Laura recently posted some of the origin story of Moveable Feast, how deeply connected to Thailand the brand has always been, and well, I caught that nostalgia bug real bad. I had images of our trip replaying in my head like a high school mix tape. I think I must’ve plugged in at least 10 external hard drives looking through years of old photos until I stumbled across these.
So I want to take you back to a land before time… Laura, take it away —
In 2015, on our honeymoon in Southeast Asia, Tim and I hatched a business plan that quite honestly scared the shit out of us: we put our life savings down to rent a sprawling 12th century castle in the French countryside for a week. As soon as we clicked “Pay Now,” I don’t think we slept for 48 hours. But we had a vision.
We wanted to create the high/low travel experience for other people that we were obsessed with creating for ourselves, and pulled together our dream team of talented people who could help us curate food, design, music and culture for a group of travelers who were equally interested in street food and high-end design.
We named it Moveable Feast Retreats after the Hemingway book, lined up our team, and sent the castle deposit to France while sweating bullets. To comfort our racing hearts, we told each other “if this doesn’t work, we’ll drink champagne at a castle by ourselves and laugh about it when we’re 95. But we HAVE TO chase the things that are tapping on our shoulder.”
Then our chef got pregnant. She would have a newborn during the trip and had to back out. We’d lost the centerpoint of the whole trip (FEAST IS LITERALLY HALF THE NAME ahhhh!).
As Tim and I scrambled to figure out how to replace her with someone good enough, we took a ten day motorcycle ride around the northern Thai jungles, sleeping at random farms on the side of the road and eating street food and trying to keep our chins up about the chef situation. One night, dusk was settling upon us, our wifi-less phones were nearly dead, and we hadn’t found a place to sleep. I wanted to turn back to the nearest town, Tim insisted that there was a farm he knew down a long dirt road, impassable by cars. So we forged on.
We found the farm, and the farmer welcomed us to his dinner table that night. And who else was sitting at the table but a gangly, hilarious chef from Milwaukee. Johnny had burned out on working 100 hour weeks in top restaurants and had moved to Asia to explore the flavors and history and food culture. The three of us drank Thai whiskey and shared cigarettes late into the night, laughing about the world and discussing our food philosophies.
We became fast friends, but more importantly, had found the perfect fit for Moveable Feast. Johnny became the living example of how the universe responds to bold moves— but you have to make the moves first. From France to the Yucatan to Sicily, we’ve sold out Moveable Feast and he’s been killing it around the world with us ever since.
(here’s Laura and Johnny, having a grand ol’ time in Cambodia a few weeks after we first met.)
(sometimes nights in Chiang Mai end up looking like photo above)
(and sometimes you find absolution in some undiscovered wat or another)
(Our friend’s uncle is a coffee farmer and roaster nestled into the northern Thai countryside)
(This is his coffee roaster. He lights a fire under this barrel and has MacGyvered this bicycle to it so that he can ride the bike to spin the beans to get an even roast.)
(Here’s his sister, prepping some hot water for pour overs.)
(Laura and the ladies, Karen hill-tribe village in Doi Inthanon)
(This kid is mirroring Laura as she takes the photo. See his fancy imaginary camera?)
(This is our local jungle healer and teacher extraordinaire, Homprang, prepping her homegrown ingrediants for homemade Tiger Balm.)
(Paper lanterns dotting the sky on loi krathong, the festival of lights.)
The universe responds to YES, and Chiang Mai is where we learned that for certain. It’s the soul home of where everything began for us, one of the cities we know best in the world, and the perfect mix of incredible design, ancient history, the world’s best food, and luxury only where you need it. Chiang Mai is already half sold-out, so let the voice of your 95 year old self whisper “YOLO” in your ear and come with us! We can’t wait to share it with you.
(And our biggest piece of Thailand advice? Follow this chick wherever she tells you to go. She’s been in Chiang Mai for nearly a decade and if there’s a hidden spot to find the best cup of coffee you’ve ever had (and there totally is), she’ll know it and is happy to point you there. Lucky for us, Alana of Paperplanes is joining us for the entire trip.)