Todd Schlosser is 51 years old. About 13 years ago, Todd moved from Dayton, Ohio, to Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic.
I’ll let Todd tell you his story himself…
“Back in the States, I was working for a college, developing its subsidy and grant programs. I made pretty good money at this for a while. Then, in 2003–2004, the market dried up. I realized I had to look for something new.
“I had a little money to invest. A family friend who had been coming to the Dominican Republic since 1983 told me about the Las Terrenas area, where he had bought a beach house.
“Back then, Las Terrenas was really remote… off the grid, in fact. Full of opportunity, my friend told me.
“My friend persuaded me to visit the island with him. He was thinking of moving here full-time and said that if I liked it after visiting maybe we could do something together. I had never been anywhere outside the States before this, other than Canada and Mexico.
“I arrived in Santiago—not a convenient airport to fly into if you want to get to Las Terrenas. Back then, the trip from Santiago to Las Terrenas took 12 hours. Today, it’d take about three.
“A driver picked me up, and we set out in his van. The trip turned into a bit of an adventure…
“We stopped for food, then, when we started out again, we had car problems. This turned out to be an opportunity. It gave me a chance to experience the greatest thing about the Dominican Republic—there is always someone around to help.
“The van broke down, but it wasn’t long before someone stopped to help us. We started out again, got a little farther, and the van started to smoke.
“I thought, what have I gotten myself into? I tried to remember I was on vacation and to roll with the punches.
“Finally we made it somewhere… to a town… but we didn’t know where.
“By this time it was dark. We had stopped for food about 2 p.m., so by now we were lost and hungry, and it was dark.
“We found this little mountain pass… not a road, more a path, parts of it washed out. We were trying to get up this road in this broken-down van. After quite a while, we managed to get up the hill. I called my friend. He asked where I was, but I had no idea.
“My driver and I went to a little bar. At this point, I needed a drink.
“My friend figured out where I was and came to get me the next day.
“Turned out, I was in Las Terrenas.
“We spent the rest of my visit traveling around… just driving around.
“There were few paved roads at the time. What I remember from that first visit… what really struck me everywhere we went… was how happy everyone was and how friendly.
“Those first days in Las Terrenas were special for me. I knew instinctively that that little beach town was the place I wanted to be.
“I didn’t speak any Spanish. I communicated through charades. But people I met wanted to teach me, and I realized I wanted to learn. I thought, yeah, I should learn another language.
“Of course, the weather was no small selling point. I left Ohio in December. It was just so gorgeous in Las Terrenas, such an amazing contrast to what I’d left behind in Dayton. I didn’t want to go back.
“I thought, well, I got nothing pulling me back… so I stayed for two more weeks.
“Finally, I went back to Ohio and sold everything I could. Then, 15 days later, I returned to the Dominican Republic. That was 2004, and I’ve been here since.
“At the time, I thought, what’s the worst that could happen? Maybe things don’t work out, and I move back to the States. So what?
“I did learn Spanish. I achieved that goal within a few months through immersion. I didn’t take any classes. I bought a 500-Spanish-verbs book. I highly recommend it. I fell asleep to it every night.
“Back to my friend who invited me down here in the first place. He and I decided to buy some dune buggies to rent out. We imported a container load of them from the States—ATVs, quads, and buggies.
“We ran that business in Puerto Plata for a while, but I didn’t like it there. I liked the small town I found by accident. It had better beaches, a more interesting culture, and a very different feel. Las Terrenas just felt right to me.
“So that’s where I moved, and that’s where I’m living still. Life is calm in Las Terrenas. The whole town feels like a neighborhood. It’s grown considerably since I first arrived, but it hasn’t lost its charm. We have authentic French and Italian restaurants with better food than I ever had in Ohio.
“Fast-forward to today, and I’m married to a beautiful Dominican woman. We have two beautiful daughters, both born here and both of whom speak fluent English and Spanish. I love that. I think it’s a great gift to give to a child.
“This is a great place to raise kids. My daughters are growing up the way I grew up. Kids here go out and play until dark. They don’t all have cell phones. They play with sticks and collect shells. Life is simple… sweet.
“After the dune buggies rental business, I began looking around for my entrepreneurial adventure. I had a friend who was struggling with a small mail and package business. I had some ideas that I thought might help and decided I’d like to buy out my friend.
“When I told my wife, she just looked at me like a curious but confused dog. She supported me, though, and I’m hugely grateful for that.”
Under Todd’s management, the business he bought from his friend has grown into a successful operation that now has three offices around the country. His biggest competition is Mailboxes Etc., which charges more and provides slower service.
“I guess you could say I was lucky,” Todd says, “but, to me, luck is being prepared when the right opportunity presents itself.”
Would Todd ever go back home?
In fact, he’s been offered the chance. Changes in the market back in Ohio mean that Todd’s U.S. training business is again viable. He’s considered returning to take up that life again…
“But, no,” Todd concludes, “I don’t have any interest in going back, not even for more money. Money doesn’t replace everything. I have a beautiful family now in the DR. I’m not leaving here. This is my home now.
“I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished. I’ve adopted a new country, learned a foreign language, adapted to a different culture, built a successful business, and created a wonderful family.”
Todd says he doesn’t think he’ll ever stop working, even though he doesn’t need much money at all to live very happily in the DR. His new business is part of his new life, and he’s enjoying the whole package.