The 17 Year Hit
We are currently living in a frightfully real and extremely unforgiving environment. Not by accident though, this is the result of an extremely calculated business decision. Topping the lists of best tourist destinations and best retirement locations for consecutive years running, the area boasts world-class surfing, challenging active volcano trails, breathtaking beaches on both Pacific and Caribbean coasts, and a never-ending supply of outdoor tourist activities and destinations. All of this means absolutely nothing to me. I have never been to the popular beaches, I never attend tourist activities, I have never done any of it. That is not why I am here. Direct access to multiple commodities, free trade agreements functionally in place, and discounted shipping routes available from two coasts. That is why my family and I are here. After the oil exploration industry crashed in 2015, I spent 3 years losing everything I had trying to bring technologies from the U.S. down to this developing country. My failing venture acted as a stepping stone, revealing access to this gold mine disguised behind the facade of an obvious tourist trap. This overflowing well of natural commodities is still available to those willing to put in the time and effort. However, the trading environments, political climates, and the ratio of Have’s to Have Not’s, all changed drastically with the Covid-19 pandemic. I made the decision my family would ride the pandemic out here. At the time, I never imagined the pandemic could catapult this peaceful tourist destination, retirement community, and established trading route, 17 years back into the past. Here we are though.
The tourists disappeared almost immediately. Fear of the new virus circling the globe, travel bans, and quarantines turned this vibrant community into a desolate police state. The pandemic was a punch to the face of this tourism-dependent environment, instantly knocking the entire province back 17 years. Streets packed with droves of sunscreen-soaked surfers waiting for buses to the beach, unshowered backpackers absently searching for random hostels, senior citizen bar flies day-drinking their way through every bar in town are all gone. Replaced with an eerie emptiness never before seen in our lifetime. The country-wide quarantines draining the community of all signs of life. With the atmosphere of a Stephen King novel, we watched through our window as a stillness took over the world. Tourists were replaced with police patrols searching for the disobedient disadvantaged with the audacity to attempt working during a worldwide pandemic. A world we never could have imagined has been created by a pandemic we never could have predicted. I am comfortable with my decision to ride this situation out down here, but as the reality of this pandemic drags on it becomes clearer by the day, this is not our home.
Tee and I have the opportunity to raise ourselves from the depths of this financial low through Capitalism. Our opportunity comes at a significant price though, and the price was paid at the expense of others who lost their businesses to this pandemic. In an environment already hosting a ridiculously high turnover rate for small businesses, the detrimental effects of this pandemic were immediate and definitive. The first wave came fast but it was relatively small and painless. Business owners who were on the brink before the pandemic and those lacking the necessary interpersonal skills for establishing a new business in a risky environment were all quick to pack up and head home at the first signs of danger. This current wave, much worse than anyone ever anticipated, has been brutally slow and increasingly painful. Countless businesses destroyed by the disastrous tourism numbers, a brutal country-wide lock-down followed by extended State-imposed quarantine restrictions, and more unable to survive the debilitating operating regulations and limited capacity requirements continually passed down from a reactive government body. All combined factors resulting from this pandemic, and all leading to vast and expansive market gaps in a developing country already desperate for innovation.
This once-thriving economy used to welcome international pioneers with open arms. Much like the California Gold Rush, the overflowing abundance of natural resources and an unregulated business environment leads to a high-risk high reward opportunity for those brave enough to take the chance. The free trade agreements, direct shipping channels, and available Friendly Nations Visa status negated most of the pre-pandemic risks associated with doing business in this area of the world, creating a calculated risk far beyond appealing to Americans. This pandemic instantly erased the advantages, devastated the community, and knocked the economy back 17 years with one swift hit. While the giant market gaps are ever-present and undeniable, the absence of entrepreneurs and tourists has created a more hostile “Wild West” style business landscape. Obviously, this environment is not nearly as favorable for a start-up, but given the financial situation this pandemic has placed Tee and Me in, we have no other options. Fortunately, we believe we can mitigate the majority of risks we currently face during these persistently unpredictable times. God willing, we will receive the community support and customers necessary to turn a profit in a limited time frame.
I decided to keep my family here for the duration of the pandemic, and I still stand by my decision. The entire world has suffered the disappearance of valued customers, the failings of local businesses, and the upended economies resulting from this pandemic. The difference for us is we were able to successfully mitigate our risk of exposure to an unknown virus until the world was able to cumulatively band together in their use of modern medicine to overcome the deadly effects. Coming under attack for my decision from our own government was unexpected. The bureaucracy known as the PUA Team has used my decision to actively block my family from all Federal and State Pandemic Assistance promised to us as Americans. They are using legal codes written deep within the Pandemic Recovery Plans to criminalize my actions and cripple our family with government-imposed debt, intentionally forcing an American family with a 1-year-old daughter to fend for themselves in a pandemic-ravened, developing Latin American country. The PUA Team could end their attacks and grant us the assistance we need at any time, although we receive nothing I still file my claim every week. However, instead of supplying assistance to a vulnerable American family in need, the PUA Team chooses to investigate me in an attempt to prosecute for the “crime” of needing assistance. We have accepted this reality, we recognize we’ve been abandoned by our State, we understand there is no help on the way. Backs against the wall, we’ll battle the nonresistant traffic counts, elevated risks of failure, and uncertainties of a pandemic-driven economy because thanks to the PUA Team we have no other choice. So, until this unconscionable team decides to do what’s right as Americans and Montanans, I will continue to fight for my family. Our voice will not be silenced. Our story will be told. We will stand strong in our fight against out-of-control government bureaucracy.