“There’s no magic wand, I just DID it.”

In episode 53, Sham chats with Karina Bahrin about her experience in leaving corporate life to start an island resort, including what inspired the change, what she has learned along the way, and how her definition of success has evolved over time.


Living the dream – that is what I think when I think of the indefatigable Karina Bahrin. Imagine getting up to go to work in a picturesque tropical island, living there – and that is exactly what Karina does. She founded and runs a gorgeous boutique bed and breakfast on the island of Langkawi in the North of Malaysia. The company she owns two other properties and restaurants.

Now, I first met Karina ages ago when she came over to pick up a beautiful brindle old lady Boxer I had found abandoned and needed a foster home. Karina opened her home and heart and let the dog live her years out with her. At that time Karina was a high powered executive working with the stock exchange in the insanely busy Kuala Lumpur. She returned from her studies in Stanford University and influenced the advertising and media landscape in Malaysia. I am so eager to hear more of her story and her current adventure.

“Rely on your gut and think of how your change will impact your lifestyle if you are going to make a career change.”

Show recap

  • She had become tired of the corporate lifestyle when she was inspired by a newspaper advert

  • She started with a boutique hotel in the island of Langkawi and along the way manages two others.

  • She wanted to establish a non-cookie cutter bed and breakfast.

  • Karina says she tends to take the winding journey in general in life. She had hit the ceiling in her career by her mid 30’s and she did not want to work in similar entities any longer nor the government.

  • She wanted to build something while she still had her energy.

  • Karina found by accident that she actually enjoyed living nearer to nature and escape city life.

  • She tested waters first by renting a property in a well-forested area and did that for a few years before taking the plunge.

  • It all took a lot of hard work, learning, relearning.

  • She had marketing skills and always knew she would be able to market her property.

  • Baseline criteria was that she could do most of the jobs on her own.

  • She has been hospitality for 6.5 years now and what makes her tick was initially the guests but now it has become the training of her staff.

  • Given the high turnover on the island, it takes special effort to nurture staff.

  • One of the aspects that keeps her going, outside of the business, is playing a role to build the society in Langkawi.

  • Karina hopes to carve out time for other projects – her own writing and also exploration of the arts  for children in Langkawi called Suatu Kala.

  • She made a residency for an artist possible helping out in schools in the locality.

  • One of the hard lessons to learn was dealing with different people – from many different levels.

  • She sees the public recognition of La Pari Pari as an easily identifiable success.

  • Personally she sees the ability to nurture local inhabitants of Langkawi as a success.

  • Cows in the swimming pool no longer drag her out of bed.

  • To women thinking of a career change: Rely on your gut and know yourself really well – think about what it is going to do to you and your lifestyle.

“If I had to jump off a cliff, I would look over the edge to see what I’m falling on!”

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