Welcome to our RetireForLessInCostaRica.com Newsletter!
In This Issue:
- Merry Christmas from Costa Rica
- Moving On: Part I
- Moving On: Part II — Change is Hard. Really.
- Our November Cost of Living
- Bugs in Costa Rica
- Off to New Adventures Aboard “Dragon’s Wing”
- iPad Digital Art Workshops Coming to Costa Rica
- Featured House for Sale
Merry Christmas from Costa Rica
To all of our family, friends, and readers, we wish you the happiest of holidays, no matter what you celebrate at this time of the year. For us, we are happy to be celebrating another Christmas in Costa Rica. We look forward to a new year ahead of adventures, love, and learning and hope to continue sharing it with you. Thank you for reading our newsletters and engaging with us.
Moving On: Part I
One of the great things about renting is that you are free to pick up and move so much more easily. We have always thought that it would be great to try living in other parts of Costa Rica, or even to visit other countries, like Mexico, Ecuador and Nicaragua, for months at a time. But truth be told, I am just a homebody at heart. As long as I can remember, I have tried to make anyplace I live into home. And that is certainly true for living at the Cabinas.
Paul and I moved into Cabina #7 at El Castillo de Relajamiento over 3 ½ years ago and have come to love it, to think of it as home. It’s the only home our cats have known and it’s been a place where we have thrived.
We made it our own, with a “Caribbean Cabina” décor, books and photos from our house in Baltimore, a pareo of a blue morpho butterfly hanging on our bedroom wall, and white twinkle-lights on the porch.
We have developed habits and traditions here, like dinners with friends al fresco, Paul’s morning walks with nearby friends, and his weekly trek to the community washer and drier, located up the hill at the rancho.
We know the sounds here: the “guava-bombs” that hit the roof when the Christmas winds blow, the chattering hummingbirds drinking from the feeder outside our bedroom window, and the ever-present trucks on the Autopista just below us.
We know the sights as well: the beautiful, curving drive up the hill at the main entrance of the cabinas, the troupes of coatimundis that visit when foraging for food, and our neighbor’s standard poodle, Pogo, who is the picture of pure joy when he gallops down the hill to our cabina. In so many ways, this cabina has been home to us.
So it is not lightly that I tell you that we are moving. As a matter of fact, by the time you read this, we will be in our new rental house. We’re only moving a mile away as the crow flies, about 10 minutes away by car. “Why,” I can hear you asking, “when you’ve been so happy where you are??” There are lots of reasons:
- When you live in an area for a while, especially one with a lot of microclimates like Costa Rica, you discover that there are pockets where the weather is more in line with what you like. The house we are moving to is located at about 3,000 feet elevation, so it’s a bit warmer and sunnier than where we are living now. We’ve spent a lot of time over the years visiting friends who live in the neighborhood, so we know what to expect in terms of climate.
- We will be selling our house in Baltimore in about a year and will ship down some boxes of things we want to keep. We are pretty maxed out here at the cabinas and knew that we would eventually need to find a place with more room.
Remember that Tico house we wrote about last month? This house is just about 200 meters away, so it has the incredible views out to the Gulf of Nicoya and to the mountains that we loved in that other house.
- This house is move-in-ready and completely furnished, so we don’t need to buy or renovate anything.
- We are friends with the owners so they can continue to enjoy the house when they come to visit. It’s a win-win situation.
There are, of course, some new concerns with moving into an individual house as opposed to living at the cabinas, not the least of which is security, but we’ll write about these things in future newsletters. For now, it’s time to get back to unpacking!
- El Castillo de Relajamiento Cabinas in Beautiful San Ramon, Costa Rica
- Considering a “Typical Tico House”
Even when it’s a good change, it’s still change. It disrupts your habits (which can be good), relocates all of your possessions, and messes with your body and mind. And if you have pets, well, it can freak them out.
We moved into our new rental house this past week and spent the night for the first time on Wednesday. The house is beautiful, three bedrooms, two full baths, and about 450 sq. feet of outdoor living space on two floors. It is nestled in the jungle-covered hills outside of San Ramon, surrounded by banana plants bearing fruit, and in one of our favorite sweet spots in Costa Rica. And we live here now! Wow, right?
Right. But even with the “wow factor,” all change is stressful and it has been so for our little family. Paul and I seem to take turns lying awake at night, listening to all of the new sounds, both inside and outside of the house, knowing that they will soon fade into the background. We are sleeping in a 2nd floor bedroom with large glass windows and at night we look out at the stars and the lights of Puntarenas in the distance. We call it our “tree-house room.” Because it’s so beautiful, lying there wide awake is a peaceful experience, though we pay for it in the morning.
Most of our boxes are unpacked, and things are getting put away in a, hopefully, well-thought-out way, but we still wander from room to room, upstairs and downstairs, searching for whatever we are looking for at the moment. All the newness will take some time to become not-so-new.
For our cats, it has been stressful even more so. For the first 48 hours, we kept them in one of the bedrooms with their food and litter box, and we would spend time with them throughout the day. Tori stayed mostly on a shelf looking out the window, and Laura chose to hide under the covers, a little lump curled up under the spread. If I lifted the covers to pet her, she just wormed her way further down the bed where she could hide undisturbed. Tori, our normally ravenous cat, just nibbled on her food while Laura didn’t touch hers. Was I worried? Oh, yes.
It will be at least a week before we let the cats venture outside during the day (and we will always keep them inside at night.) Being kept inside is hardest for little Laura, who was a bit feral when she wandered onto our patio at 3 months old, and she has never known any life but the hills and trees outside our cabina. Laura is no longer hiding under the covers and has taken to running from room to room, meowing unceasingly for hours at a time to be let out. But now it’s day number five in our new house, and we are seeing signs of the cats beginning to adjust. Laura’s bouts of stressed-out meowing have become much shorter in duration and both cats are freely exploring their new home. As I lay awake in bed last night, I could hear them chasing each other up and down the stairs and from room to room. I could also hear them munching on their cat chow throughout the night and I woke up, happily, to empty food bowls for the first time.
Paul and I are adjusting also. The kitchen is pretty much set up, a huge thing for someone who likes to cook and bake, like me, and someone who likes to eat, like Paul – okay, that would be me, too! Paul is doing a load of laundry and looking forward to watching football this afternoon. I am going to lay out our newsletter and put away some more “stuff” (amazing what two people can accumulate in less than four years). Life is normalizing. Our cats seem calmer and that makes me calmer. Even they are developing routines, with their own preferred places to curl up and snooze during the day.
As the chaos of moving settles down, so do we. It’s Sunday morning, we have all the windows open, the sun is shining, puffy white clouds are traveling across the blue sky, hummingbirds and butterflies are feasting in the flowering shrubs, and we finally have time to just breathe. Over the last five days, we have slowly moved from being sad about moving from our cute little cabina in the woods, to being peaceful and content about moving to our new home. In so many ways, our lives at the cabina defined our experience of living in Costa Rica, and it was surprisingly hard to leave that behind. But we have now truly begun the next phase of our lives here. The dust has settled enough that we can see the beauty of what lies ahead.
Since we were busy in November giving tours of San Ramon and the western Central Valley, and traveling more than usual, we had some higher than normal car expenses. In addition to gas, this includes some regular maintenance (2 new brake pads in front & 2 new brake shoes in rear; oil change, lube & filter, clutch adjustment – total cost: $128), as well as the replacement of our car alarm (total cost: $60, including installation.)
Gloria’s food processor also needed to be replaced as her old one (which lasted more than 20 years, by the way) finally died. Since she uses it to make homemade peanut butter and lots of other things, she shopped around and found a great one for $60.
We also made a trip to PriceSmart to stock up on a few things, so our grocery bill this month was higher than normal. In general, we’ve noticed a slight increase in the cost of groceries which can be attributed to inflation. Our goal is to spend $300 per month in groceries. Note: this does not include eating out in restaurants, which has its own category.
In the coming months, with moving to a new house, we anticipate seeing our expenses change somewhat. We will be paying rent plus utilities, it other words, there will be some fluctuation as the utilities are not included in the rent and will depend on usage. This applies mostly to electricity and propane (for hot water and cooking).
Here are our expenses for the previous two months:
- Things Happen – Our September Budget Update
- Our 2012 Annual Cost of Living Update
- Update on Our Cost of Living in Costa Rica
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Eat Less Meat and More Fruits and Vegetables
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Buy Local
Bugs in Costa Rica
Bugs. I have never liked bugs and it was one of my main concerns about moving to the tropics, to Costa Rica. I’m here to tell you that the bug scare was just a false alarm. I had nothing to fear. Bugs, it turned out, were a non-issue for me. If I can live with the bugs in Costa Rica, anyone can.
Well, just how good or bad are they? The best thing I can tell you is that the bugs in Florida are much, much worse. I’ve visited Florida and they were everywhere, even though they spray a lot for bugs there. The cleanest houses had them. Swimming pools are screened-in so people can enjoy themselves outside. But like everything, I guess you just get used to bugs if you live around them all the time. I’m sure the same can be said for Costa Rica.
Like in the States, one of the main nuisance bugs here is the mosquito, but for whatever reason, they don’t like me. But Gloria, as sweet as her blood is, attracts them readily. Yet I know others who are even more attractive to mosquitoes than Gloria.
In Costa Rica, the mosquito line is at about 2,500 feet in elevation, with more mosquitoes as you go lower and fewer as you go higher. At the cabinas, we lived at about 4,000 feet elevation and they were not a very big problem, hovering mostly around our ankles at dusk or in the tall grasses. It would behoove one to wear socks. Remember, at the cabinas, we had screens on our windows but kept the front door open all day. That being said, we saw mosquitoes around but they were a non-issue in our enjoyment of our porch and the outside.
The mosquitoes we have around here are small and black. Dengue mosquitoes are different and are present in some areas of Costa Rica, but it’s not a huge problem. Just be sure to apply insect repellent liberally during the rainy season or when near standing water.
But, what about other bugs? They’re out there and they come inside through the openings in our cabina, including the front door. About 5:45 am every morning, I would open the front door and sweep the front porch. Since we always left our porch light on during the night, in the mornings there would be 100s, sometimes 1000s, of little dead specks (and a few not-so-little) on our porch. I swept them into the bushes – I figured they were fertilizer.
There are different kinds of bugs at different times of year. For the most part, they’re harmless, although some grow quite large. Some are interesting looking, actually quite beautiful, though beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
In the few days that we’ve been living in our new, well-screened, house, located about 1000 ft. lower in elevation, and about 5 degrees warmer than the cabinas, we’ve noticed some different kinds of bugs, most notably moths. At night, we see hundreds of them outside our bedroom windows flying towards the light and trying to get in, but in the morning, all traces of them have disappeared. However, since we’ve only been here a short time, we don’t really know what to expect since it takes a full year to see the cycle. We assume that since we’re lower, there will be more bugs. We’ll keep you posted.
Off to New Adventures Aboard “Dragon’s Wing”
by Gail Sommers
My husband, Paul, is settling into “boat mode,” as we get ready to leave Costa Rica. Obsessively checking weather reports for crossing the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas, ordering parts for items that need to be taken care of when Paul returns to Florida to do minor boat repairs, it’s all very different from the routine we’ve gotten into here for the past four months.
We said goodbye to our excellent Spanish teacher, Johann Benavides, and hope that he’ll have space for us when we return next April. We’ve also had dinners, coffee, etc. with friends we’ve made here. Even though we’ll only be gone for four months, we feel as if we’ve only begun to settle in here.
We arranged for house-sitters to stay here at our house in San Ramon while we’re gone. Our feisty, wonderful, old cat, Mischa, and lively dog, Oksana, will remain here in Costa Rica. With the uncertainty of the trip, being in some remote areas in the Bahamas where we may have to land a dinghy through the waves (or not at all), the logistics are such that we believe the pets will be happier if they remain here in the house that is familiar, and with house-sitters who love animals.
I made a last trip to the wonderful local feria, stopping at many of the usual vendors: the organic stand, where I got beautiful carrots, a sweet pepper, and that wonderful green called “espinaca,” which isn’t really spinach, but is quite good in its own right. Then a stop at Paul’s favorite papaya vendor, to shake hands all around and explain why there will be no papayas today. Finally a stop at the “pork boys,” for a few of their divine chuletas (smoked pork chops) and a little ham.
Paul flies to Florida about a week before I do, getting ready to do battle with all of the small and not-so-small projects to get “Dragon’s Wing” ready to go. New water tanks and tubing, general clean up of mildew and dust, sanding and painting the deck, general tidying of the boat and stowing some of the supplies, so when I get there I can take inventory and make additional purchases. Never having gone to the Bahamas (and having heard that food is extremely expensive there), we hope to lay in a good supply of canned goods
and water. And I’m looking forward to all the fresh coconut water I can drink!
In the meantime at home in Costa Rica, I’ll take care of a lot of little things that need to be done before we leave: dealing with the annual license and insurance for the car, called “marchamo,” as well as arranging for the annual emissions’ inspection, Riteve, paying our bills for utilities, etc. Even stocking up on things like pet food, which is quite expensive in Costa Rica — we don’t want the pets to run out of food and don’t think it should be the responsibility of the house-sitters, so we’ve laid in quite a supply, which we hope will be sufficient.
Even though we’ll be back soon – not soon enough! – it’s bittersweet to leave here. We will miss our beloved pets, our friends here, our house, the feria. And it doesn’t help my mood that this morning dawned sunny, with broken clouds and a lovely breeze, the sort of day you dream about on a cold and rainy day in the Pacific Northwest from where we moved.
But once we get aboard “Dragon’s Wing,” it will be a different sort of existence. I resist it now, but know that it will be interesting – always interesting! – with amazing new places along the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) and then the trip to the Bahamas, where the language will be the same, but the culture completely different.
Fair winds to all!”
- Costa Rica Snow-Birds with a Twist – Aboard the “Dragon’s Wing”
- Getting Ready for the Big Move to Costa Rica
From time to time, we receive notes from our readers that we think would be helpful to others, so we will begin publishing them, with the writer’s permission, in our “Mailbag” section. We chose the following note to share with you, not because the writer is complimentary to us, but because it includes some thoughtful responses to things we wrote about in our last newsletter and adds something meaningful, we think, to the discussion.
Paul & Gloria,
Another amazing mid-month newsletter. Tricia and I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I always pay close attention to your monthly budgets and how they change from month to month. It helps me prepare in my mind how we need to live once we are on a fixed income in Costa Rica. Things can change here from one month to another, and right now it is no problem to simply take the additional cost out of savings, or simply write a check for the unexpected expense with minimal thought or consequence. Once we are in Costa Rica, we won’t have that luxury, so you are helping me to get it right now!
Understanding that you and others often say that “Costa Rica isn’t for everyone”, we also pay close attention to why that must be true when it is repeated over and over. We believe that we have addressed and conquered that problem with our attitudes and expectations.
Regarding the standard of living section, it is sooooo true that we have just too much stuff. Let me repeat that. We have too much stuff. We have had two good garage sales, and we have rid ourselves of a bunch of stuff. The problem is, we still have a bunch of stuff to sell, give away, or dump before moving to Costa Rica. This entire process of planning our move has opened our eyes so much to living a more simple life.
We sold our home and moved into a very nice rental home with about 1/2 the sq. footage we had, and the rent is more than 1/2 less than we were paying for our mortgage. You wouldn’t believe the pressure that has been taken off of us. We are so much more comfortable here than we were in our fancy home. We come home so much more relaxed and spend more time together.
My point on that is that once we are in Costa Rica, we have already figured out that we can still live a more simple life than our past year “downsizing”, and be happier.
We have learned that it is not about the stuff… And it is stuff….
We thank you both for your guidance and honest opinions with no agenda. That is what makes the Yeatman’s so very special.
Carlos & Tricia Canada”
- Raising Your Standard of Living
- Costa Rica Isn’t for Everyone?
- Back on Track – Our October 2012 Budget Update
iPad Digital Art Workshops Coming to Costa Rica
- Where: We’re hoping to offer it in three locations in Costa Rica — Atenas, Escazu/San Jose, and San Ramon
- When: During the last two weeks of of February, 2013
- Cost: $80 for the full day workshop, including lunch.
Digital artist, Mandy McMahan, leads the class in interactive, step-by-step approaches and makes using the iPad technologically approachable, intellectually stimulating, and fun.
Using the iPad as a mobile art studio, participants will create their own digital fine art works using a combination of up to 6 drawing and painting apps.
- create your own unique fine art, collage and photo altered pieces.
- use iPad painting and drawing apps both individually and in tandem
- navigate through importing and exporting source material.
- learn methods for sharing your art on the internet.
- learn how to take your art from your iPad to your wall.
All ages welcome. Materials: Any model iPad; an iTunes account and knowledge of downloading apps.
If you are interested in more details about this workshop, please contact us at email@example.com.
Sharing tools, techniques and approaches for the creation of beautiful art is one of the most satisfying things I can do in this lifetime.”
To learn more about Mandy and to see more of her art, visit her website, Mandy’s Digital Art Place.
We thought we’d feature a house right in our new neighborhood, Magallanes de San Ramon.
Ready to Move Into Spacious Home $140,000
This 2,200 sq. ft. home in Magallanes/San Ramon has 4 bedrooms and 2 full baths and an attached 2 car garage with work shop and a large deep lot with beautiful views. The electrical and plumbing have been updated. This home is completely ready to move into.
Area: 0.24 Acres
Construction: 2200 ft2
- Incredible Views
- Covered Parking
Facebook, Twitter, & YouTube
What’s New on the Website
Check out our newest posts on www.retireforlessincostarica.com:
- What Do the Happiest Expats Have in Common?
- America is No Place to Get Old In
- The Bunkers’ Road to Costa Rica
- Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Live Where You Don’t Need Heat or Air-Conditioning
- Costa Rica Isn’t for Everyone?
- The Central Valley Town of Grecia
- Raising Your Standard of Living
- Considering a “Typical Tico House”
- Explore Costa Rica and Learn Spanish at the Same Time
- Why We Chose Costa Rica
- Documents You Need to Open a Bank Account in Costa Rica
That’s all for this month, but we’ll be back in touch soon! If you enjoy our newsletter, please share it with your friends. We hope to see you online!
Gloria & Paul Yeatman
San Ramon de Alajuela, Costa Rica
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