A Fuller Retirement in Costa Rica’s Southern Zone

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Anna Fishel, 63, was living and working in Colorado in early 2012, and retirement was still years away…or so she thought.

“There was a change in management at my job that made it absolutely miserable for me to go to work. I had bought my house in Costa Rica with plans to move in a few years. I decided that my mental and physical health should be top priority, so I made the decision to give retirement a whirl,” says Anna, who had been visiting the country for eight years prior to her move. “It’s been just over a year. I do believe it is the best glass of lemonade ever made from life’s lemons!”

“The cost of living in Costa Rica was a factor too. But the feel-good factor was major. You can spend your entire life checking a place out or you can just do what feels right. For me it seemed like the right moment in time,” she adds.

Anna is in the Southern Zone, a region on the southern Pacific coast known for its dramatic coastline of tree-covered mountains dropping suddenly to the ocean, empty beaches, and lush rainforest full of wildlife like toucans, howler monkeys, sloths, and dozens of other species.

Though development has picked up in recent years due to the completion of the coastal highway, it remains a quiet refuge for retirees and other expats looking to truly get away from it all in a beautiful setting.

“My home is on just under an acre of land in Ojochal, which is a small village in the jungle. There is a small view of the ocean, but the real attraction for me was that the house is set among beautifully landscaped gardens,” says Anna. “I like to say that I bought a lovely tropical garden that happened to have a house tucked in amongst the beauty.”

After years of stressed out work, Anna’s schedule in retirement is still full—but with things she loves to do.

She enjoys “puttering” around her garden. She practices Spanish with a tutor two hours a week. And she goes on long walks with a group of fellow expats, as well as on empty beaches with her adopted German shorthaired pointer mix, Lily. (Her cat, Kiska, who “came with” the house, stays home.) She’s also active in a community library for local kids.

“And I’m finally reading books that have been on my to-read list for 20 years,” says Anna, laughing. “I have no idea how long I spend having coffee, watching the birds have their breakfast, looking up birds in my guide, pulling those ever present weeds, or hanging laundry on the line. I am really enjoying ending a day and feeling like it was full in a simplistic way and that no one, in particular not me, needs a detailed account of the day’s activities.”

She’s also discovered a simpler life.

“Realizing that so few Ticos in this area have cars has inspired me to choose walking over driving when possible. There’s a local grocery, butcher, and bakery well within walking distance,” explains Anna. “And when you walk to the grocery store you buy what is needed versus loading up ‘Costco’-like with what turns out for me to be months of ‘stuff’ that often goes to waste. It is a good feeling to buy what I need…and use what I buy.”

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