- Joe Green and Gift Prakaew gave up Bangkok city life to live in a seaside town in Central Thailand.
- The couple spent eight months and $188,000 building their dream home.
- "I could not have a lifestyle like this in Europe or in the United States," Green said.
After living in a Bangkok apartment with his fiancée Gift Prakaew for over a year, Joe Green decided it was time for a change of scenery.
When Green retired from his job with the US Department of Defense in 2018, he wanted to be in a city — or so he thought
After growing up in Hoboken, New Jersey — 6 miles from Manhattan — Green had always pictured himself in a city. "But obviously I couldn't afford to live in New York City — it would be too expensive on my pension," Green told Business Insider.
A friend suggested that he check out Asia, and so he decided to give Thailand a whirl.
"Basically, before I even got out of my taxi, I said, 'This is where I'm going to live,'" Green said.
Saying goodbye to city life
Green's condo in Bangkok came with two pools, a bowling alley, and beautiful city views — but the combination of smog and noise pollution got too difficult to bear.
"I had this scratch in my throat, this cough all the time, and I didn't like it," Green said.
In a brand new SUV that he felt he could never drive in Bangkok because of the traffic, Green and his fiancée started spending more time on road trips around Thailand instead.
The couple had visited Prachuap Khiri Khan, a western province about 180 miles from Bangkok, four times. On their way back to Bangkok on that last trip, they decided they wanted to live there instead.
The couple moved into a small, rental cottage in the area in March 2020, right before the pandemic lockdown. But they were still looking for something a bit more permanent.
It didn't take long before they found the perfect plot of land to build their forever home.
The allure of the countryside
The couple ended up buying a plot of land for $40,000.
Since foreigners weren't allowed to buy land due to Thai property laws, it had to be under Prakaew's name.
"I always wanted to be by the mountain or the sea, after I decided I didn't want to be in the city anymore," Green said. "And where we live now, we have both, actually."
The couple's bedroom faces a mountain, and the sea is a five-minute walk away, he said.
There are no malls or nightlife nearby, but that's alright since they weren't looking for it anyway.
"Everyone's laid back," Green said. "It's big enough where you could get everything you want, but it's small enough where you can still enjoy your surroundings."
Turning a drawing into a reality
The couple worked with a builder and an architect to build their home.
"I knew the layout I wanted," Green said. "I wasn't sure of dimensions or anything because I'm not good with any of that, but I drew out what I wanted on a piece of paper."
Working off of Green's sketch, the architect then came up with a proper blueprint for the house.
The three-bedroom property, including the front porch, is slightly less than 2,000 square feet and cost $188,000 to build.
Design-wise, everything — including tiles, paint colors, and furniture — the couple decided on their own.
The modern one-story building had a white, grey, and black color scheme, and was filled with simple but sleek furniture.
Eight months from start to finish
The couple started construction in January 2020 and moved into their new home in August.
"It turned out exactly the way I wanted it," Green said. "It's our dream home."
During the eight months, Green would visit the site daily to oversee the project.
Despite not having any background in construction, he would spend his free time educating himself about the process of building a home so that he would be able to ask the right questions or give suggestions.
Since the crew all spoke English, he said he was able to communicate his feedback fairly easily.
A laidback and affordable lifestyle
For Green, life in Thailand is much more affordable than living in a Western country.
"To live in the United States or to live in Europe, I have friends and family telling me prices just keep going through the roof," Green said.
On the other hand, the cost of living in Thailand is "reasonable," he added.
Green estimates that he and Prakeaw have a monthly expenditure of about $3,000, and that allows them to live very comfortably.
"We have a very, very comfortable lifestyle. I could not have a lifestyle like this in Europe or in the United States," he added. "It's just not possible."
Try living like a local first
Green has a piece of advice for someone who wants to move to a foreign country as he did: Visit for a few months and try to live like a local first.
"You have to make sure that you can deal with the weather or the language barrier," Green said.
Moreover, the couple traveled around Thailand extensively before deciding where they wanted to live permanently.
"If you build, you're stuck, right? You're there. You're not moving that house," he said.
Sharing their journey online
The couple has been documenting their lives on a YouTube channel as a hobby.
Their videos often involve them sharing about their day and their travels, and they even have a whole playlist dedicated to videos about their home-building journey.
Sometimes the couple also interview people they meet in Thailand — including expats — about their experience in the country.
"It's not work," Green said, referring to their YouTube channel. "We do it when we want. Sometimes if we travel, we try to put out a video every other day or sometimes even every day."
The joy of making YouTube videos comes from being able to share their journey with others and forming new friendships through the process, he said.
"We probably won't do forever, but we'll do it as long as it's fun," he said. "When it's no longer fun, we'll stop."
Reflecting on their move to Prachuap Khiri Khan, the couple says they're happier living away from the city.
"The ease of getting around with no traffic, not much noise on our soil. We never hear anything other than roosters, which in Thailand supposedly bring luck and wealth," Green added.