By: Jordan Bishop
Play the word association game with anyone who’s been to Thailand and, with amazing accuracy, they’ll all bring to mind the same three words when you prompt them with ‘Koh Phangan’, one of a handful of islands positioned firmly in the idyllic blue waters of the Gulf of Thailand: ‘Full Moon Party.’
While this monthly all-night beach rave has put Koh Phangan on the map for travelers from every corner of the globe, a handful of equally international entrepreneurs see opportunities in far different capacities there. Boasting the rarely-found combination of unexplored mountainous terrain and world-class beach, it’s no wonder that backpackers and yogis alike have flocked to the island for its natural beauties and the introspective mentality those beauties catalyze. Still, they’re far from the only ones who have discovered its power. Fire dancers and laser lights aside, Koh Phangan is quickly becoming one of Asia’s top hotspots for a burgeoning class of highly-driven, totally mobile digital nomads.
One such forward-looking entrepreneur is Matthew Schotz, the jaunty San Diego native who’s spent much of the past year and a half setting up roots in Sri Thanu, a small settlement on the west coast of Koh Phangan. While it’s tough to call Sri Thanu anything larger than a village, the area’s unique proliferation of yoga, tantra and other spiritual practices beckon curious folks from around the globe. Schotz, who has also spent considerable time living in another of Southeast Asia’s spiritual centres, Bali, has experienced firsthand the transformative changes a strong community can have on a person, so when he visited Koh Phangan and saw the island’s potential for growth, he set out to build exactly that sort of community there.
Fast forward to February of this year and BeacHub, Schotz’s brand new co-working space, was officially opening its doors – rather, it was opening, since the open-concept space is almost completely devoid of traditional doors.
But what it lacks in doors the space makes up for in everything else a digital nomad would want – plenty of desk space and hammocks, surprisingly fast Internet, and a full menu delivering food from the nearby Karma Kafe, also owned by Schotz. And the best part of all: it’s placed squarely on white-sand beach, wedged between a resort getaway and Zen Beach, Sri Thanu’s most eclectic locale to take in one of Koh Phangan’s renowned sunsets. As far as Schotz knows, it’s the first beachfront co-working space in the world.
Matthew Schotz welcomes guests to BeacHub with open arms. Photo: Matthew Schotz
With that said, a co-working space wasn’t the original plan; when he first came across the location, Schotz’s initial vision was that of a beachside yoga studio. But as he thought more about how he wanted to see the island develop, he realized that what the area was lacking wasn’t another yoga studio – there are several major studios and a handful of minor ones all within a one-mile radius of Sri Thanu – but a dedicated place for makers and entrepreneurs.
“If you want to attract interesting people to the island, you need to give them a space to thrive,” Schotz says with conviction.
Despite its focus on providing a comfortable, relaxed work environment, BeacHub is far from a work-only zone. Darren Smith, founder of the intimacy app for couples, Pillow, recalls the two months he spent living on Koh Phangan and working from BeacHub earlier this year. “I grew more on that island in two months than I had done during my previous two years,” Smith says, adding, “It’s a fantastic place for exploration of the mind and body, if you’re open to it.” He’s far from the only one to cite the island’s ability to facilitate, and accelerate, personal growth; for many, Koh Phangan has become a sort of catalyst for the changes they’ve been seeking in themselves for years.
So in a lot of ways, BeacHub was more aptly named than Schotz ever intended. Though it is and always will be a workspace for traveling entrepreneurs, BeacHub has also become a place that hosts regular “master classes” on a variety of business and lifestyle topics, an organizer of events – whether those are organized sports or trips to the nearby sauna – and a comfortable space for everyone, digital nomad or not, to pass through and say hello.
It balances the entrepreneur’s needs with those of the long-term traveler, a place where both pragmatists and socialites flourish. In such a unique little village on such a rapidly-developing island, BeacHub is carving out its niche as the place where just about anyone can come and feel welcome.
BeacHub is just the tip of the iceberg. As more work arrangements become remote-friendly, workers naturally gravitate to more favorable climates and environments, like the islands of Thailand, to achieve the work-life balance that many of us strive for in our own daily lives. On that front, Schotz agrees that there’s no slowing down. “Koh Phangan is no longer made for just backpackers and party-goers. As the quality of the offerings on the island continue to improve, we’ll keep seeing people with larger chunks of time come here to make Koh Phangan a real, stable part of their lives.”
Perhaps when we play the same word association game five or ten years from now, ‘Koh Phangan’ will instead bring to mind thoughts of a creative center or an entrepreneurial paradise, not just blurred flashbacks to its its world-renowned party. As with all questions postulating Thailand’s dynamic future, though, we can only be sure of one thing: only time will tell.