Our baby is almost one year old! Facebook reminded me yesterday that it was one year ago when I flew to Samui to view the property.
But let’s start from the beginning.
How Everything Began
Rayk and I were only together a few months when he decided to join me to travel to Cambodia. We worked at Vagabond Temple, a yoga retreat center. Rayk worked in the office, and I was contracted as a Yoga teacher.
During our 6 month stay, we developed the concept for our own project, our baby. Our business plan grew each day, as evidenced by the post-it filled walls in our small apartment.
We considered various location options, but one place was always one of our favorites – Langkawi – a Malaysian island.
After Cambodia, we ventured to Koh Phangan, Thailand on holiday. It was a well-needed rest upon completion of our time at Vagabond Temple. While on Phangan, we decided to participate in a Tantra Yoga course at Agama.
We viewed about 20 different properties on Langkawi. It was an intense and nerve-racking time, but looking back, it was also one of the best times in my life–designing our dream life.
Unfortunately, a scooter accident left me immobile, making it impossible to continue our property search. After some recovery time, we flew home to Germany, and six weeks with family and friends gave us the necessary time needed to rejuvenate and refresh fully.
In September 2018, we flew back to Langkawi and continued our property search for futurehippie. We found a breathtaking villa and had many long meetings with the property owners. These days were so incredibly challenging, we nearly gave up.
As we awaited a response from the property owners, I stumbled upon a ’Yoga Trade’ announcement.
Yoga Trade is a platform for teachers and studios seeking jobs or employment. It’s very uncommon for people to post anything for sale or rent on Yoga Trade. But there it was!
A woman on Samui was looking for someone to take over an existing retreat. I couldn’t believe it. I was freaking out because each property we had looked at thus far needed building work for a Yoga Shala, Bungalows, and a kitchen–but on Samui, everything was already there!
A Big Decision
The situation in Langkawi got worse, and our patience ran out. We decided to forego the property on Langkawi and informed the property owners we were no longer interested. One door closes, another one opens!
We connected with the woman on Koh Samui via Skype to discuss the property status.
There weren’t many unanswered questions, but at the end of the day–we simply needed to see it and get a feel for it.
The Samui woman encouraged us to check out the property as soon as possible because it was gaining popularity on the market. Two days later, I flew solo to Samui. Rayk had to stay on Langkawi because we taught German lessons to Malaysian tour guides, so one of us had to fulfil that obligation.
Business Trip to Koh Samui
Rayk took me to the airport in Langkawi, but otherwise, I was on my own for what was about to be one of the biggest decisions of my entire life. I enjoy solo travel, so that wasn’t a concern, but making such an important decision was crucial for our future success.
I arrived on Koh Samui late in the evening. A driver picked me up at the airport and drove me to Taling Ngam. It was raining, dark, and quiet–actually quite chilly for Thailand. The previous owner greeted me and showed me to my Bungalow. It wasn’t my first time sleeping in a bamboo hut, but the combination of thunder and lightning, and my nervousness kept me awake most of the night.
The sun came out for a bit the next day, which provided some time to see the property as well as the main house where Rayk and I would live. Honestly, I wasn’t 100% confident about the place, because everything was quite dark and really required some imagination. I also took the day to explore the surrounding area. I wanted to sleep on it before I made a final decision, but the next morning, I trusted my gut feeling and signed the property’s papers.
Sometimes we just need to take action. I could have said no for various reasons, but I trusted the voice deep inside my heart and said YES.
Back in Langkawi, Rayk and I tried to make all the arrangements for everything as soon as possible. Two weeks later, we both flew to Koh Samui with only four suitcases in our possession.
We arrived on Koh Samui in the late evening, and Rayk had yet to see the house or the retreat. We slept in our new home, the house next to the retreat property – futurehippie. Once the sun came up, Rayk ventured outside to explore the property. I was so nervous about his assessment of the place. In retrospect, I am so happy he trusted my judgement. While he didn’t jump around in excitement like a five-year-old child, he also didn’t disapprove. Maybe it was because the place needed some work.
We had about a week with the previous owner for the handover transition before we were left on our own.
How to Open a Business in Thailand as a Foreigner
The process to open futurehippie took about 4-8 weeks, from the beginning of November to the end of December. This is dependent on the size of the company you want to open, it could be different for larger business sizes or models.
What you need to know before opening a business in Thailand:
- Association with 1-3 Thai citizens
- Support/service from a business consultant
- A trusted Thai speaker or translator because all papers will be written in Thai
- You will only own 49% of your company so find someone trustworthy to partner with
- Business visa and a work permit
- Take your passport, copies of all documents you already have, and your company stamp
- Firstly open the company and then you can apply for the correct visa
- To get the right visa, you need to leave the country and go to the Thai embassy in a foreign country
- If you open a small company, you will need to leave the country every three months
- Once you have the correct visa, you can apply for a work permit, which will take another 10 days
Again, it depends on the business size and model, but don’t forget that you will need different licenses. We got a license for the bungalows, restaurant, and a Yoga license. The authorities will visit to check you have the correct papers.
It took some time to get the car we purchased in our name. While we waited for our papers, we used that time for renovations, and to settle in and get acquainted with the island which didn’t include typical sightseeing. We scouted out where to purchase some necessities and to meet some important people, such as an accountant, scooter rental and repair, mechanics, neighbors, grocery stores, the yoga community, water supply, electric company, WiFi provider, etc.
Futurehippie Grand Opening
On the 24th of December, we welcomed our first guests. Our work permit was approved just in time, in fact on the same day! Koh Samui’s high season begins at the end of December and lasts until around March. It was an amazing beginning to futurehippie! We found a rhythm that worked quite well for Rayk and me as a team together. A year has passed by very quickly with so many nice guests and a few challenging guests 🙂 So many wonderful moments and a few very challenging moments.
A Year in Review
After a long “low season,” or as we called it “no season,” we’re very much looking forward to welcoming guests again. If you ask other business owners on the island or in Thailand, they feel it wasn’t a successful year. Despite much speculation as to why most people will say they’ve had up to 65% fewer customers. For us, the whole year was a new experience. We’re hopeful, and we believe the coming years will be better for us all.
Thailand is a beautiful country and definitely worth a visit.
Rayk and I have both had moments of wanting to give up, but don’t get me wrong–we love futurehippie–it truly is our baby! Business ownership and self-employment in a foreign country can be exhausting.
I remember one day we received a very bad (fake) review, had a “no show” guest, sick staff, a rainy day, and an argument with each other. On those days, you wish you had your best friends or family around you for support. The number one reason why it’s not easy in a foreign country is you will miss your friends and family. But I love futurehippie so much. I vow to find the right balance between living on Samui and seeing my loved ones.
Would I Do It Again?
On a bad day, you might see me thinking a bit longer before answering, on a great day, I say yes in a second. I don’t have children, so I can only assume it feels similar to having a baby (dear parents, I know kids are different than having a business)! After a sleepless night, some parents might also have difficulties with being bright and shining happy when someone asks them the same question.
We too have sleepless nights sometimes. I followed my dream, and whatever happens, I do not regret my decision. This experience has been more than I ever thought it would be, with Rayk and everyone who is involved with or visited futurehippie.
I’m very excited about what the future will bring to us hippies.