Recall for a minute how it felt to be a child – the time when you dreamed big, before you knew enough to put limits on what was possible.
Remember what that was like? When you told yourself and others with conviction that you’d grow up to be an astronaut or a baseball player?
Eventually, many dreams – like, say, to build and manage a mountain finca (estate) in South America – just seem too absurd or too difficult to pursue.
If you’ve ever thought this, it’s time to reconsider. Two Swiss brothers are proving that the only limit to what’s possible in life and investing is your level of effort and creativity.
Finca Bolívar in Colombia’s Ecological Capital
Our taxicab climbed the windy mountain road while rain fell gently, as it tends to do in the early afternoon in the Sierra Nevada, a lush mountain range in northern Colombia. The higher we went, the narrower the road became. A few times, we had to pull over to let another car or motorcycle pass. When we got to the top, the rain was torrential.
Then, suddenly, it stopped.
“If you’re looking for a step back from the liveliness and bustle of Cartagena,” a traveler had told me, “Minca is the place.”
The taxi let us out in front of some small shops selling chocolate, coffee, soaps, teas and other local products. This was the center of Minca, a small mountain village that bills itself as the ecological capital of Colombia.
We hiked to the entrance of Finca Bolívar and then up a long gravel driveway. At the top there were a few small buildings, some still under construction, including a workshop with assorted building materials.
“Ah, you were supposed to call when you got here so that we could come get you in the car,” Simon said as his brother Daniel carried out a tray of lemonade. We were invited to walk around to the back of the main house to see the view: Santa Marta’s whitewashed buildings down in the distance, surrounded by the misty mountains cascading into the Caribbean.
Daniel and Simon are from German-speaking Switzerland. They spent roughly two years building the property and just opened it up for guests about a month and a half ago.
“Was hard at times,” Simon said with a laugh. Hauling building materials up the mountain and the daily rainstorms were just a couple of the hurdles.
Casa Maracuyá is the finca’s luxury guesthouse that was our home for a couple of days. The house is a marvel of sophisticated simplicity and features a full modern kitchen and three bedrooms, each with its own bathroom. A big porch with hammocks overlooks the rushing water of the rocky and narrow Río Gaira below.
The property also has a thatched-roof hut that was built using methods borrowed from the Kogi, the indigenous people of the region. Elements like this, along with the terracotta walkways, enable the property to blend in seamlessly with the surrounding landscape.
Other elements – including a stylish Moroccan doorway in the interior – were inspired by Daniel and Simon’s travels in other parts of the world.
Daniel is an electrician by trade and was instrumental in completing the handiwork and design details of the house. Simon, on the other hand, has a background in IT and handled a lot of the big-picture tasks for Finca Bolívar.
He explained that building Finca Bolívar meant having to secure an investor residency in Colombia. This task required a few trips to Bogotá, Colombia’s capital, as well as extensive paperwork and a minimum $30,000 investment, which Daniel and Simon made through buying and developing their property.
The investor residency is renewable on a yearly basis and can be made permanent after five years. Simon and Daniel certainly don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Not even the 30-minute trips to Santa Marta the brothers have to make two or three times a week could diminish the allure of Minca’s idyllic character.
One Step After Another, Basically
I asked the brothers how they learned about Minca in the first place.
“Well, some friends of mine traveled here several years ago,” Daniel explained. “And then I came here while I was traveling in Latin America and really liked it.” I asked Daniel if pulling the project together was a matter of just following one step after another. “Yeah, basically,” he said.
I was amazed by how much Daniel and Simon downplayed what they had accomplished. Not only had they dared to dream big, but they followed the steps to make it happen with masterful pragmatism.
By the end of my time there, I felt restored by the cool mountain air, mornings with rich Colombian coffee and fresh fruit harvested in the surrounding jungle, and the rushing sounds of the Río Gaira. But above all, I was in awe of the dream Daniel and Simon had built and the simplicity of their approach.
Where’s Your Mountain Finca?
Perhaps you’ve never dreamed of building and managing a beautiful mountain finca in Colombia. Perhaps a setting like this is not for you.
But one thing is for sure, as Daniel and Simon can attest: Whatever your investment or lifestyle dream may be, the only thing holding you back is your creativity and your willingness to take the practical steps to get there.
For The Non-Dollar Report