International Living Conference 2011...



This was our second year in a row to have been given the opportunity to address International Living's annual conference in San Jose Costa Rica."  Just like last year, this event was being held at the Marriott Resort, located just next to the San Jose Airport.

This year, instead of just speaking on one topic, we were asked to do a second; this one on our home province of Guanacaste.  

When I first started reading about International Living (IL) and specifically these types of events, I was under the mistaking impression that only "high rollers" attended.  You know the type... wealthy, world travelers, the socially elite etc.  While some of the attendees do fit into this category, I was very happy to see the majority were made up of simple, non-pretentious people. 

While the two and a half day event was entitled "Live and Invest In Costa Rica," the attendees seemed more interested in LIVING here rather than INVESTING.  Perhaps, like me and Fran, they had little with which to invest and were seeking shelter from the financial storm in which they were drowning back home.

The event kicked off on Tuesday afternoon at 4:00 PM with introductions by Jackie Flynn, Publisher of IL magazine and Central American Associate Editors Dan Prescher and Suzan Haskins.  Dan also served as the event's Master of Ceremonies and Taskmaster and was responsible for keeping everything rolling along with near military precision.

Fran and I were the last speakers on this, the first day of the event.  We were scheduled to speak from 5:30 to 6:00 PM, just before heading next door to the first of two vendor sponsored cocktail receptions. 

Our first presentation was entitled, "We Found The Good Life In Costa Rica" and retold the story of how and why we choose Costa Rica to be our new home.  In the same vain as our videos and newsletter articles, we try to tell it like it is, straight forward but with an entertaining flair.  There is no sugar coating and no hype in what we say.  We are not here to sell the attendees on moving to Costa Rica or to sell the dream of expat life.  In fact if we do push an agenda, it is quite the opposite.  We try to get our point across without stepping on too many toes in the process.  But if we do... so be it!

I'd like to say that the first presentation went off without a hitch but (unfortunately) it did not.  Thank goodness Fran was by my side, with microphone in hand.  When I lost my way or started adlibbing and not making a point, Franny was able to reel me back in by cracking a friendly "Fran Slam" and getting me back on point.  I have to admit, we do work quite well in that sort of a ying yang environment.

I solo'd for the second presentation on Thursday, the Conference's last day.  Once again, I drew a great time slot, being the last speaker before lunch.  So with a full house and everybody's stomach's growling, I was able to pass on my wisdom regarding "The Gold Coast of Guanacaste - Why It Should be On Your Radar Screen."

Since our presentations are known for their simple, straight forward appeal, my talk on Guanacaste was not going to be any different.  While I have a low tolerance for sales people who stretch the truth, I managed to get in a few jabs at those who manage to distort the facts in order to make their point or sell their product. 

Such was the case when I began talking about the state of home sales and rentals in Guanacaste.  It seems the developers and real estate agents are pumping and hyping how home inventories are getting much smaller and how NOW is the time to get in before it's too late.  One presentation even referred to investing now in Costa Rica's Southern Zone because the new airport, "soon to be completed," would send home prices soaring. 

TIME FOR THE TRUTH:  Well, here is the problem.  The airport that is "soon to be completed" hasn't even been started.  In fact, the land needed for the airport hasn't even been chosen or purchased.  There are several pending environmental impact studies which stand in the way of any further progress being made on an airport in the Southern Zone.   So when someone spews forth this sort of misinformation to a bunch of people eager to invest their wealth in an offshore enterprise, I get really pissed me off.

I will say the overwhelming majority of the presentations were spot on.  I particularly enjoyed (and appreciated) listening to the honest commentary of Roger Peterson, a local attorney and author of The Legal Guide to Costa Rica.  Roger's straightforward, common sense approach to understanding and working within Costa Rica's somewhat complicated system was refreshing and very engaging. 


A significant number of expat speakers were on the agenda this year.  Aside from me and Fran...


John Collins from Ojochal (pronounced O-ho-chal), talked about how he moved here and started a home furnishing business, Ventana Home Furniture

Ben Hill and his wife Jill came here from California after closing down their pool construction business.  They now live on the beach in Nosara where they built and run Costa Rica Yoga Spa



Juan Sostheim, a native of Chile, moved to Costa Rica after a very successful career in the food services industry to start Rancho Margot, a fully self-sustaining, carbon neutral nature retreat near Lake Arenal.

Jan Tilston's story was one of adventure having given up practicing law in Toronto in favor of Pura Vida.  Not satisfied with just relaxing, she and her husband Greg decided to design and build a small boutique hotel that became Hotel Vista Pacifico in the Central Pacific town of Jacó.



Mike Styles and his wife Jackie came to Costa Rica with a great dream and vision.  Unfortunately they ran into a few snags along the way.  Now five years later, all of that is now behind them.  Wanting to give back to the community, Mike is working with other expats and local Ticos in the Central Valley town of San Ramón to bring together the two communities.  Mike's Community Action Alliance is quickly becoming the model for what neighborhood associations should strive to be.

Fran and I particularly enjoy the social aspects of these events.  Getting out, meeting the attendees, asking and answering questions, gives us the opportunity to make new friends, improve our lives and hopefully influence others before it is too late. 

What we have come to learn is that there are tons of people, just like us, hard working stiffs trying to survive in horrendously challenging times.  What we can't afford to do is make catastrophic mistakes with our limited resources. 

Just to let you know, Fran and I will again be speaking at the next International Living Conference.  This time we will be doing it at the Red Rock Casino and Resort in wonderful Las Vegas Nevada, October 6,7,and 8.

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