Maybe Not

This AM walking & hearing McKendree improvements from Jane made me think I’m better off staying here. This process will take awhile. August Trip will tell a lot I hope! Written on new cell phone and boy is typing hard on this tiny keyboard!

Why Am I Doing This?

As I biked this morning, the thought came to me that friends when they first hear about this, will think I am crazy and wonder WHY I’m doing this? I’ll give today’s answer to three whys and those answers could change in the future. This whole idea is very fluid, but making it public because I like input.

Why are you doing this decision process in a public blog?

Most of my research is online and there are a lot of blogs about retiring or moving to Central America, most not too good. So I think my process could be helpful to someone else doing the same thing now or in the future, even if I decide not to move. 
Why would you want to leave the U.S, and move to a third-world country?
  1. Less than two years ago I made the big decision to move from a downtown Nashville condo to a retirement village with emphasis on the “independent living” part and especially since McKendree Village has 40 “cottages” which are two and three bedroom house, some very nice. I now live in a very nice two bedroom house with utilities, maintenance, twice-a-month maid service, and a meal ticket good for one big meal per day. There’s an indoor salt-water pool which don’t use, more activities than anyone could participate in, etc. Many think “Charlie has it made.” And in some ways I do if I wasn’t so healthy, active, and adventurous. One night it hit when stumbling over walkers and wheel chairs in the dining room, that I am almost living in a nursing home. That could get depressing! No one here shares an interest in the kind of adventures I like to do, other than to hear my reports. Now get this straight! I love everyone here and have no problem with the residents! Management is not targeting Baby Boomers who are more like me and I don’t see this changing anytime soon. I don’t want to become old and invalid like so many here. I’m determined to stay active to death. 
  2. I have been continuing my adventure trips like the January tour and bird watching in Panama. The problem is I really can’t afford such trips now. The retirement village gets half my income. I tithe to my church, I eat out, go to movies, the symphony, musicals, etc. and have the expenses of a car. I have no money left for trips and have been doing them from savings – bad choice
  3. If I move to the middle of the region I love best for adventure, nature photography, and a place that brings me happiness, I won’t have to take from savings for my trips
  4. Now I will make some of my friends angry, but I don’t like the directions our American culture and government is going and I’ve been very displeased with my denomination (SBC) for many years and now think my own local church (which I dearly love) is also headed the wrong way as it continues to be a suburban church located downtown while ignoring the downtown residents which I used to be one of. And I know that it is up to me to try and make a difference and I think I have tried and failed. 
  5. I’m a pacifist and Costa Rica is a pacifist country with no army and better general education than many get in the U.S, with one of the highest literacy rates in the world. They are also ranked as one of the happiest people in the world! Pura Vida!
  6. Though property value is increasing because of the thousands moving in, one can still live cheaper in Costa Rica and get as good a medical service at a fraction of the U.S. cost. The rich run the U.S. and only they get the good life, good medical service, good retirement, etc.  (There’s more, but I’m stopping for now.)
Why did you choose Costa Rica over Panama or other country? 
Well, I could make the above list longer and make an equally long list here. For now I will just summarize that in my own mind after research, Costa Rica offers more nature, more rain-forests, more beaches, more stable government, and less-expensive living than Panama. Panama is trying to be the retirement haven that Costa Rica already is. They are not there yet and I’m not sure I want to be one of their pioneers, though I have not totally ruled it out! Some say Ecuador is a little cheaper and beautiful, but I don’t see it as a stable government. Nicaragua is new for retirees and is a lot cheaper, but I would feel trapped in an expat community there and not as free to roam the country. So for now, Costa Rica is my focus.  

Seeking God’s Leadership is First Priority

One of my four blogs is titled HIS SPIRIT and is my spiritual blog. I just posted one there related to this big decision I am considering concerning Costa Rica titled:

This Is the Way; Walk In It. 

Click title to see that discussion. Worship today was helpful in seeing the spiritual side of the decision and even though I feel I’m “following my heart,” I also need to know that it is God’s will. And I have added a new life verse to my long-time Proverbs 3:5-6, which is Isaiah 30:21 as state in the NIV: 

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

So I will be listening for the voice of God behind me to turn right or left, to Costa Rica or not.

Going on the Tour

I’m now signed up for the “Live In Costa Rica” Tour later this summer. It doesn’t mean I’m moving, but that I am really serious about considering it. I’ll get to see my beloved country again and experience from a totally new angle. We will see some sights of course, but the focus is on living there this time, visiting in some expat homes, see what living is like in the city, valley, mountains, and coast. Then I am staying over 4 extra days to personally check out some rental houses, apartments and condos. The tour is not a real estate tour, but I want to see first hand what I can live in for about a third of what I’m paying now. I’m having some doubts and questioning a few things that hopefully the tour will help me answer and make my big decision.

Click here to see the itinerary of the “Combination Tour” which just means both the valley and the coast, since some select just one or the other. In between the two tours we have a two-day seminar which is really where I will get my questions answered and be more ready to make the decision. This tour will be the best part of my decision process. I will try to post nightly while on the tour, assuming I will have internet connections in all the areas, which is another qualifier for me. Of course they have satellite TV which I don’t even care about, but the promise of high-speed internet is essential for me.

Yes, I’m a little scared that I may be wasting money, though I always love being in Costa Rica. I’m reading a lot and even have two books ordered from Nashville Public Library, but this “boots on the ground” tour will be the real test and I will love it even if I decide to not move. At least I will have given it a whirl!

Why I’m Considering a Move to Costa Rica

My photo of a Baird’s Trogon
Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

I pretty quickly narrowed it down to Costa Rica as my first choice IF I live internationally. Reasons are many and here are just a few including some reasons for moving at all:

  1. Of all my nature travels, Costa Rica is still my favorite destination. I’ve been there three times thus far. There have been great experiences and photo-ops in Panama, Guatemala, and Mexico which I could more easily get to if I lived in Costa Rica and at a whole lot lower cost than from Tennessee.
  2. I can no longer afford to do the nature adventure travel I love while living in expensive USA, while it would be local and nearby trips from almost anywhere in Costa Rica.
  3. In addition to travel being more affordable from there, it will cost me less to live and thus more money for travel.
  4. My retirement village in a suburb of Nashville is the most affordable one now but still takes most of my money while outside entertainment is more expensive here than anywhere in the world.
  5. I walk into my “independent living” dining room and feel like I’m in a nursing home, stumbling over walkers and wheelchairs.
  6. Costa Rica has the most peaceful and stable government in the Americas with no army and every single person well-educated. I’m a pacifist and would love to live in a pacifist country.
  7. The happiness index is challenged only by another favorite country, Canada. (But I don’t like cold! And they are expensive like the U.S.) The “Pura Vida” slogan for Costa Rica is so appropriate as the place where I have experienced the most happy and friendly people anywhere in the world.
  8. It has the tropics, nature and loving people like The Gambia I loved living in so much, but also stable government and good healthcare which Gambia does not have and caused me to not retire there.
  9. My most and best bird photos are from Costa Rica – with so many more yet to photograph!
  10. The landscape photography is also unlimited in this “Switzerland of America” it is called, not only for its political neutrality and peacefulness but for beautiful mountains, volcanoes, rainforests and beaches.
  11. The climate is perfect with temps between 70 & 80 all year and only a little warmer on the beaches or cooler in the mountains. I’ve lived in tropical climes multiple times and it is my favorite. No more snow and ice ever!
  12. The cost of living is lower.
  13. There are more discounts and helps for retirees.
  14. There are some money-making opportunities I may take advantage of.
  15. There are large communities of expats from the U.S. and Canada as well as from around the world.
  16. One of the best healthcare systems in the world with world-class hospitals for a fraction of the cost in the U.S. I can have healthcare insurance for a little over $50 a month where I spend hundreds per month here and still have high out-of-pocket costs when I need care.

The above list is from me and my heart and not a promotional list I copied from someone. I’m sure there are many other reasons. And I’m aware of some of the challenges, like I will need to slow down and be more patient with a slower moving culture (like Gambia) and slower government bureaucracies (like Gambia). I have just started reading Chris Howard’s detailed book The New Golden Door to Retirement and Living in Costa Rica. Some have called Costa Rica a “Post Hippie Paradise,” but mostly it’s an exotic tropical paradise that is perfect for someone like me who is always seeking adventure in nature. So read along or join me in my decision-making process to see if this really is the thing for me to do. Your advice is sought and welcome.

As Tony Robbins said: 

“It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.”

Or maybe I like Mia Hamm’s even better:

“Follow your heart and make it your decision.”

And of course my life verse since teen years has been Proverbs 3:5-6:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.

Feel free to pray for me to make the right decision, comment with your advice, feelings, or hard facts. I’m truly open right now and thus making my decision-making a public activity.    -Charlie

See this Market Watch Report on living in Costa Rica

In summary I quote from an ad for an International Living product: 

Why Costa Rica?
The most stable democracy in Latin America. Top-quality health care. Excellent weather. Low, low taxes. The world’s happiest people. And that’s not all…in Costa Rica you’ll find sun-kissed beaches, lush rainforests, mountain vistas, pristine lakes, and sweet small-town plazas. No wonder it’s one of the hottest retirement destinations on the planet. See it to believe it.

¡Pura Vida!

Background for Moving Overseas

Dancing in The Gambia on a 2009 return trip, photo by Jill

I’m a person of adventure since childhood, always wanting to live in a jungle or rainforest, as a teen to be a medical missionary in Africa, not making the medical part and a marriage that didn’t do missions, I continued to dream. After divorce and early retirement, God gifted me with a 3-year job in The Gambia, West Africa. My favorite job and place to live ever! But mission board politics and philosophy was such that I wouldn’t re-up for another 2 or 3 years and retirement there was not practical because of horrible medical services and the unstable and corrupt government.



My Condo Downtown near State Capitol, Farmers’ Mkt.

Living 10 years in downtown Nashville in a condo and loving it! I traveled as much as my meager income would allow, including three trips to Costa Rica along with trips to Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, Brazil, Tanzania and this year to Panama. The problem was I could not afford these trips I loved so much and was spending my very small savings. Plus I saw “the handwriting on the wall” in my condo of mostly mobile young adults in an aging complex that was going to start costing more for big repairs like roof and parking lot and I needed to “really retire” and not parent young adults. 

My Cottage at McKendree Village, Hermitage-Nashville

Two years ago I picked the only one I could afford in an old suburb of Nashville, put my condo on the market, sold it in one week, and made the big move to an independent living cottage (2 bedroom house) in a beautifully forested neighborhood of senior adults, where I took up local birding, and making photo books of my experiences. I really like McKendree Village where I now live and if Costa Rica doesn’t work out, I will stay here. But I soon discovered that there are other expenses and my active lifestyle and love of eating out left me almost no money for travel. I was using my equity money for one or two exotic trips a year and that was not wise. Plus the management here was targeting or getting too many elderly in poor health, even in independent living, making me feel like I’m living in a Nursing Home as I trip over walkers and wheel chairs in the dining room. I still ride my bike 50 miles a week, walk a lot and do my adventures, but the money will run dry and the community is not one for my active lifestyle. Sooooo . . .

My photo, Resplendent Quetzal,
While on 2010 Bird Safari, Costa Rica
I started researching online about retiring in places like Panama, which I thoroughly enjoyed visiting last January and could live in. One thing led to another and I’m now big into checking it out now and refocused on Costa Rica. I know, I’m like a kid just out of college starting all over again and somehow that invigorates me!
One of the things I’m reading online are blogs from people who live in another country and they are sometimes helpful. So today I decided to start this diary of the steps I’m going through that might help someone else and give me an interesting record of what I went through, whether I move or not. This is in addition to 3 other blogs I write. But this will either have an ending or maybe be turned into a Costa Rica Blog. We’ll see!