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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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 websiteif 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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)
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!
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!
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 lotI hope! Written on new cell phone and boy is typing hard on this tiny keyboard!
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
AND NOTE THAT AFTER RESEARCH, I MAY DECIDE TO STAY WHERE I AM IN TENNESSEE – THUS A DETAILED DECISION-MAKING PROCESS WITH THIS BLOG
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.
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!