New Coffee Shop in Town

Above Canario Supermercado is a new little coffee shop overlooking the entrance to Atenas Mercado Central, bus station, and a busy street for people watching. See photo above. Just this one visit today and it is now in my top three coffee shops (called cafeterias here). (1) Crema y Nada, (2) Cafeteria by the church, and now (3) Cafeteria above Canario. (If the last two have names, they are not prominently displayed, but most things here are described by location as I just did.)

One of my retirement joys these days is slowly sipping 2 or 3 mugs of coffee every morning after breakfast, with breakfast or like today, after my cereal breakfast I walk to town and have a pastry and cup of coffee downtown while people watching or finishing today’s Washington Post on the Kindle. This is what retirement is like for me when not traveling! And of course my favorite and most common place to enjoy morning coffee is from my own terrace as seen on this cloudy morning in the photo below.

My Terrace is My Favorite Place for Morning Coffee


Living the Dream

Retired in Costa Rica

¡Pura Vida!


Our Hidden Danger in Costa Rica

And for those who think I never have anything negative to say about Costa Rica (and I seldom do) I will admit that one thing here that scares me is the  Terciopelo, the Costa Rica name for what Americans call Fer de Lance snake (Bothrops asper).  (Click Terciopelo link for English article in Tico Times)  It is one of the most deadly snake bites in the world and unfortunately we have them living in my Roca Verde neighborhood. I know of two neighbors who have been bitten, both going outside in early morning barefoot (note that I will never do that). Both stepped on the snake (a sure way to get bitten!) and were rushed to the public clinic here for anti-venom shot and from there in ambulance to the public hospital in Alajuela for further treatment. They are both fine now, but it was a big scare for both with swollen leg and a lot of pain. One guy had an allergic reaction to the anti-venom and got extra allergy treatment for the hives it gave him.  See Wikipedia article on the snake.

Surgery Scheduled for Monday Evening

Monday 30 July. Yep! That does seem different, evening instead of morning, but that is the way it is (and maybe when an operating room was available at the small private hospital). And the doctor said the sooner we do it, the less damage will be done to the tendon and the sooner I will be without pain. And instead of using the main Hospital Metropolitano in downtown San Jose we are going to one of their 4 suburban campuses, the only one with an operating room. It is in the Lindora barrio of Santa Ana which is on “my side” (west) of San Jose just off our “freeway,” Ruta 27, and about 30 minutes closer than the downtown hospital campus, especially during rush hour, thus easier and quicker for both me and my driver whom I’ve already scheduled.

I am to be there at 5PM, with the surgery scheduled for 7PM to 8PM with one hour in the Recovery Room and return home soon after 9PM. That should be a good way to get sleepy for bedtime!  Ja, ja, ja, (español for ha, ha, ha)   🙂 though the anesthesia is only local.

He says my activities can be normal in a week to 10 days though I will have 5 weeks of physical therapy (2X a week), the hardest part one U.S. friend said. But I did cancel or postpone my August trip to Sarapiqui, which I now have rescheduled for next May. Before then I will be a new man who will try harder to not fall off the bed or on the rough sidewalks of Alajuela! It’s just that time of life!   🙂   No cane yet and hopefully not soon! But maybe needed someday?

“Getting old is not for sissies.”     ~Bette Davis

¡Pura Vida!

Retire Here on Less Than $30,000 a year!

One of the regular blogs I read is Christopher Howard’s Live in Costa Rica (he also does the best relocation tour) and his latest blog post quoted International Living Magazine on Costa Rica being one of the best places in the world to retire on less than $30,000 a year. Read his post or go to the online version of International Living and maybe find it there. And bear in mind that it is still true even with Costa Rica having the highest cost of living in Central America, but right now I don’t think you want to retire in any of the other Central American countries! (Panama being a sometimes exception.) I chose to retire in luxury in Costa Rica over sliding into retirement poverty in the U.S.

Description of 5 Locations in Costa Rica that Retirees Love in an International Living article.

Today’s photo is of a Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, the most common in my garden and possibly all over Costa Rica or at least in many of the places I have visited. They are aggressive and chase other species of Hummingbirds away from feeders and even “their” garden sometimes. Thus I have mixed feelings about them!   🙂    ¡Pura Vida!

Life is Good in Costa Rica!

Things are good in Costa Rica with a very stable democracy and a wonderful and progressive new president and we are the first country in the Americas to elect a black woman as Vice President! 

Ths and other things are discussed in my San Ramon retiree friends’ newsletter and in this edition they reprint their list of reasons for retiring in Costa Rica. I think you might enjoy it at link below.

Retire for Less in Costa Rica NEWSLETTER Current Edition:

I basically finished my photo book on Arenal Observatory Trip today, but need to double check it and then wait for Blurb to announce a sale. In the meantime check out my TRIPS GALLERY on this trip to Arenal Observatory Lodge. 

And I now look forward to my June visit to Boca del Toro, Panama on an island in the Western Caribbean, my first trip of 7 days since moving here. More time means not only seeing and doing more but more relaxation!

¡Pura Vida!

Tree Frog HAIKU

Haiku poem on photo made at Tortuguero, Costa Rica.
 by Charlie Doggett

Check out my Haiku Photo Gallery for more like this. Expect a book eventually!  🙂

Or if it is the frog you like, see my Amphibians Photo Gallery for many more.


Retire in Latin America?

And for those thinking about retiring somewhere in Latin America, I agree with Christopher Howard’s evaluation of the latest ranking from International Living magazine which I used at first but do not trust as they invest in property in places like Ecuador, then push it as the best place to retire. If you are even thinking about the possibility of retiring “south of the border,” you will find this article by Christopher Howard helpful:

I am thoroughly convinced that I made the right decision, not only with Costa Rica but also a small town in the Central Valley. But I am not pushing retirement here because I think there are already too many Americans here! Nor am I encouraging you do it like me, because we are all different with different goals. That said, I will be glad to answer questions or give my opinion about concerns you may have about retiring here or anywhere in Latin America. The economics depend on your lifestyle as do the specific location (beach, mountain, valley, city) and also the kind of services you require. I have visited Panama & Nicaragua twice each and like them both. Nicaragua wins on cost of living, while Panama is more developed and Americanized which is one thing I don’t like about it, though even it has a lower cost of living than Costa Rica. My best economic decision was to live without a car! Easy to do in Costa Rica! ¡Buena suerte! 

And oh yes, the question of do you have to learn to speak Spanish? The simple answer is “No.” But the many gringos who do not stand out like sore thumbs. You cannot fully enjoy the people and culture nor function effectively in the business, government and medical worlds here without speaking Spanish. I am a slow learner, but determined to learn and I get by in most situations, with fluency my long-term goal. And that is saying a lot for a 77 year-old! 🙂  Long term?  🙂

Most Searched Travel Destination

According to Bing’s December 3 report on searches by people in the U.S. Costa Rica is the most

Sign on Playa Dominica

searched travel place in the world. Read the article. It also says that more U.S. citizens retire in Costa Rica than any other country. No surprise to me, but an interesting report.

These photos I made in August on our tour as we stopped by Dominica Beach in the South Pacific. I just liked their sign! This particular spot was near the mouth of a river, thus the drift wood abundance.

Playa Dominica

Are You Cut Out for the Expat Life?

Copied from today’s edition of the International Living Postcard, a free daily email about living abroad. Her discussion was encouraging to me and might be to you if you are considering living overseas. Click the postcard title above to go sign up for the free emailed postcard and a free report. Be forewarned that they are also selling something in each email, but you are strong enough to resist aren’t you?

Well . . . she almost described me below, so if based on this alone, I’ll be headed overseas soon – but still vetting everything first – working on her point 7 below. And this part is fun to me! (You can read it on the IL website if you prefer.)

Are You Cut Out for the Expat Life?
By Suzan Haskins
What makes for a happy expat? This is something I think about often, because honestly…not everyone is cut out for the expat life. The rewards are tremendous and it’s a wonderful, life-changing experience, but there are challenges—and most are easy to get beyond.
From my experience (and I’ve been an expat for 13 years now), those who thrive living overseas are those who are well prepared ahead of time. They’ve done lots of research and they know what they’re getting into. Overall, they have positive, optimistic perspectives about most everything…
And they all seem to share these 7 attributes:
  1. Love of adventure. This pretty much goes without saying. If you love exploring new places and seeing things you’ve never seen before, then you’re on the right path, because that’s what expat life is all about.
  2. Appetite for novelty. Your neighbor brings you a bag of some strange kind of spiky fruit you’ve never seen before and tells you it’s good for your love life…the entire village is going to “cleanse” themselves in an ice-cold waterfall at midnight and has invited you along…at the last minute, the entire country has taken the day off to watch an important World Cup match… If you can embrace and immerse yourself in the spirit of it all, you’ll be just fine.
  3. Tolerance for cultural differences. Does it drive you crazy when things don’t happen at the appointed hour? Get used to it if you’re thinking of moving overseas. We joke that in Latin America, “mañana” doesn’t mean “tomorrow” but “some time in the future.” The thing is, priorities are just different outside the States (where my husband Dan and I are from). Instead of chasing the almighty dollar and punching the time clock, most of the rest of the world runs at its own pace. Family obligations come first and are always more important than work or money, and that’s as it should be.
  4. A large dose of self-confidence. If you believe in yourself and your ability to deal with just about every situation you might possibly find yourself in, then you’re good to go. And here I might add that you need to believe in the concept of “personal responsibility.” Trip on a crack in the sidewalk and twist your ankle… Have a reaction to the detergent used by hotel housekeeping… Forget your phone in the back of a taxi… The menu is only in Spanish… Back home, if you get hurt or, even sometimes, just find yourself in a bad mood, you can sue someone. The rest of the world is not like that. (And, of course, the good news is that it’s doubtful you’ll ever be sued yourself.)
  5. An aptitude for self-reliance. I have to laugh when new expats complain that certain products aren’t available in Ecuador, where I live. No, we don’t get some of those old favorite (and usually unhealthy) comfort foods here. We do, however, get enough of them, believe me. You do know what Half & Half is, right? It’s half milk and half cream. Pretty easy to make yourself. The Internet is full of do-it-yourself recipes and substitution suggestions. And, of course, there are overseas destinations where you can get just about every American product there is…so if that’s important to you, see point #7 and do your research about where those places are.
  6. A go-with-the-flow attitude. Everything I’ve mentioned so far has been leading to this. If you’re the type of person who can embrace the challenges and, even, find the fun and adventure in them, then you’ll be just fine in a foreign country. Laugh it off… You discover so much about yourself and then have great stories to share.
  7. They’ve done their homework. You cannot move overseas without learning as much as you can about where you are going. It just won’t work otherwise. You need to know about the culture, the weather, the residence laws, the health systems, insurance options, and much more. And to collect in one place all the documents that will be required along the way. You’ll want an idea of what your moving and upfront costs will be. You need a plan for communication with friends and family back home, and an idea of how you’ll do your banking and manage your financial life, and more. Getting all this organized before you move will vastly enhance your expat experience.
    In fact, that’s my single biggest piece of advice: do as much advance research as you can. Read, watch videos, talk to the experts, establish a lifeline to some of the on-the-ground resources you’ll need (like attorneys, visa facilitators, health care professionals, etc.), and definitely talk to other expats about their experiences.

Metaphors of Modification

Hibiscus, Luna Lodge, Corcovado N.P., Costa Rica by Charlie Doggett

Metaphors of Modification

Change blows across my life’s beach,
In hopes that it will my mind teach.
Shadowed as a lacy palm-like dream,
In my eyes, wildlife and nature gleam.
Pure life soars o’er a high canopy,
Toucans, Parrots, Macaws will be.
On colorful wings of living abroad,
In tropical places where I’ll be awed.
As many birds scan for food below,
My decision processes if I should go.
Is there “Pura Vida” where I love to travel?
Or better the old ways, thick as gravel?
A lack of money for more adventures,
Creates natural need for quenchers.
Attractive promises of cheap living,
If culture and language aren’t unforgiving.
A Jaguar stealthily finds the concealed,
Telling me an answer will be revealed.
My hunt, my choice is now Costa Rica,
Though not yet ready to shout eureka!
Tropical breeze o’er life does blow,
Whipping up wild aspirations to go.
Stirring cheaper leaves of housing and meals,
But also higher costs of tech and wheels!
A “Live in Costa Rica” Tour is secured,
So that my decision will be assured.
While arranging the leaves of pro and con,
The decision process grows like a fawn.
A monkey’s howling, my process I blog,
Until a decision, lifts the fog.
Seeking God’s will, desiring His Spirit,

“This is the way, walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)

Charlie Doggett, July 8, 2014

NOTE:  I started this as a learning exercise or “Try This” activity in Janet Burroway’s book Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft. Thanks to her for the inspiration and the more I’m sure I’ll get as I continue reading her book. My tropical metaphors may not clearly speak to my decision-making process, but as a writer I’m still a beginner and enjoy trying.

Links to Other Retirees in Costa Rica

The original post here referred you to my website and a page there I was doing on moving to Costa Rica – well, the new website doesn’t have that, but the bulk of the post was the following links which I hope are still good to help you in your research on retirement in Costa Rica.

Broad-billed Motmot near Arenal, Costa Rica on 2010 Tour
I’m reading about other people’s experiences of moving to or retiring in Costa Rica. I will try to start sharing some of them. The problem with the International Living links is that they may not let you in if you aren’t a subscriber, not sure. But there are blogs and other info about living in Costa Rica I will share along the way. Here’s s few:
  • Facebook Page of a woman who retired in Costa Rica
  • A Working Retirement in Ojochal on southern Pacific Coast which I would love if I could find an affordable rental there – It would be close to multiple rainforests and a cloud forest where I got my photo of a Quetzal + beach!
  • Living Better than a Billionaire YouTube video – Great! Younger people! (Update) Hate to admit I was caught up in the impossible illusion that I too can live like they are in their video on my SS check. Not! Well, here’s a funny and honest Rebuttal to Living Better than a Billionaire.   International Living Magazine folks also give this false impression that you can live rich on your social security check. Well, I’m learning that a reality check is needed first! Having lived in a 3rd world country before, I know the reality that money speaks there too, just like in the states. I’m learning that I will not be able to afford those beautiful views that the rich already own. So I’m lowering the expectations. (updated 7/21/2014)
  • Expat organization called Association of Residents of Costa Rica which I could use later to help me with the move, IF I move!
  • No Finality in a Move Abroad, article in Huffington Post – just one reason I will rent – I can change my mind at any time and go back to states
  • Why Are Americans Still Flocking to Costa Rica? an article on International Living site
  • AARP “Best Places” Article on Costa Rica Retirement which focuses only on the Central Valley, but it is the most popular area!


And Someone Asks . . .

My 30ish nephew writes to express his excitement over the possibility of my move and then asks the kind of questions maybe others are also asking. He asks:

I am curious what all might be involved with the process of moving to another country. I’ve moved from one state to another within the mainland US a few times but that’s not the same. Just off the top of my head, I imagine moving to another country would require closing doors in one and opening doors in the other, like with getting rid of belongings, consolidating what will be kept, figuring out how to move things that cannot go on the same trip, closing accounts, opening new accounts, finding a new place to live, form of transportation, income, etc. It seems like the potentially scariest thing would be finding a source of income. I realized that, despite at the time (a few years ago) having enough money in savings to make such a move could have worked, I didn’t have any solid leads on job options at the places where I was looking into. I imagine some people move, then find work, although it would seem better to find work, then move, but that might prove to be pretty difficult.

 Well, those are exactly the kinds of questions I am asking Sean and here is what I know now and where I’m getting my answers. Since I have already lived overseas before part of my answer is from experience!

  1. Absolutely! It is closing and opening doors, literally starting over again in many ways, somewhat like a move in the states but much more than a change of address, new driver license, and new friends!
  2. “Belongings” or most material things thing you must be willing to give up or store if you can afford storage. Shipping furniture or a car is expensive. I’m currently debating about my Zero Gravity Recliner and some of my grandmother’s furniture I would like to take, and may get shipping prices. But the truth is I will probably be able to buy anything brand new there cheaper than shipping from here. Maybe! And I know I won’t ship anything until I have rented for about a year to make sure it is right for me. Younger people sometimes find it easier to let go of “things.” 
  3. For me the car will definitely go and I’ll start with an affordable used car in Costa Rica, maybe hope
    Wildlife watching tour on Tortuguero River by Charlie

    for a new one later. Cars cost about 30% more there. Though insurance may be cheaper and even some maintenance. 

  4. Closing old accounts and opening new ones depends on many factors. When in The Gambia I kept my existing Credit Union accounts, debit card and two credit cards (not store cards). The world is small now and most banking and credit purchases are already managed online, meaning you can do it from anywhere in the world. In Gambia I did open a bank account locally and transferred money from my stateside account when needed. That gives more of a local presence that can be helpful.
  5. Finding a place to live is turning out to be fairly easy at lower prices than in the States. The August tour and my extra 4 days there will help firm up what I’m finding online. Right now, I’m thinking of getting a 6 month to 1 year apartment lease in the Central Valley, equal distances from all the rain-forests, mountains and beaches I love. Then I can better check out places to live in the other areas, before I settle down in one house, probably rental, but might consider a bargain purchase, though I’m thinking I will not be able to afford a purchase. I’ve been using my savings for trips. I had already decided to live the rest of my life here in the states in the rent house I’m currently in – so no big deal, just cheaper over there, if I decide to do it.
  6. Source of income is possibly the most important factor, a requirement to stay legally, and for you that means you must have a job or business and prove you can support yourself. My source of income is retirement income, not much, but will go much further there than in the states. I told you wrong earlier that you could not hold a job in Costa Rica because it would take jobs from Ticos (the endearing name for those born in Costa Rica). That applies only to retirees like me who will benefit from their Pensionado program that makes me one of their retirees, getting discounts on everything from medical care to movie tickets. You can work for someone, start a local business, invest in property, or have an online business as some I’m reading about do. You will have to become a legal resident after 3 or 6 months and keep the Visa up-to-date, which should be no problem with thousands doing it.
  7. Legal documents start with your U.S. Passport and a 3-month Visa which can be extended until you get the equivalent of their “Green Card” for working or apply for dual citizenship. 
  8. Learning Spanish is not absolutely required, but needed to relate to locals which you will want to do. Unlike the United States, most people around the world know multiple languages and English is common in Costa Rica, especially the city, plus the 50,000 plus expat community mostly speak English. (Teach them music?)
Hope that sort of answered your questions Sean. Though most are retirees from the U.S., there are a lot of young adults making a living in Costa Rica. It can be done. Music there will be different in some ways, but they do love their music! All kinds!
Now I’ve already referred to the Live In Costa Rica Tour and his many books. The main one is The New Golden Door to Retirement and Living in Costa Rica by Christopher Howard which is available on That is where you would want to start if considering this.You’ll also find many other expats writing books about moving to Costa Rica if you desire more.