By Suzan Haskins / Published in the June/2007 issue of International Living Magazine
Our Friends Think We’re Crazy . . .
But Our Kids Want to Be Just Like Us
Deciding to make your craziest dreams come true is one thing. But having your children express their admiration for what you’ve done …that makes it all worthwhile.
So say Greg Bertrand and Jan Tilston who left Toronto in 2002 for a new life in Costa Rica. Greg, a partner in a graphic arts firm, and Jan, a family law attorney and Director of the Toronto Family Law Office, had had enough of cold winters and the stress of their work-a-day worlds.
“We didn't assume that our new life in Costa Rica would be stress free or without problems, but we were looking for a lifestyle change,” says Jan. With their children grown, the couple had decided it was time to make their dreams come true. “When we found our piece of land we felt it was the perfect location for a small hotel and we knew that we both would work hard to make it a success.”
That piece of land is high on a mountaintop with a view in one direction of the beach town of Jaco and the Pacific Ocean beyond, and in the other direction, pastoral green Costa Rican farmland and mountains. Here, Jan and Greg built Vista Pacifico, a small hotel they opened in January 2004.
Why Costa Rica?
Mostly because of the wonderful and generous people, the couple says, along with the perfect weather, the diverse topography, and overall beauty of the country. It was a big plus that Costa Rica is politically stable with a long-established democracy and no army – which allows more spending on things like universal medical care and free and subsidized educational programs.
Jaco was chosen because Jan wanted to be close to the ocean and Jaco is the closest beach town to the capital city of San Jose and its international airport, shopping, and medical facilities. The weather was also an important factor. Greg and Jan say this part of Costa Rica is not as dry in the high season (December to May) and not as wet in the rainy season (June to November) as other areas of the country.
“Plus, there was a large enough community here that we have been able to easily make new friends – both in the expat community and with Costa Ricans and Nicaraguans who live here.”
Things gained, things lost. Since moving to Costa Rica, says Jan, “We have slowed down, we eat better, and our life is less stressful. We cook more meals from scratch and are less reliant on processed and packaged foods or take out and fast food – here, there is an endless supply of fresh fruits and vegetables available all year long.”
The hotel, a few months into construction.
There have been a few things that have taken some getting used to…some bureaucratic and cultural roadblocks, the challenges of moving from a city of four million to one of less than 10,000 inhabitants, learning Spanish, and spending all day every day together…it takes getting used to, they say.
But still, the couple doesn’t feel they have lost anything. “We have both lost weight, and we have lost the ability to multi-task,” they say. Not a bad trade-off.
“We weren't particularly fearful when we moved and we always knew we could do it, even if some of our friends thought we were crazy,” says Jan. “We were so caught up in experiencing the new culture, discovering the new country, and planning the building of the hotel that we had very little time to worry about failure. It is surprising how much two dedicated people, giving 100% of their time, can accomplish if you are keen to do it. We have absolutely no regrets.”
What advice would they give to someone who wants to do what they’ve done and start over in another country? “Do it,” says Greg. “Set a goal and go for it,” adds Jan. “When we started down the road to moving to Costa Rica, we had a ten-year plan which became very directed and serious those last five years we were in Canada. You’d be surprised how much money you can save when you don't buy the new couch and curtains or if you extend the lease on your old car for another three years and stay in the same small house.”
And best fringe benefit of making the move to Costa Rica? “Our children have expressed their admiration that we are making our dreams come true and we hope they are learning from our example.”
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