A little over a year ago, my wife and I “escaped” from Costa Rica for the second time. The FIRST time was after a journey which I can only describe as being on the top of the mountain and then dying a fiery death.
You see, we had retired to Costa Rica … like many others… shortly after 9/11…because, for us, it seemed that fate was sending us a message.
And no, we knew nothing about Costa Rica and we loved it from the very beginning. We had no firm plans and our only goal was to enjoy “our last great adventure.”
We knew no one in the country… we spoke no Spanish… and, short of websites and a few books…our only knowledge was a short vacation in the Guanacaste region a few years before.
Can anyone else identify?
Later I learned, I had a lot of company and the people who orchestrated the public relations programs for Costa Rica did a heckuva job, didn’t they?
How could you not love a country with no standing army, that was one of the world’s leaders in sustainability and paid homage to the exotic phrase of “Pura Vida”?
We loved it… built our first home and somehow my wife and I managed to muddle through another adventure that most visitors never seem to quite figure out.
And then, even Newsweek heard of us.
And that is when it all started.
Two older Scandinavians from Minnesota entitled “Running Away to Retire” was the title of the article.
And somehow we ended up in the real estate and development business.
Even though we had come to Costa Rica to retire.
We did some things right and somehow a lot of others thought we had “something” that a lot of other expats wanted.
And suddenly, it was like winning the lottery every single day.
We were doing things we had never done before and others followed, purchased land and homes from us and a LOT of people knew who we were… even though we never really wanted it.
We had the opportunity to travel and explore the whole country… meet literally hundreds and probably thousands of locals and expats.
It was literally a dream come true.
Until it wasn’t.
One of our beach developments experienced a 100 year flood and it was literally wiped out.
Then… over the next two years, two more developments were slowly receiving death sentences from the local and national governments even though we had received verbal commitments and letters of commitments that all was fine.
Now in the meantime we did have several successes as well both inland and near the Central Pacific. So we never really thought that we would be totally blindsided by the regulatory bodies (both national and local ).
Please understand that we were NOT a large company… we employed perhaps 15 to 20 people at our peak and more indirectly. We were not taking a salary or any funds from the company for ourselves as we had our own retirement funds and had already built our house.
It all culminated when our own attorney drained our escrow account leaving us virtually penniless.
And this is after several completed developments and construction and design of well over 100 homes and sales of over 200+ properties.
We were done.
We signed over our home and assets to our investors and returned to Minnesota.
It was hell.
We ended up in a small town in northern Minnesota living in the basement of my sister-in-law. In the middle of winter.
Depressed does not begin to describe it.
But this is just the beginning of our Costa Rica adventures…
Because 5 years later, we went back … despite everything that went wrong before… intending to explore the possibility of returning to the real estate “game.”
We still had a loyal staff that absolutely believed in us even though a decent amount of time had passed.
We explored properties and we opened up the lines of communication again.’ …Knowing that we did not have funds any longer to do a full fledged “startup” like we had done before.
We explored the country again.
And we knew, in our hearts, that we would be back “in the game” and in Costa Rica …
…because even in spite of the negatives and the pain we went through, we still loved the country.
We made plans.
And you know what happened next…
The pandemic hit and we were “trapped”.
We remained in Costa Rica for another six months. Our dreams of returning shattered again.
Yes, we are back in Minnesota and it is 15 below zero as I write this and we just had 18 inches of snow dropped on us.
Do we miss Costa Rica?
Of course…. Even with all of the crap and bad luck and yes, dishonesty… we miss the country every single day.
Why am I writing this?
First and foremost, because my friend Rico of QCostaRica asked me to… and secondly I wanted to because I have not written about Costa Rica for a long time ( I authored close to 25 Ebooks which were published in the country, primarily locally and because I had made friends with a lot of my readers on Facebook).
What do I think of Costa Rica now… in light of my life now in the States and my past life in Costa Rica (the “good, the bad, and the ugly”)?
The pandemic has been easily the worst experience of my life. Not only had it stopped another “adventure” but it has turned my life totally upside down.
I am 75 years old and living with my wife who is 10 years younger and subsisting on social security.
We lost everything we had in Costa Rica.
We were lied to, cheated, and swindled out of our money and our investors’ money… by the government, the municipalities and several other “arms” of the government.
One of the things I did for my potential clients and buyers while in the real estate game in Costa Rica was talk about “the good, the bad and the ugly.”
I alerted my readers to the ugly side of the country… Far too many readers and potential expats read about Costa Rica and its beauty, sustainability, and lack of a standing army ( to name a few ) so that people that moved to Costa Rica would not be blindsided by its flaws… because EVERY country in the world has them.
I should have known better.
I should have cut my losses.
I could have done a lot more than I did and candidly, we would still be living in Costa Rica.
One of the things I was asked to do here in this writing is to compare the two countries given my experiences.
- I am appalled when I see what is happening in America and many other countries in the world.
- I see shootings every single day… children smuggling guns into school and shooting their classmates…
- I see chaos and hatred almost everywhere I go.
- This country is almost evenly divided between political parties and those who want to tear it down and start over and those who want to peacefully rebuild.
- No one… and I mean NO ONE… trusts any longer.
- The government, the media, politicians, “big business”, the police, and virtually anything written or printed online…
- Children don’t even know what a handshake is.
- This country is headed toward a civil war… and I hope to God I am wrong. But when I look at the hatred and the lack of almost all decency I am saddened beyond what I ever thought possible.
- Our country used to band together when faced with obstacles.
- Not now… not today.
- There is hatred and a total lack of trust and certainly of respect.
When I compare my country of today with Costa Rica it is like night and day.
Yes, I was basically robbed and my money stolen. But what I saw… and still see … (one of our daughters still lives in Costa Rica with our two grandsons) is respect for each other and a love for the country.
And I believe that most Costa Ricans trust their government and that they will never encounter the type of chaos, madness and hatred that happens daily in America.
Will I return?
Count on it.
Even with all of its warts and problems… I see more happiness and more beauty in Costa Rica than almost any other alternative.
Is there a comparison?
Not in the least.
My dreams are still of Costa Rica and thank god for the times and years we DID have there.
Thanks to all of you for reading.