Richard McCully

The dreaded Summer break

Six weeks means just far too much time on my hands

I’m sitting here on the first morning of my six-week summer break. 

Sounds like a dream right? Six weeks off and the opportunities that’ll bring. The problem is I’m not that excited. In fact I’d rather I was off for only a couple of weeks or so. 

I’ve seen several articles which talk about $75,000 being the optimum amount of money to earn before money can’t make you any happier. There must be a certain amount of holiday time you can get whereby any more won’t enhance your work-life balance. Six weeks in a row is too much. 

Last minute rush

The last day at work was full of people sending last-minute emails, picking up travel money from the bank and heading to the pub to celebrate the end of the academic year. It’s been a hell of a year, lots has happened and that last day was a good chance to reflect. 

The way my year worked saw me having about a million things to do up until the last week. Report cards, training and attending meetings about the next academic year took a lot of time energy to complete. Not seeing staff members for six weeks means things get rushed, which can cause issues. 

At the pub it was the chance to relax a little, knowing I’ll (probably) not be back at my desk for a little while. 

Morning headaches

Waking up with a slight headache this morning (guess I relaxed too much at the pub…) I was greeted by the sound of drills and hammers. Turns out the room above me are doing renovations for the next two weeks. It also seems like 8.00 am is an acceptable time to start. There goes those lie-ins I was looking forward to. 

I woke up to see posts from friends and colleagues who’d arrived at their holiday destinations. Some are on the beach, others back in their home country. I haven’t made plans yet on where to go during this break but the big concern is money.

What can I afford?

I do get paid every month of the year. I know some people don’t get paid during their summer break and I find that really unfair. However, even with a salary it’s not easy to go away (or find things to do here), especially when I have six weeks to fill. 

Working means you’re dedicated to being in the office five days a week. It certainly limits your opportunities to spend money. I don’t spend a lot on food, I maybe go out once a week with colleagues for a beer or two and perhaps play golf a couple of times a month. I don’t live an extravagant lifestyle but I still spend most of what I earn, after putting some away in savings. 

I’m not on mega money. I probably live an average middle-class expat lifestyle here in Bangkok. I certainly don’t make enough to fly to Phuket and stay in 5* hotels or travel to Australia for a few weeks. Traveling with my girlfriend means that between us I’ll cover roughly 70% of holidays costs and she’ll get the other 30%. 

I think the cheapest way I could travel for a prolonged period would be to go back to England for the break, something which a number of my colleagues have done. 

After the flight cost I would probably only spend 2-3,000 baht per week there. I could stay with family for free, cook at home, go out occasionally. However, my girlfriend can’t spend six weeks there due to her work commitments. I’d also be sitting around not doing a lot which makes it a bit pointless. 

Finally I’m already going back in July for a family event so it doesn’t make sense to go back twice in quick succession.

The idea of traveling for six weeks anywhere where I had to pay for accommodation is impossible.  In short, I can perhaps afford a couple of shorts breaks, maybe just in Thailand or a country where I can avoid paying expensive airfares. 

Previous experience tells me I should budget around 2,000 baht per night for a trip to include accommodation, travel, food and activities in Thailand. Two five-day trips looks like the likely sum of what I’ll be able to do this summer break. Perhaps I might push this out to a Thailand trip and a visit to a country nearby but will have to wait and see. 

Maybe I sound a little bitter or jealous of others who are able to go on luxurious trips but, in reality, with ten weeks a year off, I like to spread holidays throughout the year, not just in a six-week period. 

The money I’ve saved up in the last year is for a trip to England in July and then there will be another trip in my week off in October. I need to be sensible with what I spend. I could splurge on a huge trip in this summer break but then would be stuck at home until this time next year which is kind of pointless. 

What can I do at home? 

I’ll be left with roughly four weeks where I’ll be in my Bangkok condo. I recently moved and love the new place but I can see myself wasting days watching Netflix and playing Football Manager. 

Sure, there’s nothing wrong with that for a couple of days. It’s my plan for the first few days really as something to help me unwind. However, if I’m binging series on Netflix all next week too, I’ll be kind of disappointed in myself.

I made a list the other day of projects and activities I want to do during the school break. One idea was walking the entire length of the BTS line, just to see if it’s possible and maybe check out some new areas. I have a couple of writing projects I’m working on too, but I want to try stay off the computer as much as possible. 

Another goal I have is to get healthier and the break might just be a good time to concentrate on that. The chance to eat good food, exercise everyday and relax might help me a lot. I have a target to try and reach by the end of the holiday and that’s something to focus on. 

There are obviously lots of things to do here for free or cheaply. I’m not going to stay in my room and save every baht I can. I’ll still go out for dinner, play a little golf and visit a few places but I can’t do those things every day. 

Too long

The idea of six weeks off work sounds great but I feel it’s just too long. I’d rather my holidays were more spread out during the year. 

Sure I do get time off throughout the year but maybe only just a week per term. I’ve also heard that next year these smaller breaks will be condensed and the summer break will go up to eight weeks. If it’s a struggle for six weeks, eight will be pretty miserable when compounded by the fact that I’ll lose the shorter breaks later in the year. 

I understand that my holiday allowance is way above average and I do get paid for this time but it’s certainly not one big six-week adventure. 

I’d be happy with a month off and splitting holidays throughout the year. I’d even be happy to get some overtime, just to work a few hours to give me something to do. I can see myself getting bored. 

School breaks are determined by students. There’s no getting around this. When I tell people back home how long I get off they think it’s some sort of perfect dream. 

But there’s a certain length of time for a perfect holiday - and six weeks is way too long in my opinion. 

 If you enjoyed this blog, check out my website - Life in a New Country  

Richard is co-author of a great new book on planning a life in Thailand. 

Planning your new life in Thailand isn’t easy. There are many hurdles to jump and potential frustrations galore. From practicalities through to cultural issues, from finances to fitting in and making friends, there is so much to learn. Luckily, you will find all the basics explained in this 282 page book. 

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Hey Richard,

Here in the dunes we have about 7 straight weeks of paid holidays and loads of people on staff choose to take an additional (up to) 8 weeks (unpaid) consecutively which means 15 weeks in a row of holidays. No one here seems to ever complain about that being too long! But then again they are doing wonderful things all around the world. Food for thought.

By Jessie, The dunes of Saudi. (31st March 2019)

Thanks for sharing, and of course the ideal length of a "vacation" depends on many factors, but I would challenge the notion that a vacation needs to be spent traveling and only doing "fun" things.

Think about what new skills you could developed or qualifications you could gain with 6 weeks of free time? You could take a free MOOC course in computer programming, or read dozens of studies about English teaching or spend three or four hours a day learning Thai or another language. You could even spend the time writing another book.

Many of us living abroad, especially those of us with families, live on a budget and would have trouble traveling , staying in hotels and eating out for six straight weeks. But if you look at the time off as an opportunity to do those things you don't normally have time to do but have always wanted to do, you might find you feel the time was not wasted but spent productively.

Just a thought.

By Jack, LOS (25th March 2019)

How about catching up on reading. A Victorian novel Usually takes me a week to 10 days at about 70-100 pages day. 2- 3 hours. Also I go to the gym 2 hours, walk to the mall and back 2 hours. Read the online news papers 1 hour, watch a quality TV series 1 hour. Lunch and dinner 1 hour, and an afternoon nap 1 hour. That's your day right there. To be honest I find people who can't organise their time pathetic. Video Games? How old are you exactly?

By Jeremy, Udon (24th March 2019)

Honestly, I don't see the point of this article. Your holiday is too long? Really? Is that it? There is tons of volunteer work to do around the country if you can't think of any other way to keep yourself busy. And accommodation doesn't need to cost 2000 baht per night.
I am in hopes that this is just a lame shot at sarcasm and trying to be funny, because if you are really at your wits end not knowing what to do with six weeks of free time, you need to get a life.

By Cor Verhoef, Nonthaburi (23rd March 2019)

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