Linh and Binh rest after working in their garden in the city of Da Lat in the central highlands. Photo courtesy of Linh and Binh
“The rain destroyed all the flowers we planted to sell,” Kieu Linh, 32, recently wrote on social media, complaining about the rainy weather.
She and her boyfriend Thanh Binh had been taking care of flowering plants for a year.
But the damage done to their garden was nothing, considering the valuable experience they had on the journey they took.
Binh had a cafe and Linh was a property manager at HCMC before moving to Da Lat. The couple also had a rental group of 12 rooms and didn’t have to worry about money, but felt their lives had become a boring loop.
“My old cafe had customers 24 hours a day, so I sometimes had to drop by at midnight,” says Binh. “Linh spent a lot of his time on the road. We only had a few hours a day together.”
An introvert, Linh has always felt tired from the hustle and bustle of the big city.
“I started using tranquilizers when I was in college. Then I started using headache pills as well.”
When her father died of lung cancer in 2019, Linh became even more depressed. She suggested to Binh, “Shall we move to Da Lat since I feel suffocated here?”
He only said, “I will go anywhere as long as you are with me.”
The couple made this idea a reality when they moved to Da Lat in 2020. They borrowed 400 million VND ($17,000) from acquaintances and rented a host family in their new place.
But that was around the time that Covid-19 was hitting Vietnam hard. Their homestay creation failed as the tourism industry was devastated by the pandemic, which forced Linh and Binh to return the property to the owner and started thinking about another business idea.
“We were selling snacks at the school gate to earn money,” Binh explains.
The couple then rented another house, this time to open a cafe. They put a lot of effort into decorating it, but their owner put it on the market when it was finished.
They paid a high price when they learned that they had to carefully examine the contracts they sign.
Their third business idea came when Binh drank chrysanthemum tea for the first time. Taking an immediate interest in the drink, they rented 300 meters of land to plant the flower, hoping to brew the tea and sell it themselves.
At first things seemed to be going well, until the owner of the nearby garden started fertilizing the land next to the couple’s, rendering their flowers unfit for human consumption.
This is the couple’s third failure.
It was harder to make money in Da Lat than in HCMC, they realized.
But to compensate for all this, Linh no longer needed to use painkillers: since she had moved to a mountain town, whenever she felt hopeless, she just had to go out and take a deep puff. fresh air.
And for this reason, the couple are not even thinking about leaving Da Lat, at least for now.
They started thinking about another business plan and came up with the idea of growing flowers to sell.
Learning from their three previous failures, they were determined to plan everything more thoroughly this time.
“We rented a 3,000 square meter garden with a pond, a stream and a built-in electrical system,” says Binh.
The couple began working part-time to partially cover costs. Binh started helping nearby homestay owners on their properties. Linh started painting with dried pine leaves after coming up with the idea for a social media post, and many people offered to buy them.
Linh with some of her paintings and the three dogs she and Binh adopted. Photo courtesy of Linh
“The idea of going back to HCMC sometimes crosses our minds when we are exhausted after working all day,” she says. “But that disappears as soon as we get an order and someone compliments our products.”
She says they have become more relaxed since moving to town. They turned to vegan food; she doesn’t need to spend time picking out an outfit every time she goes out since she’s surrounded by people whose lives blend into nature.
“And I don’t even have to maintain a skincare routine either.”
Linh and Binh finally got married last year. The husband and wife live with five stray cats they rescued and four dogs. And they are about to welcome their first child.
“We spend every moment of the day together, which we couldn’t do when we were in HCMC,” says Binh.
When Linh’s mother, Tran Thi Hoa, first visited the couple in Da Lat, she burst into tears when she saw her only daughter gardening and learned that Linh stayed up until 2 or 3 a.m. to work.
“I was sad to see my daughter, who spent four years studying in the city and got a comfortable, well-paying job after graduation, doing the jobs I do as a farmer,” she explains. “But I didn’t dare tell them.”
During their subsequent visit, she was more relieved to see the couple receiving many orders from customers. She stayed up late to help them divide the chrysanthemum tea into packets during her stay, while the couple were still selling the tea.
And she was convinced by the couple’s determination to choose the lifestyle they wanted to pursue.
Linh and Binh now start their day early in the morning in the garden before leaving for part-time work and working until late at night.
As their business grew in reputation and sales, Linh believes all the difficulties she and Binh faced were worth it. Living in the mountains, a totally different life from the one she had in HCMC, makes her happy every minute of the day.
Given their current income, it may take the couple a few more years to repay their VND400 million loan. But, having everything from health to love to belief, they are optimistic about the future.
“I don’t need the kids to get rich, I just want them to always live happily and comfortably like they do now,” Hoa says, approving their optimism.