WIN the Ultimate Dream Life Abroad in Luang Prabang, Laos

UPDATE: This contest is currently cancelled. We apologize to those who applied. If you have questions or concerns, please contact Isabel directly on the Facebook page.  

I still remember the day, five years ago, when I sat with my breakfast on the banks of the Mekong River in Luang Prabang, Laos contemplating my future. I had just finished my first semester of teaching english in Thailand, and I was staring at my acceptance email from Colorado State University, pressuring me to decide within the next 24 hours.

I watched the murky stream meander by, listened to the birds sing in the nearby trees, took in the idyllic colonial town behind me, where I watched orange-robed monks walk the cobbled streets on the daily.

I can see myself here, I thought.

I’m not yet ready to give up this life, I thought.

And so I walked a few blocks to a local internet cafe, signed my deferral request, and faxed it to Colorado State University, thus buying myself another year to decide if graduate school was right for me.

Had I not been sitting in Luang Prabang  — an UNESCO world heritage town in the valley surrounded by lush green mountains, nearby waterfalls, a black bear sanctuary and many, many temples and friendly faces  — I might have made a different decision. I might not have continued my life in Asia to teach English in China, or ventured to Hong Kong, India and back again to Thailand….all of which led me to where I am today.

Had I been sitting somewhere besides Luang Prabang, I might be a different person today.

I say that in all honesty, because living abroad will change a person. It will make her slow down, re-prioritize, live in the moment….

And now YOU have the unique chance to WIN the ULTIMATE DREAM LIFE ABROAD in this small city with big powers, deemed by many to be one of the most beautiful in the world.

ultimate dream life abroad

Sound too good to be true?

Stay with me.

A woman by the name of Isabel Dréan contacted me to see if I would help her spread the word about a contest she’s created. One where she’s going to GIVE AWAY her two beloved businesses — a bookshop and an art gallery for local artists — in Luang Prabang, Laos.

You heard that right. She’s giving it all away. And it could be to YOU.

But what’s the catch, right?

That was my first reaction, too.

So I did my research. And I discovered it’s not only too good, it’s also true.

Here’s the story:  


Isabel originally traveled to Laos sixteen years ago for what was meant to be two days. Two months later, she founded her first business and Luang Prabang’s only bookshop. She grew and flourished with the laid back lifestyle Laos provides and the slow pace of business and life. But her true passion is screenwriting and producing, and she has decided now is the time to focus on her career in cinema and to be closer to her family. If you look at her resume (IMDB) you’ll wonder how she did it all for so long anyway — founder of many businesses, a movie producer/writer/director, a daughter, a wife, a mom. You can even read an interview of her here, where she discusses both her work in Laos and in Hollywood.

“When I arrived I hardly had any money, I never ran a business before, and destiny played an important role in me settling here…We have known for a while that the day would come when we would have to make a decision about what is next for L’Étranger Books & Tea, and our lives in Laos. And this moment has come. Our story in Luang Prabang is so special and magical to us that it is impossible to put a price on that. As a way to give back for this amazing experience I was given, I have decided that it’s time to pay forward to someone else.” ~Isabel Dréan

In drawing my own conclusions from what I’ve learned about Isabel, the travel life and Laos, my point is that an accomplished Hollywood screenwriter from Canada who clearly has a passion for bringing together community, for entrepreneurship, for helping those less fortunate find their passion/their way/their voice will profit much more from the opportunity to help someone else live the ultimate dream life abroad she has so beautifully created for herself than to sell a business in a country where $1 USD equals more than $8,000 Laos Kip. However, there is also a small submission fee to enter the contest (see details below), to help Isabel offset the profits she would have made by selling outright.

It’s time for her to share her dream with you.

What the winner will get:

  • Two businesses: L’Étranger, Books & Tea Kopnoi Gallery
  • $10,000 U.S. dollars: $5,000 when the winner accepts the grand prize and $5,000 in the business bank account.
  • Lao Foreign Business License – 100% Foreign owned which includes: Export/Import Company, Bookshop, Café, Media Production License.
  • Store inventory (books, Lao handicraft, art pieces*, … )
  • Foreign Investor Status (which would require a $250,000 investment and a long administrative process, without this competition)
  • Resident Visa for the winner (Fee paid for the first year (value $700)) + Possibility of 3 other visas for partners included in the license at $700/year-each
  • Rent-free living for first year for the THREE HOUSES: commercial, residential & Office/Workshop/Storage.
  • Commercial House: 2 businesses under one roof, furnished with bookshelves, store shelves, tables, sofas and chairs. 1 Cashier POS System, 1 Computer for music, Large screen TV with DVD. (Lease).
  • Residential House: 2 bedroom house, 3 bathrooms, outdoor patio, fully furnished with art, antiques, Lao artifacts (Lease).
  • Extra House: Office/Workshop/Storage + guest room for friends and family when visiting (Lease).
  • Brand new Motorcycle – brand new motorbike 125cc all licensed, perfect to make your daily purchase and going around town.
  • Free food and drinks from café for as long as you stay.
  • Domains:, including L’Étranger, Books & Tea website.
  • Up to three months training given by the current owner.
  • All earnings from the 2 shops starting from the date of the take-over by the new owner.
  • Team of 10 trained staff; including General Manager (with us for 7 years), Kitchen manager (13 years), Bookshop clerks, gardener (10 years), housekeeper & kitchen staff.


How to apply?  

All you need to do to apply is write a 200-word essay to earn Isabel’s attention. You do not need to have any prior business or writing experience. You can write anything from a travel story, an essay about your dreams and goals, an introduction to yourself, etc. She’s looking for passion, for emotion, for desire. Keep in mind she’s a writer and reader, so make sure to send your best work! (And if writing isn’t your thing, you can upgrade to a 2-minute video story instead – all directions will be sent via email after you submit your application).


There will be three rounds of applications, and from each the following steps will occur:

  • 30 quarter finalists will be chosen to complete a more in-depth questionnaire.
  • The 10 chosen semi-finalists will Skype with Isabel, and she will choose one finalist to continue to the top three lucky finalists. (One finalist from each of the three rounds).
  • The Top 3 Lucky Finalists will ALL receive an all-expenses paid 10-day trip to Luang Prabang to meet with Isabel and her team, go through a series of challenges for a panel of judges, and watch the luckiest be crowned the new owner of the ultimate dream life abroad.

ROUND 1 / EARLY BIRD: Until April 30th, 2017. Fees are $50 and $25 for a 2nd person. 

ROUND 2/ REGULAR: May 1st to June 30th, 2017 fees will be $75 / $25 for the 2nd person.

ROUND 3/LATE : July 1st to Aug. 31st, 2017 Fees will be $100 / $25 for the 2nd person.

*Like most contests, there is a minimal submission fee to get involved. This is alway Isabel’s way of trying to reap the profits she would have gained from selling outright, but still allowing her to give the ultimate dream life to one luck winner. Will it be you?


So if I love Luang Prabang so much, and am over the moon about this opportunity, why am I not applying?

ultimate dream life luang prabang laos


Believe me when I say my first reaction was “screw marketing this – I want this life!” And after Isabel told me I could do both, I strongly considered keeping the news from you to increase my chances of winning.

But I love so much the idea of helping someone else get ahead and live an ultimate dream life abroad, that I decided to let you all in on the amazing giveaway. And the truth is, I still might apply. I’m still not sure if I’m willing to give up my own business or leave my life in Bend, Oregon but I vividly remember sitting on the banks of the Mekong river in Luang Prabang thinking, I could just live here for a while (In fact, I named it one of the 10 most liveable cities in the world on my list here).

So now it’s time to ask yourself:

Can you see yourself living in Luang Prabang?

Are you ready to give up this life for something better? 

Do you need a change, and perhaps a helping hand? 

Would you invest $50* for an ultimate dream life abroad?


*the small investment in your possible future will increase on April 30.

WIN the Ultimate Dream Life Abroad in Luang Prabang, Laos

Written by:Jessica J. Hill


  1. Amy says:

    Oh my gosh, I love Luang Prabang! And I love L’etranger Books & Tea! I met Isabel’s mom when I visited in November. Can’t believe their selling but this is so amazing. I’m going to have to enter, but just the fact that they’re doing this is so incredible.

    • jessicajhill says:

      Isn’t it just idyllic and inviting? I remember feeling like I could slow down and just breathe once I arrived in Luang Prabang. It will likely boost your application to mention that you’ve been there and had a great experience! Best of luck to you, Amy!

  2. Steph says:

    Thats nuts! It’s quite a package. As someone who has lived abroad, just the thought of having all that paperwork sorted is amazing.

    It may not be my dream life (although after checking out the websites I did briefly consider!) but I’d love to read the story of whoever ends up winning this.
    Steph recently posted…How I Fell in Love with Sailing, II: A Tall Ship AdventureMy Profile

    • jessicajhill says:

      I agree, that paperwork could be a huge headache! Not to mention hiring employees, etc. in a foreign land. What a great idea to post the story of the winner. I’ll definitely have to do that!

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