Ryan Gast couldn’t be happier. “At 30 years old, I found a way to semi-retire,” he says. “I’m healthier, happier, and surfing better than ever. I make enough to live here. I live a simpler lifestyle. I work. I surf. I go home. And that’s exactly what I wanted. I love being around like-minded people. I’m where I’m supposed to be.”
A typical day sees him sitting in front of his small surf shop. Friends riding by on bikes shout greetings…customers pop by regularly to ask about renting a board or taking surfing lessons…the vibe of this little community has a soothing effect.
Formerly of New Smyrna Beach, Florida, Ryan has been in Santa Teresa, a small surf town on Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula, for nearly four years.
He rents a home in the quiet Mal Pais area, a working fishing village. From his hilltop perch he can see the ocean and the waves. It’s a panoramic view that he enjoys every morning at sunrise—he’s an early riser.
Santa Teresa and Mal Pais, are booming. Upscale visitors are joining the backpacker and surfer crowd that started coming to the area before there was even reliable electricity.
These days you can find gourmet restaurants up and down the main road along the beach, as well as boutique hotels. There is high-speed internet, good cell phone coverage, and just about anything you need in the grocery store. But a genuine bohemian feel remains.
Ryan’s business 360° Surf Shop is one the area’s longest-running surf shops, having opened nearly a decade ago. It’s a quick walk to the beach, considered one of the best surf spots in Costa Rica, if not Central America. And when Ryan visited Santa Teresa for the first time in August 2011, it was for sale.
“I found it on Craigslist,” explains Ryan, who notes the asking price was $35,000. “I bought it after being in town for five days. I had never been to Costa Rica before.”
Having secured a way to make money and indulge in his love of surfing on a daily basis, he headed back to the U.S. to settle his affairs.
“I sold everything I had,” says Ryan. “People don’t realize that it’s not a huge risk. There is no reason you can’t go back. A lot of people put ‘security’ over enjoying life.”
Back home life was about the 9-to-5. He worked selling pistols, he’s a certified Glock armorer, and building custom diesel pick-up trucks like the F-650. It was stressful and he wasn’t happy. He wanted something new, he says, and Costa Rica provided the perfect out.
Now both life and business are good.
“I feel like I’ve accomplished things a millionaire never could. I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else,” says Ryan.
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