Why I Left San Francisco to Live in Thailand

James Titchener / @mistertitchener

In late 2018, I wrote an email to some close friends and family to let them in on my plans for leaving San Francisco to live in Chiang Mai, Thailand for two months. This email and a follow-up to how the trip went helped to prompt my motivation for starting this blog, so I thought they might be worth sharing.

I'm posting the email unedited here, so my bad for the lack of context in certain sections. Again, I originally meant this only for close friends and family who we're already familiar with my story. I might fill in the blanks in subsequent posts.

Hi,

I've decided to make a few changes in my life, so I thought I'd give an update to some of my family and friends. Fair warning: this could get long...

As the subject alludes to, I've decided to move out of my apartment in San Francisco to spend 2 months in Chiang Mai! I'll be leaving on Tuesday, October 23rd and I'll be back in San Francisco just in time for Christmas on December 23rd.

After that, I have left my options open, but I'm leaning towards spending some time abroad, living out of a backpack for a while.

So... why am I doing this, and what am I going to be doing with my time?

I've spent most of my life in the San Francisco Bay Area. I have a lot of memories here. I have friends and family here. This is the closest thing that I have to a home, but it should be no surprise that the last two and a half years here have been trying for me.

It pains me to even consider leaving this place, especially given the amazing deal I have on my apartment in North Beach, but too often I am reminded of my late parents and their tragic circumstances.

I believe I've changed dramatically since they have passed. I hope for the better. In leaving this place, I am striving to ensure that something can be gained from their tragedy. I am striving to become a person that they would have been genuinely proud of, and I believe that leaving San Francisco will give me the head space I need to shape myself into something greater.

To that end, (and I think most of you will like this bit) I've decided to set aside my goal of playing poker professionally.

I originally thought to take on poker for a number of reasons, but mainly I wanted to prove to myself that I could become great at something. Throughout my life I have had a tendency of taking on a skill or goal only to quit once I hit a plateau in my rate of improvement. I chose poker as an attempt to overcome this tendency.

While I still think that striving to become great at poker would be a challenging and thrilling endeavor, I have come to realize that my difficulties in overcoming the inevitable plateaus that come when learning any skill are not simply born out of a lack of willpower (although I surely have room to grow in this regard).

I have a deep-rooted habit for self-hatred that I believe are only fueled by the fits of anxiety and depression that I have struggled with since my parents' tragic deaths.

While this isn't exactly an issue that I've only recently become enlightened to, my perspective on how I should overcome this challenge has shifted. I've come to realize that in many ways, I have been pretending that I'm a-okay in an effort to "fake it until I make it". However, I cannot simply fake depression away.

So I'm leaving San Francisco. I'm quitting poker. I'm automating everything that I can with FxSound. And I'm selling what little things I have and stuffing the rest in a backpack so I can take the time I need to myself to learn how to be happy.

To do this, I plan on going on more and longer silent meditation retreats (starting in Thailand). I plan to continue journaling my experiences, thoughts and emotions. I plan on reading on the topics of depression, anxiety and general philosophy. I plan on continuing my cognitive behavioral therapy (albeit online and over the phone). I plan on continuing my training in Muay Thai kickboxing and yoga.

And finally, I plan on giving myself permission to take the time needed to get my mind right. While I put pressure on myself to begin producing positive work, I believe that investing in building a foundation of happiness now will allow me to contribute more effectively and consistently in the future.

And after I've found a more stable supply of happiness? Then I begin working towards something meaningful. While poker is fun, it's not changing anybody's life for the good. My next step will be finding work that will allow me to contribute in furthering the effective altruism movement.

Apologies for the essay, and thank you for getting this far! I'd love to know what you think about all of this. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best,

James

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