Family of 5 left the city behind for a tiny kampung house in the countryside of Kuala Pilah just before the pandemic; now operates glamping business

Their reasons for the move were simple: to escape the nine-to-six grind and pursue a life free from debt and the demands of city-dwelling.

A composite image of a malay family and a brick house built in the jungle
Allan, Irena and their three kids, Asha, Jared and Jacob at La Hilir. (Photo: Allan Casal and Irena Adam)


Over three years ago, Allan Casal and his wife Irena Adam made the bold and unconventional decision to swap the comforts of city life for a tiny house in the kampung (village/countryside) of Kuala Pilah, Negeri Sembilan.

Their reasons for the move were simple: to escape the nine-to-six grind and pursue a life free from debt and the demands of city-dwelling.

But more than that, Allan and Irena wanted to give their three children a memorable experience growing up in the hope that it would encourage the kids — now aged between seven and 17 — to step out of their comfort zones.

Journey into the unknown

According to the couple, La Hilir Tiny House is the embodiment of a shared longstanding dream to live minimally and be brave enough to take on the unfamiliar. But the story really began when the couple were given a small piece of land in Kuala Pilah by Irena's father.

Both husband and wife said they were thrilled upon receiving the gift. This, coupled with thorough preparation and thoughtful consideration, served as the incentive for Allan and Irena to leave their jobs and focus on building their tiny house.

However, there was one problem — it all happened at the start of the pandemic.

"It was perfectly bad timing, but we kept going. We didn't have a big budget, and we saved where we could. We decided that if we were going to leave our comfortable home in the city, the tiny house should be comfortable for our children's sake," says Allan.

The transition was also tough for the couple's three children, who were not excited about leaving behind their friends in the city. However, they became more invested in the idea after getting involved in conceptualising the tiny house.

"Our two older children were only nine and 12 at the time. And together, we drew sketches of the tiny house and their bedrooms — which they had fun doing.

"The kids have adapted well to life at our tiny home. In fact, our youngest son doesn't really remember life in the city, while our second son enjoys playing online chess and uses his free time to make art. Our daughter even made a network of friends overseas!" Allan said.

No tiny feat

But, of course, the family's ride has been far from bump-free.

"There were times when we questioned our decision, especially concerning the children's wellbeing. Are they getting the best education? Are they mixing with friends that contribute positively to their growth?

"We discussed the move numerous times with them before going through with it. We even had family meetings that involved them, where they were encouraged to communicate their expectations of our tiny home," Irena says.

The COVID-19 lockdowns were also a blessing in disguise for the family, who used the time together to make the 300 sq ft La Hilir a reality.

"We each had our own tasks, even the kids! We made good use of the time we had during lockdown. Until today, we're still adding more things to the site."

From tiny home living to glamping business

La Hilir is, however, no longer just a home. Rather, over the past two years, it has become the base from which the family operate their glamping business.

Allan and Irena say that they share a love of camping. And over the years, the couple say they have fallen in love with several beautiful boutique accommodations around the country.

They observe, however, that there aren't many exclusive and all-inclusive stay options. Hence, they were motivated to provide a unique experience for guests wanting to just enjoy nature and relax.

A composite image of the glamping site at La Hilir
La Hilir is no longer just a home. It has become the base from which the family operate their glamping business. (Photo: La Hilir/Instagram)

"We put our personal touch to every aspect of the glamping experience, from preparing home-cooked meals to curating every single piece of furniture, accessory and amenity. All this, with nature preservation in mind," Allan explained.

La Hilir has now amassed a string of admirers and returning guests, and its growing popularity speaks volumes of what the family has achieved since their move to the country.

"Many share similar stories like ours, and we hope that we can serve as an inspiration to others to pursue their goals no matter how big or small.

"More than that, we hope that our children take away something from their experience growing up in this environment and use it to their advantage as adults," said Allan.

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