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How did you come to live in Thailand?

Living a Thinglish Lifestyle (GUEST POST – Perry Stevens)

How did you come to live in Thailand?

It’s a question I get a lot. Everyone's got their story about how they came to be living in Thailand.

We all know Leigh and Toons and they reached out to us to share our tale and experiences with the community as it’s the same, same but different. Here’s goes...

I had been in London, England for a decade or so and was trying to get an online business of the ground. This was in or around 2007.

I was working as an events manager for a number of corporations and big brands mainly F1, Moto GP, Download and the Edinburgh Comedy Festival. I loved this job but it took me away from home for long periods of time.

I was also a producer for an independent production company in London. For both of these jobs I travelled all over the UK and Europe but I always knew I couldn't do them both forever.

The economy was heading into recession and the dynamics of the businesses I was in were transitioning to the digital world. I was also getting to the stage in my life where I actually started thinking about my future and where I would end up. I never thought for a minute I'd end up living in Thailand, but here I am.

Boot-strapping an online company in the local search marketing space took a lot of time and dedication back then. I had to learn many new skills, but the time I needed to focus on the business was always hard to come by because I had to go away and work to pay the bills.

However, every winter for a couple of months I used to travel someplace far away from the cold, wet streets of London to escape the ‘Christmas cheer’ and shitty weather. I was fortunate enough to travel all over the world and experience extended periods of time in the Caribbean, South America, North America, North Africa and Asia on these winter walkabouts for over a decade. 

On one trip to Asia I travelled down to Koh Chang Island on a friends recommendation. I kind of fell in love with this island and it always has had a special place in my heart since those days.

Sitting with a bangkaew thai dog
Perry and Taxi Bangkaew

In the winter of 2007 to 2008 I found myself on another small island, this time Don Dhet in the Mekong River in Laos. It was on this little island I met a recently unemployed Dutch banker. I lived close to the city of London and to meet an unemployed banker in the middle of nowhere, I remember was quite something at the time.

By the time I got back to the UK, the financial meltdown had well and truly started with the contagion of subprime mortgages and Lehman’s closed its doors after 169 years in business.

I doubled down working on my new business venture because I knew local businesses were hurting, and needed a lot of help transposing themselves from advertising in the Yellow pages and local newspapers to having an online presence. When opportunity presents itself…

Go East!

The only way I could seriously bootstrap this new venture and get if off the ground was to reduce my overheads and stop working for other companies. So I decided to pack a bag and my trusty MacBook and head back down to Koh Chang Island.

I guess today you would have called me a digital nomad. Working from the beach was fun for a while and certainly very different to living in London and even travelling around Thailand.

Way back then in 2008, the internet wasn’t as we know it today. Every day on the island at around 3pm the internet would turn itself off. When you're trying to work online you really do need a good internet connection.

There's only so many times you can head to the beach or watch a sunset when all you really want to do is focus on the task in hand. It can make you crazy!

After three months of island life and the constant frustration with the net (or lack there-of), I headed back to London to re-evaluate my situation and future plans. Koh Chang was lost, but not forgotten.

London Calling

On arriving back in London I proceeded to sell most of my possessions or I gave them away which was a very cathartic thing to experience. I then moved back in with my parents for a few weeks before flying on to Bangkok and renting a condo on the Chao Phraya River.

Although I'd been to Bangkok many times, I was always traveling through it and I never really liked the city but I thought if I could live in Bangkok for a while it was an easier transition for me into Asia after leaving London.

It turned out to be a good move. My standard of living shut up and my overheads went down. With less money and more time I could now afford to dedicate all my waking hours to growing my business. I had no distractions. I really didn't know anyone, so I could totally focus on building my future.

My daily routine would start with a workout and a swim, followed by a healthy breakfast and then I'd invest the rest of my time building up my knowledge and creating a sustainable business.

After a year to 18 months I flew back to England to close down my business where I started it and then went on to Singapore where I Incorporation my company anew. By this time I knew my future was in Asia, so this made sense geographically and financially to have my company based in Singapore.

Back to Koh Chang

Just over six years ago I met Katae and after about a year of dating we decided to move to Koh Chang Island. I had really had my fill of Bangkok by this stage.

We rented a house on the island and it was here that I started to grow plants in pots. We also started to keep four chickens. 

After a couple of years, Katae and I decided to marry, put down roots and buy a house and land on the island. We looked high and low but property prices on the island were unrealistic and nothing really suited our intentions, so we started to look for land on the mainland. 

Land prices on the mainland in Trat province where generally 1/10th the price of the islands. This made more sense to us for what we wanted to do. We eventually found a 2 rai plot of land just outside Trat city and purchased it.

On this land we built a shipping container home. I also planted it a permaculture food forest, later we built another house for the ‘outlaws’ and a small restaurants called Thinglish Kitchen. 

The food forest is now in its third year and it's supplies as with most of our fruit, vegetables and herbs. We also have 10 free ranging chickens (one old girl from Koh Chang is still with us) and they supply us with fresh eggs every day. 

We also have 2 ponds stocked with tilapia (planil) for us to eat.

Growing Cocoa

More recently we invested in a small fruit farm. This property was neglected and had seen little to no investment over the last couple of decades and was in much need of some TLC.

The owners of the farm need to urgently pay back debt, so we managed to get the property for a very good deal, a steal, it was the sale of the century!

We cleaned up the land, erected a perimeter fence, installed irrigation and introduced cacao trees to the farm.

This year was our first fruit harvest and we generated income from the sale of durian, mangosteen, rambutan and longan so the investment has already started to pay off. We have also started to introduced moringa to the farm and that will be the next cash crop.

The farm also came with the house. The farmhouse is a two bedroom property that we are currently renovating. We have conducted several guided tours around our land and gardens with the local farmers who are now getting interested in what we’re growing and how we’re are growing it. 

Some farmers are expressing an interest in growing cacao themselves using organic principals. We plan to grow cacao and purchase locally produced cacao to make our own organic bean-to-bar chocolate. 

Katae with some of our organic durian fruit

Got to Lose Yourself to Find Yourself

If you would have asked me 5 years ago where would I see myself now, I would never have thought for one New York minute I would be married, living in Thailand in a shipping container home, growing fruits and vegetables and thoroughly enjoying farming and gardening. It’s funny where life can take you when you go along for the ride. 

There are so many opportunities out there when you open yourself up. If you have a dream or you want to break away from the drudge of a 9 to 5 job, find your passion and you’ll find a way to live your life on your terms. Sometime that will mean moving half way around the world. But that’s OK, you are not a tree!

Food Security

Some people ask me why do I try to grow all our own food. Well the simple answer is we grow all our own food because we don't want to eat food contaminated with herbicides, pesticides, hormones and all of the other nasty additives industrial farming and processing procedures add to real food.

When you grow your own food and pick it fresh from the garden it is full of micronutrients and tastes incredible. The fruits of your labour working in the garden are preventative medicine and so much cheaper than big pharma’s drugs. 

Also recently, with the onset off the grand solar minimum it has also become more important to have food security. When you look at the dramatic weather conditions affecting food production all-round the globe, you don't have to be a genius to realize that in the very near future food prices are going to skyrocket and people are going to be hungry. 

His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej for saw such crisis decades ago and introduced the Sufficiency Economy to the Thai conciseness.

When I was a kid growing up in a village, everyone had a small vegetable plot at home but nowadays hardly anybody grows food anymore (remember the Good Life?).

There is a huge disconnect from where food comes from to the food on your plate. Without the basic knowledge of growing your own food and relying on governments and a small number of corporations to keep the globalized food supply chains open is folly. 

Whatever happens in the future we know we will always have a ready supply of fresh organic food for us to eat.

Through conditioning or circumstance, we all tend to over complicate life but by stripping back the layers we found happiness in a simple life.

We hope you eat well, live long and prosper.

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