Dec 18 2019

In the Mailbag: Caja Payments, Retiring Overseas, Reading, and Cooking 

We always get lots of responses and questions from readers, both newsletter subscribers and on Facebook.

Hi Gloria,

I will be leaving Costa Rica July 22nd with a scheduled return on November 15th. How does this affect my CAJA payment? 


Hi Charles,

Thanks for getting in touch. You have two options as far as Caja payments are concerned. If you are going to be out of the country for at least 3 months, you can have the payments waived for the months you are gone. The procedure is in this article on our website:

The other option is to catch up on your missed payments when you return. When you come back on November 15th, the first Caja payment you make will be applied to August, the second payment to September, and so on. This is what we are choosing to do this year as we will be gone for 6 months and want to be able to use the Caja right after returning.

In other words, it will take four payments to make you current. The only way to not pay the missed payments is with the procedure in the article above. 

Hope this helps!



Hi Gloria,

My friend and I are seriously considering relocating to either Costa Rica or Mexico…we just need to get our ducks in a row. He is still running his business but I took early retirement with an excellent, transportable pension. Even if we just snowbird for a bit to transition. I am so looking forward to that.

I read your newsletter diligently and admire and envy the life you have built in CR.  Since I have you on the line I will tell you that I really enjoyed the video you took of the area around your home. I really like the no muss no fuss of it and how straightforward it was to give me a real idea. I spent a month two years ago in a little beach town in Mexico that was very very authentic and your video reminded me of that. 

Thank you for sharing your life and Inspiring us on.

Pura Vida


Awww, thanks Teresa. We really appreciate your kind words. I think my overarching aim for our website is to show people that it can be done and inspire them to choose their own happiness overseas if that is what is right for them.

Warm regards,



Hi Paul and Gloria,

I used to use my son’s library card in San Antonio to download free books through the overdrive system with Libby application.  I read on my android tablet.   I like it better than amazon, it doesn’t try to sell you anything, you have to put the books on hold and may not receive them for a while but most of the popular books are available, FREE.  

When my son didn’t get around to renewing his card and I was frantic for books I found out I could join the library for $200 a year OR….join the Philadelphia Free Library which has the same system and books, for only $50 a year.   I use a US mailing address (my daughters) to join as that is the same one I use for credit card and started reading the same day.  If anyone else loves to read and doesn’t have other access to plentiful top rate NY times bestsellers, etc.  check it out.


That’s very helpful, Brenda. Other voracious readers (like us) will appreciate the information! 


Hello there.

Thank you for your awesome blog. And for the cookbook. I haven’t used it yet but can’t wait! 
I would love some help. In March of this year, my husband and I bought a house in [Costa Rica]. We are age 53 and 55. We thought we would rent it (that has been going well) for about 7 years and then retire. But now we really have the bug to get down there full time. We are yearning for the Costa Rican life. I have been scouring your blog for information. I guess the biggest unknown/uncertainty is healthcare and the other question we ask ourselves is “what if we run out of money?” I know you guys live on $24,000/year. Do you calculate that out by your estimate remaining lifespan and call it good? We have a financial advisor and accountant.  I guess I am just wanting someone who is actually living it to tell me we can do it without worrying if we have X number of dollars saved. Plus social security when it kicks in. We are also interested in your healthcare tour.  


Hi Christine,

Thanks for getting in touch. And thanks for buying my book! I hope you find it helpful.

About our cost of living, what we write about is our actual spending, not necessarily a “budget” based on what we have to spend. When we came to CR, we really didn’t have anywhere near what we would need to live. We had Paul’s Social Security which, at the time, was only $922. (The requirement for residency in 2009 was only $600.) I was able to work online the first year for my former employer and we were able to bank most of it. Our savings, after buying a car, totaled about $28,000. I was only 52, so years away from Social Security. That’s one of the reasons we started our website and tours, in hopes of supplementing our income. We are in better shape now, though I am still not collecting Social Security. We invested our money wisely, then sold our house in Baltimore which netted us some profit. 

All that is to say that I have no idea how much money you will need for the rest of your lives. So much depends on your lifestyle, where you choose to live and whether you will buy or rent. In general, private healthcare here is a bargain compared to prices in the States. Take a look at MediSmart’s discount plan which we have used for a couple of years now. Besides the Caja, it’s all we have currently. 

I wish I could be more encouraging. We would love to have you join one of our healthcare tours. Maybe some concentrated time here investigating healthcare, costs, etc. would help you make a better decision for your situation.

Warm regards,


Hi Gloria, 
I hope you and Paul are doing well and that recent medical issues are behind you.  

So we have house and garden projects to work on… and I’m cooking more, on which subject I’m writing to you today.  Last time we were departing out of Tambor I watched a young woman sipping thick cream (?) from a baggie.  I didn’t get to ask her about it, but this trip I discovered Natilla in the grocery store.  Thinking it was heavy cream, I got some for my coffee.  Come to find out it is a bit like sour cream though not so sour…and, actually, do-able in coffee though not what I would necessarily choose.

A quick glance at your book and I do not see it.  Maybe it’s called different names? Online search translates it as thickened cream, or sour cream, or custard.  Quite the range!  

I read it is a staple in Costa Rican cooking, especially breakfast.  I’m wondering if you can help me unlock its mysteries: What am I actually getting, how do I distinguish between the types of Natilla in their unassuming baggies, and what kind of yummy CR recipes have you found that use it?

Thank you… looking for rainy day-night activities and cooking is certainly a good one.

Pura vida! All the best, Elisa

Hi Elisa,

Great to hear from you! I can only imagine what natilla in your coffee tasted like! It’s definitely not what that person was drinking. Natilla is listed in my book as “sour cream.” It’s not exactly the same, but I use it like I would use sour cream in everything from baking to dips to serving it with Mexican food — tacos, burritos, and in a sauce for enchiladas. I have used it in a sour cream coffee cake, served it with baked platanos (plantains) and with eggs. You can use it in any recipe calling for sour cream. It is usually sold in bags of various sizes or tubs. It comes in a “light” version or as the full-fat version. And you can buy it everywhere! As you noted, it is very commonly used in CR!

Hope this helps,



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