Earning in the U.S. While Living on Your Costa Rican Homestead

After just over a year in their home overlooking Lake Arenal in Costa Rica, Steve, 59, and Prudence Tippins, 50, are loving their new life…and many mornings get a dramatic reminder of why they decided to move.

With the year-round, temperate climate, the couple regularly sleep outdoors on their deck.

“Often we’ll get up and the view is still so amazing,” says Prudence of their panoramic look at the 33-square-mile lake and the green hills of pasture and forest that surround it.

“Then we do meditation and yoga. We’re up early and go to bed early. With that schedule, I feel a lot healthier. The air is healthier here, too. The water is so pure. And most of the produce is organic, even if it’s not ‘certified.'”

One of the couple’s goals is to grow most of their own food on their plot of former pasture. To that end, they spend time planting and tending their gardens with the help of a local employee, who comes three days a week.

“From what we’ve been told you spend the first two or three years planting and then you just cut stuff back,” says Steve, noting the ideal growing conditions in Arenal—a combination of rich volcanic soil and abundant sunshine and water.

“We have just under three acres, so we don’t have a huge finca. But we make a point every evening to take a 10-minute walk around our land.”

The couple continues to work part-time. With reliable high-speed internet, Steve, a former university professor, has no problem acting as an advisor to Ph.D. students studying with two online universities. He puts in about three or four hours a day—sometimes less—as needed. Email, Skype, and MagicJack make communication with his students easy.

Prudence is a freelance writer and the couple, who moved down from Wisconsin, are also writing a book together—a humorous detective novel.

“We have a lot more time together here. That’s been wonderful,” says Prudence, who adds that they also became empty nesters at the same time they moved.
“I feel like we’re breaking out of the ‘have to’ mode and into the ‘do what I’d like to do’ mode,” explains Steve.

They stay plenty busy in other ways, too. They belong to a book club, meet regularly for lunch with friends and the active expat community means there’s always something going on. Breakfasts, softball games, parties, community events…they’re also part of a Spanish language group to supplement their lessons from a private teacher.

Before coming to live permanently, the couple had visited a couple of times to check things out, although Prudence had visited the country 10 years ago. The fact that Costa Rica has no army was a big draw.

“I’d heard about Lake Arenal. So I went online and found a place. We showed up in the dark. When we woke up, we said, ‘It’s gorgeous! Let’s move here.’ We make a lot of decisions based on gut feeling. It just felt right. This was like home,” explains Steve.

The Tippins had considered other locations in the country, including the small seaside village of Dominical on the southern Pacific coast. But the heat and humidity of the beaches didn’t appeal to them. In Arenal, the weather is ideal; warm year-round but never too hot. There is a rainy season from about May to November.

“The rain makes it lush and easy to garden,” says Steve.

The couple bought a lot, drew up plans (reviewed by an architect), and hired a builder for their dream home overlooking the lake.

“We wanted the views. We built a home for us, not for resale. It’s a small two-bedroom home with a big deck. We live on that deck,” says Steve.

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