Michelle Klein and her husband, Gary Garces, live in the idyllic environment of a small Ecuadorian community.
They awake to the call of wild birds and the scent of orchids on the breeze…a quick walk to the mom-and-pop store on the corner rewards them with fresh bread rolls for breakfast from the friendly proprietors…and access to the many rivers that roll through town is just a quick car ride or a leisurely stroll away.
They run the Casa Blanca jungle hostel in Tena where they are raising three daughters.
Michelle’s retired parents, Jack and Marie Klein, have been splitting their time between Mesa, Arizona and Ecuador to spend time with the family…and they have been a tremendous help in making Casa Blanca a success.
Jack stepped in when the carpenter became a no-show. “He made all of the dressers in the rooms, kitchen cabinetry, reception desk, beds, tables, and window frames. Mom also helped a lot with the kids so I could work,” says Michelle.
This is a dream business and lifestyle for Michelle and Gary. They worked in the United States for several years where Michelle picked up as many nursing shifts as possible.
They socked away whatever they could. They also recruited friends and family to invest in their dream and eventually were able to put $80,000 of their own money, plus $250,000 from their investors, into Casa Blanca.
Their new life in Ecuador makes it all worthwhile.
“I was tired of having a boss,” Michelle laughs. “The older I get the more I get tired of so many rules. So I wanted to be my own boss. Nobody tells me what I can or can’t do, and I like that.”
Keeping with Casa Blanca’s vision of making your time in the jungle live up to your dreams, Gary, who is from the area, offers customized tours of the local environment. He leads crack-of-dawn trips for avid birders…and spends days with tour groups interested in local culture and customs.
“Six months after opening we were able to start paying our own bills. We hope to be able to start paying back our investors in about six months from now and then continue to do so on a monthly basis.”
The ability to bend and not break when the winds of change roll through has been an invaluable trait in the hospitality business. In an increasingly changing world, it’s important to change with the times yourself as Michelle has learned since moving to Ecuador.
Building a business literally from the ground up has taken a good deal of commitment but it has been a worthwhile venture.
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