A new life in Costa Rica

Sharing our journey from the U.S. to the Osa region of Costa Rica


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Shedding more light on our move to Costa Rica

Honestly…why in the world did we pack up everything and move to a Central American country?  For the longest time, we decided to keep one of our most significant reasons for moving to Costa Rica to ourselves.  The predictions I had for where the U.S. was headed were just that…predictions.  But with those predictions now playing out in the news (if you follow an honest news source), I feel it is now time to explain one of our more important reasons.

Of course the Land of the Free is VERY far from it.  Drive with cash and the police can seize it without charges. Step outside the lines just a bit and get your kids snatched up by “Child Protective Services”, so they can place your children in foster care and collect their promised bounty from the U.S. government.  Have puddles on your land after heavy rains?  The EPA could easily declare your property a protected wetland, severely limiting your use or even seizing it.  Feel like having a telephone conversation or exchange of texts or emails without the content being reviewed by strangers?  As Edward Snowden informed us all, good luck with that!  And the most recent freedom of the press rankings placed the U.S. at #45…right smack between Romania and Haiti!

I could go on and on about the many assaults on the concept of freedom…a concept that Americans still proudly boast about.  And certainly those were some of the compelling reasons for our move to a much freer country (for example, Costa Rica recently ranked 21st in freedom of the press).  But our decision to move goes far beyond the concept of freedom.  Simply put, the U.S. could be headed for a tsunami of such epic proportions, it could make the Great Depression appear like an episode from Happy Days.  What is this coming storm?  The end of the U.S. dollar as we know it.  Sound crazy?  Permit me to briefly explain.

Since WWII, all trade between countries has been transacted in U.S. dollars through banks in New York City.  This position of the dollar as the world’s currency reserve has forced all countries to hold U.S. dollars for their international transactions.  Let’s say Australia wants to buy product from China.  The transaction must be conducted in dollars and be routed through New York City.  Sound crazy?  I agree.  But that may all be about to change.

Some time back, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (“BRICS”) became fed up with the current global financial system that rewarded the U.S. at every turn.  Many times they asked the IMF to end their blind allegiance to the U.S. dollar, but their concerns fell on deaf ears.  So in July 2014, they agreed to form their own international development bank and establish a new reserve currency or basket of currencies for trade.  This will permit members of the bank to conduct transactions with each other in currencies other than U.S. dollars, something China and Russia are already doing.  What will this mean to the dollar?  When a group of countries near simultaneously decides to sell their U.S. dollars, it creates a potentially serious problem when they dump those dollars onto the open market.  Basic law of economics…when many rush to sell the same item with few interested buyers available, the item’s value typically plunges.

But as significant as the BRICS countries are (~40% of the world’s population and growing), could their decision to drop the dollar be significant enough to inflict serious damage?  Maybe, maybe not.  But with plans for the new AIIB bank coming together, the BRICS recently opened the door for other countries to join as founding members with voting powers.  Who signed up?  A harmless handful of rag tag countries?  A very partial list of the 57 members includes France, Spain, Norway, Great Britain, Italy, Sweden, Australia, Israel, and Germany.  (The U.S. did not join, and the membership drive recently ended.)  Just imagine if/when this group of 57 countries unloads their U.S. dollar holdings for the new currency/currencies.  As prices in America explode, the scene could resemble something other than peace and brotherhood.

I could certainly hope that these scenarios don’t play out in the years (months?) ahead, but that would require a hefty suspension of reality on my part.  What I have outlined are facts, not theory or conjecture, and these facts are developing faster than I ever imagined…even back when we decided to pack our bags for beautiful Costa Rica.


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Serenity Gardens Eco Village…what does it mean to us?

Serenity Gardens Eco Village.  An environmentally friendly old folks home?  A chemical free cemetery?  A fictional community in an old Seinfeld episode? (“Serenity Now!”)  All good guesses, but none correct.

SGEV is a remarkable debt free community in the southern Pacific region of Costa Rica, far away from the hustle, bustle and unmitigated lies of the U.S.  (What lies?  Great time for a Kool-Aid break!)

It is a place where folks can enjoy the stunning beauty of this corner of the world while growing healthy, nourishing food for the table.

Fresh produce from our homestead

Fresh produce from our homestead

Not interested in tending a garden?  SGEV is a place where arranging for home delivery of fresh fruits, veggies and healthy meals is as easy as pie.

It is a place where residents don’t need to discuss the many problems with “modern food”, because we all get it.

SGEV is a community where the air is clean, the water is pure, and the jungle sounds are perpetual.

Cool, clean water runs through the community

Cool, clean river water runs through the community

It is a place where Ticos (Costa Ricans) and gringos work together to make this a great place to live, whether repairing the road, improving the school, or simply going to each other’s fiestas.

It is a place where the community roads are quite literally lined with fruit trees, herbs and medicinal plants.

It is where the local school is a short, beautiful walk down the road.

At SGEV, you can enjoy beautiful rivers and waterfalls that by all rights should require an admission ticket, but don’t.

River fun!

River fun!

It is a place where the days year round are warm (~80°F) and the nights comfortably cool (~64°F), making heating and cooling systems unnecessary.

Where safety is a way of life, and everyone on the mountain watches out for everyone else.

It is a place where awesome deep sea fishing trips are just an hour’s drive away.

Pacific fishing

Pacific fishing

It is a place where when it rains during the rainy season, it really rains!  (Let’s just say we thought we’d seen rain before moving here.)

It is a place where everyone at local parties is expected to dance.  Trinidad Ticos love to dance!

It is where beautiful, uncrowded beaches are just 45 minutes down the mountain.

Chilling at Playa Dominicalito

Chilling at Playa Dominicalito

SGEV is a place where people take care of others in need, whether gringo or Tico.

It is a place where internet speeds beat what we had in the states, routinely testing out at over 2 Mbps.

It is a place where a very strong, local credit union offers 10% interest on a 1 year CD in colones.  (And the banker apologized for the historically low rate.)

It is a place where you can be a Christian, with no apology.

And that’s a snapshot of what Serenity Gardens Eco Village is to our family.  Simply put…it is our home.

Morning at our homestead

Morning at our homestead


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That incredible “Can Do” Tico spirit

After living here in the southern Pacific mountains of Costa Rica for 6 months, many things have impressed me with the country, the area, and the people. But nothing has impressed me more than the remarkable “can do” attitude of most Ticos.

Though I have many experiences to draw from, a recent New Year’s Day event sums up the Tico spirit nicely. We had packed up the Jeep for a multi day trip to the coastal resort town of Jaco (pronounced ha-CO) and headed out for the 2.5 hour drive. But on our way down the mountain, we realized the Jeep was seriously overheating. With the temperature gauge in the red, we pulled into a gas station to fill up and check out the problem. After adding additional water and coolant, we saw most of the liquid appear on the pavement…a serious leak somewhere.

It being New Year’s Day, the gas station attendant told me we’d likely have no luck finding a mechanic to help, and I suspected the same. All car rental locations nearby were closed as well, so were in a bit of a jam. We called our buddy Randy Madrigal to ask about getting a ride back to our house, and planned to cancel our trip. It turned out Randy was out of town himself, but he offered to call his mechanic friend on our behalf.

Michael Mora, the mechanic from Cortes, agreed to come and check out our problem to see if there was anything he could do. After looking around under the Jeep and under the hood, he identified a worn hose that was leaking coolant as quickly as it was added. Given the location of the hose, it looked like it would probably require a trip to the shop the following day. But while we checked into options for a ride home, Michael figured a way to access the hose with the tools he had.

Michael Mora repairing my 2006 diesel Jeep Liberty on New Year's Day.

Michael Mora repairing my 2006 diesel Jeep Liberty on New Year’s Day.

Now in need of a replacement hose and with everything closed for the day, Michael called his friend Alex who owns an auto parts business. Alex had the needed hose, and Michael was off to pick up the part. A few minutes later he was back under the hood of the Jeep replacing the hose. We added water to the vehicle, then started her up. The leak was solved and everything looked good. I asked Michael how much for the part and for his time, considering it was the one vacation day he had. “Sesenta”, he replied…sixty dollars. We happily paid Michael, and were soon on our way to Jaco…just a little later than planned.

I couldn’t help but think that in most situations, we would have been out of luck that day. But as we’ve seen over and over again since moving here, the average Tico doesn’t accept why something CANNOT be done. Instead, they concentrate on how it can be done. And fortunately for us on New Year’s Day, Michael Mora found a way to get it done. Pura vida!


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Observations of a gringo

Costa Rica.

Beautiful, peaceful country.  Friendly people.  Incredible natural resources (both food and water).  No military (never bombed anyone, never will!).  Crime rates that, even in the largest cities, are FAR below what you’d find in an average U.S. city.  Real freedoms that now exist only in the history books of countries that claim to be free.  These are a few of the reasons we chose to move to this amazing republic.  Not on our list…a terrific place for gringos to hang out!

Since we’ve moved here, we’ve had the opportunity to meet many Ticos who grew up in this area and have called it home for their entire lives.  Despite our limited Spanish, we’ve made friendships that we now cherish.  We are slowly learning what it means to be Costa Rican, by seeing on a daily basis how kind and helpful so many Ticos are.  When you are in need, they are there with an offer to help.  Randy, Jimmy, Aldemar, Alexis, Carlos, Alonso, Marilyn, Alex and many others.  When we moved here, local families greeted us with fresh fruits from their gardens.  It is not uncommon for a store owner or artist to tell you afterward that you now have a friend in them…just let them know if you are ever in need.

To be part of this amazing country and its people is what we chose for ourselves.  Our residency will be finalized this week and we couldn’t be more proud.  We love the old school values of neighbors helping neighbors, expecting nothing in return except friendship.  Genuine acts of kindness are the norm here, not something you must turn to Facebook to read about.  I could provide many examples, but you get the idea.

Randy Madrigal, helping out a fellow Tico

Randy Madrigal, helping out a fellow Tico

Given the beautiful nature of Costa Rica and her people, why do so many expats choose to simply relocate their American lives to a location with better scenery?  Why do so many decide that learning Spanish really isn’t necessary?  Is that consistent with the opinion they held of “Spanish only” speaking folks back home?  Why are the parties typically with other gringos, and maybe a few Ticos who speak good English?  This certainly isn’t everyone who moves here from the states, but it seems to be far too many.

If you do choose to move to this amazing country, might I suggest doing so with a plan to learn what the people and the culture are about.  First and foremost, have a plan to learn the language.  It won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight (believe me!), but chart yourself a course to learn it over time.  You can make no greater statement about your adoption of Costa Rica, and your rewards will be…unlimited.

Pura vida!


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Moving our stuff to paradise

How does someone up and move to Costa Rica?  We get that question quite a bit, so I’ll address one big part of it here…shipping your stuff.

We tapped Great Sunrise Enterprises in CR for our residency and relocation needs, and owner Kevin McNamee was our point person.  We hired a crew to pack the shipping container, but all other arrangements were made through GSE.  Kevin’s made everything as easy as possible up to now, and he gets our highest recommendation.

The day before the 40′ shipping container was set to arrive, the packing crew began boxing items up and readying everything for shipment.  Around noon yesterday, the truck and shipping container arrived and parked at the street.  Our packing crew was Pack & Go Moving out of Sanford, NC, and owner Vernon Jones led an efficient team of 3 guys.  For the next few hours it was like watching giant ants, with box after box getting moved onto our trailer then into the shipping container.  We opted to take our fridge, stove and washer/dryer, so those also went into the ocean bound crate.

After our household items were loaded, attention shifted to my Jeep Liberty CRD.  A Durham towing company took the point on this project and deftly transferred my diesel baby into the container.  With the vehicle securely strapped, battery disconnected and fuel tank near empty (fires onboard the ship are bad), the doors to the container were closed and a bolt seal was locked in place.  The truck pulled away around 5pm, and that’s the last we’ll see of that stuff for about a month.

The packing guys joined me for a well deserved cold beer, and that’s when I learned the Pack & Go crew has some sick musical skills, and member Brandon Maynor (white t-shirt) is one heck of a singer!  I have never seen so many women on a guy’s Facebook page…the dude will be famous one day.

On arrival in Costa Rica, our possessions will be checked against our packing list by a customs agent and duty will be determined.  Once the bill is paid, our household items get loaded into a truck and delivered to our new home in the southern Pacific mountains.  Part of what will arrive…our new wood fired hot tub!  (When did you say you want to visit?)

The Jeep Liberty will be made street legal for Costa Rica…part of the services provided by Kevin McNamee’s GSE crew.  Once declared “road ready”, she can be picked up in the capital city of San Jose.

For the next month, we’re living light with mini fridge, hot plate, microwave and gas grill, and we’ll tap our neighbor for the occasional load of laundry.  A temporary hassle, but a small price to pay for paradise!

 

Loading the trailer    Pack & Go Moving crewLoading the Jeep    DSC_0142Perfect fit!    Closing her up.Bolt seal lock applied    Safe travels!Pura vida!

 


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A brief background on our upcoming move to Costa Rica

Sitting here Memorial Day weekend 2014, this is a good time to reflect on what led us to decide to pick up our belongings and move to Costa Rica.  In a nutshell, we have grown more and more dissatisfied with the direction the U.S. is heading, and we’ve simultaneously discovered a beautiful, inviting country just to the south that is calling our name.

We don’t feel the need to lay out our complaints about the U.S. here, since many folks are more than happy with what has happened over the past 10-15 years.  And to borrow from Pharrell, if you’re happy, we want you to stay that way!  That’s what we’re shooting for, after all.

Costa Rica offers our family a remarkable opportunity to focus on the things that have become so important to us…real freedom, healthy diet, friendly people, and a beautiful, scenic country.  The past few months have laid the ground work for our big move, and the coming weeks will see our preparations ramp up to full speed.

What do I hope to accomplish with this blog?  I’d like to share the process of moving to a new country with our friends and family, and keep everyone posted on the progress.  Check back weekly, as I’ll have regular updates.

Thanks everyone.  I’m happy to have you along for ride!

Todd Hinson

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