Retire in Columbia?

Featured photo is one of mine from a 2011 cruise ship stop in Cartagena, Columbia.

A few days ago I posted a link to a great birding video made in the nearby South American country of Columbia which claims to have more birds than Costa Rica (maybe).

Also a year or two ago I told about a neighbor who moved her retirement home from Atenas, Costa Rica to Medellin, Columbia. Because of the lower cost of living there, many Americans and Canadians are considering it as an excellent tropical retirement home. Thus I did a similar post in Jan. 2018. If still considering your retirement plans, Columbia is worth looking into.

Christopher Howard of “Live in Costa Rica” blog and tours has just expanded his business to include a new “Live in Columbia” blog and tour. Yesterday he posted this article on his Costa Rica blog:  Violent Columbia vs Peaceful Costa Rica

I’ve discussed earlier here that I seriously considered retiring in Panama before choosing Costa Rica and after a blip of enthusiasm from other retirees and organizations over Ecuador and Columbia and even Nicaragua, I am still happy with my choice of Costa Rica and anticipate staying with it for the long haul!   🙂   And it is easy for me to travel to these other nearby countries when I think it worth the trip.

On a birding trip in Cartagena, Columbia, 2011

Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.Fred Rogers

¡Pura Vida!

Describing My 2014 Journey Here

This week’s death of Nature Poet Mary Oliver (1935-2019), and article about her in Washington Post, plus reviewing her poems led me to her “Journey” which in some ways describes what I was unable to describe in my 2014 “Decision Process” I called it then, of getting away from the depressing world of conservative Middle Tennessee, the clouds of a failed marriage and subsequent loss of family, branches and stones in my path of a vocational “calling”  manipulated by power-hungry “rulers” ending unceremoniously first in 1999 and finally by 2002 in unplanned early retirement. In a daze . . .

I’ve always tried to “make lemonade out of lemons” and I turned my retirement into an adventure of nature travel and photography as much as I could afford, including visits to all 54 state parks in Tennessee with a book about that, A Walk in the Woodsalong with many other nature/travel books and my growing nature photo gallery. But I was still looking for something else.

Moving from the vibrant life of rowhouse living in downtown Nashville to a suburban “Independent Living Retirement Home” was still not what I was looking for.

It was to commune closer with nature, to travel in natural exotic places that my limited income could not afford, then suddenly it hit me, why not move to one of the nature places in which I love to travel and just live there?

With only 2 family members left and no grandchildren, it was easier for me than some people to make such a life-changing move! And now I see it described in a new way in this poem by Mary Oliver:

The Journey

One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice–

though the whole house

began to tremble

and you felt the old tug

at your ankles.

“Mend my life!”

each voice cried.

But you didn’t stop.

You knew what you had to do,

though the wind pried

with its stiff fingers

at the very foundations,

though their melancholy

was terrible.

It was already late

enough, and a wild night,

and the road full of fallen

branches and stones.

But little by little,

as you left their voices behind,

the stars began to burn

through the sheets of clouds,

and there was a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

that kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper

into the world,

determined to do

the only thing you could do–

determined to save

the only life you could save.

~Mary Oliver

¡Retired in Costa Rica!

¡Pura Vida!

Goodbye to a Good Friend

Garden Art by Anthony

This morning at about 4:00 I said goodbye to my next door neighbor Anthony who has been a special friend this last year, as he was when he lived on the other side of me during my first few months in this house (before he traveled to Spain & Morocco for 9 months). He is the single artist guy, about 8 years younger than me, who is still driven to create. He did my garden art sculpture I’ve shown before and a painting I promised not to publish. You will have to visit me to see it – another contemporary bird!

Though Costa Rica is a great atmosphere for creativity, it is not the easiest place to get lots of different art supplies, especially for his clay and tile work. So he is moving back to the states, not to his native Indiana, but to an art community in Chicago where he can get everything he needs to create including many customers which he also needs at this particular point in his life. And he plans to take classes in a world renowned tile art school there.  So I wish Anthony the best of life in lakeside Chicago and a fabulous new career as an artist in the states.

The house he was in, next door in this same compound, has already been rented and soon I will meet my new neighbor and see what adventures that will bring! And very soon I could be greeting a new landlord, as the whole compound is for sale. I met one lovely couple moving here from Houston who are considering the purchase. They are originally from Louisiana and we hit it off when they visited as “fellow southerners.” It seems that people know immediately when I speak that I’m from “The South.” Wonder why?

We will see what happens. My current French Canadian landlords will still be in Atenas part time in a smaller house, with their main house being built on a Pacific Coast beach north of Jaco. And the now vacant house on the other side of me (Richard’s casita) has a couple moving in for two months that I met through my blog and the local evangelical church, Iglesia Biblical. Change is maybe the most consistent part of life! And it always brings new experiences and new friends! Pura vida!   🙂


The Greatest Threat to the Church Isn’t Islam – It’s Us
Hoping non-subscribers to Christianity Today can get to this linked article by a Nigerian Christian. In many ways Africa is where Christianity is strongest today and there are many things Americans could learn from our African brethren! This article is a good example.

Boxes From Heaven?

Boxes picked up in the streets just as I was needing boxes to move!

Read into it what you like, but on one of my daily walks downtown I was thinking that I need to get some of the flattened boxes from the Supermercado to help me with my move on the 23rd. Though it is a lot of trouble to have to tape them back together again. Then, presto! I saw two good boxes in the middle of the street. I recklessly ran out into the street, picked them up and took’em home. This happened three times in three days. I’ll try not to read too much into this, like “God wants me to move and he provided the boxes,” but you can interpret it however you like. 🙂  Someone in Nashville told me recently that I live a “charmed life,” whatever that means, though I think it means I’m incredibly fortunate to have the life I have, to be where I am, and to do the things I get to do. “Thank you God!” (Whether you provided the boxes or not!)    🙂

Moving to a New House

Realtor photo from deck looking at similar neighbor house.

As the unofficial marketing director for Hacienda La Jacaranda (I write about it so much >g<), it may shock you that I am moving away from it. But from the first week when I realized there was some poor construction and poorer maintenance here, I have kept my eyes open for another place, preferably a house. I’ve looked at three other older ones that just were not right for me. Last week I talked with Andrew, a local Realtor, about the possibility again, as a last resort before the rainy season begins and the delivery of my shipped boxes. He pulled up this listing on his laptop and I pretty much knew immediately that it was the one, but scheduled a look inside, evaluated the pros and cons of moving, and decided last night this is the right move. If you’re into that kind of detailed evaluations, you can see my pros and cons chart below – never fool-proof but always helpful to me. Here from the Realtor web listing is the “Virtual Tour” which I don’t know how to embed, so just click the linked words below:

“Full Screen” looks best 🙂

And when I tried to copy photos from the listing, they were too small to share here except the one above, a view of my only closest neighbor from my kitchen window. On my tour we didn’t have time for me to make photos. Of course you will get photos from me later. 🙂
We start paperwork Monday, meet with owner Tuesday to sign the contract, and if all works as planned I will move in 23 April, one day before the next month’s rent is due here, and of course I will lose the deposit by not giving the impractical two-month notice. I’ve talked with the new manager at La Jacaranda and he is not angry, just disappointed. We will stay friends. I like him and I love the grounds here and may come back for photos. It is really the main thing I will miss, all the big trees with birds and monkeys! Just not my mold allergies in the musty, moldy bathrooms that will require new drain plumbing to fix, a big expensive job. 
Saturday I walked over to the house to check mileages to different places with my pedometer and try to get a cell phone photo, but of course the house gate was locked and I could only shoot from the street. This shows the large balcony deck with a killer view, outdoor dining table and chairs where I expect to eat most meals. Use the virtual tour to see inside the house and views of the deck. 
Cell Phone view from outside my locked gate. (No clicker yet!)
Notice the dry season look compared to green season look at top.

Pros & Cons of Moving to the House

1. New, better construction 1. Cost will increase up to $150 with utilities
2. Appears to be better management 2. Poor parking space but I have no car
3. Screens on sliding glass doors to deck 3. Not as many big trees near house as apartments and probably not as many birds & monkeys, but don’t know that yet
4. Bigger deck as extension of living/dining with second dining table outside 4. It is at beginning of complex, near gate, but on three visits, very little traffic
5. Ceiling fans in LR, BR, Office/Guest Room 5. One bathroom (but, single guy, few visitors)
6. No plumbing mold, mildew issues like my apartment will always have (1 of my allergies) 6. No air conditioning 
7. More privacy
8. Larger, more space
9. Office with desk and nice couch/futon bed
10. Kitchen better equipped, nicer
11. Washer AND Dryer in big laundry room with two deep sinks
12. Beautifully decorated! But I can add some of my art. I love their art which goes with mine. Modern nature theme.
13. Equal or better panoramic view
14. Nicer, larger bedroom (& office/guest rm)
15. Nicer, larger bathroom
16. No A/C will save on electricity cost
17. Near entrance gate helps on walking distances and it is actually 2/10 mile closer to Central Park than La Jacaranda, about same distance to grocery store
18. I can plant flowers outside & have more room for potted plants than at apartment
19. I can more safely ride a bicycle from this house and hope to rent one first, to see how it works before buying one
20. The hills are less steep than between apartment and town for walking or biking
21. Best security with guards at entrance gate and patrols 24/7, plus alarm system in house and separate gate to my cluster of 3 houses
22. He will add carport if I get a car

TMI?  Maybe I share too much information, but this blog is partly to help others considering a move to Costa Rica and full honesty can be the best help. I know that such blogs helped me before my move.

And at first, I would never have considered a move to a gated community of probably half expats, but my little nest for writing, a photography & travel base, and rest needs to be allergy-free and comfortable. This is more than I had ever hoped for and I could stay really long term here, though the contract is for just two years. We’ll see.

I try not to publish two posts on the same day – oh well – its done! 

Praying Mantis Sends Me Upstairs

Praying Mantis on my downstairs apartment tile floor this morning.
I had a lot more insects downstairs with no screens and close to the ground.

As I finished breakfast this morning, ready to move into Apartment 3, I looked down at my living room floor and found this lovely Praying Mantis praying for me as I make the move up to my “penthouse” apartment on the third floor. As you can see, now that I’m living a simpler life, it doesn’t take much to thrill me! Last week it was a walking leaf and today a walking twig. Tomorrow will surely have another serendipity!  🙂  And I’ll try to photograph my new view tonight or tomorrow morning. Right now is the hot afternoon and we face west. And yes I prefer the 80’s over Nashville’s single digit temperatures! It is nice to live in shorts and T-shirt! But then tonight I will sleep with windows open and maybe use a blanket.   -Charlie

Su Espacio -Your Space

Su Espacio is located in that corner building by the white pickup.
It is across the street from our only gas station in town which is part of
the largest Super Mercado, Coopeatenas – an important intersection for me!

The Spanish words Su Espacio mean “Your Space” in English and is the name of the community center where I had my second Spanish lesson today, located in the building pictured above across from the closest super market for me and the only gas station in town also owned by the super market. Like in small-towns in the States, there are sometimes monopolies by one person or company, though Coopeatenas is technically a cooperative owned by local farmers. 

“Your Space” could also be the theme for my first bus ride yesterday. I walked the 8 or 9 blocks to the bus terminal in Atenas and waited in line for the Alajuela Bus. It was packed with people standing. The 25 to 30 mile ride cost about $1.50 with multiple stops along the highway with people getting on and off. In the city of Alajuela, second largest city in Costa Rica and home of the San Jose International Airport, I get off at their bus terminal in central district and catch a taxi ($2) to Aero Casillas to deliver my last paperwork to make my Miami address work here. It was a notarized form from the U.S. Post Office saying I give Aero Casillas permission to receive and deliver U.S. Mail. One package and two letters are still in Customs waiting for this document before they will release the items. Thus I could not pick them up yesterday. A very nice clerk, the only one to speak English, said she would email me when the mail was released and ready for pickup, possibly by Friday. So I may make another bus trip soon! While in town I took a taxi ($2 again) to Walmart where I ate lunch and checked out the store aisle by aisle. It is pretty much the way I remember it from the August visit. I bought only 4 items: 2 cereals, a big towel, and ice cream on a stick, plus lunch in their cafeteria with typical Tico food. I had fish, rice and guacamole! Weird combo, I know!
After class this morning, I walked back to the apartment first so I could use my bathroom. The water line to Atenas from Grecia is broken, so no water in town meaning public bathrooms don’t work like the one at Su Espacio! Our apartments have a deep well and pump, so we always have water except from 10 PM to 4 AM when they let the pump cool off. Then I walked back up the hill to town to look at a house for rent and eat lunch. La Trilla (my plan) was closed with no water as was Antano. But fortunately the owners of La Caretta have a friend that stores water and they were still operating. I had a chicken casado (plate lunch) and met a couple from Iowa – snow birds! I then went by Coopeatenas and got three cardboard boxes for my move upstairs tomorrow. My friends from the August trip, Mark and Tina are moving to Panama tomorrow to try out that country for four months. I’m getting their 3rd floor end unit with better view, more air flow, more privacy, screens on windows, two balconies and no millipedes!  🙂 I’m literally and figuratively moving up in the apartments! And some of Phons family members are getting my downstairs apartment tomorrow night. 
So I am packing the rest of today, plus friends are picking up me, Mark and Tina for Wednesday night church. I had quit going on Wednesday night in the States, but will start again here since that is the English service each week. I’ll normally walk, but Mark and Tina wanted to be picked up because they are going to finish their yard sale at the church. Me and some of the apartment neighbors have already bought a lot of their stuff. I got the printer, desk chair, bath mats and plastic coat hangers, all at garage sale prices! I let the ladies have the kitchen stuff. The younger couple from Switzerland was so excited to find the muffin tin. It is funny to watch American and European expats function in this culture!
In addition to learning basic Spanish, I’m learning local ways to say things. Only older people still say Buenos Dias, Buenas Tardes, and Buenas Noches. Most just say “Buenas” regardless what time of day it is. So I’m learning to do that. When asked how you are (Como esta usted) and you are just “so so,” as we say in English, you say “mas o menos” which is how Rudy the caretaker answered me today. That is opposed to saying “bien” (good) or “muy bien” (very good). And the teenager on the bus yesterday saw a friend, did a fist bump and said “mae” which is like “hey dude.” This is fun! And everyone is very friendly here, maybe like small towns everywhere. A good place to be and no regular tourists because we don’t have tourist sights here. 
For those few, if any, readers who live in Atenas or are familiar with it, I should add that the rental house I looked at today is where the famous Kay of “Kay’s Gringo Postres” lives and I got to meet her and her husband Tom. They have  been here 7 years, but health issues have caused them to move back to the states near their son in Phoenix which is why the house is about to be available. It was a fun visit and would be a good deal financially and space-wise, but simply not as nice as the apartments. So we will see what happens. A younger couple from Texas bought their restaurant and still operate it under the same name. I haven’t eaten there yet because it is a further walk, but I will soon! Well, got to start packing!

The Move is Moving Along Faster!

It is like so much is happening every day that I have not been able to keep up with posting. I have buyers for my car (Dec. 19 release so money in bank that day), Washer & Dryer sold for Dec. 20 release, Office furniture and bookshelves sold and I’m letting go in the next two weeks when the buyer gets transportation arranged. In relation to that I just bought a new mega-laptop to replace my desktop which comes in next Wednesday and two days to get it setup and my desktop cleaned off for selling. Whew!

And before he gets my credenza file cabinet I have to refile everything for (A) Going to Costa Rica and (B) Going in storage. Whew again! I’m still moving books and little things to The Treasure Shop here at McKendree for about 3 more Saturdays of selling stuff though it is slowing down and is much less money.

I’m also looking at the new T5i Canon Rebel since the two I have are really getting old and worn but I will keep and use. If I get the new one I may start trying little short videos and even start a YouTube Video Channel. We’ll see.

Turrialba Volcano on a Pretty Day

And for those interested, another volcano erupted this week in Costa Rica, again not close to where I will live. Here are some nice still photos:

Me llamo Carlito.

Part of the hilly rainforest I will be exploring between my house and the coast.
I shot this on my 2011 Panama Canal Cruise Excursion to Tarcoles River for a jungle river cruise. 

Today was my second Spanish Class and it looks like the Spanish name Chris Howard gave me is what my Nashville Spanish Class likes best as they are all calling me Carlito now. Fun! Just getting my feet wet in the language and I like it and our teacher Maya! By the way, Charles in Spanish is Carlos, and the closest to the Charlie nickname is Carlito, which literally means “little Charles,” which is okay with me.

The letter from Social Security arrived today, so all my papers are in order for my residential application. By next week I will send them to my attorney in Costa Rica and the process will begin.

Also today Jane and Scott came to my house to see what all I have to sell in their “Village Treasure Shop” on campus. We are no longer allowed to have yard sales because of traffic among the cottages, so the Treasures Shop is a substitute. I have so much stuff that they decided to give me a whole room in the former cottage used as the shop and let me operate it as my store each Saturday until December. I do my own pricing and they just get a percentage of whatever I make. So that is what I will be doing for the next few Saturdays. It will be kind of like an indoor yard sale one day a week. Hope to make some money!   🙂  Come see me some Saturday, beginning October 11, the Grand Opening! I’m also deciding what I will keep and put in storage during my first year in Costa Rica. A few pieces of furniture, books, art, etc. will stay here until I decide to either return to states or make Costa Rica my permanent home. If the latter, then I will ship it all to Costa Rica. As the old TV comedy soldier of fortune used to say, “I love it when a plan comes together!”

Thanks for reading my blog! And please comment or write!   -Carlito

10 Reasons to Go to Costa Rica

One View from a Rainforest Trail
In Corcovado National Park by Me

10 Reasons to Go to Costa Rica is one of the later posts on Chris Howard’s “Living in Costa Rica Blog” could almost all be my reasons for both visiting and moving there. I would just substitute nature photography and affordable living for the zip-lining and surfing.  🙂  Check out his article and continue to watch his blog which is probably the best one on living in Costa Rica! Or if you just want the 10 reasons, I’m copying here:

1. To find happiness

Costa Rica has been ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world, based on its high quality of life, good life expectancy rate and small ecological footprint. The country abolished its army in 1949, and it’s been one of the most peaceful countries in Latin America for the past five decades. The main saying in Costa Rica is “Pura vida” which means the good life – something that people say all the time, with big smiles on their faces. Often when you ask people how they are, they respond with “Pura vida”. It’s inspiring, infectious and incredibly heart warming to spend time in a country that has so much invested in being joyful. The rest of the world could definitely learn a thing or two from Costa Ricans’ approach to life.

2. Eco tourism

I’ve never been to a country that wears its green credentials on its sleeve as proudly as Costa Rica does. The country is one of the top eco-tourism destinations in the world, and it’s easy to see why: over a quarter of Costa Rica is protected land, the government is very active in conservation efforts and the country plans to become the first carbon neutral nation by 2021. Costa Rica’s eco commitment doesn’t seem like tokenism: the local people and guides we met were genuinely enthusiastic about conservation, most hotels have watercoolers to encourage guests not to buy plastic water bottles, and there are recycling bins almost everywhere you go.

3. Birds

Costa Rica has a whopping 900 species of birds, from the incredibly beautiful green-and-red resplendent quetzal (which I was lucky enough to see while zip lining through Monteverde Cloud Forest) to glorious scarlet macaws and 54 species of jewel-coloured hummingbirds. In just over a week of travelling through Costa Rica we saw dozens of species, including the elusive great potoo, the pretty northern jacana and four species of herons. I’ve been teetering on the edge of becoming a birder, but Costa Rica was the trip that took me to the other side: I’m now a committed twitcher.

4. Wildlife

Costa Rica is staggeringly diverse when it comes to wildlife. With half a million species, it’s home to 4% of the world’s total species, which is quite something for a relatively small country. In fact, it’s considered to be one of the planet’s most biodiverse nations. Expect to see butterflies, frogs, (incredibly cute) sloths, snakes, loads of monkeys, anteaters, caimans, bats and iguanas. More rare are the cats: jaguars, ocelots and pumas.

All over Costa Rica there are opportunities to encounter the country’s wildlife, whether it’s going on a canal cruise in Tortuguero National Park under tunnels of trees (which felt like being in the Amazon), or a catamaran cruise with dolphins in Manuel Antonio National Park, or walking through the misty Monteverde Cloud Forest. The best thing is that Costa Rica’s amazing animals are everywhere: monkeys hanging out in the trees outside your room (or even inside your room), sloths sleeping in trees next to the highway and crossing the path next to the park entrance and raccoons coming to watch you eat a post-hike snack in the car park.

5. Forests

What I loved most about Costa Rica was its magical forests, where time seemed to stand still the air was alive with the sound of insects and birds and everything smelled like green. Much of the country is forested with either humid, tropical rainforests and misty, cool cloud forests, which you can explore on guided hikes and by walking on shaky suspension bridges.

6. Zip lining (and other adventures)

Costa Rica is an adventure lover’s dream destination. Just about everywhere you go in the country there seems to be some kind of adrenaline-inducing adventure on offer, from white water rafting to zip lining through forests. My favourite adventure was cayoneering in the Lost Canyon near Arenal volcano, which involved abseiling down sheer rock faces and scrambling through the canyon and jumping into cold poolsunder a cover of huge trees.

7. Beaches

Costa Rica has two coasts – the Pacific on the west and the Caribbean on the east – lined with over 1500 kilometres of beautiful beaches, with sand ranging from cappuccino to icing sugar, flanked by palm trees and rainforests. My favourite beach was in Manuel Antonio National Park on the Pacific side. Not only was it a perfect beach, with a long stretch of white sand and palm trees for shade, but to get there you have to walk through a forest where you can spot sloths, birds, lizards and monkeys – so you get a wildlife walk and beach bumming in one.

8. Turtles

Tortuguero National Park, on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast, is the Western hemisphere’s main nesting site for green turtles: during the nesting season (April to October) there are as many as 700 turtles laying their eggs on a 30-kilometre stretch of protected beach. You can hire a certified guide to take you to the beach at night to watch turtles nesting – a truly magical wildlife experience which feels like watching a dinosaur in action.

9. Volcanoes

Costa Rica sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire (almost a Johnny Cash song) – an area of high volcanic activity. The country has 122 volcanoes, of which four of active. The most famous of Costa Rica’s volcanoes is Arenal, which was active up until 2010: it hasn’t spewed lava since then, but it does smoke constantly (which makes for great photos). Around Arenal and some of Costa Rica’s other volcanoes you can go hiking and mountain biking on lush hilly slopes and (my favourite) soak in hot springs. There are hot springs all over the place in the area around Arenal, and many hotels have their own hot springs, or you can go to ahot spring resort and spend an evening swimming around in pools as warm as a bath, drinking pina coladas (highly recommended).

10. Surfing

Surfers love Costa Rica: the swells and breaks are great, water is warm year-round and the surf is good on both the Caribbean and Pacific sides. There are plenty of surfing schools and retreats lining the coasts, especially on the Pacific (where you can find the best waves during the rainy season from May to November.

This blog post was originally published on Duff’s Suitcase.  This article, 10 reasons to go to Costa Rica, was originally posted on the Getaway Blog by Sarah Duff.


— o —

Another reason I am so seriously considering the move is that I plan to expand what little online business I have to give a better supplement to my meager pension and I can do it just as easy from Costa Rica as I can from Tennessee. In fact I have just enrolled in an online class to help me build a strong online business that really works. We will see! But I’m believing it will happen and will include a lot more than me just trying to sell my nature photos. So that could be my eleventh reason to move!   🙂   Two weeks from today I go on the tour with Chris Howard. I’m excited and now I’m now looking for reasons why I shouldn’t move. I’ll share my list later, but so far more positive than negative. The two-week trip will probably be the decider.