As another season comes to an end I find myself reflecting on what has now become a full decade living on this magical island of Koh Phangan. Casting my mind back to the days of my permanent move out here 10 years ago, it seems like another lifetime or even a whole different person that packed up his bags, jumped on a plane and left the UK behind him for a new life on the tropical shores of Thailand. Back then I was young, naïve and thought I knew it all, I was shortly about to find out many things about myself that I never knew I had in me.
5 years earlier I first came backpacking in Thailand and South East Asia. I immediately fell in love with the country
but particularly the island of Koh Phangan. I experienced freedom I had never known in western societies and I knew then I had found my home. The people were so friendly and relaxed, the travelling and lifestyle were inexpensive and the weather, compared to the drizzly grey of England was a factor that ensured I never looked back after stepping off the plane. I remember after that 14 month trip around Asia, the feeling of returning to the grey skies of England and knowing right there at Heathrow airport that I would not stay long in Europe.
It took me 3 years to save enough money to finally move away from the UK and when that time came it felt like being released from a long prison sentence. I was going ‘home’ for good. I had spent every minute of the last 3 years thinking about this time and what I was going to do when I arrived. I was still young enough that I allowed my mind to wander into all kinds of impractical ideas for a business and without giving it too much thought I decided to follow my heart and work doing something I loved, which was wakeboarding.
Wake Up! Wakeboarding Koh Phangan was born
I had made my choice and now was the time to turn an impractical idea into a thriving business on this small hippy island of Koh Phangan. Back in those days it was much quieter than it is now, there was a handful of western run businesses and the tourism consisted mostly of backpackers and low-budget travellers similar to myself during my trip around South East Asia. I had plenty of experience in wakeboarding and teaching, but I had never run a business before. Even if I had experience, it probably wouldn’t have done me much good out here as business and social etiquette is very different to the regimented western style that us farang are familar with. I had to learn fast and adapt to the wild west style of business that existed here on the island.
I soon found that the friendly locals were not always so friendly when it came to business, I say this not to reflect badly on them as I soon learned to see our differing business styles as a cultural difference and not a personal attack. Even when my first business experience nearly saw me having my boat stolen by the friends I had chosen to partner up with, I learned to let it go and not turn a disagreement into a war that as a foreigner I would certainly have lost. Saving face is a big part of Thai culture and it is never wise to show your emotions in any business or social disagreement. Instead, I used it as a learning experience on how business is conducted on the island. My so-called ‘bad’ experience is now one of my favorite stories of my initiation to the island of Koh Phangan, but I will leave that tale for another time as it deserves its own post 🙂 Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger so they say and in this instance that was certainly the case.
Now 10 years on I am thankful for every up and down I have experienced while living and doing business here. My business continues to grow and more importantly I still love my life, my job, this wonderful island of Koh Phangan and all the people who have found themselves living here. The local Thai people have made me feel at home and welcomed me into their community and I am so grateful to speak their language, which has allowed me to get to know them on a much deeper personal level than being just another white face on the tourist bus. I hope I have many more years of excitement and adventure whilst living here and judging by the first 10 years I can’t see it being any other way. Here’s to the next decade of wakeboarding in Koh Phangan!