Not just in a farm
COOL GUEST HOUSE
Chiang Mai| Thailand
I've been living in Chiang Mai, Thailand since 6 years, together with my wife and my children – says Xavier, founder of Cool Guesthouse. In total, I've been in Thailand for 16 years, before I was living in Bangkok. I really want to stay in this country. I was born in France, I spent 11 years in Barcelona. My background is in IT, I left school when I was 17 and I quickly found my own way. I got successful working in IT services, I became an entrepreneur, I got rich. My company in Barcelona grew little by little, reaching the point of hiring 60 people. But with time I started to question different things. I became a member of Greenpeace more than 20 years ago; I helped a little girl from India supporting her every month. I started to think more about the sense of life. But when you are living in a very comfortable way, it’s not easy to change. I was quite conscious, I wanted to do something, but I really didn’t know how to start. I moved to Bangkok, started some businesses also here and then few events brought me different answers. First of all, my daughter was born. And then also two of my businesses failed. That was quite shocking. I understood that maybe I need a different way.
One day a friend of mine told me about permaculture. I started to see some videos in French, to be honest they were not easy to watch for beginners. But I decided to try. I’m a hard worker, I work about 80 hours per week and I start my day at 5am reading, this is the moment you can absorb information better. I read a lot about permaculture, I participated in courses and international conferences, I got more and more involved.
My life today is completely following the permaculture rhythm. We opened a foundation a year ago, we built the Permaculture Children's House, mixing permaculture philosophy and Montessori methodology, we got a land outside Chiang Mai where we have an education center for permaculture demonstration. Here, in the city, we have a small permaculture guesthouse with inside garden. We are trying to grow maximum food in minimum space and use it for ourselves and for customers. We have compost and we try to recycle as much as we can. We are redoing the water system, as it is serviced very bad here, with plants and a mechanical process we can clean the water well enough to reuse it in our garden.
If people want to come here to learn something, we also have volunteering opportunities. We also support university students who want to do training within their studies. We can have a contract with the university or the education center, we can help with the work permit and visa to stay in Thailand. There are two different kinds of people who are usually coming: people who want to learn about sustainability and people who are more involved in organic farming. We are open for both, together we can do more.
In our initiatives we use sociocracy as a decision making method. It’s a circle of people who discuss together, trying to find reasonable balance. To implement decisions we need to reach consent. Not consensus, but consent. Of course we can have friction and they are very welcome, it’s a way to build community. It’s definitely better than voting, which creates divisions. In sociocracy the process is led by leaders, but not bosses. The leader is interested in people, let them talk and creates space for it.
I’m also involved in educating local people. We translate materials from English to Thai and we organize courses. People ask a lot of questions like: I have a small land, would it be a problem? We show them that a small land is not a problem, you have a land, that’s important. Other people say: I don’t have a land, I just live in a condo. I answer them: just find some neighbors, make a group and find a piece of land to make a community garden close to your place. We need to bring permaculture to the cities, where most people live today. We are trying to inspire people and make them understand that permaculture is not only about farming. It’s a method of design, based on ethics: respect nature, respect humans and share. Permaculture allows us to design ecosystems, being it a natural ecosystem, a social ecosystem or even an economical one. We apply permaculture in our company, in the way we settle the business. Giving inspiration and having people visiting us to see what we are doing is our biggest success. In my entrepreneur life I’ve never seen money as an achievement. If I do things accordingly, the rest will follow. I’m not doing things to be rich. I will be rich in the way that people come here, see and get inspired, and replicate or reinvent what we are doing here.
More about Cool Guesthouse: coolguesthouse.com