Goodlife People: A Q+A with Tom Lahdenranta
Next up, in our #GoodlifePeople Series, we are featuring Tom Lahdenranta from Canada. He first came to El Salvador as a Bitcoin enthusiast, and has since moved here, for Bitcoin, and much more! The full Q+A below.
PS… Contact us if you, or someone you know, would like to participate in this series! Enjoy.
My name is Tom Lahdenranta. I am married to a wonderful woman named Emily and together we have three incredible daughters. We are from British Columbia, Canada. I am currently working as an accounting consultant and Emily is homeschooling our girls. We had a great life in Canada, but in 2021 we saw that the country was heading in a scary direction. Our basic freedoms were being taken away and we no longer felt that it was a good place to raise children.
How did you first get introduced to El Salvador? How long have you been here? Has it been a difficult adjustment?
We left Canada in October 2021 and lived in Mexico for six months on a tourist visa. As the time remaining on our tourist visa was coming to an end, we began looking for other countries that might be good places to visit. We saw that El Salvador had recently dropped all Covid-19 restrictions and had also made Bitcoin legal tender. Both of these changes made us want to visit the country and see what it was like on the ground. We booked a two-month trip to El Salvador with a return flight to Mexico, where we were planning to return to live longer-term. We ended up falling in love with El Salvador during our two-month stay. We applied for residency and came back in September 2022 to live here.
We’ve now been in El Salvador for a total of six months, including our two month stay earlier in the year. There have been some challenges adjusting to life here, but overall it has been fantastic! The language barrier is one of the main difficulties, but thankfully Emily and I had learned quite a bit of Spanish years ago, so that has helped a lot! We still do Duolingo every day and it is amazing how quickly our Spanish is improving. Even our kids are learning quickly.
What are some of the improvements you are seeing in the country since you have arrived?
Talking to locals you can tell how happy they are that the country is now much safer than it used to be. We have felt very safe our entire time here. One thing I notice is the construction that is happening everywhere around you. It seems everywhere you look there is a home being built or a highway being constructed. It is exciting to see all the development happening!
What was your initial perception of El Salvador before you arrived? How has it changed (if it has!)?
We were concerned about our safety before we first arrived. We had heard so many people tell us it wasn’t safe to come to El Salvador. After a few weeks of being here and driving around the country and walking around the cities and towns, we realized we didn’t need to be fearful. We have not had any experiences in six-months that have made us feel unsafe.
What are some of the challenges that still exist?
There is more garbage on the streets here than back in Canada. That is something that I am hopeful will get better with time, and I already see it improving. There are still a lot of people who don’t have much economic opportunity, whether it is due to lack of education or lack of capital, but I’m hopeful that the new investment that is flowing into the country will help that.
Tell us about your involvement with Bitcoin and a specific example of how you’ve seen it benefit the local community.
Mostly our family just saves in Bitcoin and we use it when possible to make purchases. I believe it is the best form of savings we have to protect us from inflation of the money supply. I think it is great that the government of El Salvador has provided a way for it’s citizens to save for their future. I have seen many small businesses that accept Bitcoin benefit through increased sales to tourists who want to spend their sats. I enjoy helping vendors and cashiers learn how to use their Lightning wallets to accept Bitcoin payments. I believe we all have a part to play in helping Bitcoin succeed in El Salvador.
Are you considering spending more time in El Salvador?
Definitely! We have residency now and plan to stay here for the long-term. We have bought a small piece of land and want to build a home and some rental cabins eventually. We see a bright future for our family in El Salvador if the country continues in the direction it is going.
What are some of your favorite things to do while you’re here?
I have absolutely fallen in love with surfing! I had only dabbled in it in the past, but living here only 20 minutes from the beach has given me the opportunity to take lessons and practice every week. The rush you feel when you get up on a wave is like nothing else I’ve experienced before. I’m addicted to it! Our family loves visiting the beaches near El Zonte as well. Playa San Blas and Palmarcito are some of our favorites.
What would you recommend to others when they visit? You can be specific, list restaurants or activities or hotels.
One of our favourite areas of El Salvador is the Ruta de las Flores (Route of the Flowers). It is a beautiful mountainous part of the country that is covered with coffee farms. There are some cool little towns there, such as Ataco, which we loved visiting and exploring the markets and shops. The hedge maze near Apaneca was super fun and there are some very nice hot springs north of Ataco, which we loved. The hike up to the top of Santa Ana Volcano is a must! The views are spectacular!
I would also recommend visiting El Zonte (Bitcoin Beach) to see where the whole Bitcoin journey for El Salvador began. Also, El Tunco is nice if you want to see the more developed/touristy side of El Salvador.
If you could share one message with the world about El Salvador what would it be? If you could share advice for someone thinking about moving/visiting what would it be?
Don’t believe any of the negative stories you read about El Salvador in the media. The country is beautiful, the Salvadoran people are warm and welcoming, and there is an incredible expat community that is growing all the time. I encourage you to come and visit and see for yourself!
If you are interested in moving to El Salvador, I highly recommend you look into the residency requirements before leaving your home country as you may be able to save yourself lots of time and headaches if you do some simple things like getting a criminal background check done or getting some documents apostilled. Also, get some low or no foreign exchange fee credit cards if you are coming from a country that does not use the US dollar. You will save a ton of money in fees. And start learning Spanish today! Also, get a Bitcoin Lightning wallet set up on your phone and load it with some sats so you can have the experience of paying vendors with Bitcoin when you are here.
What does the future look like for you and your family?
The future for our family looks exciting as we start our new life in El Salvador! We are looking forward to building a home here and continuing to connect with the many amazing locals and expats who call this country home. We also want to continue exploring the country as we’ve only seen a small part of it so far.