Living Simply and Happily in Costa Rica With Rent of $420 a Month

Houston native Bailey Colby moved to Costa Rica in July 2015 after landing a teaching job at a local school. “I had visited this area before and loved it because it’s such a short distance to so many places. Each beach is different than the next, you have tiny, quiet towns and busy towns nearby and you’re also close to the airport in Liberia, so it’s a really great location,” she says of the Potrero area and its surrounding communities.

While she’s busy with work during the week, Bailey says she does feel like on the weekends and during time off work she’s able to lead daily life as if she were on vacation. “I’m not much of a planner, I’d much prefer to just go with the flow, so the vacation vibe and atmosphere of this place is a good fit for me,” she says. “On the weekends I like to wake up fairly early and see where the day takes me—I love being able to choose from so many beautiful beaches; I just go and maybe enjoy the sun for a bit and then find a tree for some shade and chill out. I can visit different restaurants and take care of errands or I can just be lazy and lay in a hammock all day if I want to.”

People have been the reason Bailey has come to love Potrero. “There are amazing expats and locals here. People look out for one another here as if they were family,” says Bailey. “I don’t know of many places you can live where you can go into a restaurant or store having forgot your wallet, and still be served and trusted that you’ll come back later or the next day to pay your bill.”

Bailey says in her time living in Potrero, the famous Costa Rican slogan Pura Vida has come to mean “simple is better,” for her. “The experience of moving and living here has really shown me you can be wealthy in happiness and that we don’t really need to worry about the ‘extra’ things out there that are just really distractions,” she says. “We all have our guilty pleasures and that’s fine, but you learn to balance them with things that are simple and pure, and it makes for a nice lifestyle.”

For a small one-bedroom apartment, Bailey and her boyfriend pay about $420 per month including their utility bills. “Food is probably the biggest expense variable. We both really enjoy cooking at home which is more budget friendly, but we like to go out every now and again too. When we go out, I probably won’t order a casado (a traditional, simple Costa Rican dish of rice and beans), which would be the cheapest option—I’m more likely to order a nice blackened tuna dish for example,” Bailey added. “How much you spend on food comes down to the choices you make.”

On traveling within Costa Rica, Bailey says everywhere has something unique and interesting to offer. “The Arenal region is beautiful with a refreshing climate and abundant wildlife. I love that along the coast it’s always hot, but usually breezy too and the diversity from beach to beach always leaves something new to be discovered. If we’re going into the city, the areas close to San José actually remind me of being back in Houston. The culture of course is somewhat different, but people are leading that on-the-go city life. One of my favorite things to do is drive up in the mountains of San Isidro to get fresh strawberries, Queso Palmito (a soft, salty, fresh white farm cheese), and breathe in the cold, crisp, mountain air,” she says.

Bailey says after two years she’s learned when she needs to be patient about adjusting to life in Costa Rica and do some extra planning. “Sometimes you need to drive to Liberia, Santa Cruz, or even San José to take care of official business, which at first feels inconvenient, but you learn to be flexible and prepare for it. My biggest advice to someone would be to come and stay for one month to see what day-to-day life is really like, and then decide if it’s something you could do more permanently,” she says. “For me, I have found such a sense of community and peace here, dealing with some of the challenges was just a matter of learning.” She says there hasn’t been a challenge that has made her question her decision; the small, community-oriented town of Potrero is home now.

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