07 June 2014

A Future So Bright

Six years ago I found myself sitting chest deep in the azure waters off Phi Phi Island, drinking a big beer Leo and reconsidering what it meant to live well.

I was a travel virgin then. I had booked a two week trip that included stops in the Philippines, Thailand and Hong Kong--a circus that seemed worth it because I figured I would never see that part of the world again. But, then I met travelers. Not people on vacation--travelers. Adventurous souls who took months if not years to slowly soak in the world.

One of those travelers was a dude named Khai--a friend of a friend who had left New York to teach English in a Thai village. I didn't know you could make money teaching English. I didn't know you could live abroad so easily. His life, and the lives of the other travelers I met inspired me to take a 90% pay cut, sell off all my stuff and pursue a greater happiness.

Six years later I find myself on Koh Tao, a beautiful spit of an island in the Gulf of Thailand. Once again I am pursuing a greater happiness. And once again Khai is involved.

A little over a year ago, Khai started a business on Koh Tao; a taco and burrito shop that was only open for a few hours a day. The test run was successful so he moved to a permanent location and added beer and cocktails to the menu. Soon he had saved enough to open a hostel above the restaurant. He wants to continue expanding; a bigger hostel, restaurants in different locations on the island. But, he can't do it alone, he needs a partner.

That is where I come in. We have a handshake agreement and grand plans. I am buying a 30% stake in his business. And my gut is screaming that this is right and possibly wonderful.

Khai didn't have to hard sell his plan. He told me what he wanted to accomplish and why he needed a partner to accomplish it, and waited for me to figure out that the pretty box he had placed in my hands was a gift.

This is what I'm buying into:
The Taco Shack is in Mae Haad, just up the street from the ferry pier. The menu is simple, tacos and burritos with an island twist; honey pork, mustard beef, chicken pineapple and vegetarian. The food is seriously good. Add in the bar and you've got a perfect spot for comfort food and brew. The dormitory style hostel upstairs ensures consistent funnel down business, and the outdoor seating and lively atmosphere pull in a lot of foot traffic.

It's a great little business, but what I'm really buying into is Khai's expansion plan. Next year, while I am in Saudi saving up investment money he is going to double the size of the hostel from 12 to 24 beds. Once I arrive we will open up a new Taco Shack in Chalok, the quiet but resort heavy side of the island. And eventually when the time is right we will open a third Taco Shack in Sairee Beach, the nightlife center of Koh Tao. We've discussed other ventures big and small but that is the core of it.

I love the simplicity of his business model. A dormitory style hostel is cheap and easy to maintain, but more importantly it attracts the best kind of traveler. The people who stay in dorms are looking for community. They want to meet other travelers and share stories. I have been staying at the hostel for a week and I've already become friends with travelers from England, Belgium, Denmark, Australia, Thailand, Canada and America. The guests here toss their bags on bunk beds, come down to The Taco Shack for a beer and as the Hawaiians would say, talk story.

Khai is the man with the plan. It is his connections that will make all of this possible. As a partner my primary roles will be business manager and co-face of the company. Our products are comfort food and dorm beds, but what we are really selling is the travel lifestyle and that is something we both know well.

Over the coming months you will see me promoting the business a lot. To start please give us a "Like" on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kohtaotaco

And look us up on TripAdvisor. The reviews are in, and they're good. Out of 108 restaurants in Koh Tao we are ranked #4!: www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g303910-d4060729-Reviews-Taco_Shack_Restaurant-Ko_Tao_Surat_Thani_Province.html

I love this future. I am ecstatic about this future.

I have Saudi Arabia to finish first and that may seem like a bummer, but I think it will be a joy. I am debt free for the first time in my adult life because of Saudi. I will have the capital to invest in this business because of Saudi. And I have great friends in Saudi and we have a bit of travel left to do.

It was 3am and Khai and I were sitting on the beach talking shop while the dozen or so tourists we'd brought out for the night danced, and sucked down buckets and raged for all they were worth. We shook hands and promised to stay true to our promises. "I know we'll be great business partners," he said. "Because you know how to sell the dream."

I'm ready to live it. I'm ready to sell it. I just need until May, and then my friend, you can finally take a day off.

To all you readers out there...

Book your tickets. I'll make you a taco. We'll talk story.