“I Live Steps Away from the Beach in Costa Rica”

I live just a few steps from a white-sand beach. At just 38 years old I’m retired. In fact, I’ve been retired in the traditional sense—from a 40-hour-a-week, full-time job—since I was 35.

I realized that there was more to life than working. I figured that if I stopped spending money on expensive clothes, shoes that looked pretty but hurt my feet, and dining out every night I’d have a better work-play balance.

So I quit my day job and sold most of my possessions on Craigslist. The rest I donated—it’s amazing how many knickknacks you can live without.

Finally, I bought a plane ticket to Costa Rica.

Cost of living: $450 a month

I was living on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, at the time. It’s a beautiful, majestic place, but the cost of living is high and it’s crowded. In Costa Rica there are still vast amounts of uninhabited land at affordable prices. And I knew that with Costa Rica’s lower cost of living, my current savings would last more than a year without having to earn much of an income.

I’ve used my new-found time to pursue my passion for photography and I’ve been successful enough as a freelance photographer—working just a few hours per month—to live comfortably. My cost of living is $450 per month, including housing and groceries. Add to that my weekly massage and daily bus fares and my total monthly expenditure is $600.

Not bad when you consider I was paying $1,000 a month in Hawaii for rent alone!

Fresh fruit and vegetables are abundant here at excellent prices. A bag of 10 medium-sized tomatoes sells for $1, as does a bag of 10 medium-sized green and red bell peppers. In Hawaii, 10 tomatoes and 10 bell peppers would sell for $10 and $30, respectively.

Costa Rican coffee, high in quality and rich in taste, is abundant and inexpensive at about $3-$5 per pound.

My $300-a-month (including electric, phone and water), 900-square-foot studio home sits on an acre of land and it’s directly across the street from a lovely, secluded beach.

On my daily walks I encounter clans of monkeys swinging from trees, spectacular butterflies flitting by and striped iguanas frantically chasing one another.

I knew I could not leave Hawaii for just anywhere. I love Hawaii’s clear, warm waters; waves (for surfing); mountains (for hiking); beautiful beaches; blue skies; gorgeous sunsets; and fresh fruit. I knew I could only leave Hawaii’s splendor if I were to move somewhere comparable—and Costa Rica does not disappoint.

While I miss the aloha spirit of the people of Hawaii, Costa Ricans have their own version called pura vida, which translates as “pure life.” Most everyone I meet in passing offers a smile and a greeting.

People often ask me where in the world Hawaiians go for vacation, since Hawaii is so spectacular. Well, my Hawaiian friends and family now have an equally magnificent place to visit.

In one way my life here is really similar to home. In Costa Rica I spend most days at the beach. The difference here is that I can actually afford to live right beside it.

Editor’s note: If Marika’s story interests you, good news—it’s the best time in a decade to buy Costa Rican beach. In the current issue of International Living magazine, you’ll find some of the best opportunities. Find out more about IL’s monthly magazine here.

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