The Decision to Leave
An Alaskan born girl who doesn’t like to be sandy or sticky and has a fear of the ocean moves to a tropical beach town. It could be a set-up for a joke, but no, it's the beginning of my story. I love and trust my husband and when he suggested that we move to Sámara, Costa Rica for a few months I thought, well...it won’t kill me. Then little by little the sand, the surf and the siren song of Sámara swept me off my feet. Before I knew it we were looking for property and I was saying yes to living here. I distinctly remember saying “I can do this for a couple years” but in the excitement of designing and building Villas Espavel those words were long forgotten by my dear husband.
Canuche fell deeply in love with our life: Spanish-speaking, problem solving, monkey sightings from the patio, morning runs on the beach, days spent creating a vacation destination that we loved, afternoon surf sessions, happy hours with an endless stream of friends and a cool-off dip in the pool to cap the day. What’s not to love? I don’t really know, but something was wrong. Maybe my Alaskan nature couldn’t handle another perfect day. Maybe the endless sun was getting me down and I just needed some Seattle drizzle. Who knows, but as we neared our 3-year mark the alarm bells were going off in my head. We’d built a business that was in our home, we were parenting our kids in front of a live, paying audience, who were not paying to hear us bark at our children. My daily life felt wrong; I wanted to go back to the north. I wanted seasons: winter cozy followed by spring bulbs and a vegetable garden and fall pumpkins.
Each time I mentioned moving onward I must have sounded like the teacher in the Peanuts cartoon to Canuche, “Wah wah wah wah.” He saw my mouth moving, but those words just didn’t come out as English. By January 2018 I was ready to figure out how to manage Villas Espavel from afar and get my cold-weather self out of the tropics. When I broke the news to Canuche it was as though I had never mentioned moving away before. Marriage, isn’t it wonderful?
After a lot of talking (where my mouth moved and he heard my words) we decided to make the move. But now what? How do we disentangle our lives from this beautiful lifestyle business that we have created in Villas Espavel? I felt trapped and uncertain of how to proceed.
I took a walk along Sámara beach with a wise friend. She asked me “What would be the ideal situation that would allow you to move back home confidently?” Almost without thinking I said, “If Tano & Johannah could become our caretakers.” Johannah is a dear friend. She was our kid’s first teacher when we moved to Sámara. She is bilingual, seemingly unflappable, dedicated to Sámara and a joy to be around.
I could see her welcoming guests and creating just the vibe that we wanted at VE. Tano, her husband is also a dear friend, a surf buddy of Canuche’s and a wonderful builder and handyman who has worked with us on various projects at Villas Espavel. I could envision how they could take over for me and Canuche without Villas Espavel missing a step. Of course I went on to describe all the reasons that Tano & Johannah’s life pursuits would never mesh with caretaker at VE. Kathryn, my sage, calmly asked me “Have you talked with them about it? You never know, it could be perfect for them…” Lo and behold, it was! Tano and Johannah were ready for the stability of managing VE and they could see how caretaking at VE would be perfect as they started their family.
By March I was able to confidently buy the one-way tickets back to the US for the family and our two Costa Rican beach strays. We will spend the last five months of our time at Villas Espavel handing over the reins to Tano, Johannah and the rest of our fabulous team. Moving away is a huge step for our family, but I am so glad to know that Villas Espavel will be in the hands of our beautiful, caring Costa Rican team led by Jo & Tano.
Costa Rica has given me so many gifts, I’m no longer scared of the ocean. I can rock a sandy salt crust on my shoulders, I have fabulous friends here and I’ve learned to swing on the jungle swing. Thank you Costa Rica!