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Retire NOW in Costa Rica/Victoria Torley
See? Tiny lake view but lots of gardens. And that roof? My caretaker’s cottage.

'Costa Rica?  You must be nuts!'

By Victoria Torley*
A.M. Costa Rica columnist

Ask any person, anywhere, “Why do you live here,” and most of the time the response will be one of two basic answers:  “I grew up here” or “Work is here.”  There are other answers, of course, but these are the two most basic.

Now, ask an expat in Costa Rica the same question and you will get a number of different answers, but all of them have an underlying foundation.  First, the answers include:  the climate, the people, no army, the beaches, no snow, etc.  But the underlying foundation is the same:  “I chose to live here.”  Not work, not hometown, choice. 

Someone asked me, who are the people who make this choice?  Who are they and what are they like?  How are the different from people who don’t make this move?  Fortunately, I had thought about it and had an answer – more than one answer actually.

When we told friends we were moving to Costa Rica, the responses ranged from, “Are you nuts?” to “Wow” to outright envy and everything in between.

So, are we nuts?  Nah. Okay, maybe a little . . . and we do have our wack-jobs in Costa Rica. We also have our share of aging hippies and wanna-be’s as well as the survivalist here and there, plus some lucky younger people with portable careers, but most of us are just regular folks enjoying our lives and/or our retirements.  And oh, man, are we enjoying our retirement.

Costa Rica has everything (except maybe a lot of golf courses). Want to walk or hike? Open the door and out you go. Want to swim, dive, surf, wind surf, kite surf, or just laze on the sand? We’ve got that. Bird watching, hang gliding, zip lining, we have all that. Inventory pottery shards around the lake and study the area’s archaeology? Yup. Want to bike, horseback ride, play tennis, do some woodworking and learn a new language? Dine out, go to a museum or national park and investigate a volcano? We have all that. We also have excellent private healthcare, so excellent and inexpensive that I had shoulder surgery here instead of returning to the States. Dental care is also fantastic and so inexpensive that people vacation here just for the dental work.

There are some things we don’t have. Fast service is pretty slow. Sometimes we lose the TV signal or the internet due to the weather. We have some crime here (where is there no crime) and the justice system is sluggish. Car repair can be a headache here, and it is better to leave your car in the home country and buy a new car here as some mechanics will not touch a car unless it was made for Costa Rica. Yes, there are differences between, let’s say, a Nissan built for the U.S. and one built for Costa Rica. That’s why we have a new Kia.

So, with all there is to do and the minor (or major) annoyances we encounter, what is it like to live in Costa Rica.

I get up in the morning to a view to die for, rolling green hills, across a valley to the lake. It is not the spectacular lake view that some want, but it suits me. A spectacular lake view usually comes with a half acre or less of land and we have 11 acres, and I garden. What can I do with half acre?

The rest of the day? Could be breakfast and a Spanish lesson with friends. Could be shopping and cooking, lunch in the village, visiting friends for an afternoon of chat, volunteer work, walking the dogs, doing some photography, not to mention my huge gardens. I keep busy. And there is always catching up on my reading via Kindle.

Then there are the groups that meet: Bridge, poker, wine club, book discussion groups, garden club. If there isn’t a group for you, you can easily start one. Right now, we need a bird watching group. A lot of people have expressed interest, so there are plenty of opportunities but so far no formal group.

So, when people ask you “why do you live here,” you could say, “I work here” or “I was born here,” or you could say, “Are you nuts? This is Costa Rica! Where else would I choose to live?”

*Mrs. Torley writes a weekly column on tropical gardening in our flagship daily A.M. Costa Rica. She lives in Nuevo Arenal near the famous lake.
- Sept. 20, 2016
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II: Exploration HERE!
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