I worked in advertising and marketing for over 20 years and it was a career that for the most part, I enjoyed. But on a vacation in my 30s, I took a good hard look at what I wanted and liked to do in life.
I stayed at a small retreat hotel and participated in a group travel experience. This was new for me. I had always felt that I was terminally unique and no group could meet me at the level of where I was at in life.
But I enjoyed it immensely, and I wanted my next career to be about creating an environment that helped people to take time “outside the box” and not only connect with themselves and/or their partner, but also have some fun! I started exploring and immediately was convinced that Costa Rica was the place to be.
In my online research, I found this small community on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica called Puerto Viejo. It was kind of bohemian and seemed to have a hippie/alternative culture. Having lived in big cities all my adult life, I knew those areas are very desirable to live in.
I flew down and checked out Puerto Viejo. I loved it. It exceeded all my expectations. Not wanting to make a hasty decision, I traveled all over Costa Rica—and even Bocas del Toro in Panama—to look for something better.
On my third trip to Puerto Viejo, I bought some beachfront land for my dream. It was a cow field. But, it had a road, access to electricity and water, and was a mile from town. Everyone told me I was crazy for many different reasons. It was in the wrong side of town…buying beachfront is risky…and so on.
But I went ahead…and 11 years later, Hotel Banana Azul is rated the number one hotel on the Caribbean coast on TripAdvisor and has maintained that position for the past five years.
Banana Azul has 14 rooms, with three buildings all constructed out of local hardwoods. I bought the property for $48,000 in 2004. Completing all buildings and to be open for business took two years and I invested about $500,000. Business has been good and we have invested all profits back into the property. Our room rates started out at $50 per night and now go between $100 and $150.
Today, we have 25 staff, a bar and restaurant, and a beach club. To succeed in this type of business, you have to be 100% committed. Now, having some years under my belt, I have groomed good staff and a full-time manager. This allows me the freedom to do the things I like and have someone do day-to-day management of staff and guests.
While my quest to build and develop Banana Azul was never easy, it has always been adventurous. I seem to never have a day that I am bored or have lost the enthusiasm for what I am doing.
Someone recently asked me “Why do you want to live here?” It’s a good question considering there are so many potential challenges on a project like this…and living in a developing country.
But my answer was clear. When I lived in North America, the glass was always half empty. Living in Costa Rica for over 10 years, I’ve found the glass is ALWAYS half full.
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