From snow to sand: how a Canadian family relocated to live the life of their dreams in the Turks and Caicos
It was like my life was on hold: Waiting for the snow to melt, then the slush to dry out, then the rain to stop and finally, for the sun to shine, so I could be outside and enjoy life. Our beautiful Quebec summers took so long to get here and then left, way before we had had time to fully enjoy them. I was constantly longing for something that just wasn’t there.
In July 2014, my wife Pina, son Max and I booked another trip to the Caribbean. Little did we know, this time would be different. I was immediately, and completely, blown away. It’s like someone kept whispering ‘You found it!’. As I stood feet firmly rooted in the warm, white sand on Long Bay Beach, I remember the soothing wind on my face and colorful kites ripping by on the bluest of oceans. And at that precise moment, everything started to make sense. It was perfect. Perfect for me, at least! Except, I had a family and making such a huge decision required their input. Caring about them meant sharing my dream, listening to their aspirations, calming any fears we may have had and deciding to jump together, if it felt right for all of us. Luckily, it did.
A few months after the initial coup de coeur, the journey began. We bid on a nice lot, looked at architectural plans, acquired construction permits, bought materials in Canada, shipped packed containers to the island and began construction in 2015. Every penny I had was invested in this dream and it was stressful and exciting! In May 2016, our first villa was completed and, thankfully, became an “overnight” success.
In the fall of 2016, we welcomed a partner and constructed more accommodations. Karim, had a web marketing firm up in Quebec and helped us revamp our website and improve our SEO. This helped us with visibility and ensured continued success.
Later, bankers on the island saw what we were creating and lent us the funds to build more villas. In 2019, after much planning, importing and construction, we added 2 more villas to our collection.
Feeling energized and perhaps a bit crazy, we pursued our expansion. We acquired adjacent lots in Long Bay and built 4 more villas, during the peak of the pandemic. Sure, this bump in the road wasn’t easy for anyone, but luckily for us, the TCI government handled this crisis remarkably well. Karim recently decided to live on the island— who would blame him right?—and oversee the construction of our last phases, which will begin soon.
My wife and I used to joke that we’d end up selling bananas on the beach to escape the North Pole. Today, supported by local suppliers and workers, we co-own a villa collection that can accommodate over 60 guests. Our latest pride and joy? Hiring a talented chef who cooks incredible meals exclusively for our guests. Thanks to the dedicated staff that manage our properties, run our boat tours and much more, my main responsibility is now making sure Pina, Max, and all our guests are happy.
When promoting our collection, the original tagline was ‘Luxury Indoor / Outdoor Living’. Coming from the cold, we longed to be outside, in great weather, much of the day, in a beautiful, comfortable setting. Our designs reflect this and we assumed other North Americans would feel the same way. Though this approach served us well, over time, we came to realize how hard travelers had to work when booking a villa vacation. Thus, More than a Villa became our mission and we set out to create a unique almost all-inclusive villa experience like no other.
Simple was the word of order. Revamping our Website once again, we made sure future guests could book vehicles, boat excursions and a private chef, all in one place. Additionally, we created useful e-books to help people plan, among them a 2-day driving itinerary with recommended stops and a list of our 25 favorite restaurants with insights on their offerings. Putting everything together took time and commitment, including getting all our licenses and permits, but with over 100 5-star reviews, it was all worth it.
We changed our life around: Leaving our screens and sad faces up in Canada, my son Max and I can finally indulge in the sports we love, whenever we want. Like me, Max has a summer soul. Happiest when on or in the ocean, enjoying tennis, or playing golf, he happily goes to school on the island and looks forward to afternoons and weekends for outdoor activities. My dream of outdoor living in gorgeous weather became my family’s dream. And now we’re all living it.
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf famously said: “If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough” and boy was she right. I knew very little about construction, and even less about building in a foreign country. The learning curve was steep and our budgeting was vague. From one day to the next, I went from working in marketing, to becoming a buyer, an importer, somewhat of a builder and a tourism ambassador, writing on our blog and occasionally even for the Turks and Caicos Tourism website. After many sleepless nights, loads of hard work and the tremendous help of my business partner and the many supportive locals we’ve met, I’m convinced I’ve changed our lives for the best.
I hope our story can inspire you. Uprooting and shooting for something new can be scary. Stepping out of your comfort zone and routine takes a lot of faith, and perhaps a little insanity 🙂 We miss our people back home, but they love our new address, especially my adult daughter Alexie who visits whenever she can.
I believe that by taking that first step, the elements of success fall into place and the Universe conspires to support you, namely by sending good people your way such as Karim, David, Michelle, Karen, Robert, Denis and many others. The road isn’t smooth and perfect but if you stick to it and believe enough to trust yourself, you might be pleasantly surprised. I wake up everyday with the feeling of ‘Wow, this is my life now!’ ready to go out there and make magic happen for those that place their trust in my hands.
Simon, Pina and Max
You might also be interested in the following information: