Before there was a house, there was a country. And before there was a country, there was a region.
We just culminated a two year long due diligence process that was fun, thrilling, thought provoking and which forced us to really come to terms with our “bottom lines” on what we want to achieve, for the next chapter of our travels, and our lives.
After 6 years in Nicaragua, Latin America, we chose to open up a new chapter in our empty nester lives and reinvent ourselves, yet again, this time in Asia.
For some this is a stressful process, but for us it is nothing short of delectable. We considered the entire region of Asia, and visited over a dozen countries with the express purpose of finding our next home base. Early favorites were Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. We spent enough time in each to get a first assessment of what our lives might look like.
Our challenge was to balance the need to create an income stream, the opportunity to have social or environmental impact, the breadth of experience that each country would summon, the proximity of nature and clean beaches, the vibrancy of the local food source and cuisine, the personality and ease of interaction with locals, the complexity of learning a new language, the cost of living, the viability of the healthcare system and a myriad other smaller considerations.
We eventually took Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar out of the running. But we were ambivalent about several cities/towns that for us, would each make fabulous home bases.
India offered up Pushkar ~ a magnificent explosion of human experience rich with colorful fabrics, a complex local culture and so much more. BUT… the dust (and Peta’s allergies to it) was the defining dimension that took Pushkar out of the running.
Indonesia served up Ubud, Bali ~ the epicenter of raw food cuisine and a mecca for yoga, Peta was partial to Ubud. But I could not wrap my head around a business model where I would likely be able to quickly stand up a sustainable source of revenue.
Laos’s siren call came from Luang Prabang ~ due to its architectural and natural beauty. Peta was thumbs up on the omni-present community of Buddhist monks and the inevitable weaving of Buddhism as a key dimensions of our potential lives there. I couldn’t see clearly what the path would be to income, but… I was so taken with Luang Prabang, I didn’t care. Ultimately, Peta felt the ecosystem was a bit limited and while it was/is a wonderful place to visit and live in for a while, we couldn’t quite envision how to manifest a multi-dimensional life there as a home base.
Left therefore were two superlative potential life trajectories, one in Viet Nam (Hoi An) and the other in Sri Lanka (Fort Galle). So different and yet so equally attractive and alluring to both of us, for such a variety of reasons. We couldn’t decide and ultimately, we decided NOT to decide. Hence we are moving in 10 days to our two future home bases ~ Hoi An and Fort Galle/Unawatuna.
Once we decided on our trajectories, we moved quickly. Very quickly.
We visited Viet Nam in June, found an apartment in Hoi An, signed a lease that would begin on August 15, 2016. While we were not yet ready to move physically as Ben had to wrap things up work wise in Chicago, it turned out that one of our best friends was looking to return to Asia, so we offered up our apartment to her, and she is now living there.
There will be plenty more to report on our future lives in Hoi An.
And then there was Unawatuna, Sri Lanka. During the same trip, in June, having decided to lock in on the Fort Galle region, we moved quickly to identify a specific spot. We found a house in a great location, more of a “warehouse” really, with no water, no kitchen or bathroom, just a shell.
After all, we had a blast designing and building our home in Nicaragua. When Peta finally said good bye to our home in Granda, she had a moment of melancholy ~ “We will never have such a beautiful house like this again”, she said. “Au contraire!” I said, there is no reason to think we wouldn’t indulge in an adventure to design and build a home that is perfect for us, again. Somewhere else. Asia.
And so… Game on!
The following is an update on the manifestation of our Sri Lankan vision. To appreciate the choice of location, see our earlier blog entries: http://www.greenglobaltrek.com/2016/07/shaping-our-future-a-new-adventure-begins.html
The region: Asia
The country: Sri Lanka
The town: Unawatuna, near the historic Fort Galle
Now it’s about the house itself.
Step one: Figuring out the financials ~ we do not have the means, today, to buy a house. But we do know that the region is a booming investment opportunity. We managed to negotiate an agreement with the owner, whereby we would invest some $ in lieu of rent, for almost one year. And we would sign an option to buy the house, at a pre-set attractive price, should we decide to confirm our long term vision. Done and done!
Step two: Collecting data points for the aesthetics we want to achieve. While proximity to a superlative yoga studio and gorgeous beach were the key drivers, the specific house’s obvious attributes is in its location nestled amongst a thick tapestry of trees and foliage. The weather being warm all year round, we opted to prioritize “outdoor living”
One inspiration came from our travels to Yogyakarta, Indonesia where we tucked away a set of visuals in our minds ~ one day (and now today is that day) we would build ourselves an outside garden bathroom.
With this single starting point of prioritizing an internal garden / external bathroom, we built up a vision around materials, color and aesthetic. We both love the process of going from a blank canvas or lump of clay, to an art creation. Building a house, for us, is the same process.
Step 3: Pen to paper ~ we did a draft of our desired end state design and sought cost estimates from local vendors. A key to this process, of course, is to have a trustworthy and competent local relay. We quickly found just the right young man with sufficient prior experience, drive and ability to communicate smoothly and to be able to execute a build program, particularly at a distance.
We of course had to tweak our vision to match our budget (equivalent to 1 year of rent) and had to do some trade offs. But so far, we have been able to preserve the most critical aspects of of design vision. The cost estimation with local vendors and local materials yields multiple surprises, some items being cheaper than anticipated and others being more expensive than expected.
The rigor of confronting our vision with a budget is a necessary part of the process and forces us to prioritize elements of our vision. (That dreamy salt water pool will just have to wait!!)
Step 4:Take the plunge and start building ~ And then communicate, communicate, communicate. Clearly, with drawings and photographs to illustrate.
So far so good! Our vision is starting to materialize…..
Now the work starts on other parts of the house… The current house has 3 small “bedrooms”. We opt to take out a wall between two of the rooms so that we can have one large master bedroom, and one small guest room / office.
The house is a bit dark, so more windows would be nice…and how nice would it be to walk out of the bedroom onto a small yoga deck and into a garden area? The future main bedroom will have glass pane doors to allow light to enter and access to the outside from the bedroom.
The “kitchen” is a bare square room right now. It will need a door to the outside at the back of the house, so that we can eat our meals outside under the trees. A sink, counter space, a fridge are all part of the priority items per our current budget.
So that’s where we stand today.
It is a work in progress, but we are confident that we can upgrade the space into something really cool that we will enjoy living in… all it takes is some design creativity, some program management skills, a good local partner to manage day to day activities, and a healthy dose of courage.
We are sculpting our Sri Lankan lives, and designing the house that will be our home base in Sri Lanka for the next chapter of our Green Global Trek.
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