Sometimes all it takes to make your dream come true is to take that first step toward it. My husband and I wanted to change our reality from your average suburban life in the States—mortgages, car payments, and credit card debt included—to a fresh life in a place where coconuts grow and the sun always shines.
We took six months to say goodbye to life as we knew it, slowly shed some unnecessary possessions and bought a plane ticket to Costa Rica. We sold our belongings, paid off our bills and camped out at my parents for several weeks. Then, one frigid morning, we flew from Dulles Airport in Washington DC, and entered misty, tropical Central America that evening.
We hadn’t committed to staying in our first home for longer than three months, so that we’d have the opportunity to explore the country for a better spot. We’d decided in advance that Costa Rica didn’t own us either—we could hop off to another place with a week’s preparation. She overwhelmed us, however, with the love of her people and the beauty of her mountains, waterfalls, and beaches.
As you read this, you may be thinking this adventurous leap is not easily accomplished, and definitely not affordable. What I want you to know is that you can have this life—for much less than you’re paying right now.
Right now, our rent for a tranquil three-bedroom “Tico” home in the hills of Atenas in the Central Valley is $300 per month, the sounds of rivers and parrots included… But if you want to go more “upmarket,” you can do so very affordably here, too. In fact, when we first moved down, we rented a spacious luxury villa with its own pool, a near 360-degree mountain view, and tropical gardens with a meticulous gardener for $850 per month…including utilities in the high season—a fraction of what a similar place would cost in the States.
But we realized soon after moving into that leisure pad that we had planted ourselves into an endless vacation. Don’t get me wrong—it would be a terrific place if you want to settle back with a book every day and throw swanky parties at night, but we found it more challenging to socialize with the locals and learn the language in such a dreamy situation. We preferred a cozier, more culturally influential experience—which we now have in our Tico-style house.
We spend roughly $100 per week to feed a family of four, including loading up at the weekly farmers’ market, hailing down passing fruit vendors—my favorite way to shop—and stopping in at our local grocery store (which supports local farmers). Our utility bill ranges from $50-$100 per month, and we live in comfort. Throw in the Internet, cell phones, and an on-call cleaning lady/nanny, and our total cost of living is around $1,000 per month.
In the U.S., we spent much more for a life of less: less time to enjoy beach sunsets, less colorful wildlife, and less healthy eating. Now, we no longer feel trapped in a home or location, and our freedom is priceless. By living in this stable, safe, welcoming land, we simply enjoy each day to the fullest, and see our savings grow without effort.
I often shake my head in disbelief as I walk the streets of our vibrantly green neighborhood, blinking away the gray memories of my previous days. I reason that this reality wasn’t handed to me—but it wasn’t hard to get either. All I had to do was take that first step. “Why doesn’t everyone do this?” I often wonder.
Friends often comment that I was very brave to move my young family to Central America. The truth is, bravery wasn’t a requirement to do this—the belief that this kind of life was out there, somewhere, was. I just had to let go of what was before me, and search for the place of my dreams. Costa Rica has always been here waiting, and I’ll never regret having found her.
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