Ryan Somes and Anthea Stanley, by most standards, lived successful lives in Toronto.
With two children under the age of six, the couple owned a home in the city’s Trinity Bellwoods neighborhood and held high-level positions in the financial industry. However, Somes said something felt wrong.
“I felt like I was on groundhog day,” Somes told CTV News Toronto on Tuesday.
At that time, he had worked at TD Wealth for more than a decade.
“We knew something was missing,” he said. “But we didn’t need more money. We didn’t need anything else.”
Like her husband, Stanley worked as a director on the institutional equity trading floor of RBC Capital Markets.
“I worked from 6 am to 5 pm every day,” he said. “After we had our son, I felt like, ‘What am I doing?’”
“I’m in my early thirties and I have a family. Am I supposed to keep working these 13-hour days and never see my kids?
Eventually, the couple said this underlying dissatisfaction led them to reassess their lifestyle.
‘LET’S BUY A BEACH’
Avid travelers, Somes and Stanley knew they loved the beaches. They had previously traveled to Bali, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, among other tropical destinations, and were pining after a life in the sun and sand.
On a trip to Nicaragua, the couple met Canadian hotelier Michael Dickson and, over a few beers on the beach, he inquired about what it means to own and operate a hotel.
“We fell in love with what they were doing,” Stanley said. “And he said that the first step was to buy a piece of land.”
“We figured we could buy a condo in Toronto as an investment, or we could buy a little beachfront somewhere,” Somes said. “We both looked at each other and said, ‘Let’s buy a beach.'”
In 2013, they purchased a property that would eventually become ‘Catherine’s hideout’ located 15 minutes from Santa Catalina, a small beach town with a population of around 700 inhabitants and five hours from the country’s capital, Panama City,
“We built our hotel on two and a half acres of land,” Somes said, adding that the property had no infrastructure or road access.
Once a road was built and electricity and running water were successfully installed, construction could begin. The couple said they collaborated with a contractor and an architect to complete the project.
Today the complex houses nine private guest units, separated by tropical gardens planted by Somes and Stanley. It also features a two-story treehouse with floor-to-ceiling windows, a yoga studio, an outdoor theater, and an infinity pool.
Six years of meticulous planning, construction, and Spanish lessons later, the family sold everything that couldn’t fit in a storage container, loaded up their two children, and moved south.
The complex officially opened to the public in December 2020, delayed two months by the pandemic, according to Somes and Stanley.
Despite opening in the first year of the pandemic, the hotel has been a success, the couple say. Now, the complex employs 22 people, 18 of whom are locals from Panama.
Guests at Catalina’s Hideaway can choose from activities such as horseback riding, massages, stand-up paddle boarding, and yoga, among others.
“We feel like we’re hitting our stride,” Somes said.
“There was never any question that it wasn’t going to work,” he said. “If you build it, they will come.”
Looking ahead, the couple say they are in no rush to expand their operation beyond perhaps adding three more units to the property.
“Who knows what the future holds… we just want to enjoy it.”