March 28, 2017
Los Clavos directly translated to English means “Nail”. This sleepy fishing village was given this name because fisherman would hang their fishing nets out to be repaired on nails hammered into posts and trees. This community’s industry is still to this day fishing for scampi, mussels, snapper, lobster and more!
It has always been my dream to incorporate travel with photography. Since I learned early on in my career, that becoming a documentary photographer wasn’t going to pay the bills too easily, I refocused my career in the wedding industry.
It may sound strange….that transition, but it was actually quite a smooth one. My shooting style is candid/documentary, so albeit weddings are not world news, they are events that work best to be documented candidly.
After 8 years of shooting in the wedding industry, I felt the need to somehow incorporate my passion for traveling into my business. I needed more of a challenge and it needed to be something that could bring me an income. I have traveled for years at a time doing volunteer work and although I wouldn’t trade these experiences for the world, I needed to focus on evolving my career, making a good salary and upping the ante, and so one day I made a choice. If I wanted hot weather, ocean, and the sense of adventure constantly in my life; I would have to make it happen in huge strides. Here is my story…..
I have always had a knack for creative things. I love decor, interior design, renovations, DIY’s, photography AND I am beyond organized. This is not something all creative people have – the organized part. I wanted to finally take the next step in my business which was to expand my studio to offer wedding planning and styling.
I got certified by WPIC and hired on 2 more talented photographers, an admin leader and a planner to my team. We are now a full service studio! I have since taken on some wonderful styling jobs for wedding clients, pursuing my passion of creating other creative things than just photography. My creative outlet is now replenished and I am excited to take on a plethora of photography and styling jobs!
In 2014, I decided that the ocean life wasn’t going to come to me. I had to make a huge stride to make that pipe dream come true. I have always loved the idea of living the coastal life but never knew how to make money and continue my business. I have dreamed of owning a hotel but I have no business background at all and I had invested so much time and energy into photography. And then it clicked! I CAN have both!!
Have you ever been invited to a destination wedding and thought “Ugh. I don’t feel like staying there and paying all that money for my only vacation of the winter.” ???? Of course! Everyone wants a vacation BUT on their own terms. While destination weddings can be superbly fun and cheaper, they can also be a hindrance.
I am a true back-packer when I travel. I usually don’t spend more than $30 a night for accommodation and I am super easy going about what amenities I have. I do love luxe living – don’t get me wrong, but when I travel for lengthy times, I want to spend my money on “funner” stuff! lol
It occurred to me while shooting a destination wedding at a luxe all-inclusive, that many of the guests were having a good time but also complaining in whispers. They didn’t like the feeling that they couldn’t make their own choices and that I agreed would also make me feel trapped.
I realized that there is a market for people like me…who love travel and love to be flexible. They love adventuring off the beaten path, where they are not forced to be involved in activities they don’t want to be a part of. In a sense, some all-inclusives feel like a human zoo. They don’t even let you out of the resort without making you sign a waiver. And you think to yourself – “I’m the adult here, right?”
So, with these thoughts and feedback, I had my answer of how to incorporate my wedding business with my dream of living coastal. I would open a wedding destination! It would be a space where couple’s can take their friends in a casual and laid-back manner and create their own vacation “a la carte”! Guests would be able to choose where they want to stay, what they want to do and even what price point they are willing to spend for their vacation and a wedding night.
And so, in 2014 I began my search. I spent a lot of time online researching countries. I wanted to keep the destination close enough to Canada but also open to the American market. Of course, I wanted the country to be safe, interesting activity wise, cheap and beautiful.
Through my search, a few countries came up often but specifically Nicaragua kept coming up on top. I kept comparing it to other countries like Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico and some of the Caribbean. Nicaragua is affordable, has a rapidly growing economy, has the lowest crime rate in Central America, and is within the short flight away from Canada. It is bordered by the Caribbean ocean and the Pacific and has the largest fresh water lake in Central America. It has many volcanoes, adventure sports, surfing hot spots and gorgeous laid-back beaches. It is in my opinion the next and up and coming Costa Rica without the price-tag!
Once I felt I knew enough about the country and all the red tape and in’s and out’s of how to purchase and build a business there, I booked my flight to check it out and the rest is history!
I loved it.
It was everything I could dream of and I could totally envision myself there during Canada’s winter months. I met with 6 real estate agents and began my property search along the Pacific coast. I found a property that I loved on my first trip but I wasn’t ready to make the plunge. I wanted my parents approval. The property was on a hill with an ocean view but the ocean was a 20 minute drive away. There were beautiful trees and a well and it was close to the most touristy town in Nicaragua.
My parents obviously thought this plan initially was nuts but then after seeing my research and business plan, they decided to come take a look for themselves. So in 2015, they came with me. They were hooked pretty quickly and soon their reluctancy became encouragement.
After my parents left, I had this strange nagging feeling that I needed to see the one spot I missed on my first trip. I headed north in a frenzy with only one week to spare before my flight home. I met with an agent and we saw some gorgeous properties near the ocean. One in-particular felt right. It was a 5 minute walk from the beach and had gorgeous rental homes dotted around it. It was remote and peaceful and the foreign investors in this community were excited to meet me. They had collaborative ideas and much encouragement.
I went home and pondered between the property in the south and the one in the north. The one in the south was clearly a better deal and had some infrastructure. My parents had approved it and it was close to civilization and many other hotels. The strange thing though, was that the foreign investors there seemed unwilling to help new business owners and secretive of their journey. They were threatened by new comers. The vibe wasn’t quite what I had in mind but it seemed much easier to get a business going there than in the middle of nowhere up north. I was scared of making my dream too complicated.
Since the Canadian dollar was at a all-time low, I was going to take the risk and ponder which property I wanted while I gambled on the dollar getting stronger. I eventually decided that I wanted the property in the south because it would be less complicated for me to set up.
I sat on it for a year, keeping close tabs on the market and the ins and outs of the people interested in the property. In March 2016, I finally made an offer and to my utter surprise and disappointment, lost it to someone else. No one else had made an offer in that entire year and the week I did, someone else did too. This part of the story is long-winded and complicated so I am going to skip it. Basically, all in all, I didn’t get it. I waited too long, my agent didn’t live up to his responsibilites and in conclusion, it just wasn’t meant to be.
I am a firm believer in fate and took it as a sign that I needed to move on. I was gutted for some months but after some time, I realized that the property up north by the beach had always nagged in my mind. It always felt right but I thought it was going to be super tough to make my dream come true and so I discouraged myself from the challenge. However, if anyone knows anything about me, I always choose the path less taken. For some reason, it seems to be in my genetic coding. lol And so, with my gut feeling coming to the surface, I quickly recognized that this should have been the choice all along. I made an offer and I got it!
In June 2016, I became with the help of my parents the proud owner of 17 acres of grass and trees with an ocean view in Los Clavos, Nicaragua! HA! I still can’t believe that this is what I own and if I think too intensely about the journey that awaits me, I want to go to sleep. I am excited, anxious and incredibly grateful to have a support system like my parents. They have always encouraged my crazed dreams and if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be even close to the position in my life that I am today. Thank you mom and dad!!! xxoo
And so here is one of the fields that faces the ocean to the west. This is where I eventually plan to build a main house and outdoor reception space. The view from just a few feet higher make all the difference!
Taking photos of trees is clearly not my forte. I swear each photo and angle looks the same, so apologies if this isn’t so interesting yet.
Here I am, for the first time on my property as the owner. Check out my big tree over there!!! yay!
This property was owned by a farmer for 40 something years previously to me. There are so many lovely fruit trees all around the land like guava, papaya, mango, orange, lemon, cashew and caimito.
At the back of the property, there are ruins of an old farm house. Here I am with my dad.
Here is one of the many enormous mango trees!
And too bad these squiggly trees aren’t mine, but they do hang over my property so they “look” like mine! lol
Here is an old well. The space to the left is the opening and the rectangle to the right is the water basin. I have to get this water tested to see if I can use it and see if I can pump enough out of it.
My favourite tree again.
This is the beach next to the beach that my property is close to. It has a huge wave which surfers frequent and some lovely bed and breakfasts and hostels.
You can walk along the coast in either direction for hours during low tide. You’ll be lucky if you see 10 people along the way.
One crucial problem I faced was that my property didn’t have access to the public road. The road was so damaged due to cattle walking along it, that I would have to personally take on the project and expense of repairing it myself if I wanted to access my property by car.
This is the sunset at the beach in front of my property.
Ending your day with a sunset like this, listening to the ocean never gets old. Its amazing what a little sun and sand does to the mind, body and soul.
And so, the journey has really just begun to launch my pipe dream. Follow me through my ups and downs of building a dream.
xx – april
Venue:Los Clavos // Photos: April Maciborka + Dina + Danny Maciborka + Soul Sacko