Get to know one of the men who’s made a home for travelers, thinkers, and doers on the coastal hillside of Nicaragua.
What’s it like to work without stress? What’s it like to meet a new person everyday, and work on things for the ones you love and are inspired by? What’s it like to build something incredible from the ground up? I don’t know all the answers, but Matt Dickinson (a.k.a. Dickie) might. As one of the co-founders of Maderas Village, the place we called home on our Sur La Sol retreat, this 32 year old has made quite the life for himself in one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever been to. Nestled on a hillside in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua, Maderas isn’t just a place to stay, it’s a way of life. Whether you want to relax, adventure, or just get away, anyone is welcome, and Dickie will be the first one to greet you.
Hi Dickie! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? A/S/L? Kidding, but what’s your sign?
I’m a 32 year old Sagittarius male who enjoys moderately long walks on the beach, assuming the eventual destination is a surf break. My instagram account would tell you that I’m a thinker, writer, surfer, dreamer, developer; co-founder and creative director of all things Maderas. I live in Maderas 8-9 months a year, NYC 2-3 months a year, and travel the rest of the time.
As one of the founders of Maderas Village, what sparked the idea to build this great community?
I’ve always wanted to have five or six homes around the world where I can be surrounded by the best minds of our generation, inspired by the energy of the location, and free to work as hard as I want on whatever is driving my passion at the time. It’s a 50 year project so I’m not there yet, but that’s been the end goal since the inception.
For anyone who hasn’t heard of Maderas, can you give us a brief rundown of what it has to offer?
More than anything it’s a place to think and feel like yourself amongst friends. The surf is a five minute walk from the hotel, the local restaurants are amazing (outside of what’s provided onsite), the catamaran trips are spectacular, and between disc golfing, zip-lining, hiking and massage, people always have something to do. The activities are a blast, but they really just act as a catalyst to bring everyone that’s staying at the Village together and facilitate the sort of conversations and life reflections that really define the Maderas experience.
What were you doing before you started making moves on the project? What pushed you to take the jump and dive in?
I was in Commercial Real Estate brokerage in Toronto, but always had ambitions of becoming a developer. Once I had spent the obligatory 10,000 hours learning everything I could about structuring deals, processing transactions, and creating value I moved my efforts into development.
I knew there’d be a ton of mistakes, delays, and frustrations as part of it being a first project, and I wanted a place that was impossible not to enjoy in spite of whatever challenge might come along. Maderas in particular has been amazing as it’s allowed us to grow organically without having to rush anything, and the incredible background has afforded everyone that has worked (or stayed) with us a degree of inspiration that’s noticeable in every aspect of the experience.
Can you give us a typical day in the life of Dickie?
There really is no typical day. Monday I spent five hours in meetings getting up to speed with where we’re at with each project we’re working on, yesterday I spent five hours on conference calls excitedly discussing our upcoming NYE party with potential partners, today I spent the majority of the day on fundraising efforts for our second phase of development, Friday I’m spending the day on the Catamaran for a friend’s birthday, and Saturday I go to Guatemala for four days to source fabric. Some mornings I wake up at 8, other mornings I wake up at 10. Some nights I’m in bed by 9.30, other nights I’m up until sunrise. I try to just listen to my natural rhythm, while identifying and responding to the most important tasks at hand at any given moment.
What is it that you love so much about your job?
I get to wake up every day and work on something I’m truly passionate about with people I love, for people that inspire me.
A lot of different people come through Maderas, has there been anyone–or any group– in particular that has left a lasting impression/ or created the most memories?
Every week that passes here comes with new experiences, new friends, and new ways of watching people make Maderas their own. We’ve had the opportunity to host a lot of amazing people and groups, but what matters the most is the over-arching direction of vibe, rather than any specific experiences.
Actually, I take that back. Free People was the best and most memorable group we’ve ever hosted.
What has Maderas taught you about yourself?
All that I need in order to be happy is to be surrounded by people I love, work on projects I’m passionate about with people I respect, and create amazing experiences that positively impact the world.
What’s the best piece of advice that’s ever been given to you?
“Winning is a natural product of trying and failing, over and over again. Being a good winner is respectable, but being a good loser is essential or you’re going to spend a lot of your life miserable.” – Sid Dickinson (Dad)
For anyone visiting Nicaragua, what are three things that are absolutely necessary to experience?
1. Spend an hour thinking or writing in a hammock, without being connected to wifi.
2. Go out for a surf after 5pm once people start to clear out for the day and the waves are left empty and shimmering with reflections of pink, purple, and yellow hues.
3. Hang upside down off the bow of the Catamaran and watch as the ocean trades perspectives with the sky.
What’s next for you and Maderas Village?
Another 45 years of working on ambitious projects fueled by good people that are more concerned with living well and doing right, than how much money is in our bank accounts.
Stay tuned for more Sur la Sol content!