|International Living Postcards—Your Daily Escape Tuesday, 7 September, 2021 A few years back, California native Riley found himself at a crossroads in life.|
Needing a fresh start, he began exploring his options overseas and it wasn’t long before he determined that Costa Rica could well be the answer he was looking for. Riley’s story below.
Editorial Director, International Living Postcards *** A Fresh Start—and a $550-a-Month Rental—in Costa Rica
By Riley Jackson
After my wife, Cely, passed away in 2018, I was faced with some major changes in my life. It was at this time that I began to consider different places where I could relocate. I had heard some wonderful things about Costa Rica for many years and was curious to learn more.
I was looking for a place to retire and had a specific list of requirements which included, beautiful beaches, a tropical climate, a great healthcare system, and a lower cost of living compared to the U.S.—and not very far from California, where I am from. I was burned out and stressed from living in the Golden State. Things weren’t so “Golden” for me anymore, with the rising cost of living, property taxes, through-the-roof real estate prices, uncontrolled healthcare costs, neighborhood drug activity, homelessness—not to mention the political climate.
In February of 2019, I started researching all things Costa Rica and came across the International Living website and its section devoted to the country. After reading through the information, it was pretty much a done deal.
I decided to take a retirement tour in Costa Rica. It took me to the Southern Pacific side of Costa Rica first, including Uvita, Dominical, Quepos, Manuel Antonio, Jaco, and all of the gorgeous beaches and small towns in between. We also visited Escazú (the Beverly Hills of Costa Rica), Santa Ana, Heredia, Atenas, and Grecia.
I had heard some great things about Grecia in particular, which is located in the Central Valley about an hour from San José and 35 minutes from the airport. Known as the cleanest city in Costa Rica, Grecia has a small-town atmosphere with its population of about 17,000 people. I arrived there on a beautiful clear Sunday morning, and it truly felt like I had found home.
My mind was made up. Later that same year, I made the move.
Living here in Costa Rica is vastly different from living in the U.S., at least for me. Of course, there are some things in the U.S. that you cannot get here, but life here in Costa Rica makes up for that. One of my pet peeves about living in California was that I rarely received any kind of greeting, especially from young folks. What I’ve noticed most since living here in Costa Rica is that people here greet you with a smile and buenos días every morning. I really appreciate that.
Grecia has a large expat community, so you run into expats everywhere in town. We are a very tight-knit group, and most of us know each other. I find that the people here are happy and very welcoming and they will go out of their way to help you if you’re lost or having a problem with the language.
I haven’t taken up any new hobbies since moving to Costa Rica but I do have more leisure time on my hands. I’ve since remarried and my wife and I love to travel all around this beautiful country exploring these exotic places and beaches.
Many people will lead you to believe that Costa Rica is cheap… That, mi amigo, is not the whole truth. It depends entirely on your lifestyle. I try to live a very frugal lifestyle, pretty much like I lived in the States, on a monthly budget of about $2,000. We rent a four-bedroom, two-story house, surrounded by fruit trees, for $550 a month. Utilities, internet, and cell phone services are also less expensive than what I was used to paying in the States.
You can find rentals to suit all budgets in Grecia. We dine out at local restaurants, known as sodas, where good, wholesome meals cost around $6 per person. If you visit a soda for breakfast, you must try gallo pinto, a dish made of rice and beans and served with your choice of eggs, cheese, beef in sauce, or chicken. We shop at the local feri (market), either on Friday or Saturday morning, where fresh fruits, vegetable, fish, chicken, beef, cheeses, and freshly baked bread is all on offer. On my very first trip to the feria, I spent a total of $37 on fruit, veggies, fish, chicken, beef, and bread. These same food items at my local Costco in the States would have cost more than $140.
Transportation in Costa Rica is great but can be a little pricy depending on where you’re going. From my casa (house) to the town center, I catch the bus, which costs me less than $2 roundtrip. I’ve found a few very reliable shuttle services as well as private drivers that I use often; they’re on WhatsApp, which is widely used here in Costa Rica. Taxi and Uber services are also available all over the country and are some of the best I’ve seen anywhere. This is how I roll. Costa Rica has high-quality healthcare. Many doctors and dentists here underwent their training in the United States. One of the best parts about healthcare here is how inexpensive it is compared to back home. The Caja is the national healthcare system. You have to make a monthly payment to be able to access this universal healthcare. As an expat, once residency is acquired, you simply pay into the program, and your medical care is covered. The payment is typically 7% to 11% of your reported income, so for most, it is quite affordable. I’m not paying into the Caja system yet because I’m waiting for my residency documents to be finalized by Costa Rica immigration. I normally pay $50 out-of-pocket when I visit a doctor.
A typical day for me is waking up early as the sun rises and the birds are chirping while enjoying a delicious cup of Costa Rican coffee out on the patio. After a light breakfast, my wife and I stroll to the nearby soccer field for a one-mile walk and then back home where I begin working on a website project or a new blog post while my wife tends her organic garden or bakes a new bread recipe. Quite often we visit expat friends who live nearby or they visit us. My advice to anyone moving overseas is to do your due diligence first and, if possible, visit your desired country to see if it’s a good fit. I’m still a relative newbie here in Costa Rica and still learning the ropes but I have come to one conclusion… You can’t buy happiness but you can move to Costa Rica!
About Riley Jackson
Riley resides in the Central Valley Pacific Coast region of Costa Rica, an area with rich volcanic fertile soil that is home to numerous sugar cane and coffee plantations. I am a web designer and blogger from Southern California who has been involved in web design since 2006, following twelve years as a territory sales representative for three major flooring distribution firms. I’ve thought about visiting Costa Rica for many years and finally had the opportunity in April 2019. It was love at first sight.
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