Dear Bike Hike Tours community! For a while now, I’ve been thinking about sharing the story about how our family left New York City for a holiday on the North Coast DR and stayed there longer than we’d ever imagined. Finally, I feel it’s the right moment and place to share our 3-months long quarantine life with you. Truth be told, the COVID-19 situation was the trigger that made us stay here as long as we did but looking back at it, we must’ve had the wise instinct to even go there in the first place. We became close friends with amazing locals, and today, I will be sharing the very first interview with a very dear person that I met three months ago.
Before presenting her, there’s been quite some funny coincidences and git-feeling decisions that lead up to this moment in the first place!
Long story short, we were planning our annual week-long family ski trip to Revelstoke Canada in the beginning of March, when suddenly my wife had this crazy idea to travel to Cabarete on the North Coast, DR instead. She has visited this island a month before due to work and fell in love with it. We both love skiing and for her to suggest that I thought it really has tobe something special. So, we decided to cancel our trip to BC Canada and book tickets for the North Coast DR instead. Just as we did this, the COVID-19 started appearing in the US as well! It was an extremely hard decision for us as a family. To travel, or not. The decision was even harder, bearing in mind we also have a 4-year old to travel with. Are we irresponsible even thinking about it? In the end, we decided to go for it, and it was the best last-minute decision we’ve ever made! We knew there was a big risk that the vacation might get extended but we were ready for it (and my wife already scouted the wi-fi conditions were excellent should it come to it).
The first week here was the hardest as there were so many unknowns. Our flights back home got canceled, and the coronavirus by then spread rapidly in NYC. The quickly worsening situation in NY made us realize it is safer for us to stay on the island. Honestly, there are worse places than Encuentro Beach to be stranded at. This amazing spot between two small towns, Sosua and Cabarete, is ideally set up for living and eating healthy, being active, and, most importantly, getting to know new, inspiring people – with many of whom we became, I dare say, life-long friends. Together, we made our self-quarantine time here much more attractive & joyful!
Once we made that call to stay, it was easy, and everything just kind of came together like a puzzle. Our daughter Karla’s school in NYC was closed, but instead, she was able to receive private daycare classes right here in the lodge while my wife and I both were able to work remotely from a breezy rooftop co-working space in El Encuentro lodge. We found a new routine with me surfing early morning every day, while my wife completely falling in love with sunrise yoga practices and plenty of family time and productive work in between. We consciously agreed to plan in two weeks periods and take it a period at a time – control what you can and focus on the positive!
So, finally, I am forever grateful to my wife and our super friendly hosts here in DR, the El Encuentro surf lodge employees, who made this experience possible! Below is the interview with the manager of the surf lodge, Lina Zatl, who also became one of BHT’s closest business partners.
- Tell us a bit about yourself, who you are, where you come from, and what do you do for a living.
I’m Lina, 33 years old, originally from Austria, actually really close to Bike Hike Tours founder Bostjan Brzin’s home in Slovenia. I have been living in the North Coast DR for the past 5 years. I came to work and I stayed for love. I’ve found my husband and I’ve found my dream job, managing a small boutique hotel called El Encuentro Surf Lodge. Besides that, I’m a mum of a 4-year-old and a beach lover.
- If you have to pick 3 adjectives that best describe you as a person?
I’m passionate, even impulsive, and proud of it.
I’m humorous and love to laugh.
I’m comforting my guests, this comes naturally.
- What is your day like?
After bringing my son to a Montessori kindergarten, I go to the hotel and start the day with a briefing of my employees. Then I try to talk to most of our hotel guests at the restaurant and figure out if they’re happy with their stay, answer their questions and see if there’s something I can do for them. After that, I deal with the issues of the day and take at least an hour (every day) to work on strategic projects. For example, right now, I’m working on creating the job position of an Operational Supervisor, which will allow me to have more time for client services and sales, which is my passion and strength. Every couple of days, I have a meeting with my boss and owner of the hotel who lives in New York. In the afternoons, I walk through the hotel and vacation villas and try to see everything through the eyes of a client. Based on that, I define projects for my managers to work on, items that need to be solved right away, or ideas I will keep thinking about. All in all, my day is about creating the perfect vacation spot, your dream holidays.
- What are some items or gadgets you never travel without?
Books, books, books … not the kindle one, the real paperback books, bikinis, and flip flops.
- What was the main reason you decided to partner up with BHT?
Everything started with Bostjan, the founder of BHT, and his family becoming really close friends of ours as we spend the quarantine together. Both of our families were in the same situation – parents of a 4-year-old used to Montessori methods, busy working, guys passionate surfers, girls sun, beach & yoga lovers, with a simple but lovely lifestyle – we started to organize ourselves here at the El Encuentro Surf Lodge. We set up a Montessori inspired daycare, we created a rooftop co-working space, surfing every morning, spontaneous road trips in the afternoons, BBQ’s at the weekends. It was such a great routine that we created packages so other parents can enjoy this too. After all, we managed to get through the quarantine relatively stress-free; it felt like a three month holiday in the end.
- Now, what’s the plan?
Get ready for a great summer and winter high-season. I’m convinced that tourism will flourish again but likely not in the form of all-inclusive package tourism in huge resorts. No, people will, more than ever, look for individual travels off the beaten path. Unique experiences away from the crowd, in harmony with nature and high service quality. This is where Bike Hike Tours and El Encuentro Surf Lodge come to the game.
All the packages are available from late August 2020 on. If you have any questions or want to chat more about DR or best quarantine unplanned experiences, you can also reach out to me directly, by sending an email to email@example.com.
To wrap it up, I would like to thank Lina for an excellent interview and most of all for all the days we got to spend together! We had an amazing time and became truly connected as a family! After all, this is the most important thing for all of us right now! #familyfirst
I decided to share this blog now, as this is our last day in the DR (BUT not for a long time!:)). We are traveling back to NYC tomorrow, but we will be back soon!
In the meantime, I will keep you posted on details with our NEW outdoor retreats around NYC next week. Also, I will tell you how to travel back home was. You will receive all the airport updates first hand!;)
Stay healthy and strong! Love y’all