How I Moved to Thailand with my Family on Less than $1000


With my baby strapped to my back, I lugged a pair of oversize travel bags up to the Eva Air check-in counter. They contained all the belongings I deemed important enough to make the trip to Thailand, and we wouldn’t be coming back. Both overshot the weight limit by a mile, so with my husband’s help I steered the bags off to the side and started to unload, shaving down the “absolutely necessary” list a little bit more. We were keeping costs down by traveling light—relatively speaking. There would be no moving vans here, and I was avoiding exorbitant shipping fees by stuffing everything I could into my checked bags. Once reconciled with the clerk at the desk, it was time for goodbye.

I had been dreaming about moving to Thailand for more than a year, but hadn’t been sure how I was going to make it happen. Simple living has always appealed to me, and the frenetic pace of American culture never felt right. When I gave birth to my son, Noah, it strengthened my resolve to leave the city and make a new life based on the idyllic vision I’d always had in mind. So I took a leap of faith.

We bought plane tickets just a few days before departing, when airlines drop their fares in an attempt to fill empty seats, in order to shave a couple hundred dollars off the price. I ended up paying $600 USD for my ticket instead of the $700 or $800 I would have spent had I bought it a few days earlier.

I braced myself for the 14 hour flight with an active 14 month-old, armed with baby-safe valerian, a smart phone, and enough baby food puree to last me a month, just in case. It was sheer grace that there was an anomaly in the timetable, with a flight leaving at four o’clock in the afternoon, making the timing perfectly congruous with Noah’s sleep schedule. It was another act of divine mercy that the flight was only half full, and that despite his being a lap infant, Noah and I would have the opportunity to spread out over three seats during the overnight flight.

My husband and I had formulated a plan that would make foreign living a viable financial choice. Although we lived cheaply for the expensive Bay Area, renting a master bedroom for $800 a month in a communal home, our new accommodations would be even more economical, costing $230 USD a month with three meals a day included for one adult. Noah would be free.



Going ahead with Noah while my husband moved into a smaller, cheaper room during the transition made the most sense monetarily. He would give up our master bedroom for a child-sized room costing a third of the price and cook his meals at home instead of ordering takeout, joining us in three and a half months, with his income as a waiter allowing us to live together for eight months out of the year. He would return to the US to work for the remaining four. While it wouldn’t be easy, it seemed to us a small sacrifice to provide our son with a life we consider ideal; living close to nature, in community, with the freedom to spend every day together as a family. No 9 to 5, no commute, no daycare.



We switched planes in Taipei, Taiwan, taking time to enjoy the novelty of the Hello Kitty-themed nursing station before boarding our final flight. We arrived at two in the morning, and I felt just a little silly wheeling a trolly with my huge bags and multiple carry-ons toward the customs line of the Bangkok airport while Noah slept soundly on my back. He woke serendipitously in time for the customs official to take our photo and stamp my visa, with fawning waves from the agents as we proceeded to the door.

In just a few hours, we’d be making our new home at Kailash Akhara, a yoga and permaculture retreat center and residential dharma community located in Phu Ruea in rural Thailand. Soon we’d be living among the rolling, flower-specked hills of Isaan, Thailand’s northeastern region near the famed Mekhong river, with a community of expats hailing from the U.S., Australia, and Brazil. The residents are families with small children and single adults who all have in common a love of the yoga tradition and a desire to live dharmic lives of practice and service.


When he’s old enough, Noah will attend The Siddha School, located on-site at Kailash Akhara. The Siddha School is the vanguard for a new educational pedagogy and curriculum based on developing an educational community that enables each child to unfold naturally, in a nurturing environment that supports their holistic development. It is offered to children of KA residents as well as the greater Thai community, particularly those who are underserved and vulnerable to human trafficking.


Once outside, our driver loaded us into an excessively spacious tour van with air-conditioning at full blast in the sticky morning heat. We hurtled down the highway in a style I would come to learn is distinctly Thai, passing flaming trash heaps blazing in the dark and a new 7-Eleven every few kilometers.

When Noah slept, I used the silence to enjoy the scenery as the morning sunlight began to creep over the horizon. We made it out of the city and headed down a highway dotted with bamboo farm stands, every now and then passing an orange-robed monk walking barefoot along the road. Tractors plodded on the shoulder and motorized scooters, sometimes carrying three or four, darted speedily around us. We gazed and napped, played and sang, breaking out our collection of essential board books that had made the final cut. We exhausted the stack several times and read them all over again.

After a climb through the mountains, we pulled off the highway and drove down a dirt road into a village of closely-huddled homes. The driver stopped to ask directions from a woman hanging clothes on a line, made a U-turn, and pulled off in the direction of an expanse of farmland. We passed uniform rows of rubber trees and cassava, both mainstay crops in this region, and eventually came to a sign written mostly in Thai, except for the words Adi-Yoga. We had come to the end of our eight-hour ride.

I brimmed with gratitude as we were given a tour of our new home, passing trees proffering papaya, coconut, and jack fruit and a congregation of chickens led by a pugnacious rooster named Frankie. It is a gift to be able to make our vision of overseas living a reality and to give Noah the chance to live at the slow, untroubled pace of nature. All it required was the willingness to challenge ourselves to try something different and to think about our resources in a new way. With such low-cost living, a strong community with humanitarian values, and the opportunity for a free, quality education for Noah, relocating our family to another continent was the most obvious choice in the world.



  1. I thought i was a pretty big adventurer some time ago, even when we moved with our two kids to Thailand while pregnant with the third. But Crystal´s story along with other fierce women has made me realize that I have so much to learn from them. My family is a bit intercultural, not as much as others on this site, so every time I visit and read the posts I feel inspired to do more and greater things in terms of family adventure.

  2. I love this! I live in Laos with my son and Lao husband. I totally agree bringing up children to be with nature and less stress than my old American life.

  3. So happy my friend linked me your post! We live in Thailand and have about the same budget; we moved from LA ( where rent alone was nearly 1800) and my husband taught English here and in Korea for several years. Now we both work online.

  4. Orana, I’m glad you were inspired! I think we tend to have ideas of our limits and then having children challenges us to go beyond them. It’s great to be a part of a community of families who are up to the challenge.

    Elizabeth, that’s awesome that you guys found a way to make it work, too. What part of Thailand are you living in?

  5. Hi. I’d like to know what you did about having a visa. did you travel in and out the country every 30 days?
    im thinking about moving there with my 5 children, but im afraid of the school cost.

  6. Hi Chyloe,

    We got a visa that’s called the Non-Immigrant B Visa. It allows us to leave the country every 90 days for a quick border check. It also allows us to stay in Thailand for 1 year and 3 months before we have to go back to our home country to renew the visa. I’m actually visiting California for my renewal trip right now. I have some friends who were able to get a permanent visa because they started a business venture in Thailand, which means they don’t have to leave the country at all. There are a lot of options out there.

    As for schooling, I found Thai public school costs to be very low, and there are lots of private schools to choose from as well. The prices of these vary depending on the type of school, whether it is run by Thai nationals or foreigners, etc. In general, I’ve found there are a lot of options here as well and it’s likely you can find something in your price range.

    Good luck, & feel free to be in touch if you have any more questions!

  7. hi Crystal! I stumbled upon your post when researching how to live in thailand. I am a single (American) mom who has just returned to the states after living abroad in India for a few years. I am eager to continue on with my journey and am looking for an opportunity like this one for myself and my 1-year old girl. Can you give me some more information on how I might become a part of this community? THANKS 🙂

  8. Hello Crystal and the people who have posted!

    I am working on a documentary television project and seeking American families who have moved to other countries to homestead and live off-grid. Do you know any families with this lifestyle? If so, could you put me in touch with them? My email address is

    Also, we would be interested in talking with families who haven’t moved yet but are planning a move over the next few months or after January 2015.



  9. Hi Barbara,

    I don’t know anyone homesteading or planning to homestead at the moment, but I will keep my feelers out and keep you updated. I can put you in touch with other families from the farm in Thailand, though it isn’t strictly “off-grid” as we use electricity.

    Best of luck!


  10. Hi! This is a question for Brooke: Did you find a place to live with your daughter in thailand? I am a single Mom of a 2 year old son and am living currently in Canada, but am researching for a new place for us to live. somewhere south, with other kids, meditation, yoga…. so I am always thankful if someone has advice and can point me in a new direction! Thanks! Astrid

  11. Hi Crystal. A year later and I’m back to this thread. I had no clue that you responded to my comment. Thank you so much. Better late than ever eh. I hope all is well with you and your family.

  12. Hello
    I love this article. I admire the move that you made. I been looking up articles or moving to Thailand as I love the country, been there many times as it just 2 hours away from me in Singapore. So hopefully something will materialize in time to come.


  13. hello, my name is kate and im single mum of 5year old son. we live in england. im from czech republic and my drem is to move to thailand. he start school last september. i work as a care worker. i feel like im just surviving here so need change. i know it will be hard, i will need some job, school for my boy and place to stay. please anyone who can help me or give me some information. im going to thailand this summer, i will stay few days in phuket to acliminate and then of to islands. i would like to see some schools, when i visit thailand and if possible to talk to some mums. please contact me on thank you kat

  14. This article came right on time for me. It’s amazing. We are a yoga mother Sun (14months) duo who will be relocating to Thailand in a little under 2 months. Not that I had any doubt in the world….but it’s just so amazing to come across a story that feels as familiar as this one did….down to the baby on my back part. You answered a question I was just asking a friend…how will I meet other families…where should Nasa go to school when he’s older….and where should I practice and continue my yoga. Apparently we wont be too far from the retreat you mentioned…. I am soooo excited. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story…I’ll be carrying it with me all the way “home”.

  15. Crystal, thanks for sharing your experiences. It makes for a fascinating read!

    The link to the Siddha school you provided seems to be no longer working. Is the school still there?

  16. Unfortunately, the school and community are no longer there. The farm is being sold and there are tentative plans for a new iteration to be set up in Costa Rica.


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