University of Southern California

USC Alumni Association

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Tierza Davis Class of '92

Tierza Davis Class of '92

Her Work is Play

While on vacation in a beautiful locale, most people think, at least once, “What if I stayed here forever?” Most people, of course, never do it. Then again, most people aren’t Tierza Davis ’92.

She followed a traditional path through college, majoring in business administration with an emphasis in marketing, and set the goal of working for an advertising agency. After being laid off from an Internet marketing job in September 2001, she left her home in San Francisco and headed south to Costa Rica for a bit of R&R.

What happened next, Davis never planned. She was only scheduled to be gone for a week, but the people, natural beauty and lifestyle of Costa Rica captivated her, and she started wondering how she could stay. Although she was just a beginner surfer, and the idea of owning her own business had only ever been a thought in the back of her mind, a surf and yoga retreat for women is what she settled on.

“I created a business where I can be outside part of the day, if not all day,” Davis says. “I didn’t want to be stuck and chained to a desk, and have just one function in a company. Doing something like this, you get to wear many hats, which keeps it interesting.”

She set up shop in 2003, and she credits her education at USC with providing her the skills she needed to start the company - building a business model, setting price points and doing projections were all things she learned as an undergrad, all things that turned a pipe dream from paper to reality.

Running from November through August, Pura Vida Adventures offers an active vacation in a laid-back environment, typically attracting low-maintenance women ranging in age from 20 to 60 who have high-powered, high-stress occupations - something Davis can relate to. “I am a type A personality, and this just allows me to slow down and enjoy what’s out there for the few hours that I’m surfing,” she says.

A typical day at Pura Vida (that’s a common response in Costa Rica to “¿Cómo estás?” and means “life is good” or, literally, “pure life”) includes two surfing sessions, yoga, relaxation time and plenty of fresh food. Attendees are free to sit on the beach, take an afternoon siesta while lounging in a hammock, salsa in town come evening time or curl up in their cabins with a book.

The women who attend camp - some are experienced surfers, but about 50 percent have never caught a wave - appreciate the supportive, distraction-free environment that comes with the all-female getaways, as well as the camaraderie that develops among the group. “Adults don’t get praised much at all,” Davis says. “One thing that’s so nice about coming to camp is you get praised by everybody; everyone’s getting encouragement and feeling good and hearing things they don’t hear in their day-to-day life.”

Davis now splits her time between Costa Rica and Bend, Ore., and couldn’t be happier with the 180-degree career change and new life she’s created for herself.

“In California, people always feel like they’re inadequate; everybody’s striving for more,” she says. “Here, everybody’s okay with what they have and they appreciate it. After you make a certain amount of money, Americans think, ‘I can’t restart again,’ but why not? I did it. Go back to school. Try another job. At the end of the day, what I’ve found from life is that there are ups and downs, but you always come out ahead. If you put your energy and willpower into something, it will usually work out.”

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