23) Building a boutique hotel in costal Ecuador with Robert Ross

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Motañita Ecuador

Robert Ross started in California as a consultant,  went through an IPO, went to Montañita Ecuador and the “ME Hotel & Villas – Montanita Estates” to live an amazing life style.  In this episode we talked about the story as well as the…

Robert Ross started in California as a consultant,  went through an IPO, went to Montañita Ecuador and the “ME Hotel & Villas – Montanita Estates” to live an amazing life style. 

In this episode we talked about the story as well as the difficulties he had to face to do it. 

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Transcription done by: Arianne Elnar

Building a boutique hotel in costal Ecuador with Robert Ross

Ney Torres: [00:00:00] Robert, how are you my friend? We met probably two or three years ago. And you have a very interesting story. You started in California as a consultant, went through an IPO and then decided to move to Montanita, Ecuador to start your own hotel. How did that happen?

Robert Ross: [00:00:18] Hey, Nate, good to talk to you. Yeah, I live in Montanita, Ecuador. It’s on the coast of Ecuador about two hours from Guayaquil. And I’ve lived here just about nine years now. I’m here in Montanita, Ecuador about two hours Guayaquil. I’m the owner of a hotel called the ME Hotel in villas as well as the housing community called Montanita Estates. Yeah. I moved here nine years ago. Before I was here, I was (inaudible) then actually worked for two startups, second called Green Dot which went public. So yeah, I guess the story of me getting here — I started in LA as a consultant. I worked in mainly in ERP and management consulting for three years and it was good job. I liked it but I really wanted to get to the front end of deals.  So, I went into sales for a couple startups.  I did that for six years. All throughout I was a surfer. So, I had gone to Costa Rica in 1999.  I loved it. I loved the lifestyle.  I actually went when I was in a university with, I think it was 10 friends stayed in a house right in front of the beach. We were in Tamarindo. We went surfing and I think after that, I got the idea in my mind that was my goal. And so, I spent the next 10 years trying to earn enough money to get back to an environment like Torica. In between jobs like Accenture, CaseStack was the other one is a supply chain outsourcing company and Green Dot, it would take constant vacations. Places like Indonesia Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua, Chile not Chile, Peru here in Ecuador just looking, seeing, planning, seeing if I could make my way back. And then finally, it was around 2008 when Green Dot the company I was working for as a financial services company filed to go public, I could see how much money I was going to have. And I thought it was time to make an escape. So, I stayed another two years when my shares vested at Green Dot and one day on a flight, I was going on a flight cross country to Ohio. I just decided I couldn’t do it anymore. And the next day I went back to my apartment and a week later we had sold everything. I quit my job and we had booked flights to Ecuador. So yeah, here I am.  When it got here. I like to say that I had enough money in LA to buy a home but here in Ecuador, I had enough money to do whatever I wanted. I actually didn’t really come down here with a plan. I came down here just to get away. I’d been working for 10 years and consulting and for startups and I just wanted to relax, but I think I was pretty wired to work. The work was different. So, I spent the first year, year and a half here in Ecuador, just getting to know people, getting to know the environment. Bought a couple of quads, we’re out with machetes looking at land.  And I think I was really trying to figure out, “okay, how can I create passive income?” And I think that’s where this I crossed this with this podcast is that I was really looking for passive income and Montanita is a town for people who’ve traveled in South and central America, Indonesia, it’s a surf town. It’s probably about a thousand people. It gets about a fair amount of tourists. So there’s five, 10,000 people that could show up on a weekend and I saw right away that there was an opportunity because it just wasn’t enough place where people sleep people everywhere in hostile and there really wasn’t anything on the higher end, backpackers, a lot of surfers. There wasn’t really anything. this was before Airbnb, there wasn’t anything that was a vacation rental. And I learned from my own experience that there wasn’t even a place there wasn’t a place for me even asleep. I was looking for a long-term rental and there were tons of people here. Tons of restaurants, tons of bars. There was a lot of life, just wasn’t enough house. So, as I started going out and looking for places looking for things to to invest in, I stumbled on some onto some land Hill, right above town. I learned the laws to buy the land and I bought it. And then it was about looking for a builder. So, this is about a year and a half in, and there weren’t any builders in the area. So, we were about two hours from major city. There wasn’t really the structures out here were bamboo shacks.  You know, half built a cement block construction. I was here before really internet in the home, there wasn’t municipal water, electricity was very iffy. So, but I set out to build four condos for three-bedroom condos that I could rent monthly. And I had to knock on doors. So, I basically on my quad is an ATV. I would go around looking for homes that looked relatively a complete new, and I’d knock on the door and I’d asked who their builder was, how they built it. And I got the names of 10 builders that that lived here or are most of them actually lived in Guayaquil, which is two hours away. And I started contacting them. At the time this was before WhatsApp, there was a little bit of Facebook, so it was calling them, sending text messages, getting anyway. This was actually before there was even an MLS here. So, you couldn’t even find properties online. You had to call the numbers of people who spray painted their numbers, contacts, and sides of buildings here in order to find properties on land. And I called the builders and I got 10 people that respond to my messages. I asked for a certain amount of information about how they build. Three of them somewhat responded and one actually responded and he ended up being my builder.  So we built our first four condos. Today, the — go ahead.

Ney Torres: [00:06:01] So you created basically something we’re in the middle of nothing and Montanita for everybody hearing right now. It’s a beautiful town. I love to go to Montanita. It’s a town you pass through on your way to a major city, right? It’s —

Robert Ross: [00:06:14] It’s really not even that. Montanita has been known throughout South America as a surf town for 20-30 years. And the really people didn’t really start coming here until the 90s. There weren’t really any decent roads until the (inaudible). And I got here in 2011, and I remember trying to get internet in my house. And even in 2011, they looked at me like I was crazy when the first guy that wanted to set up an internet up in my house, you had to find a (inaudible).  He didn’t have an office. It was like a bootleg internet service. And he would take an intent and put it on a bamboo post and put the bamboo post stand, pointing it up in another intent. And it was really iffy. Nobody accepted credit cards. So, when I wanted to stay here, actually had to send a bank wire. So, it’s really off the beaten track, but if you were a surfer and you wanted to go to Ecuador. Like I was, I was an explorer of surf spots for 10 years. You found it because it was the number one search spot in Ecuador and I had come in 2005 and I came again in 2009 and it hadn’t changed that much. I was looking at moving here in Nicaragua, which had I had spent a lot of time at, I just decided that Montanita was the placed. There was really nothing here as far as it was a surf spot and a backpack spot, but that was about it. A lot of fruit juice shacks and hammock coconut and that was about it.

Ney Torres: [00:07:36] How does one run the hotel in that environment looks like. How would you describe it?

Robert Ross: [00:07:41] Yeah. So, what I thought, I guess to continue the story. So now, the ME Hotel is 15 condos and 15 hotel rooms. I’ve got two pools, I’ve got two jacuzzies, we’ve got a gym, a yoga studio and a restaurant. So, it’s really developed over the last nine years, I started off just thinking I wanted passive income, monthly income. So, I was going to do long-term rentals. Ecuador was really growing as a retirement spot. And I was getting a lot of people down to the United States from Europe or older people that when they got here, they really had a hard time dealing with the elements. Like they didn’t speak Spanish. It was hard to get to the grocery store and they couldn’t figure out that’s something broke how to fix it. So, it ended up being, I would get a monthly rental, but it was like being in running a hotel because there was just so much interaction between the guests. They need to be babysat. So, I pretty quickly got out of the monthly rental because it was just not passing. Then I really looked at. weekly, daily rental and it did really well. There was nothing here on the high-end and high-end here is a typical place was 15, 20 bucks for a night. We were charging between 100-200 for three (inaudible) place. So, it was higher end, not high-end in the United States but from the first month I went that direction, I was full. I was just full all the time, actually paid somebody to go stand at the bus stop with flyers that didn’t really even have a website yet. And it was literally, I was making 15% on my income in a month. I guess, on my investment in a month. The numbers were staggering right from the get, and this was before Airbnb. There was a little bit of VRBO, but if people remember how VRBO and FlipKey were before you had to pay in order to list. So, Airbnb was the first one that allowed you to list without paying. So, we were there, there were very few rentals at the time. There was only seven rentals in all of Montanita area that you find online. And I had four of them and if you went to Tamarindo, the same time in Costa Rica, there was probably 3000 rentals. So, we were just full and right away when I recognized that I went on to build another building. So, I built three condos three, more condos right away. I had a good builder that I had developed a good relationship with and we building condos, condo buildings in about six months and then at that point I started listing to my gas.  this was really in Latin America before around 2013, they didn’t really know what a vacation rental was.  So, I guess that Airbnb didn’t exist yet and and they got to vacation rentals and just wanted to give him the key and walk away. And they were asking where the pool was, where’s the restaurant, who’s going to clean the place. And after listening to out guest for a bit, I decided to put a pool in. We started with the bar and just added on from there. And after a while, as we continued to grow. I realized I couldn’t do it with, by myself.  So, when I started, it was just me one person down at the bus stop. And a guy that was my guard would clean up the place and we just grew so as we grew, I hired more and what I’ve learned is running a hotel is not possible. So, as you transition to a hotel, you’re charging more, but the demands of guests go up. So, it’s been a much more hands on experience from my original plan but it’s fun. The big difference is, yeah, I don’t look back. My worst day at the hotel is still than my best day when I was (inaudible) and in business development at these technology companies, I mean, I was —

Ney Torres: [00:11:18] I wanted to ask you, well, I’ve said this before in the (inaudible) to say one thing better than passive income is the one thing better than having passive income is to do what you love. And I can tell you Robert makes up and he probably goes to surf in the morning, just eat healthy food in the beautiful beach before starting the day or it’s a beautiful lifestyle. The one you have designed for yourself. Can you tell me a little bit about how did you talk to your family? Probably, they were telling you that you were crazy.

Robert Ross: [00:11:51] Yeah, no. It’s funny because I set out since 1999 and it was like a loose goal in my head that this is how I want to spend my life but as time went on and I worked really hard in LA. I had these really intense jobs and I was good at it. Success jobs and I knew just over the long-term, the amount of stamina to keep it up, to keep up that pace was just difficult.  And as I got into pushing into my late 20s and 30s, I started thinking about how I wanted to spend my 40s and they used to say to myself if I’m doing this when I’m 40 or 50, I’m going to have a heart attack. So, then I really, really started to focus on, on where I wanted to be and I was looking hard at Nicaragua and Ecuador and I would make a trip down every two, three months. Surfing in different areas and learning about the different areas. And as we filed for the IPO, I just knew I was going to go. So, at that point, I started talking to my family and my friends. I was living beachfront in Manhattan beach. I had a great life and they thought I was crazy because they said, “What are you doing? You’ve got this great life. You live beachfront, you got a great job. You make good money.” But in my mind, I just knew that over time, I wasn’t going to be able to fit.  it wasn’t what how I wanted to spend my life. It was really hard to think about having a family also, because it was so expensive in LA. I knew I was going to have to move and I really didn’t even think about having a family. And so yeah, I remember when I finally nailed down a date about. Six months for, I was going to leave and started telling everybody it was real and nobody believed me. Probably three weeks before I left. We had this party where I sold everything that I own and I invited all my friends and I basically just dumped that and we have in Ecuador, there’s something called (inaudible) which is set lunch, which is $3.  You get fresh fish, you get fruit, fruit juice. You get a patacones and you get a soup for $3. So as a joke, we had sold everything in my apartment for $3. If you wanted a soup, $3. If you wanted a coffee maker it’s $3 and all my friends come over and they basically bought everything I owned today. Yeah, and I laughed and I sold everything, but I had six surf boards, two dogs put some papers in my mom’s garage and sold everything on a Saturday. And I was gone on Monday. All my friends who were surfers in Manhattan beach, they had a poll to see how long I’d make it. I think the longest six months they thought I’d be back, but here I am nine years later. Yeah, I don’t look back at all. It was the best decision I ever made. And to be honest, I could never move back into to the US or your party type of an environment like that. The lifestyle here suits me. I like being able to wake up in the morning. I spent my first year and a half here. I think I surf six hours a day. I drove the whole country with other people I met here. Learned Spanish and yeah, I mean, I control my time. I think the hardest part about those jobs that have you asked if there were times I’d wake up in the morning. I’d have butterflies’ stomach from straps, just before I’d open up my email to see what was happening that day. It just doesn’t happen to me.  I love what I do.

Ney Torres: [00:15:14] How much would you say to somebody that lives, for example, in LA? How much do you need to live daily or in this case normal lifestyle there?

Robert Ross: [00:15:22] Yeah. I mean, you can live really comfortable here for $2,000 and half of that is going to be your house. So, if you want to live in a really, really nice place. Looked to me in 800,000 and then everything else. You couldn’t, spend more than 2,000 a month. And that includes going out to eat every day. All of your meals, having an active social life and just so living in the US in LA where you need $20,000-$30,000 a month to break even base. Down here, you need about $2,000 to have the life that I want and a lot of people live for less but the like I didn’t come down here to live and at a standard less than what I had in LA. But it’s about 2,000.

Ney Torres: [00:16:03] Oh, okay. That’s excellent. How does a day in the life looks for you? You wake up in the morning. What time?

Robert Ross: [00:16:09] Yeah, I get up early. So, I tend to get up early about 6:00AM or 7:00AM. I spend an hour or two drinking coffee.  I’m a bit older now, so I was in the water by 6:15AM, first one in the water surf until 8:00AM comeback, eat then start my day. Now, my day starts closer to 9:00AM. I take my time waking up. I genuinely, then I’ll go drive around, look for where I want to surf. I’m a big kite surfer now, too. So, I might spend two, three hours a day kite surfing. We’re pretty lucky here in Ecuador that we have two seasons. We have kite season and surf season and I do both. So, I might be on the foil and might be on the on the surf board or I’ll be on my kite board. I’ll spend between two hours and three hours doing that. Then I’ll pop into the hotel. Usually if I don’t go to the hotel before I drive out, I’ll stop into the hotel between 10:00AM and 12:00PM, and I’ll spend a couple hours just coming up with the plans of the day. The one thing with living in a really tropical place is I spend a lot of my time on maintenance and planning. I’ve got five maintenance people that work for me and maintaining the hotel in a tropical environment. At a hotel standard all day, every day.  And then yeah, so I’ll spend two hours, then I’ll figure out where to meet for lunch. Generally, some type of fresh fish, fresh seafood. We can eat out for 5-6 bucks or I’ve got a full-time person that lives with me and cooks for me which is great because I eat really healthy and there’s generally food already ready for me when I get home. But in the afternoon, I’ll I might go for a surf again or go to the beach. I have two kids who were born here in Ecuador, so I spend a lot of time with my kids and yeah, same thing. I really don’t leave the house. After 7:00PM, in Montanita is famous for its nightlife and there were years when I first got here where I was out more at night, but we don’t really go out much at night. Usually I sleep by 9:00PM or 10:00PM after a full day of a surfing, kiting, working at the hotel, hanging with my kids and yeah, eating fresh seafood. So that’s a typical —

Ney Torres: [00:18:15] I remember those days we used to party with me. That was so much fun then.

Robert Ross: [00:18:22] Montanita is famous and South America for its nightlife action. Started as a deserted town and then it grew into this party town. So, if you want to party, if you want to be out Montanita you can be out every night until four or five in the morning, or you can have the life that I have. A healthy outdoors surfing, working out, at the hotel we have a gym where we have a lot of there’s a lot of MMA here. So, we have an MMA gym. A jujitsu gym, a boxing gym here that most of my friends are doing that stuff as well. So, we’re all going to be healthy, but there’s a crazy nightlife. Montanita has grown exponentially in the last 20 years. So, like I said, it started off just a place that you had to arrive by boat or donkey or plane. I don’t know how they drop you out of plane. 20 years ago, to a place where on a weekend. We might have 10,000 people here for a party and then they’ll leave on Monday. Monday through Friday is pretty quiet, but there’s probably at any given time, there’s probably 400-500 backpackers’ people who are living here for longer than a month living in the area which is cool. Because you got to, you have a really international crowd.

Ney Torres: [00:19:33] Yeah, it’s super cool. I liked that about Montanita that you can have the hard-core parties downtown, or you can have a relaxed lifestyle, as you mentioned, just by walking 10 minutes any direction. Yeah. So, talk to me about the culture shock, especially about managing a business in Ecuador. You faced an earthquake, currency shocks where destroyed the local currency. I mean, you have seen a lot of things.

Robert Ross: [00:19:56] Yeah. I mean, it’s been a roller coaster and I didn’t have any experience building a hotel, running a hotel. I love building a lot of funds coming up with ideas. I traveled to a number of different places throughout the world. Surfed, lived in LA. So, I had tons of ideas about the style tropical styles. I call it a tropical cookie hotel, and it started off amazing from the day that we opened till about 2015. We were just doing so well. We’re growing, growing exponentially. I was building. We were full, there wasn’t enough housing. And then Montanita and Ecuador was famous in South America for surfing and partying. And I’d say 80% of the people that stayed at my hotel were from Argentina and really 60% of the town was from Argentina. In 2015, about three years in Argentina’s currency collapse and I really haven’t even thought about the current of Argentina. And I didn’t realize it, but I was one of the first people and not the need to accept credit card. And it had all Argentinians staying with because they could pay with a credit card and they had certain limits with the amount of cash you could get. And I knew that I was benefiting from that, but I didn’t realize the extent I was spending. So, it wasn’t a slow crash. It was one day the president of Argentina came in and the currency went from four to one to 20 to one overnight. In 80% of my business dried up.  And so that was in 2015 and it was a huge shock. Luckily, the hotel had grown enough at that point that a lot of that business was placed by Ecuadorian business, domestic tourism, 3 million people live in Guayaquil. Then all of a sudden it was a different type of reservation. So, we went from getting reservation six months in advance to reservations getting six hours in advance and we went from an average reservation being seven days long to the average reservation being two days. And we adjusted our business right away to be able to manage that, but it was a different type of reservations, a lot harder. Now, it required more and more resource. And then a year after that, we had the earthquake that had hit here in 201 5 and Montanita wasn’t affected physically, but 10 hours North of where the epicenter of the of the earthquake hit was completely destroyed. And the aftershocks of that, and the extent of that hand when all the way to about two hours North of us, but from a business standpoint, the entire country shut down. But there was this national consciousness that said it and that it wasn’t right to go out drink mojitos and Montanita when people are North of us. So, the business just stopped. Stopped for six months in 2000 where we were all doing relief work. We were heading North. We wanted to help there’s other surf towns in the North that we had known. We knew a lot of the people up there they’d come to meet us and we’d stayed with them. We wanted to help them. A lot of them came and stayed with us. In Montanita and yeah, so again, another shock to the business 2015, it took about a year to recover from that. So, 2017- 2018, things are going great again for about two years. And then they’re periodic political upheaval in Ecuador in 2000 — I guess it was just last year, 2019.  And then there was a big revolt when they tried to change gas price here. We have subsidized gas and gas prices are very low. It’s about a dollar a gallon, but we’re also on the dollar.  So, in order to get loans from the IMF, they were making conditioned the IMF put on the country where that they had to let gas go to a free market economy. And the people here just didn’t want that. And so, they shut the country down. There’s political upheaval. They shut down the roads, protests, they were burning ATM machines. They’re burning businesses. Started in Quito wherever you’re from Ney, but it was the whole country. So basically, the country went down in the military lockdown and now we’ve got, and so that was about two months, six months ago. And now we’ve got this pandemic, which everybody knows what’s happening right now. So, I’m talking to you in the middle of, in the beginning of April of the the COVID-19 pandemic and they shut the whole country down again. So, when you build a business, I don’t care where it is. You could plan for these 10, maybe a 15% seasonal adjustment in your business. But in the last five years, my business has gone to zero four times, which is just it’s hard to run a business that way. And you don’t expect it. Everybody who’s going through this pandemic right now with business. If you’re an entrepreneur, the pain that you’re experiencing in your small business, I’ve had, this is my fourth one in the last four years. So, it’s sad, but I’m almost a little numb to it in a way this is horrible. I’ve had to cut back and pay employees. I’ve suspended paid vendors, but unfortunately, you’re almost, you become used to it. When you have a business here in a place like this, in a place like Ecuador. I’d imagine some of the other small-town surf spots that could end up when Costa Rica, Nicaragua had their problems. Peru had their problems, Chile and Colombia. So, it’s more a part of life here. It’s much different than, than, than running a business in the US on the other side of that. It’s much more relevant. So, starting a business, I never even, I always wanted to have a business ins US but it was always cost prohibitive from what you needed as far as startup capital permits. So competitive. So, I was able to find a place here where I was literally one of the first people to start a middle market, high end hotel vacation rental. And this was 2011 I mean, that’s how stuff has been happening in the United States for 50 years. So being one of the first people to have internet, being the first people person to have fiber optics running the hotel. It’s not rocket science to start a business in a place. So, there’s just tons and tons of opportunity to do things and to start businesses whether it’s a restaurant, a juice shack. It doesn’t matter what it is. There’s just way less competition, way less red tape to start your business, the amount of capital that you need to start your business fraction of what you need in the United States. I used to tell people if you need $200,000 to start a business in the US, you need $20,000 to start in Ecuador. I mean, my hotel, which would cost me five, $10 million to build in maybe more in the U S cost, a fraction of that. So, you just have more opportunity to there’s less permit, yeah. So that’s why I’ve been able to do what I’ve done and also withstand on these shocks that have gone through over the last four years that. I just never even imagined when I started the business as well, 2013. You can’t imagine, you just can’t imagine the way currencies in Argentina would affect your business. Small town in Ecuador or a pandemic in China would affect your small business and the surf town and of the coast Ecuador. It’s amazing.

Ney Torres: [00:26:45] Yeah, for sure. It’s been a very interesting couple of years. What’s next for you, Robert?

Robert Ross: [00:26:49] Yeah. I mean, we’re all just in a holding period right now. Ecuador has done a really great job of we’re in an island down here, not an island, but we’ve been completely isolated out here in Montanita, but we don’t have any cases but of the coronavirus, but we’re shut down. I see it happening. My goal from a lifestyle to continue doing, and I love my life. I’m very lucky.  I just got back. I was traveling in India and Nepal and Sri Lanka.  I spent six weeks, I’m able to run the business remotely. So, I did some kite surfing and surfing in Sri Lanka. When you live in Ecuador and I spent a lot of time and you asked I really want it to blow my mind culturally. So, I went to India, Nepal and a dose of Hinduism and Buddhism out there. And I really enjoyed it. I got back just before they shut down the country. Luckily, I had to book an emergency flight back to get back but yeah, that’s the goal is to just continue this flexible lifestyle. I’m always trying to engineer my life myself maximum freedom. I’ve already surfed the whole world three times now. I want to kite the whole world. It opened up a whole new place that I want to see and visit kite surfing. I’ll continue to grow the business in a way that hopefully allows me to be flexible with my lifestyle. So, I need to be able to run it remotely, have good employees that can operate the business when I’m not there. I spend most of my time on the marketing, Instagram, Facebook, social media, managing partners for sales, like I’ve always done actually. It’s the same stuff I did before I was running a hotel and just doing the hotel now, but I can do that from anywhere in the world. And then, I mean, one thing from running a business here, this type of business is I’m dependent on good employees and that absence flows I’ll have times where have amazing employees that can run the business. And I don’t need to talk to for a week and I’ll have times where I just don’t have that those types of employees. And I’m having to constantly be at the hotel and make sure that things are set up the way they’re supposed to be. I mean, just to give you an idea, 12 years ago, you would hire, sorry. In 2012, when I started the business, I would hire a cleaning person to make the beds, clean to clean a condo and you wouldn’t think would be difficult to do, but the first time I walked in to a room to see how they put the sheets on the bed. They didn’t know how to do it because they had never stayed in a hotel. So, and then when you go to their homes, they don’t live in and your cleaning person might not live in a very nice home. They might not have air conditioning. They might not even have walls that connect to the ceiling. And so their standard of cleaning, they just don’t even know how so there’s times in the business here where I have to have to very, very hands on to things as granular as how to clean a room, how to make a bed, how to check people in because a lot of the people that are working for you just never had that experience in a hotel before and as time goes on, it’s gotten better, but still it has its bids and flows of business. So yeah, continuing to grow the business in a way that, that allows me flexibility with my lifestyle to surf and kite and be with my family and travel the world. Yeah.

Ney Torres: [00:29:54] So what would you tell yourself when you, if you could talk to yourself right now and you were starting out before somebody that’s starting out with some idea like that, what will you tell them?

Robert Ross: [00:30:03] I think first of all, is to go for it. A lot of people have a hard time. There’s a lot of people have a hard time. I can’t tell you how many guests I check in. They’re just enamored with my lifestyle, that you want to know everything about me, how I got here. It’s a goal for them to have a similar lifestyle, but they have a hard time making that and they might have the means. But they’ve got a mortgage. Maybe they have kids and they never set themselves up in order to make that. And it’s tied into a mortgage, tied into a school system kind of a getaway. Luckily, I was 32 years old when I left, but I had set my life up in a way that allowed me to sell everything in a weekend. And the second thing is don’t look back. There are times when I’ve gone through, like I said, the earthquake, currency changes, strike that you’re asking yourself what was I thinking? But those times never last long. And then I just can’t ever imagine myself, the work environment that I was before. I think I said it before, my worst day here is still better than my best day when I was opening my computer in the morning, working at a startup, just the stress and the treadmill that you’re in the United States. So, once you’re here, you have to commit. You can’t you can’t come down with one foot out the door. I think it’s easier when you’re younger actually.  Ecuador has gotten a lot of publicity is a great place to retire. It’s hard once you’re older to come to a place like this, where we have electricity outages, regular electricity outages. We have internet, it comes and goes. I used to do a lot of trading stocks when I had to stop when I was here. You can’t be tied with your computer all the time. Water, there’s times where you have food poisoning and there’s no water because the town runs out of water and your tanks run dry and you’re running. And I had to build my own roads. I had to put in my own electricity systems as you get older, those things are harder to manage. So being young and trying this lifestyle out where you can navigate, not having electricity, not having water. Because everybody goes through those experiences here quite often actually. Nine years later once a week, we’re still going through power outage and its part of the adventure, you’re going to have to give in order to get when you’re in a place like this. It’s not all just coconuts and hammocks. Sometimes I feel like I have to go out and kill my dinner, go out and harvest my dinner in order to eat. You spend hours. We just got our first grocery here this year. Ney, you’re from here so Tia went nine years without a grocery store. So, when I went to fresh fish you go to the fish market, then you go to the vegetable market. I went a long time, not eating meat because you had to drive an hour in order to get the beef. You are working harder, but you have that time even that time back day. So that’s the advice that I would give everybody is make the leap and don’t look back. You have to commit even when you don’t have electricity, you don’t have water. You have food poisoning. You’ll get past it.

Ney Torres: [00:33:18] Very good. Got it. How often do you go back to the US?

Robert Ross: [00:33:21] I would back once a year for Thanksgiving. I love LA, so I lived in LA 10 years before I came here in Southern California is a beautiful place. My only challenge with California was just had a hard time thinking about growing old there. It’s just hard.  So, my whole family is in Southern California, LA and San Diego. And I go back once a year. Right now, I have two kids who were born in Ecuador. So, I’ve been heading back more because they’ve been in the US since August with their mom.so I’m trying to reorganize my life right now. So, I can go see my kids every six to eight weeks in the United States while they’re there. And then also have the freedom to run the business, which is cool.  I think if my family wasn’t there and my kids weren’t there, I would never go back to be honest. I don’t, I love the United States and I love LA, but the world is an enormous place and there’s 50 places in the world that I have that I’d like to visit before I go back to the United States, but that’s just a situation right now. And I don’t know. I mean, the downside, I love Montanita and I love Ecuador and but I don’t know if I’ll live here forever. We’ll l see. I know I won’t go back to the United States, but I love the process of building a hotel here. I’d probably do it again if it’s here. Great. If not, I’ll find another place I can surf and kite surf and live in a super flexible environment.

Ney Torres: [00:34:44] Excellent. My friend. Thank you so much for your time, brother. Where can people find you?

Robert Ross: [00:34:48] Yeah, you can find me on Instagram. The hotel is @MontanitaEstates or my personal feel free to send me a note @Robertxcross1 and the website for the hotel is MontanitaEstates.com and yeah, if you’re interested in learning more about my lifestyle here, staying at the hotel. If you’re interested in property, owning land, a condo, building a home down here in Ecuador on the coast feel free to shoot me a note. And yeah, I always get back to people. Love talking to people and hosting them down here.

Ney Torres: [00:35:21] Thank you for your time, my friend.

Robert Ross: [00:35:22] Great talking to you, Ney.

Ney Torres: [00:35:23] Great talking to you too.

Robert Ross: [00:35:24] I’ll see you soon.

Financially Free Podcast with Ney Torres
Episode 22