Joe (now known as “Pepe” to his Spanish-speaking friends) grew up in Wisconsin but moved to Minnesota for graduate school. He was an orchestral conductor for 13 years, working with opera companies and orchestras, including professional, youth, and civic ensembles. He loves to cook and bake (and eat) and read either non-fiction (like biographies) or classic literature (especially Charles Dickens). Leaving a career in music was a huge emotional conflict for him, because he loved the people with whom he worked and of course loved making music with them. But when Erik presented this scenario to him, even though it would completely eliminate any notion of a “comfort zone,” he knew that it was too special of an opportunity to pass up.
Before departing on this trip, Erik worked for a large financial institution (rhymes with Belle’s Cargo). He grew up on a farm in Minnesota, raising cows, sheep, and turkeys, and participated in 4-H. Straight out of high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force (hoping to find himself) and served in Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf War. After the Air Force he tried a multitude of occupations including running his family’s fast food franchise businesses, attending auctioneering school, running an inn in a small town in Minnesota, and he even worked at the calling center of an organization in which he called people and asked for money. Although he really enjoyed the excitement and the challenge (and his colleagues) of the world of finance, he still felt that something else was still calling to him. In 2001 he spent five months in Costa Rica, learning Spanish and absorbing the culture, and it was that experience that kept resonating inside him – calling him back.