hectic I just found I haven’t had the time. Rest assured though I’ve been reading the latest submissions from you guys practically every day! My last sub incidentally was in January, back when I had my last trip to Thailand.

I’ve been meaning to send in a new submission for a while, but somehow have never managed to get round to doing it. Then I saw the recent post by the young would-be medical student, and the subsequent response Advice for a Young Man, and just thought I had to give my perspective.

You see, I’m in the Young Man’s shoes – admittedly I studied law not medicine, and graduated last year, and didn’t visit Thailand in a gap year but rather for a couple of months in my summer holidays. But like him, I went to Thailand and fell in love with the culture, the people, the amazing amazing country. Like him, after months in Asia I found it a horrendous experience taking the plane ride home to Farangland.

So what have I been up to in the last few months, you might ask? Well, on the face of it things are going good. Better than that, in fact – they’re going great. My inaugural Stickman submission at the end of 2010 described how I was recently unemployed, broke and missing my Thai girlfriend, April. Things could hardly have been worse.

Since then I’ve managed to get a good job in financial services, and things have just steadily got better and better from there – motivated by the thought of seeing April and Thailand again, I powered into my work, putting in the hours, learning the ropes, making the contacts. When I got back from Thailand in January after 2 weeks, the next step was to bring April over – having “flashpacked” around LOS I was back to being broke, so I needed money for this (both the plane ticket and the visa.) Thus my work rate increased even further – schmoozing with clients, going into the office Saturday (and sometimes even Sundays!), hitting and exceeding all the targets my boss set. In the last four months I don’t think I’ve worked less than 60 hours in any given week.

And has it all been worth it? On the face of it, definitely – I aced my 3-month probation, should be due a (low) four-figure bonus next month, and my boss tells me if I keep this up I may well have a bright future in the field of wealth management. But the icing on the cake – my girlfriend April came over to the UK and spent nearly two months with my family. I took her to see all the touristy sights, she got to know my mum and dad, met all of my friends. Everybody loved her. Sadly she went home on Saturday, but sufficed to say having her in the UK was nothing short of amazing.

And yet – something is missing. At first, at the start of the year, I thought it was April. Don’t get me wrong, I love April and I do miss her, and having her in the UK was incredible – but it also made me realise that there was something I’d been longing for more than her. Asia. Thailand.

I can already see my life ahead of me. Slaving away for that next promotion. That next car. That next house. That next mortgage payment. Working all hours for that 2 week annual vacation, before I head back to the UK, back to my comfortable – but utterly sterile – existence.

And I know I don’t want that. But what other options do I have? None that I can see. One thought keeps crossing my mind again and again – waiting a few weeks for that bonus to hit my bank account and, the second it does, book a one-way ticket out to LOS, out to paradise. Rather than resentfully getting out of bed to go to work, I’d wake up in the morning in pure excitement of what the new day would bring. Rather than sit for an hour plus in traffic every day surrounded by cars driven by monotonous-faced people with monotonous lives, I could be travelling by boat down the Mekong, or braving the notorious Poipet border crossing. Rather than merely existing, I could be living.

But I’m not that naive – you need money anywhere to do anything, even in paradise. And as much as I don’t want to stay in the UK, I definitely don’t want to end up joining the Pattaya Flying Squad. Equally I don’t want to be like those desperate farangs you see drowning their sorrows in various bars – having burnt all their bridges back home, they have nowhere left to go when the dream of Thailand blows back up in their face. My family are all really proud of me for having a good job after university. I feel like I can’t just be so selfish as to throw it all back in their face.

So what do I do? As I write this I’m just going to bed, ready to wake up for another day of 9-5, another day of traffic, another day without April, another day when I don’t really feel alive. When I saw April off at the airport I remember seeing two young backpackers ahead of us in the check-in queue, headed for Bangkok – all laughs and smiles, they waved goodbye to their parents before heading for the departure lounge, heading for adventure, for freedom.

No doubt they were going away for two or three months, the same as I was this time last year. Bangkok. Ko Phang-Ngan. Bali. Angkor Wat. The thought of the incredible adventure those two lads were about to embark on – whilst I was consigned to reporting into the office for 9am on Monday morning – made me physically sick.

I just don’t know what to do.


Stickman's thoughts:

Play the long game. Short splurges to Asia can be fun and perhaps frequent trips are a necessity to keep you sane, but I suggest you look long-term. You're working in an industry where the potential exists to make a lot of money. Plan as you would for your clients, with goals at different points and hopefully you can reach a point where you will be able to get to Thailand more often. But whatever you do, don't throw it away when you're young.