Name: Steve McCarthy
Living in: Santiago, Chile
Status: Running tours in Chile
“Frankly,” says Steve McCarthy, “my life in California had become disappointing. I’m an architect, divorced and the only child of deceased parents. My story isn’t much different from that of a lot of other people who were caught when the bottom fell out of the economy and work as a consultant dried up.
“One day I had lunch in Los Angeles with a Chilean friend. Almost on a whim, I decided to move to Santiago, Chile. Why not? No work and staring at 60, I didn’t have much to keep me in the States. It turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me.
“I ended up ‘adopting’ a Chilean family and creating Chile Tours & Transport. It was pretty rough at ﬁrst. Andrea and Marcello, who were friends of my L.A. friend, helped me ﬁnd a place to live and to get around the city. Along with their two kids Nico and Solamara, they made me feel right at home.
“Four months after I arrived, they lost their family business because of a change in zoning laws. Then came the big earthquake in February 2010 and poof—business, apartment, car—it was all gone.
“They had helped me so much when I arrived, so I invited them to come and live with me. We made an agreement: I would pay the rent and they would provide the food and do the cooking and the cleaning. We didn’t share a common language. Crazy me! I came without any Spanish, so communication was all done in Spanglish and sign language. I’m not saying it was easy, but in time we bonded and became a family.
“After months of looking, Andrea and Marcello couldn’t ﬁnd full-time work. I still had some savings, but I needed to start making money, too. When Marcello was offered a job driving a taxi part-time, he told me that most taxis were independent businesses—and that was my inspiration.
“I had been thinking of getting a van for some time, so it all made perfect sense to have him drive it as a business for us, as I didn’t need a van most of the time anyway. Then I started to think about what I like that is close to Santiago. Within 90 minutes I can be at the beach, wine-tasting at vintners’ or in the Andes. An easy day-trip for me, so why not share it with others?
“So I bought a 12-seat passenger van, Marcello got his chauffeur’s license and Andrea handled the paper work for a tour-transport operator’s license. We were in business.
“We likely won’t get rich, but we live well enough now and we are growing the business as we go. The New York Times named Santiago as the number-one travel destination for 2011, so we hope that attracts more tourists who want to take our personalized tours.
“Fourteen months ago, I couldn’t have imagined how well things would work out by ‘retiring’ to Santiago. I have a real family now. And Marcello, Andrea and I have a new family business. We are all happy, and I am amazed about how serendipitous this has been.”
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