From Making Van Damme Films to Living One in Northern Thailand – Part 3

Decision To Up and Leave For Thailand.

The following is a part 3 of a multiple part series written by Andrew Dearnley about how he has decided to quit his film making career to pursue a life of training Muay Thai in the hills of Northern Thailand. Enjoy!

photo 1In this article I would like to talk about what has led me to move to Thailand. I am going to do my absolute best to not be all “Woe is me” but I apologise now if this feels like I’m having a moan. It’s a slightly cathartic experience to anonymously vent but I’ll try and stay on task. So, in the spirit of being blunt, there are two reasons I’m writing this:

  1. To document why I’m going in case I need the reminder when things get difficult and I want to quit. I realise the grass is often greener and I need a pull no punches account of what I’m giving up.
  2. To offer a check list for other people to reference. Perhaps seeing my perspective on certain life goals and milestones given my age will allow other people a more self analytical view on their own lives and how they prioritise their own Muay Thai journey.

Am I having a mid-life crisis?

Yes, probably. But I think at this stage I’m on about number 3. Moved to the big city, done the tattoos, done the sports bikes. But to write it off as something so simple would probably be doing this decision a disservice. This feels much more inevitable than the other cliché’s I have embraced over the years.

It doesn’t come with any fear. Just excitement. That was a huge moment when I realised that. It came straight after finishing my first full contact sparring class. Having never boxed a day in my life I joined an invite only full contact sparring class with some boxers who were in their last week training before fighting. I talked my way in and just asked the coach to keep an eye on me should I get out of my depth. Needless to say I got my arse handed to me and was left bloodied and exhausted. But I wasn’t seriously hurt. The world hadn’t ended and I had earned the respect and friendship of the guys I was sparring with.

I say the world had not ended, we can all attest to that, but my world had definitely changed. I had realised what I was scared of –

The mundane. The rat race. The cycle of safe choices.

imagesThis sounds melodramatic but I found myself thinking back over the last few years and struggling to allocate which events had happened in which years. I realised how everything was a blur of 5 day working weeks followed by drunken debauchery. There were events that stood out but I couldn’t for the life of me work out which year they were from. That was the scary part, and fear is a great motivator. My realisation was that I was scared of looking back across my life and struggling to piece together a timeline of events I could be proud of from the beige mess of risk aversion and alcohol anaesthesia.

I’m single, no kids, no mortgage and my career is in a good place. Not so good it’s a risk to lose, not so bad I can’t afford to shelve it and pick it up in the future should I choose to.

A career is a funny thing for my generation. All my young life I was made to focus on chasing grades and experiences to secure better education with the goal of a good job with a strong starting salary to lead a good life. A life full of comforts afforded to the educated and gainfully employed. Only for me to choose an industry with zero relevant training where I started from a runner on minimum wage and worked my way up only for the global financial market to be working itself down. Like sprinting up an escalator I tried my best to reap the rewards I had spent so long training for but to no avail. The ‘good life’ was never really important enough to me for its pursuit to shape me and I have always struggled to put money first. It just doesn’t seem like it should be important. He who dies with most toys, definitely does not win.

Turns out those rewards are a mirage anyway. When you see behind the curtain turns out there is nothing there except another curtain, another more decadent lifestyle, another set of expensive distractions to convince you the late nights, stress and bottled up anger is all worth it.  Stepping back from the monthly pay checks and the current Amazon wish lists, I took a moment to consider my only really precious commodity, my time. Realisation soon came I was spending it stupidly.

photo 2London is the perfect place to stress this point. It offers such a diversity of people and beliefs. From the artists and performers living in converted warehouses prizing their freedom and anonymity over their belongings to the oil money men and trust fund kids whose bank balances overflow whilst their behaviour is morally bankrupt. Perhaps I am still trying to find my place on this sliding scale.

Muay Thai offers me a fresh start.

It’s a step out and away from the quicksand of city living and offers me the challenges I want for myself. I don’t want the back injuries from office chairs, the respiratory problems from breathing air conditioning or the stomach ulcers and sleepless nights from being subservient to someone else’s deadlines. I want the bruised shins, the black eyes and the challenge of putting myself against someone on an equal footing and succeeding or failing with no excuses. There is honesty in that. Perhaps I romanticise it, but there is definitely a part of me that feels cheated by the financial collapse. Short sighted banking has put the squeeze on us all, and the life I had foreseen for myself does not feel like an option anymore. I have turned away from the desire for a big car, big house, small wife and now I want to know and experience the challenge.

You can follow Andrews’s progress as he prepares for moving to Thailand to fight at:

Back to Part 2 – Next to Part 4

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Sean Fagan
Sean "Muay Thai Guy" Fagan owns & operates the largest online Muay Thai community and the #1 training resource for nak muay of all levels.

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