by Starr Daubenmire, International Living / QTravel
I am not a “dissatisfied” American. Sure, I complain about things like everyone else, but I have never had a desire to move out of the country. The freedom and principles of the U.S. are a treasure, but living there has gotten very hard since losing my job in the recession.
So imagine my surprise to find that while a Social Security income will give you a subsistence level of living in the U.S.—it will practically give you a luxury lifestyle in Costa Rica…
After losing my job, I needed some expensive dental care—over $2,000 worth—and began to look for an alternative. I researched “medical tourism”… and was shocked to see how much less it would cost in Costa Rica. My experience with the dental care was excellent. The doctors had been trained in the U.S. and spoke fluent English. The offices were modern with state-of-the-art equipment. The X-ray technology was newer than what my dentist in Ohio uses!
And I was blown away by the beauty of the country. What a gem it is, located right in the heart of Central America. Never have I seen so much diversity. I was able to travel between my dental visits, so I went to several places.
First was Mount Arenal, one of the world’s most active volcanoes.
It was set amid glorious rain forest vegetation, the likes of which I had never seen in person. Tropical flowers and myriad species of birds dominated the landscape. I felt like I had found the Garden of Eden.
From there I traveled to Tamarindo beach, just two hours away. This pristine area, surrounded by National Parks, stretches for over three kilometers along the north Pacific coast. Volcanic rocks rise from the water offshore to create a haven for water sports—so I went snorkeling for the first time! The water was warm and clear and I had a view of the colorful barberfish swimming in schools. I even saw starfish nestled among the rocks.
For me, both the rain forest around Arenal and the beaches of Tamarindo were visions of paradise. One was jungle; one was sand and surf. And I could not choose a favorite… But the beauty of Costa Rica is you don’t have to—they are within a couple hours of each other!
The whole trip really changed my perspective about how I want to live. To afford to reside in such a paradise, on the income I have right now, was a revelation. Here I had been struggling with how to make it to retirement since I lost my job with benefits, and a whole new world of possibilities was opened up to me.
I think the hardest thing would be to decide where in Costa Rica to re-locate and call my home base. But everywhere is so accessible. You can drive from one side (on the Pacific Ocean) to the other (on the Caribbean Sea)—and in between are the mountains, rain forests, cloud canopies and more.
There is something for everyone in Costa Rica and now I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m sure I’ll be visiting again soon to explore more possibilities. I want to decide if it is a retirement haven that I can take advantage of right now rather than wait for traditional retirement age in the U.S.
It’s not just a matter of price, although that is very important. The quality of life is such a main feature of the culture that they even have a name for it… Pura Vida—the “Pure Life”.