Expat Entrepreneurs: Opening A B&B In Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

So You Think You Want To Live Overseas… Part 2

What will the next chapter of our lives look like?

This was a burning question as our corporate jobs became more stressful and the hours we dedicated to others’ causes multiplied.

While we were proud of the positions we held, we just had no opportunity to detach from our careers, spend time with friends and family, and enjoy our newly renovated home.

The next chapter became a need, not just a topic to discuss over cocktails.

No one talks about what to do when you exceed your goals and find yourself unfulfilled and just plain tired. Max and I had set goals, and we had achieved them. My business card said “Vice President.” Why wasn’t I thrilled and happy 24/7?

No one thinks about life balance when they are setting goals in their 20s.

We found ourselves talking about retirement constantly. What would we do? What would it be like?

Then, five years ago, we stopped fantasizing about retirement and started setting real goals for the next chapter our life. We talked about the industries we were part of and the positions we had held. What did we enjoy about what we’d been doing to this point… and what drove us to be successful?

I started out at American Express Travel. Then, 9/11 brought about huge changes to the travel world, and I had to embrace a new industry. I transitioned to the hotel industry and went to work with the Fontainebleau Hotel, moving through the ranks of boutique hotels and holding positions such as Director of Sales and General Manager.

Max hails from Canada. He has 23 years of experience in hotel restaurant management, with a focus on marketing and operations.

Our professional careers complemented each other. Further, as we worked to answer the next chapter question, we realized that we liked many aspects of our careers. The problem was that we weren’t able to enjoy those aspects anymore because corporate noise had gotten in the way.

We wrote down what we loved, what made us most happy.

It came down to renovating homes and entertaining friends and family.

Max was happiest when he was able to put his French culinary degree to use and throw dinner parties for friends, and I enjoyed nothing more than picking out tiles and paint colors.

A few more soul-searching sessions later, and we had our idea: We would open a bed-and-breakfast.

At first, our plan didn’t have any overseas component. At first, we thought we’d pursue this retirement dream in the States.

Meantime, we continued logging more and more hours in our corporate jobs. We had a beautiful house, but we and our beloved foxhound Rambo never had time to enjoy it.

As we continued to research options for our B&B, finally it struck us that a foreign country might be the answer.

For me, an ocean view and the ability to walk to the beach were the key criteria.

We turned to our European roots, and vacations became scouting trips. Spain was the first country we considered seriously. We met real estate agents, researched residency and financing options, and toured the coast in an effort to find the perfect place. While we were intrigued, nothing was falling into place.

So, uncertain as to the where but sure of our small B&B dream, we decided that we needed to step up the timeframe. Even though we didn’t know where we would land, we decided to take the leap of faith and place our home on the market at the end of May 2016.

The house sold in three days to a family from Barcelona.

Now we had the money to proceed with our B&B… but still we had no idea where.

And now we had to be out of the house in 30 days!

It was time to make some decisions. Our friend Lester came to our rescue by inviting us to move in with him while we figured out the rest of our plan.

In March 2015, we celebrated my 50th birthday in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The following year, on our second trip, we both wondered… what about Puerto Vallarta?

There were many things we loved about Puerto Vallarta… including the warm weather, the multicultural food choices, the welcoming LGBT community, the culture, and, most important right now, the strong dollar value versus the peso.

We had friends who have been visiting the area for more than five years and who reported that many visitors to this beach town are repeat customers. This could be a good thing for someone wanting to go into the B&B business.

We did some focused research and found that the pricing made sense.

Then we returned the end of July 2016. Local realtor Salvador Zugina showed us 16 properties in 3 days. The parade of opportunities included everything from hillside haciendas to beachfront homes.

On the morning of the last day of house hunting, we just had a feeling. There were four houses left, the most grand and, of course, the most expensive.

We knew from the moment we saw it. Casa Carolina was perfect for us. The architecture was charming and inviting. The location meant breathtaking views of the ocean and a quick walk to top restaurants, galleries, lounges, and shopping. Max and I looked at each other, smiled, and knew at once.

This gorgeous house would allow us to realize our definition of success.

Over the past few months, we have transformed this once private home into a premiere suite B&B with luxury appointments and a to-die-for brunch.

While we take pride in our the B&B business (http://www.palacio199.com/) we’ve built and find joy in watching our guests relax and experience all that Puerto Vallarta has to offer, our greatest joy is knowing that we have figured out what our next chapter will look like.

Sig Brunnacker