Vancouver Friends Trade Mittens for Baja Treehouse Paradise
By Sascha Zuger
What started as a series of vacations to escape the grey of winter has turned into a second chapter for a pair of 50-something Canadian entrepreneurs, real estate developer Cameron Watt and financier Stuart McPherson.
As the two Vancouverites approached retirement, they wondered if their golden years could look differently than puttering around the house and catching up on the books they were too busy to read during their busy careers.
What if it could be a second chapter they alone would write?
“We actually made the decision spontaneously during a vacation down here six years ago," says Watt. “We had always talked about starting a business together and the natural beauty of Los Cabos inspired us."
First, the friends located and secured an incredibly picturesque and completely undeveloped 25 acres of land, tucked in the desert mountains outside San José del Cabo. Then, they filled it with their dreams — namely, a restaurant and lodge,Acre BajaOpens a new window in your browser.
Hammocks make the most of both sunsets and starry nights. Neat rows of organically-grown leafy greens, chillies and hearty root vegetables feed the restaurant along with fresh-off-the-boat fish and oysters harvested from a nearby bay. Wandering peacocks and baby goats roam past a giant Jenga on the lawn. Groves of mango, citrus and palms border the property.
“We first focused all of our efforts on getting a restaurant open to create awareness and a market for the lodging side," says Watt. "After that, things just got added organically. This allows you to make decisions based on how things are unfolding. I don't know how anyone can plan everything out 100 percent and then execute it. I know that most people do it this way, but the thought of it overwhelms me."
Mixologist Danielle Tatarin was lured away from Vancouver's hip Keefer Bar to create masterpieces using the farm's goods and exotic Mexican ingredients. The outdoor restaurant then fully sprouted, as word of mouth and shared images of the lush grounds and creative cocktails drew tourists and culinary-minded locals to dine under an arbour of twinkly lit grape vines with a background of live jazz.
In 2017, the project's final phase created an oasis of upscale tree houses for two. The 12 accommodations, including one double treehouse combo connected by a swaying suspension bridge, stay in high demand. Holidays and peak weekends sell out months in advance. The area boasts surfing, diving, whale watching and golfing, but guests don't need to leave the property to enjoy a poolside massage or a hike in the picturesque hills.
Each night's stay includes a morning alfresco yoga class and an afternoon culinary or botanical class with one of the hotel's pros. One afternoon might be spent with Tatarin, learning the art of crafting a cocktail or sipping a mezcal tasting from a local farm, complete with crushed cricket salt-laden grapefruit slice. Another day's experience might be with chefs Kevin Luzande or Oscar Torres, strolling the farm learning to pick the perfect Brussel sprout or milking a Nigerian dwarf goat.
As for advice to other Canadians pondering a more active, tropical retirement, Watt says that depends on how flexible you can be.
“I guess it really depends on your personality and your ability to go with the flow," says Watt. “I'd also only suggest it if you have a strong entrepreneurial spirit!"
As Watts and McPherson prove, life can also be thought of in stages. Planning and saving during early stages can open endless doors down the road. Some simply save for a life of leisure in a land with a lower cost of living. Others crave the challenge of starting a new project to nurture and grow, creating not only an additional source of income for the immediate, but a potential inheritance and opportunity for robust transfer of wealth to the next generation. Regardless of the end game, when planned for properly, retirement can open the door to a new kind of freedom.
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