BlackBerry-less in the land of grapevines and olive trees — that’s wine connoisseur Peter S. Izzo’s idea of a dream vacation. And this July he’ll be living it when the Merrill Lynch wealth management advisor flies to Italy’s Tuscany region to refresh, relax and recharge. He’ll kick back in a 500-year-old vineyard castle atop a hill blanketed with grapes ripe for the picking and olives poised for first pressing.
“It’s just absolutely stunning,” says Izzo, 31, a self-described “wine guy,” who chilled out last year in another oenophile paradise, California’s Napa Valley.
This summer he’ll stay within a 90-minute drive of hundreds of Italian vineyards.
Vacation time means cutting loose from the fast-paced world of Wall Street, says Izzo, whose office is in Merrill headquarters in New York City. “I definitely won’t have access to e-mail. My job is great, but it requires a lot of time thinking about the lives of 50 or 60 families other than my own. That’s fine and part of the responsibility. But there’s also something to be said for turning everything off and allowing yourself to recharge.”
Whether sticking close to home or hop-scotching the globe, financial advisors this season are looking for big changes of scene — spots of extraordinary natural beauty, in particular. Enough already with computer screens and PDAs! It’s time to revel in the sunshine.
Come July, Bill Mason, an Edward Jones FA based in Olney, Md., will be savoring the breathtaking views, and vibrantly colored birds and flowers of Costa Rica. So in love is he with the Central American country — his favorite getaway place since 1998 — that he’s bought his own mountain there. Biggest attraction: an outrageous view of the Pacific Ocean and Lake Nicaragua. The latter has two big volcanoes in the middle, one active and puffing smoke; the other, inactive for half-a-million years.
“Everything is beautiful in Costa Rica: the climate; the flowers — exotic and brilliant pinks, purples, oranges, yellows; and the colorful birds — peacocks, toucans. It just blows your mind. I go to escape. You completely leave Wall Street and Main Street when you go to another culture,” says Mason, 43. He calls his Costa Rican trips “learning vacations” because he studies Spanish and stays with a host family “who has pretty much adopted me as a third son.”
The advisor owns another parcel of land, as well, on a peninsula overlooking the coastline with a spectacular panoramic view of the ocean and frolicking whales. Eventually, he plans to build a home on one property; the other he might sell to a friend. “I’m sure it will turn out to be a good investment, but that’s not my motive,” he says. “My motive is to have something beautiful that I enjoy.”
Robert Mauterstock, a Farmington, Conn.-based independent affiliated with LPL Financial Services, has found his beautiful something just one state away, in Massachusetts. The FA’s Cape Cod vacation home, in Brewster, is on picturesque Elbow Pond. When he’s not kayaking amidst playful, speedy seals on the Chatham coast, the principal of KR Wealth Management, 60, can be seen slope-soaring off a cliff. In winters, Mauterstock, a former Navy helicopter pilot, builds balsa, plywood and foam gliders with six-foot wing spans; in summer, he flies them as high as 1,000 feet in the sky.
“It’s relaxing, like hang-gliding, but you’re not in the plane, just flying it around. It’s a lot of fun,” says the advisor. The gliders, totally wind driven and controlled by radio transmitter, can go up to 100 miles an hour.
The Himalayas are where Holly Hunter — not the Oscar-winning actress but the Commonwealth Financial Network-affiliated FA and Red Cross disaster-relief volunteer — will find nirvana. Hunter and three others in her women’s travel group are booked to trek the Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan, south of Nepal. Telephone service started there as late as the 1960s, and the country has been open to tourists only since ’74. Hunter wants to get to the peaceful place before any further big cultural changes take place — TV transmission began two or three years ago, she says.
Her trip coincides with a Bhutan religious festival highlighted by exquisite ancient costumes and masks. “It will be incredibly beautiful and colorful. It’s a gorgeous country. I find Buddhism to be very fascinating — I’m a part-time Buddhist, a fallen one,” jokes Hunter, 51, whose Hunter Advisor practice is in Portsmouth, N.H.
From Bhutan, she’ll segue to India: Delhi and Rajasthan. It’s a first, and she expects it to be “awesome.” Last year she vacationed in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. “These trips are culturally educational. I come back full of gratitude for the life I’m fortunate enough to be living. I feel more open-minded and more of a global citizen,” she says.
If there’s one thing these advisors have in common, it’s a penchant not to veg out while on holiday. In Costa Rica, Edward Jones’ Mason will study Spanish literature. After taking years of classes there, he now speaks the language fluently. Mauterstock hopes to take time out from the cavorting seals and soaring gliders to start converting the barn on his acre-and-a-half into an office. “I’d like to spend more time on the Cape and do more business there. It’s a great natural market,” he says. “A lot of boomers like me are moving there as they retire.”
Apart from journeying to Italy for wine tasting, with a group of life-long friends, Peter Izzo will be on a special quest: to find an official copy of his Italian-born grandfather’s birth certificate. It will entitle him to become an Italian citizen, says the FA, whose dad, Peter J. Izzo, going along on the adventure, is seeking Italian citizenship too. It will allow both to obtain EU passports.