Contributed by Darcie, La Onda Guesthouse
In 2016, my boyfriend Jasper and I moved to Ericeira (Portugal). We found a neglected villa on the internet and decided to turn it into a modern guesthouse. After 10 months of rebuilding we opened our doors in the summer of 2017: Olá Onda Guesthouse in Ericeira.
The idea of starting a business in the surf industry was already in our heads for a couple of years. It’s not an easy decision to leave everything behind and start all over in another country away from your friends and family. We both had nice jobs in Holland, but when we found this house in Ericeira we knew it was worth giving it a try. Such a big house, with a big garden, sea view, within walking distance to the beach, surf spots and the city center – so much potential – we couldn’t let it go. After some months thinking and taking care of practical things, we decided to take a leap of faith and move to Portugal.
We already knew the Ericeira area pretty well. My mother is from the Ericeira area and I visited my grandparents here every year when I was a child. The surf industry is growing rapidly in Portugal, and Ericeira is no exception. And what makes Ericeira special is that it’s Europe’s only World Surfing Reserve.  Ericeira has a lot to offer for surfers of all levels. For beginners, intermediates and experienced surfers there are waves to be found, from mellow beachbreaks to heavy reefbreaks. Next to surfing, there are plenty of other activities to do in the area. Lisbon is very close by and perfect for citytrips, just like the national park of Sintra-Cascais is perfect for hiking or mountainbiking.
After 10 months of rebuilding the house to make it suitable for a guesthouse, we managed to get everything ready before our first guests arrived at the end of July 2017. Now we have 5 spacious rooms with private bathrooms, balcony and some have sea view. Almost all furniture we’ve made ourselves, and we put a lot of love and effort into the interior design.
We’ve received nothing but happy guests and great reviews, so we are very content with our first season. It feels really nice when people appreciate what we do and support our ideas. It’s hard work in summertime, because we work 7 days a week all day. But we don’t mind because it’s for our own business and we get to live in a beautiful place with great waves. We feel we get a lot back for the energy we put in. And in the winter time we close our doors for a couple of months, so we can do some upkeep on the house and go on a holiday.
One of the things I love the most about my new job is the fact that we have a lot of personal contact with our guests. We always like to exchange thoughts with them and provide tips about cool places to eat, the best surf spots and things to do in Lisbon and other cities close by. When our guests already know how to surf we always make time to go surfing with them, which is really cool and that way people get to see places they maybe wouldn’t otherwise.
Nothing is forever, and we don’t know how long we’ll keep doing this work. But for now we are very happy we made the decision to go to Ericeira and start Olá Onda Guesthouse. For everyone who has a dream to start a business in a foreign country I would say: think long and hard about it, make a financial plan, learn the language and the customs and then just do it! Because you just have got to try it, and only then will you know what it’s like.