Memoirs of a MasseurTodd Pequeen

Long Term Rewards

Our lively hood here in Manuel Antonio is based on tourism, or at least mine is, profoundly. This is no surprise to the tourist or a local reading this article. For almost a quarter of a century I have been hustling massages, surf lessons, English lessons (back in the day) and the joy of a lifestyle built around our beach, freedom, and access to the wonders of nature that is literally in our back yards. There is not a single local that will not agree to the fact that Manuel Antonio is a land rich in animals, beauty, and abundance. That said I can slowly feel the pressure and behavior of some short-sighted individuals beginning to take advantage of the bounty here. That is what this month’s article is about, the principles around sustainable tourism and the economics behind people who love it here. I see that path as a frail one, something that is not guaranteed and can easily be overlooked. Principles is really what I am writing about. I feel that earning a fair wage today with the knowledge that a return trip will multiply income in the future is a mindset. Return visits and friendships from the “Manuel Antonio family” is literally how we sustain ourselves.

Sometimes I question myself when I give discounts based on volume or situations that I am simply happy to be a part of. Money is very important I agree, but definitely not why I signed up to be a massage therapist. I will forever hold the sanctity of my work over an extra $20, $40, or a pay out in order to maintain my integrity. Week in and week out I am faced with challenges relating to individuals expecting commisions for work they have not done. The clearest and most well-known hustlers are the “parking attendants” down near the park, that charge tourists to pay for public parking… I see this tendency as a dangerous practice and will never agree with it. The pressure to access clients vs. being a lone wolf has grown over the years. I see the same mentality with concierges that believe they deserve money for doing a job that they are lucky to have, yet they don’t represent all the options available, they are all about the money today, not in the future, their commissions. This town and many around us face the same challenges as society as a whole. The monopolies, the dominance of the businesses with the means, and the control of the tourist dollar to the effect that every move made is not about the quality, it is about the back end return to the person who facilitates the experience. Fair enough. I am born a capitalist and will forever be one. Karma is not an action believed by all of us but indeed what comes around goes around especially in a town as small as this one. The casual reader may be thinking why even spend the time writing on this topic. That is quite simply how tourist towns work. My explanation is I do not think we are the average tourist destination. I know dozens of people who return every year to have another great week here in Manuel Antonio. They see friends and locals who they appreciate and seek out for a hug and a meal. Show me another place in the world that has a return rate as high as Manuel Antonio or Costa Rica in general. With that blessing comes an obligation to not rip people off that are new to the scene. I have thought about this for two decades. I have traveled the world as a tourist and experienced how other places deal with the same situation. Sadly, most locations are not worth visiting twice. I firmly believe that Manuel Antonio grows on people when they are hosted in proper fashion to the not so discovered tours and into the “underground” network of locals that simply do not have the ability to be ranked number one, two, or three on a google search. In fact, I am here to say that in my humble opinion delete the rental, the high-powered business, the in-your-face online concierge and give a little more effort to yourself and your vacation days, you deserve it. Anyone with a few years under their belt understands that the easiest and quickest route is almost always the one that may be satisfying but surely not the best. Hidden gems are valuable because of this principle and the energy they provide. The surprises, the genuine passion for life, the little things and the little guy will be the most genuine about are in real time. Think about it. All-inclusive everything is a tourist on a leash. Are you that dog?

Air B&B has done an amazing job providing shelter to travelers that previously had to book a hotel. Independents that fight against the monopolies and the side shows they provide has always appealed to me. I am not saying that everyone has to be this. I have witnessed many vacationing north Americans with the attitude of “only the best for me.” What they don’t even understand is that they are being taken, are paying upwards of 75% more because of their corporate driven advertisement-based attitudes that are comical when actually broken down. Why does anyone even desire that they most have the best of the best in terms of the more they spend, the more they get. It’s lazy. In this day and age, it is simply not true. One can choose to be a tool for the system or not, I’m simply suggesting thinking about it for a moment or two. The more popular the spot the more buyer beware. There are sharks in our Manuel Antonio waters and I do not mean Mother Pacifica (I frequently swim around our closest of islands the gemelas (twins, no sharks). I am simply expressing myself as a long time independent. What you the reader are presented with may be there for reasons that have a current much deeper than your interest in a day of fun. I will admit that almost any tour that anyone signs up for is amazing, Costa Rica is a blessed place. My only request from you the reader is to also seek out your own connection to this amazing town by getting off your ass and talking to locals, getting uncomfortable, and exploring. You will not regret it. I see this entire article is symbolic of life itself. If you are one to listen and follow directions and only go to the places that are online and frequently visited you are missing out, not on experience but on the God given curiosity to explore and take chances. What are you waiting for? Get out of your phone, spend time with your lover not your device and go and explore. Do not be one of these twenty somethings walking on our streets staring at their screens missing the scarlet manawa’s flying by, the monkeys frolicking above, and even the kind locals that will give you a free ride and want nothing in return. This town is downright amazing if you just get off the tourist trail and stop being a conditioned part of the herd. I may be a little bit jaded after 24 years (this month), but I recognize the brothers and sisters out there that are seeking authenticity over a pre-packaged meal. By meal I mean experience, imagined security, or going with the “safer” decision. What ever happened to the freedom and the joy of rock and roll baby, and I am not talking about music. When you leave our town and remember what it felt like and incorporate it into your life…what is more genuine? Why do you not want more of it? There is nothing to confess other than you are getting older, I truly wish you the reader a phenomenal year ahead and to meet you the next time around.

Todd has been writing for the Quepolandia since it was a 6-page pamphlet back in 2001. He has a just opened Bed and Breakfast at sarahtoninbnb.com and is the first male masseur in the area. Reach out to him on WhattsApp at 506-8830-7727 or at [email protected]. His amazing wife is a lifelong tenured photographer at sarahyunker.com. Please reach out and come for a stay!