Dozens of colorful parrots glide past. Sitting on our porch, overlooking the Gulf of Papagayo, frosty Imperials (the national beer of Costa Rica) in hand, my wife, Katie and I toast the end of another sun-soaked day, temperatures in the 80’s F.
The thought of colder weather in our hometown of Baltimore makes the beer taste that much better.
In 2010, we both held steady jobs with opportunities to climb the ladder. I was the tasting-room manager at the oldest winery in Maryland and Katie took home “Rookie of the Year” honors from the large homebuilder she worked for. Yet the promise of higher pay lost its luster as the stresses of the job took their toll. Katie knew she needed a change, and I was comfortable picking up and exploring the world. The question was where to begin.
We started right at home with a seven-month RV tour of the U.S. before traveling in Europe. Finally, with winter looming, we visited tropical Costa Rica. After looking around we settled in Ocotal, a small residential community on the south end of the Gulf of Papagayo.
We’re close enough to the town of Playas del Coco to take a 10-minute bike ride for necessities, but far enough away to enjoy our privacy. The best feature of the house we rent is the view of the Pacific and the amazing sunsets we enjoy nightly.
We’ve adjusted well to the slower pace of life. We’re still working—the Internet means we can work from anywhere. I’m now writing and Katie is a social-media and marketing consultant. Only now, our blood pressures are lower and our tans are better.
The great year-round weather here allows locals and expats alike to ditch the business suits for board shorts and flip-flops.
Living near the ocean, there isn’t a day we don’t go to the beach. We also take advantage of the proximity of rainforest and volcanoes, both of which we can reach easily in less than two hours.
Another benefit of living in a tropical climate is the diet. The fresh produce and bountiful seafood has improved our health. We recently discovered a local fisherman who sells his catch from his home. We visited one Sunday and he was friendly, helpful, and patient. Through our broken Spanish and his broken English we settled on a kilo of red snapper for $4.50 per pound and a half-kilo of some of the largest jumbo shrimp I’ve ever seen for $12 per pound—all freshly caught that morning.
Ticos (as the locals call themselves) view hospitality, generosity, and kindness as second nature. A Tico friend summed it up by telling me that a smile is free and doesn’t cost him anything to share. I’ve been amazed at how valuable those free smiles can be.
Our total bills run around $2,000 per month. We rent a fully-furnished three-bedroom, two-bathroom villa with a private pool, and our rent includes cable and Internet, as well as the gardeners and pool cleaners.
We’ll continue exploring this beautiful country in search of the best place to hang our hat permanently. But for the moment, we’re content to watch sunsets, listen to the parrots, and sip our cold beer.
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