Today for a travel tales interview I have traveler & entrepreneur Mitchell White. Along with his brother Taylor, Mitch opened up the hostel Common Grounds in the mountain town of PAI in Thailand. He’s now also working on an e-commerce company One Tribe Apparel where they are importing Thai style harem & fisherman pants to the USA. We talk with Mitch about traveling, deciding to move to Thailand and his upcoming online business ventures.
I’ve been to PAI and it’s a great town. When did you first visit Thailand and PAI and what inspired you to move there and open up your hostel Common Grounds?
I try to travel at least 3 months a year. Last year I traveled all over Southeast Asia and fell absolutely in love with Thailand from the food to the culture to someone special. Pai is a laidback town in the mountains of Northern Thailand, and it really resonated with me. The slow pace of life, the beautiful mountains and jungles, the relatively low cost of living, and the bustling music and art scene all factored into my decision to settle down in Pai. After settling down, Common Grounds was the logical next step.
What would you say it is that makes PAI such a special community and destination? It seems lots of people come in planning to stay for only a day or two and then end up staying for weeks or longer.
Since we opened a few months ago, we’ve had close to 30 guests that have stayed for over 2 weeks (maybe half of those ended up staying over a month, and at least a couple have stayed multiple months). No one can put their finger on the exact reason why they stay. Maybe it’s magic.
Was it hard leaving your friends back home and do you plan on staying in Thailand long term?
I’ve always been nomadic, moving to different cities in the states every couple of years, so I’m used to leaving friends behind, and making new ones. I still stay in frequent contact with my group of close childhood friends. We are renting a party house this summer for a couple weeks in the Florida Keys and I’m very stoked to go home for that, but then I’ll be returning to Pai. The long-term goal would be to live in Thailand a few months a year, the states a few months a year, and then travel the rest but we’ll see.
Any funny stories or incidents you can tell us about from running your own hostel?
Having only dorms, I have accidently walked into way too many people trying to get some privacy in some very strange places. I’ll leave it at that.
How did you decide to start your own clothing company?
Thai Harem Pants are synonymous with Thai lifestyle—free-flowing, bohemian, comfortable, and unique. They are such a hit with so many people—locals and tourists alike—and I wanted to bring this gem to the states.
Do you think the Thai style pants and clothing overall is something that can become popular in the USA?
Definitely. As music festivals, yoga, and the culture of cultivating a free spirit become more popular, so will clothing that reflects these lifestyle choices.
Do you have plans to sell more than just the harem pants?
We have many other styles of pants, and are testing their viability with backpackers at the hostel. We wanted to start small, and grow smart, but expect to see some new products on the website soon.
I talk with lots of people who are trying to travel and run an online business. Have there been any major struggles or road blocks in setting up your online business?
The only way to learn to do something is to actually go through the motions and do it. Everything has been a learning process, but that’s how it should be. Creating a website, finding reliable suppliers, figuring out shipping, customs, and taxes—all new, all difficult, but all will be easier next time.
I think the photos on your site and instagram really capture the Thai/bohemian vibe that a lot of travelers embrace. Can you comment on the photos and the overall lifestyle and vibe you were trying to portray through them?
People that backpack fit nicely in our targeted demographic. The models were all guests (mostly long-term) that were already wearing Thai Harem Pants. All of the pictures can be summed up as “A Day in the Life” of a backpacker in Pai.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about PAI, Common Grounds or Bamboo Harem Pants?
If you are thinking of taking a vacation, then do it! Come to SE Asia, come to Pai, chill out in a hammock with a cold beer, watching the sun disappear behind the beautiful mountains, while being comfortable as hell in a pair of Bamboo Harem Pants. Juh Gan Krap!