Busted Flat in California – Let’s Move to Costa Rica!

Pura Vida was his sign-off on his Match.com profile. Pura vida? What did this guy from Montana know about Pura Vida? If he hadn’t signed off that way, we never would have met … or should I say re-met?

Retirement in Costa RicaWhat, exactly, does Pura Vida mean? Literally translated it means pure life. Costa Ricans use it frequently for many different reasons. The first time I visited Costa Rica in 1989, I was told to use it often. It never failed to break the ice or bring a smile to the face of the receiver. I learned it meant many things – rather like Hawaii’s “aloha”: hello, goodbye, I like you, have a nice day, relax, everything is just fine, nothing we can do about it, lucky us, things could be worse, life is good, enjoy life, life is short – eat dessert first!

Pura vida brought us together; pura vida keeps us together. Shortly after our first date, we discovered we had known each other twenty-two years prior; he was my dressage horse-riding instructor in Santa Cruz, California, but due to his strict “no dating student” rule, we didn’t connect on a romantic level. Looking back, the timing would have been off anyway; we each had adventures to pursue which, at the time, would not have been compatible.

According to his profile, he was looking for a woman who would be comfortable living in Costa Rica. I had mostly given up on finding an age-appropriate man to share life with, and was on the verge of deleting my profile and moving to Costa Rica, where my parents live, to pursue my writing aspirations.

One little “Pura Vida” changed everything!

Our first date ignited a whirlwind romance! We set about building a life together as baby boomer newlyweds starting from scratch. Due to a variety of circumstances, we were both free and clear of all stateside obligations, and both collecting social security. He suggested we could live nicely in a town called Atenas, on our combined income. I said he was crazy, based on the price of living in Nosara, Guanacaste, where I spent most of my Costa Rica time.

We booked our flight and started exploring options. The first stop – “El Sueño de Mariana”, the magical spot built as a family home, but evolved into an elegant retreat. We drove from San Jose to Nicoya, the capital of Guanacaste, and the last big town before turning onto the dirt road for the one hour drive to Don and Micki’s palace. Retirement in Costa RicaI suggested we buy supplies in Nicoya as they would be cheaper than Nosara. He said: “Can’t we just buy fruits and vegetables at the Farmer’s Market?”

“What Farmer’s Market? There is no such thing in Nosara.”

He looked astonished. “In Atenas there is a big outdoor market every Friday where you can get your whole week’s supply of food for under $20.”

“Ha!” I answered, “For $20 you might get a pineapple and a couple of avocados! Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but it is NOT cheap there. When’s the last time you went to this so-called farmer’s market in Atenas? I think you’ll be surprised to see today’s prices. You’ve been reading fairy tales on the internet.”

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  1. GREAT !!!!!!

  2. I very much enjoyed reading your post Carole, it made me, “kinda wonder,” if I could live there? I have a friend from high school who moved there several years ago. She loves it. Anyway, I’m happy for you and your honey. See you next post.

  3. Carole Connolly-Shaw

    February 28, 2014 at 1:01 am

    Maggie. I KNOW you. YOU can do anything!! Come on down. The weather’s fine!

  4. Another brilliant piece of writing. You really do make it all come so alive! I want to visit Atenas one of these days. Keep writing!

  5. Thanks for a more realistic view of retirement/living in Costa Rica. It’s not for everyone and since the “days” when your parents went there,built, etc. the cost of land, building and living has escalated. The Ticos are not so gullible now.
    Artenas sounds like a reasonable retirement community for folks fleeing the high cost of living in Calif. and elsewhere .

  6. Robert Leaman Sanders

    February 28, 2014 at 3:58 am

    I like this piece very, very much. It is fun to read and I am now considering a visit to Costa Rica!

  7. Carole ~ Read this while having my morning coffee in FL. This wonderful Blog piece is vibrant, especially for us “visual” folks, & made me really, really homesick for Costa Rica in general, & for our beautiful Atenas in particular! There is one theme that runs throughout this piece–OPTIMISM!! When we change our lifestyle, move–especially to a different country, where we need to be able to merge with a new culture–do anything that many would consider to be “off the charts,” the one main ingredient in the onset of our NEW ADVENTURE must truly be OPTIMISM! You & DonnyK exude it! Thanks for this terrific Blog! C U next week!

  8. Hi Carol I finally put the date of my retirement in……end of March…..who knows I may see you before the Reunion in Oct…ha-ha…..love your blogs …..can you add a photo of the casita one of these days……

  9. Hi Carol.
    Enjoy reading your blog!! DId you end up living in the casita with the pool in Atenas that you saw? If not, did you find a home in a gated community? We are moving to CR soon. I did some research on the climate. National Geographic did not make the claim that Atenas has the best climate in the world. A real estate agency coined the phrase to attract buyers. I have heard that it gets real hot in Atenas. Is that true? We want to live in an area where you don’t need A/C or heat. We’re thinking of Grecia? Do you need A/C in Atenas? Am I right or wrong that A/C is needed? Thanks for your interesting blog!

  10. Renee
    Check Lake Arenal, you love it here, the weather is so good all year around ,, no need of A/C. Long lasting Tropical Spring!!!

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