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!

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! 

The Decision is “Yes”

Most people I’m around already know that, but the purpose of this blog was to lead up to the decision and now future blogging will be on my “Adventures” blog. That is what this will be whether I stay only a year or the rest of my life, everything about Costa Rica is an adventure!

I did a four-page Excel spreadsheet giving various categories of life 1 to 5 points in column for the U.S. and for Costa Rica. I will not attach the spreadsheet. Be aware that even though I was trying to be objective, it is probably still more subjective and my heart is probably leading more than my mind, though I am still trying to be “rational.” In this tally Costa Rica won 76 to 68 which is actually pretty close!


It is nature that has been attracting me to Costa Rica for years and what I loved best about the four times I have visited. Birding, hiking, nature photography is simply better here than anywhere I have been. My #1 reason for going. Because it costs all of my fixed income to live in the States, I have been, maybe foolishly, using savings for these trips, which must stop, thus . . .

Financially I have figured out how I can live for less there (where I like to travel) and save for trips or future emergencies which I haven’t been doing a good job of in the States. Now be aware that my cost of living will be lower there only if I live like a local. It is actually the most expensive Central American country, mainly because of the high cost of imported goods (especially cars). Thus I will try to “eat local” which will cost less and be healthier. Shopping too much at Walmart (which is there) could blow my budget!

Weather is a big trump card for Costa Rica. Atenas, where I am now considering an apartment, was declared by National Geographic as “the best climate on earth,” averaging 72 year-around or always between 65 & 85.

The culture/people is the best I have experienced anywhere, friendly, welcoming, often rated the happiest country on earth, no ethnic/racial conflict, religious though differently than me, educated, conservation-oriented, economically sound, democratically elected government, and a good blend of the modern and the historic. I am a follower of Christ wherever I live and there will be a fellowship of Christians I can become a part of and it could even be Baptist, but may not be.

Super public transportation which will replace my car and another way I will save money.

One of the best healthcare systems in the world with choices of both private and public programs.

Volunteer opportunities abound including IN Bio which may replace my beloved Nashville Zoo and of course schools, church, other conservation efforts.

Language & Stuff are two challenges. I’m in a Spanish class this fall in Nashville and will get in one in C.R. soon after arrival. I will again downsize, getting rid of some stuff and storing the rest for at least a year before I decide on what if anything will be shipped to Costa Rica.

What will I do? Nature photography, more photo books, maybe sell to tourist shops, writing, reading, hiking, helping other people in multiple ways, and finding new ways of worshiping God. I have never been without something to do and always love the experience of adventure. So from here on, you may follow my adventures on my Retirement Adventures Blog. It begins now in preparation for the move. And every once in awhile click on one of those ads on my blog. I get paid a few pennies for every click!  🙂

And remember, I lived three years in The Gambia, West Africa, my favorite place to have ever lived, and it is a true 3rd world country with pitiful healthcare and corrupt government. So Costa Rica will be a real vacation for me! 


Fresh Produce Available Everywhere Year Around
My photo of street market in Puntarenas.

Yeah! I know that is the title of Hillary’s book and I still intend to read it, though now it will have to wait until after my exploration trip to Costa Rica. I’ve read only a part of the introduction but decided I would finish my Ann Patchett book, State of Wonder and some more of these Costa Rica books first. But with this decision looming soon for me, I share many of Hillary Clinton’s feelings on making decisions:

When making decisions, I like her, “follow my heart and my head.” And sometimes my heart wins out over my head, though here I’m trying to use both as you may have seen in this blog.

Hillary says, “All of us face hard choice in our lives . . . Life is about making such choices. Our choices and how we handle them shape the people we become.” And this choice is certainly going to shape who I become for the rest of my life!

I’ve had some friends ask me if I’m out of my mind? Crazy? While other just look at me with that look in their face. One dear friend was concerned about my future medical needs as a senior citizen, thinking of primitive medical services like I had in The Gambia. Hopefully she was relieved when I told her that the modern and efficient medical system in Costa Rica is ranked above what we have in the United States by the World Health Organization and at about a fourth the cost.

Likewise, friends read about problems in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Honduras and think all of Central America is overrun with drug gangs and rampant crime. Not so in Costa Rica! It is one of the most successful and peaceful democracies in the world. It is a well-educated population with near 100% literacy rate. And on the “Happiness Index” it is always one of or the highest ranking countries in the world. I’m checking out all of these concerns very well.

And for those who still ask “Why are you considering this?” I refer to one of my first posts on this blog, June 28, titled Why I’m Considering a Move to Costa Rica. Also see 10 Reasons to Go to Costa Rica, which applies to tourists as well as possible expats. Note that on this list I would substitute nature photography for the surfing. (I might try surfing once, but its not likely to be my thing!) After the trip I will have more refined lists of both reasons to move and not to move. Pray for good choice-making. 

No “Perfect Decision”

I loved the little article in today’s The Tennessean newspaper’s business section on decision making: Why no decision may be worst decision. (Go ahead and read it!)

Of course mine is not exactly a business decision and I really have only two choices: to go or not go. But I like the idea from Roosevelt that the worst thing to do is no decision. In my case not even considering the move or evaluating every aspect of it would be like no decision since it has been a dream for a good while. This way, IF I decide to not go, I will have considered it thoroughly and have specific reason(s) for not going.

The author, Ed Rappuhn, suggests 4 steps to follow in making business decisions and they mostly apply to me. Instead of profitability, affordability and improved life is my goal and I think I am doing all four of these things as I continue to research:

1. Identify your choices. Remember, maintaining the status quo is one choice.
2. Consider the possible outcomes (benefits vs. cost) of each choice.
3. Establish the probability of each outcome.
4. Determine, based on the probability of the outcomes, which choice has the greatest value.

Is God Laughing at Me?

Possibly the most important post I’ve made yet on this Costa Rica decision process is on my spiritual blog called His Spirit with a post titled:

Is God Laughing at Me?

If you are following this decision-making process, I hope you click above and read that one post, my most thought-out post yet.  

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.

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!