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Canada to Costa Rica

Moving to Costa Rica: One Couple's Fresh Start

Greg Bertrand and Jan Tilston left Toronto in 2002 to build a small hotel--and a new life--in Costa Rica. They counted on it being tough. What they didn't count on was the help they would get along the way 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 workday stress. They had both done quite a bit of traveling over the years…to the U.S., Europe, Africa, South America, and throughout the Caribbean. But they decided that in the future, they'd like the world of travel to come to them.

A small hotel, they reasoned, would let them bring the world to their doorstep. And it has, says Jan: "We thoroughly enjoy our guests and find that everyone has a story. We appreciate them all, from the boat captain from South Africa and the police sergeant from Canada to the Dutch environmentalist and the ex-American Marine who works as a bodyguard in Iraq."

Arenal volcano in Costa Rica

Being one of the oldest democracies, Costa Rica is an attractive location not only for retirees, but also for those who want a fresh start.  (Image by Pixabay.com)


Costa Rica - an established democracy

Greg and Jan chose Costa Rica because it's an easy flight from Toronto, so family and friends can readily come to visit. They like it that Costa Rica is politically stable with a long established democracy and no army--which allows more spending on things like international health care and free and subsidized educational programs. The magnificent weather was a factor, too.

But the biggest magnets pulling Jan and Greg to Costa Rica were the "wonderful and generous" people they met here. The couple says they owe their new friends a debt of gratitude for helping make their dreams come true.

"We were very fortunate in having made our decisions to buy the land when we did, build the hotel where we did, and to have had the help of many people, both expats and Costa Ricans, who made our transition to a new culture and country a little easier," says Jan. "Their help and friendship has been invaluable."

Costa Rica hotel business

Their real estate agent helped them set up their business, and their architect positioned the hotel in just the right location to capture the ocean and mountain breezes. Two nearby hotel owners happily gave them suggestions about running the hotel and told them where to buy the best mattresses and supplies at the best prices. Staff at the local garden center helped them choose the perfect plants for the gardens. One neighbor cautioned them against using a red neon sign on the hotel…this generally attracts a transient pay-by-the-hour type of guest in Latin American.

Vista Pacifico Hotel opened for business in Jan. 2004. Perched on a mountaintop, the location offers a view in one direction of the beach town of Jaco and the Pacific Ocean…in the other direction, pastoral green Costa Rican farmlands and mountains.

"We enjoy sharing the magic of this country with our guests, and we find ourselves becoming more generous than we had been in North American society," Jan says. "Both of us offer our professional services without payment. Of course, we now have the option to do this with whom and when we want. Greg got paid a pound of coffee per hour for an exceptionally time-consuming graphic design job he did for some friends who started a coffee roasting company."

Suzan Haskins
Latin America Insider, International Living

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