“If you can work from anywhere, why not stay in the U.S. and just go wherever you want?”
I live in Costa Rica and I get asked this question a lot. The short answer is…I love it here. But for those who really want to know, I can share a multitude of reasons.
In Costa Rica, I can do my work while being immersed in a culture that values personal free time, quality time with family and friends, and time to be in nature—not just in work. As a remote worker, I can control my own schedule, and in my free time I can be a part of an environment that supports balance. If I were still surrounded by the hustle and bustle in Chicago, this would be more difficult to accomplish.
But there are also very practical reasons for living here. Costa Rica allows me affordable out-of-pocket healthcare, even with no insurance at all if I choose. I can pay $50 to see a doctor and maybe another $10 or $20 for prescribed medication, rather than avoiding the doctor with the worry that I might end up dropping an entire week’s pay.
My husband, Junior, and I both work online; he works as a web developer and I work as a writer. And when we decided to leave the U.S. and head for an international destination, there were just a few boxes on our checklist that we wanted to tick before we settled anywhere.
First and foremost, we needed reliable internet. In Costa Rica you can find reliable internet, but when you’re looking for a place to live it’s important to find out what the service options are available. A place that gives you more than one option is always going to be superior to being boxed into one choice. A typical cable provider in Costa Rica offers two megabytes per second as their standard internet speed. For anyone who relies on the internet for work this can be very slow. However, most companies offer options for speed upgrades. We upgraded our speed with our local cable company to 20 megabytes and we pay about $85 per month for the service. We both use it constantly for work, Skype calls, streaming music, and streaming Netflix in the evening—all without glitches or bandwidth issues.
Another major factor was time zone. For us, the majority of the clients we work with are based in the U.S. In Costa Rica, for half the year we’re on Central Time and the other half we’re just one hour behind. This makes it very easy and practical for client communication and maintaining reasonable work hours. In that same vein, if we need to travel to the States to visit a client, we can be there in half a day at reasonable cost. It’s not like we have to pay an arm and a leg to fly halfway across the world.
Furthermore, in Costa Rica, earning U.S. dollars from remote work is easy to do and it’s widely accepted in shops. Typically, we can even withdraw money from the ATM in dollars if we need or want to. We don’t deal with any complications related to currency exchange.
Finally, believe it or not, Costa Rica is a great place to network as a remote worker. Why? Because there are lots of people here doing the same exact thing. Visit a coffee shop in town with your computer and you’re likely to bump into other people doing the same. It’s always helpful to have a community of people you can bounce ideas off of and share experiences with.
There are tons of reasons why we’ve chosen to live in Costa Rica: the culture, the climate, the natural landscape, the lifestyle, and the people. But as a place that caters well to remote workers, it’s hard to beat.
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