A Stress-Free Life (and a Money-Making Business) in Costa Rica

Moving abroad is so much more than a change in location; it’s a complete shift of lifestyle. That’s what Penny and Marshall Watne have learned over the last six years in Costa Rica.

Their path from North Lake Tahoe to jungle-woven Manuel Antonio was a short one. Once they achieved the idea of general success—complete with two kids and a house full of almost everything they could want—they realized they needed something different, something more than a life of high stress, with never-ending demands on their time.

They made the decision to untangle themselves from this existence…and a month later, Marshall was offered a job in Costa Rica. They leapt at the opportunity.

While Marshall headed down to begin working, Penny sold everything they had—a house and garage full of memories—in four weeks flat.

After that liberating experience, Penny has found a new view of material possessions: “I feel that we want less and less and less. We live in a furnished place—not out of a backpack—but objects can hold people back. If you want to be free, just get rid of everything.”

Marshall’s job didn’t work out but having discovered Costa Rica, the family were determined to stay. They had owned a Mexican restaurant in Lake Tahoe and couldn’t see why they shouldn’t do the same thing here. Costa Rican food is not as spicy as Mexican food so the restaurant would have a novelty value. They chose Manuel Antonio as the location because it’s a tourist town and the custom for Mexican food would be good.

Opening Sancho’s was their way of funding this new life. “You have to let go of thinking how things are going to go and just open up to the flow of your new life, and everything will work out so much better that way,” Penny advises.

These days she spends her afternoons mingling and chatting with her customers. “We get high-end vacationers, snowbirds, and hostel-goers,” says Penny.

“We’re reminded every day what it’s like up North…I have no desire to go back. We don’t know what the future’s going to hold, but we’re very content doing what we’re doing. We feel like this is where we’re meant to be.”

Running a business and working in Costa Rica is different from what it was in the States for Marshall and Penny. “It’s all good,” says Penny. “We embrace that we’re getting everything we need. We love the culture. We’re happy with what we’re doing and we don’t want more.

“Initially, we thought about opening up a few branches of Sancho’s, but then we realized it’s time to let go of all that stress and materialism. We’re much healthier and happier without it, so why would we throw ourselves back into that mentality?”

The things they value now are the sloth that lives outside their door…the perfectly warm blue ocean…and maybe most importantly, the people of Costa Rica—Ticos, as they call themselves.

Like the Ticos, the revamped Watnes spend a lot of time with friends and family. When they want to explore their adopted country, they’ll venture out to Golfito—where mega pods of spinner dolphins frolic and humpback whales welcome their calves—and to the luxurious hot springs of San Carlos.

Penny beams, “That’s the beauty of having your own business in Costa Rica—if we want to go away for a couple days, we just close it down. It’s not like in the States. It’s ok to just take off for a few days.”

Her regulars at Sancho’s won’t mind…they’ll just want to hear all the details of their adventures when they get back.

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