California to Costa Rica: “I Can’t Help But Think How Lucky We Are…”

While my wife and I were on our daily walk the other day, 400 feet from the deserted Bejuco beach, we were stopped short by a white-faced capuchin monkey who raced gracefully across the bridge, then launched himself into a tree on the other side of the water. His family trailed close behind.

Looking around me, I can’t help but think how lucky we are to have so much nature in our everyday lives.

Raised in Southern California, my journey to Costa Rica began on July 19, 2010. At the time I was a paramedic—and had been one for over 10 years… That was until one emergency response changed my path. As I navigated through heavy traffic in San Diego blaring my lights and sirens in order to reach a non-breathing patient’s house, I sustained a career-ending back injury. I was able to successfully resuscitate the patient…but my back would never be the same.

That injury happened a month after my 30th birthday.

But rather than changing my life for the worse, leaving my career as a paramedic was my first open door to an international life. I had already seen 27 countries including a paramedic volunteer trip to Haiti. I promised myself that I would not waste this freedom or the back pain that sent me there. If I was meant to hurt, I would hurt somewhere tropical!

My “must haves” for a new country to live in included a warm climate, low cost of living, fresh local produce, a language with the same alphabet as my own, and local friendliness. Out of the 27 countries my top contenders were: Argentina, Costa Rica, and New Zealand.

Argentina had the richest culture, amazing wine, and the best food I had ever eaten…but the cost of living was higher than I preferred. Also, most of the country experiences four seasons, and I had hoped for year-round summer.

New Zealand was breathtakingly beautiful. The people were some of the happiest I have ever come across. With English as the spoken language my transition would have been very simple, minus driving on the opposite side of the road. But the exorbitant cost of living and cold winters brought me back to Costa Rica as my winning option.

Costa Rica boasts an endless summer with hundreds of expansive warm-watered beaches lined with coconut palms. The mountains host jungles, cloud forests, rivers, waterfalls, and more biodiversity per square foot than anywhere else on earth. Fresh produce abounds; their pineapple, mango, and coconut water are the best I had ever tasted.

The locals greet you with a warm smile and the saying, pura vida (pure life). The expression is used for everything from hello, goodbye, exclamation, agreement and more. Costa Ricans, or Ticos as they call themselves, are patient and will work hard to understand your broken Spanish. I feel more at home in this country than in any other country I’ve visited.

And it’s very affordable here. My wife and I pay $750 for a two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom condo (double master suites) in a gorgeous gated community equipped with a pool and ample flora and fauna. It’s also just 400 feet from one of my favorite beaches in Costa Rica. It’s a world away from my home in San Diego where I paid $1,450 for a tiny one bedroom close to a loud beach known for its crazy parties—something I didn’t know until after I moved in…

All in all, our monthly expenses—including rent—run around $1,700. And it’s possible to live even more affordably here. When I lived in Nuevo Arenal my rent was only $500 for a two-story, two-bedroom, two-bathroom home overlooking Lake Arenal.

Though I haven’t completely retired yet, I have slowed down. The cheaper cost of living has allowed me to run my own company, Enete Enterprises, a video and print publication company specializing in travel books and tourism videos.

My average day of work can include anything from filming a waterfall rappelling tour to sipping coffee next to my laptop.(With Costa Rica coffee being some of the best in the world, it’s a phenomenal way to start the day!)

The pace in Costa Rica is slow with people as the main focus instead of consumption or entertainment. The access to nature in everyday living has made life here an absolute dream. It’s no wonder why so many people, like myself, have migrated here.

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