I’ve got my pink surfboard in hand and I’m run-walking from my house to the beach, excited to catch some waves as the sun starts to set in the purple and blue sky. I’ve just been on the road for a week guiding a group here in Costa Rica and I’m eager to feel the warm salt water on my skin and that pulse of adrenaline as I drop into my first wave in a week. To me this seems like a long time to be out of the water, but when I stop to reflect, I realize that one week isn’t that long. In fact, I’ve achieved the work/life balance that I always dreamed about when I was living in the States and stuck in a traditional eight-to-five work routine that didn’t feel right for me.
Six years ago, I started a small tour company in Central America and I’m currently based in—and operate out of—the South Pacific region of Costa Rica. My work takes me into some of the most biodiverse and ecologically healthy places on the planet. I might be out hiking Monteverde’s cloud forests one day and sitting in a natural volcanic hot spring the next. During the turtle nesting season, I am out at night with my group, walking the beach in hopes of spotting a nesting sea turtle. I am still shocked that I have created this reality and even get paid to live it.
Clients contact me to put together custom trips in Central America based on their personal tastes and interests. They pay me to be the expert, making reservations for them at the best hotels and helping them select the best time of year to come for their particular outdoor interests. I serve as their local guide and hire the best outfitters, drivers, and any additional specialist guides as needed. I serve as translator and even offer small tips as to what might be the best item to order on the menu or a new drink to try.
It’s a blast witnessing the joy on my clients’ faces when they see their first toucan or jump into a waterfall pool. The fun part of leading these experiences and owning your own business is deciding how much you want to work. If you love developing a business and making it bigger and bigger every year, you can do just that. If you want to keep it small and only accept a few clients each year, you can also make that decision or find your happy place somewhere in between. You have complete flexibility and that is what makes it so enjoyable and freeing.
My lifestyle is a fun mix of scouting new activities, hotels, beaches, and restaurants—and then guiding my clients through a tailor-made trip, based on my eight years of experience living in Central America. Between trips, I return to my home, located just a five-minute walk from the beach, and enjoy all the fun things that brought me to Costa Rica originally.
My local community is always hopping and when I return from a trip, I’m right back in the swing of things. Perhaps I’ll stop at the farmers’ market on Saturday and restock my house with fresh fruits and veggies. I love how the vendors know me by name and ask about my recent travels. While at the farmers’ market, I bump into some friends who mention they are going out for wings and live music later that night—and I happily agree to join.
Such is the beauty of life down here in the tropics. One thing just seems to easily flow into the next and no one makes plans too far out. Many of the expats and locals alike embrace living in the moment and are open to seeing what opportunities might present themselves. Sure, we all work, but we take it in stride, trying to keep it all in perspective and remembering why we made the move to paradise in the first place.