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A millennial couple moved from the UK to Thailand to build a $94,000 farmstead in the middle of nowhere. They love it.

Amanda Goh   

A millennial couple moved from the UK to Thailand to build a $94,000 farmstead in the middle of nowhere. They love it.
  • Ben and his wife Anna were forced to close their two restaurants in the UK during the pandemic.
  • The couple decided to move to Thailand earlier than planned to build an off-grid farm for $94K.

Ben and his wife, Anna, always planned to move to Thailand. They just didn't think it'd happen so soon.

They had been running two F&B businesses in the county of Cumbria in the UK when the pandemic hit. They struggled to keep their restaurants afloat despite cutting staff and not drawing a salary for months.

"We were both working about 80 hours a week, but we were doing it for no money — we were doing it just so we could maybe break even at the end of each month," Ben, a former chef, told Business Insider. "We both thought that we really enjoyed what we did, but we very quickly realized that wasn't true."

The couple asked to be identified only by their first names to protect their privacy.

When their businesses eventually shuttered, the couple — who have been together for 13 years — ended up bringing their relocation plans forward.

"Anna's originally from Thailand, so we'd always planned to come over to retire, but we hadn't planned on doing that for maybe another 15 years," Ben, 43, said. "Covid-19 was kind of the trigger."

Moving to Thailand amid pandemic restrictions

Before the move, the couple had considered buying property in the UK but realized they had limited options due to their budget.

"What we would've got for our money would've been cramped — a very small apartment or very small house with no land to speak of, in an area of the UK that's not particularly nice," Ben said.

Ultimately, it made more sense for them to move to Thailand for the kind of lifestyle they wanted.

But getting to Thailand was tricky due to the pandemic restrictions.

The couple had to move to the country separately: Anna flew over first in March 2021, and Ben joined her two months later. They also had their dog flown over on its own two weeks after Anna.

The couple settled in the province of Nong Bua Lam Phu, on a five-acre piece of land they had bought while still in the UK. Nong Bua Lam Phu is in northeastern Thailand, about 70 miles south of the border with Laos.

"Anna was raised in a village about a 15-minute drive from our farm and the majority of her family is still there," Ben said. "So she knew the land, she knew there were no utilities at all, but she knew that it was a beautiful spot."

Family members helped survey the plot and took photos and videos for the couple before they made the purchase, Ben added.

They paid 660,000 Thai baht, or $18,600, for the land. Due to Thailand's property ownership laws, the land title is under Anna's name.

Designing the house

The couple purchased the house plans through an architecture company, but worked with a builder to modify the layout of the rooms to suit their needs better.

The resulting 2,900-square-foot property spans two floors and comes with three bedrooms.

The only room on the first floor is the kitchen, which opens to the backyard pool. The living room, bedroom, and office, are all on the second floor.

The couple's home is surrounded by trees, with a mountain in the back and a river that runs past the front of their land. "The view is stunning, and the reason we went for two floors is because we really wanted to make the most of the views," Ben added.

There's also a lovely breeze that runs across the land, he said, which can only be felt on the upper floor. In the day, when the patio doors and the windows are open, there's no need for air conditioning or a fan.

"We didn't realize this until we started building the house, it was just a lucky bonus," Ben added. In Nong Bua Lam Phu, the daily temperature ranges between 61 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year.

The couple paid 3,337,200 Thai baht, or about $94,000, for the house.

How two monsoon seasons delayed construction

The couple faced multiple delays during the project.

"Before the land was sold to us, the farmer had planted a whole crop's worth of sugarcane on the five acres," Ben said.

Instead of destroying his crop, the couple decided to give the farmer a couple of months to harvest.

"We didn't have to do this, but we felt like we should because we were coming into a new area, a new culture," he added.

Apart from the delay in getting the project started, the construction process was also held up by two especially bad monsoon seasons, Ben said. The monsoon season takes place from May to October every year.

"Our whole land was flooded, which meant the builders had no access to the site. When the water subsided, it took a lot of the access road with it," Ben said. "It was another two months before the government rebuilt the road so the builders could get back to the house."

The house, which was supposed to be built in seven months, was only completed after 22 months.

"Honestly, there were so many times during those 22 months that I was so regretful of doing this," Ben said. "It felt like it was the end of the world. When I'm wading through water up to my waist, just trying to get to my farm, I'm looking around me, and I'm thinking, 'What am I doing?'"

It was a stressful time, he added.

Off-grid living in the middle of nowhere

The couple lives about 30 minutes from the nearest city, and it takes them 15 minutes to drive to the closest small village — which doesn't have much, save for houses and a tiny village shop.

"To emphasize how off-the-beaten-track we are, our five-acre plot has no electricity and no water — we had to go completely off-grid with our build," Ben said.

Water comes from a well that they constructed, and they rely on solar panels for electricity. They are also trying to grow their own food, including rice and fruit.

"It's more aspirational at the moment, but we do grow things. We've got 100 banana trees, about five mango trees that we've planted, as well as lemons, limes, things like that," Ben said.

They are also planning to commercially grow coconuts in the coming months, he added.

A lower cost of living than in the UK

Ben says that the cost of living in Thailand is much lower than in the UK.

"If we were really to tighten our belts, we could manage on maybe $500 a month for the both of us, and that would be for food, fuel, and car insurance," Ben said. But that's just for the bare necessities and wouldn't include things like eating or going out, he added.

While Ben is still involved in managing a chef recruitment business in the UK with a partner, he says that the lower cost of living has taken the stress out of work for him.

"I don't have to be earning thousands of pounds every week or every month," he added.

Outside his job, Ben spends his time working on the farm and has been documenting his days on his YouTube channel.

The purpose of making videos is to share the reality of his journey — the good, the bad, and the ugly.

"It really documents not just the house build, but everything that we went through, including the horrendous flooding," Ben said. "It's not all happiness — there are a lot of real difficult times in that process that I wanted to share."

Consider going off-grid

Ben has a piece of advice for those looking to build their own homes: Consider going off-grid.

"It's worth going off-grid because once you make that decision, there are so many more locations where you can live," Ben said. "You're not bound by the restrictions of having to be close to government electricity or their water supply."

He added that although living remotely isn't for everyone, having an off-grid system means that living in rural areas — where land is often much cheaper — becomes a possibility.

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