Theo and I (Yut-Mie) met Haroen in 2014 during a photography course. All shared the same passion for photography. Haroen is a fun-loving guy and always in for a joke, same as Theo and I. We clicked right away and have been in contact ever since. We share some mutual interests besides photography. We are all kind of crazy and speak Dutch. Theo and Haroen are around the same age and are both retired. Haroen’s wife, Isabel and I are a few years apart and are both still working. We share a passion for nutrition and wellness. Our friendship grew quite naturally.
In 2020, Theo and I started thinking about relocating. We were looking into various options like The Netherlands, India, Barcelona, Madeira, or Nicaragua. Theo discussed our plans with Haroen on occasions, and in one of their conversations, got learned that Haroen and Isabel recently bought a Finca of about one acre in Peñol, Colombia. We had never heard about the place before. When we saw the pictures and listened to their stories, we were awed. Their place was gorgeous, green with lush vegetation and fruit trees. Next to their lot there is a beautiful waterfall and on top of it all their land has access to the lake!!! This was exactly what we have been dreaming of!
In 2018, we bought a small boat, because Theo got obsessed with fishing. What they say about owning a boat is that you are happy when you buy it and you are happy when you sell it, because of the amount of time it takes to clean it after each trip and the amount of maintenance it requires. We opted to enjoy only the perks, by paying a marina to take care of the less fun bits, so we were happy. But it would have been more fun to have a house at the waterfront with our own dock. When we heard that our friend’s finca had direct access to a lake, we started imagining our own house at the lake, with our own dock for our boat. In fact, even when we started looking for relocating options in other countries, we looked for houses with a dock and with access to a lake or the sea. Obviously, we were extremely impressed, when we saw what our friends had bought. At that point that we started visualizing ourselves at our own Finca in Peñol.
We met with our friends at every opportunity and asked them a million questions. How can we also buy a finca? Where do we find good deals? How much money do you need? How expensive is Colombia to live? Is it safe there? How are the people? Is there corruption? How far is it from Medellin? How about medical care? Who is going to do the maintenance? How much do you need to pay a gardener? I bet you also want answers to these questions now, right? Conclusion was that we could live like kings on monthly retirement allowance. I will tell you more in future blogs.
When I was 46, I decided I wanted to retire by the time I turned 50. My plan was to win 5 million or 50 million Euros in the Euro jackpot and become financially free. I bet many have a similar dream and have the same plan. When I turned 50, not 5 nor 50 million came falling from the sky. Bottom line, I had no means to retire or become financially free. On the contrary I still was paying off my awfully expensive mortgage and had no prospects of being able even work less hours any time soon. I decided to set a new goal for my 55th birthday. This time I decided for a more realistic approach. Make mistakes, learn, adopt a different approach and try again, as long as you can keep moving towards your ultimate vision!
In 2018, I started reading and listening more actively to a few motivational speakers like John Maxwell, Jim Rohn, Less Brown, and Tony Robbins. I know now that this saying is true: When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. I enrolled for the Date with Destiny full immersion live event of Tony Robbins. Those four days changed my life and my approach to life.
I confronted my fears and discovered my real purpose. I started my journey to become an instrument for positive change. After the four days of full immersion, I took the decision to enroll with a Tony Robbins Life Coach. Best decision ever. My coach helped me to plan for the life I wanted and move ahead steadily by focusing on 2-millimeter changes, as she calls them. During my weekly sessions, I had to work on my goals and break them down into smaller chunks (RPM). I formulated my goals for Living Healthier and Mindful, starting a business to help people adopt environmentally friendly habits, living a minimalistic life and setting up elderly housing and a retreat for health and happiness. When our friends told us about their finca and their plans, it became obvious that my vision of a wellness retreat or B&B could manifest in a place like Peñol. Of course there were quite a few practical things to consider, but I was confident that everything happens for a reason and at the right time, and that everything would work out fine in the end.
We planned to visit Peñol and go see the finca in September 2020, however COVID-19 travel restrictions hindered our travel plans. We were in lockdown for the second time and did not have any prospects to travel. However, we did use the time to start working on the broader plan, which would make our dream to become achievable. We needed a business plan. We enrolled in an online course on Udemy on how to make a business plan, Then we started putting the course into practice, with our wellness retreat B&B in Peñol in mind. Next, we engaged a real estate agent in Curaçao and put our house up for sale. Theo made some beautiful pictures of the house, so we were sure it would be selling soon. He is the best real estate photographer on the island after all. The next day we had a viewer, who made an offer within a week. However, I was not ready to move at that time (you know how your mind can sometimes tell you not to do what you want to do). Our business plan was still a bit vague and the offer was lower than we had hoped for, so we graciously declined. This was the first offer after all, so the next one would be better, we thought. We also put our boat up for sale, which did sell within a couple of weeks. At least we were freeing up some assets. Plans were moving in the right direction, one step at the time. No more relying on lottery or miracles. Just steady planning and execution to move ahead.
The lockdown was lifted, and we made plans to travel in December for Christmas, but again COVID-19 blocked our plans. Our friends did push to go, but they missed the connecting flight in Aruba just by a couple of minutes, after which they ended up having to spend an extra week in Aruba. When they finally arrived in Peñol, they did some sight-seeing in the neighborhood. Isabel was looking for nurseries to buy plants for their Finca. And by chance (or by destiny) she met a landscape architect called Doña Jenny, whose husband Don Camillo, was planning the allotment of the inherited land of his father Don Jorge (I almost feel like I must draw a family tree 😊). This piece of land was beautifully situated not too far from the finca of Isabel and Haroen (only 5 minutes by boat) and close to La Piedra del Marial, an exceptionally large hanging stone where the Virgin the Divine Shepherdess (Virgen de la Divina Pastora) appeared in a dream to one of natives.
Don Camillo told our friends that he was planning to sell a small piece of the inherited land so he could build a road, which would allow him to subdivide and sell the other pieces quicker and against a higher price. He wanted to setup kind of a gated community. Don Camillo took them by boat to see the lot and immediately they sent us pictures and videos. We became ecstatic!! The place was gorgeous. From the images, it looked like it had all the elements we wanted: high land, waterfront and as a bonus a small forest with a water source. I was so impressed and taken by the pictures, that I told Isabel that I wanted to buy the place. She had to laugh. We all had to laugh. She wisely advised me to view other options first, so I could compare first. I agreed, but somewhere deep down I knew that there would be no other option for us. I told her to please ask the owner to hold on to it, till we could come and see it in person. At the time we started getting vaccinated in Curaçao. Theo received his first two vaccines, and we immediately booked when I knew when I was going to get my first. We got on a flight, with detour via Miami. It was a day flight, which would allow us to get a good impression for a first trip to Peñol. The timing was perfect. It was nice weather, and a great relief after the lockdown at home, which already had lasted for 4 weeks.
We were amazed during our drive from Medellin to Peñol. We rolled through luscious green landscape with beautiful views of hills and valleys. It was sunny with a nice temperature of around 22 degrees. The place was clean and there was not too much traffic. On our way to Peñol we stopped for a beer in Marinilla, a somewhat larger but very picturesque town than Peñol.
When we were almost at Peñol, we saw the dam. Alirio, a friend of Isabel who volunteered to be our driver during our stay, explained that the original city of Peñol was inundated on purpose in order to build the dam. They re-built the city a little bit more uphill. What is interesting though is that you can still see the Cross on top of the Church tower protruding the water. We were pleasantly surprised with Peñol. People there, are very friendly. There is not much to do, but they have a good coffee shop where Theo and Haroen spent most of their time talking over a few cappuccinos and fresh buns, a good market where I could buy fresh fruits and veggies, a supermarket, and the basic stores for shoes, clothing, and other stuff. The best part was to discover that prices were half of what we usually pay in Curaçao. In short, by just going there, we would double our income! Overall first impression after our first day in Peñol: We are in LOVE! Conclusion… we absolutely want to start our New Life in Peñol!
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