It was shortly after 9/11 and the bombing of the Twin Towers nearly 20 years ago. My wife and I had made the decision that life was too short and we were going to sell everything we owned and retire.
Everyone applauded our decision. We were undergoing tough times with our printing company and the advent of personal computers and printers was eating into our profits. And we were both working 60 hour weeks just trying to stay even.
At first we didn’t have a clue… we just had a vague idea that we wanted to enjoy life before it killed us. And everyone said “boy, I wish we could do that.”
And we didn’t know much beyond that.
Then one day I was searching online and I saw an article about Costa Rica… and I said to Rhonda “maybe we should consider Costa Rica?”
She thought I was crazy.
But then she remembered the vacation we took there a few years past.
And she changed her tune.
“I always wanted to be a beach bum”… she said.
And I started my mission to learn everything possible about Costa so that IF we did move there… ( and IF we even really moved at all… ) we wouldn’t be blindsided by anything sneaking up on us.
Keep in mind, the internet was still a “teenager” and my tech skills with a computer were on a par with a ten year old ( at best ).
But I read all of the websites… and the books… And I deluded myself into thinking that we knew it all.
And we sold everything…
Now… during this time all of our friends told us that we were crazy…
“You can’t leave your kids…”
“Costa Rica doesn’t even have running water?”
“Will you be living on the beach or in the jungle?”
“Aren’t you afraid of catching malaria?”
“Will you be able to get electricity where you are living?”
“Will you have a car?”
“What will happen if you get sick?”
“What about snakes and scorpions?”
The questions went on and on.
But it was my father that was the worst…
He never really came out and said that he would miss us but he came at us from damn near every other direction.
Mom stayed quiet.
Candidly, a lot of people were envious but these were people that we knew would never take the risk… for them it was just a dream.
And eventually, we sold everything, including the house and the business.
And then we had the “garage sale to end all garage sales”… complete with a section labeled “Adult Books” by the kids. ( I think we still have a picture of it )
The kids didn’t say much and we really couldn’t tell if they were planning on coming with us or choosing one of the alternatives which included finishing their last year of high school or moving to Costa Rica with us. The other two were finished and were in transition with the “rest of their lives.”
Most of the relatives were supportive but behind our backs they agreed that we probably belonged in an institution.
We finally did leave… everything was set up , but our parents made it plain that they expected that we had no real idea what we were doing and that they expected that we would return within six months… but a year at the outside.
And when we finally did arrive… with two suitcases apiece and our two dogs… things started slowly and seemingly never went according to plan.
We didn’t speak Spanish and we know no one in the country nor did we have any kind of a support group or group of expats we could count on for advice. ( there really weren’t any back then… )
But in our minds, we were prepared.
This was “our last great adventure.”
After landing in Juan Santamaria airport in Costa Rica we were taken by taxi to our hotel… and Rhonda was already suffering from a severe sinus headache.
I loved it… even with all of the “rundown” areas on the way to the hotel and the hot, humid weather… and of course, it was still winter in Minnesota.
Within a couple of days we had made contact with a couple of realtors that we found online and we agreed to meet them for showings. Of course, we knew absolutely nothing about ANY of the areas and geography and ANYTHING about the country yet, except what we had read.
The first realtor didn’t show.
The second showed us a house where the toilets had overflowed and had been sitting for at least a week. Of course, he told us that the price was negotiable.
Of course not.
We hired a tour guide from the hotel to drive us around to look at properties… and of course he took us to his home town…
And we loved it.
Then we tried to find a realtor and there were none in town that spoke any English so we relied on our guide.
His name was Wady.
And we thought that we were getting “the inside scoop” on property in Grecia.
But we did end up buying a property… a small coffee farm in the mountains overlooking the town with a river at the bottom. And we loved it. ( It took us two years before we finally realized exactly how much we overpaid and how much Wady put in his pocket… )
Then he found us a rental in the area that we could live in until we finished building our new home.
It was a small Costa Rican home not far from where we were building and it had everything we needed… and we loved it.
Until we found that Wady had doubled the price that the owner told him he wanted.
It was at that point that we figured that “maybe” everything wasn’t going to be as easy as we thought.
But we loved the country.
And we went sightseeing in our new adopted country.
And we found out a few more negatives.
And a few months later, during the building of our new home… we found out a LOT more negatives.
But it was a foreign country after all.
What else could go wrong…
To be continued…
( to be brief… a lot more went wrong… and if you, the reader, recognize yourself in any of my writings… please know that it is VERY IMPORTANT that you do learn as much as possible about the positives and negatives of Costa Rica… you definitely do not want to be blindsided. AND yes, it is worth it.
And next time… you’ll find out what my Dad said when he and Mom visited us and saw our new house.
And I also will share with you the most common complaints that expats have AFTER they have lived in Costa Rica for a while. And how some adapted… and some didn’t. AND what you can do to improve your odds.
And know that IF you do it right and take preparations, the odds are pretty damn good that moving to Costa Rica will be the “smartest” thing you could ever do for yourself.