When we first investigated how to retire early, and where we could do this, we made a list of “needs” and “wants” – we’ve both worked on trade studies in our technical careers, so this was nerdy second nature to us ;).
Our original list, and how
· Affordable (can we live there on less than $30,000 / year):
· Safety (laws, enforcement, history, stability, how does it feel): CR has been a stable democracy for over a century, with one 2-week civil war in 1948. It has no army; the government saw that the main purpose served by the neighboring armies was to control their countries, not to protect them. The people are welcoming and friendly. They are generally happy and caring. The country gets earthquakes, but they build for them (and we are used to this phenomenon, being from
· Able to live there year-round (weather, visas, residency):
· Religion (tolerant, doesn’t dominate life and laws, the people are not fanatical): Catholicism is
Wants (weighted and scored)
· Language (English, or able to learn fairly easily): Weight = 9, Score = 7. Spanish is spoken in
· Easy to travel “home”: Weight = 7, Score = 8. It is physically possible to drive to
· Easy to establish residency: Weight = 9, Score = 8. The Association of Residents of Costa Rica (ARCR) is an organization that helps people immigrate. The information is easy to get, and the immigration laws are such that we could do it without too much risk.
· We fit in (purely feeling): Weight = 9, Score = 8. This is almost simple gut reaction. Are we comfortable walking around the towns? Do we feel energized or depressed? Is it likely we can adjust through all the phases of the culture shock we know is coming?
· Interesting (culture, activities): Weight = 8, Score = 8.
· Dangerous diseases (few or none, please): Weight = 7. Score = 7. I am including snakes and bug bites here. There are something like 20 different venomous snakes in
· Medical care (accessible and good): Weight = 8, Score = 9. Any resident may buy into the state-run medical insurance ($60/month for both of us. It is less if you are older – yes, *older* - the extra that younger people pay goes towards a pension.). There are several excellent private and public hospitals, but the best ones are in
· Expatriate community (available, supportive): Weight = 8, Score = 8. There are many centers for ex-pat support. These include ARCR, internet groups, and local hang-outs in most towns (and they are amazingly easy to find).
Since visiting and living in different towns in
· A Central Market – variety is the spice of life
· Friendly people, with few ulterior motives (this is difficult to determine, and even more difficult to agree on)
· Able to find housing within 10 blocks of the center of town (5 is even better, as we’re still trying to go car-less)
· Feels safe (emphasis in addition to above list) – not necessarily all places in a town (most towns of size anywhere will have *some* “bad” parts), but safe enough that a woman can walk around alone at night
· Climate – cooler elevations (1200-
· Community – need to be part of an artist/music/movie community (how far away is too far?) – near UCR, or other center
· Entertainment / Mental Stimulation – we need a town with more than churches and bars (of course, parks are very entertaining)
· Water – must be drinkable (bottled water is available, but too expensive and bothersome)