When an opportunity to live in Bulgaria came up, Christopher Shannon leapt at the chance.
He didn't speak Bulgarian, or have a job, but in a decade he has managed to become somewhat famous in the Balkan nation for selling high end barbecues, smokers and grills.
Shannon was born and raised in Regina, and lived in the Queen City until 2009.
They moved when his wife, Nadya Mihaylova, wanted to be closer to her aging parents.
Shannon said previous trips to the country had made him rethink about his life in Saskatchewan.
"I had a good job, it paid well, but I was working really long hours, and I was pretty sure I was looking at a heart attack, eventually," he said.
Shannon doesn't recommend moving to a foreign country without a job or a plan of how to get one.
"it can be a bit of an abyss. No language, no job, and no plan of what I was going to do," he said.
'I realized there's money here'
The idea to start a new business was sparked by a simple trip to buy a barbecue. The barbecues you could buy in Bulgaria 10 years ago were, in Shannon's words, "complete crap."
He decided to import a good barbecue for himself. Then he thought others there would want the same.
"People thought I was crazy," said Shannon. "Family members were taking bets on how quickly I'd go bankrupt."
Instead, he decided to spend a little time at an intersection close to his house. He said he counted the number of cars driving by that he couldn't afford.
"In a few minutes I saw a Lamborghini, a Ferrari and lots of Mercedes. I realized there's money here," he said.
Shannon went against the naysayers and started Great Western Barbecue in Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. He's selling high end grills that he imports from North American and other European countries. Weber, Broil King and Napoleon grills are just a few of the brand names he sells.
He said it was very slow at first and admitted he did nearly everything he could think of to get the business going.
He would barbecue on the street in front of his shop and hand out free samples. He'd hand out thousands of flyers and host barbecue events.
"I'd put on my Cowboy hat and start cooking and people loved it."
One of his earlier sales techniques got him in trouble with the police.
"It's illegal to sell anything on the side of the road in Bulgaria," he said. "So I used to pretend my van was broken down. I'd park on the side of the road, jack it up and of course I'd have to take a couple of barbecues out of the back of my vehicle and set them up along the highway."
He said the tactic managed to spark a lot of interest and sell a few barbecues, "until the police caught on to what I was doing."
As the desire for high-end barbecues has grown, so has Shannon's popularity. He makes regular appearances on Bulgarian TV as the barbecue king, teaching people how to grill.
He also said that the growing love of barbecue among the population is driving people to buy better cuts of meat and try different recipes on the grill.
A famous family
While Shannon has gained notoriety in the past decade, he's still probably not as famous as his wife, Nadya Mihaylova.
Mihaylova was a top-level athlete in rhythmic gymnastics in the 1980s under the name Nadia Kaloyanova. She was a national champion and competed around the world. In those years, Bulgaria was a powerhouse when it came to gymnastics.
Mihaylova was a top contender for an Olympic gold medal, but fate and politics intervened. She was slated to compete in the 1984 Olympic games in Los Angeles, but the Soviet-led boycott that year dashed her hopes.
A few years later, she moved to Regina to become the head coach of the Wascana Rhythmic Gymnastics Club. That's when she met Shannon.
Today, she's still well-known and recognized in Bulgaria. At the peak of her athletic career, the country issued a trading card of Nadia Kaloyanova that was sold in packets of bubble gum. To this day, people still stop her, produce the card and ask for her autograph.
These days Shannon is semi-retired and has staff running his store, but still brokers barbecues around the country.
"It's a pretty good life." he said.