Roughly seven and a half years ago, we flew to Costa Rica and ten days later bought a house there. It wasn’t impulsive, but it flew ever so slightly against conventional wisdom. Every single manual/website/blog/advice-dispenser/busybody will tell you that before moving to Costa Rica, you must live there for so-and-so long, you must move from region to region to identify the area you like best and so forth. Advice acknowledged.
Let’s look at this from our perspective. When I was 27 years old, I abandoned my career path and moved to Fort Worth, Texas, USA. Two days later I married someone I barely knew and I mean that quite literally because we had spent only 15 days in each other’s company before we got married. Fifteen days as in 360 hours. That happened 40 years ago this coming Christmas season and we’re still together and loving it and each other. We moved many times within the US, buying and selling seven homes along the way, not counting our places in Costa Rica and France, nor our residence and the guest house we built on our ranch in Central Texas. When looking for a place to live, we do all the preliminary work online, including political situations, health care, infrastructure, climate and so forth. The rest is simply gut reaction. Our combined judgments may not be statistically relevant, but they’re pretty sound nevertheless. Besides, at my age and life experience, I can pretty much determine without a test period if either high humidity and a lot of sand or a mountain perch with a far view work better for me.
During these 40 years, my husband traveled across the globe on business, continuously learning about other cultures. While I ferried our son from home to Montessori School and back, he traveled from Buenos Aires to Kathmandu and beyond, and was I ever jealous! While I isolated catfish retinas under dark-red conditions in my lab, he conducted workshops in the shadow of the holy site of the Borobudur in Indonesia. We rarely traveled together during those years because our respective work schedules diverged too much.
After retirement, we utilized Home Exchanges as a way of traveling far and wide as we hadn’t been able to do in our younger years. Shanghai, Munich, Sydney, Santa Fe, Granada in Spain, or Granada in Nicaragua, we loved to explore those towns! Through home exchanges, we had a chance to travel through the alphabet together, experiencing life in foreign cities from Amsterdam to Vancouver, sometimes for a month, rarely for less than a fortnight. Our home in Costa Rica soon became our most valuable exchange token. Who doesn’t want a tropical vacation in CR, right? Barry, who made all our exchange arrangements can tell you that he received 400+ exchange request per year for our place in Atenas.
But no more. As of now, we’ve reduced our real-estate holdings to one residence, our home in France. We sold our place in Lomas del Paraiso, Atenas, Alajuela, Costa Rica, lock stock and barrel, including the Honda Element that we imported from Texas and all the linens, pots and pans, tchotchkes, and the art work on the walls. All we took with us were personal items like our swimsuits and my Zwilling kitchen knives, that have accompanied me on my life’s journey for almost as long as my husband. We also packed up our Boruca masks that I bought from the artisans during an educational event in Atenas to which I was invited two years ago. This is the post I published in 2015 about that day:
We’re sad to leave behind the most delicious tropical fruit paradise known to man, faithfully supplying me with a daily dose of my beloved maracuyá juice and juicy pineapples for Barry’s breakfast. We will also miss the ever-changing and entertaining views over canyons and volcanic mountain ranges rising above the Central Valley, itself stretching far below our terrace and lap pool.
But the saddest “things” to leave behind were not fruits or views, however delicious or spectacular. They were not even our resident Greater kiskadee’s loud territorial cries, awakening us every morning at 5:30 sharp nor the world’s best sherbets created by our friend Alex, but Alex himself. Him and all our other friends in Atenas, Americans, Ticos, Germans, Canadians, Belgians, Frenchies, Brits, every one of them shall be sorely missed!
Owing to our extensive travel schedule these past two years, we had not returned home to Costa Rica in 18 months, trusting our managers of long standing to supervise the running of our property with its lineup of exchange partners and paying guests. They were not just managers, though we remunerated them quite generously, they had been our friends as well. A few years ago, they even acted as our dog’s foster parents while we were abroad. Based on this relationship, we gave them an exclusive listing last September when we made the difficult decision to sell. After five months with only a few showings and both promised second showings never actually happening, we told our manager/agent that we needed to list our property with other agents. Shortly thereafter our renters submitted a purchase offer directly to us, which we accepted – precipitating a shitstorm of epic proportions. Our managers/agent declared themselves our enemies, calling us liars and cheats. They dropped us like the proverbial hot potato, terminating all services without notice. True, we sold to buyers who had approached us directly with their offer, thus cutting out the agent. Since there was no prior interaction between agent and buyer, this was legal and customary. Our agent didn’t bring this client, nor any other clients, thus she hadn’t earned a commission. Nevertheless, the vicious venom was hurtful and the unpleasantness dragged on over many weeks, revealing also that there had been some mismanagement, especially in the pool and yard care and in the supervision of the gardener. We had learned earlier that the mandatory yearly car inspection hadn’t been done and found out eventually about a serious equipment theft which was never resolved.
As if to make up for this heartbreak, our friends and neighbors up the hill dove in with practical help and encouragement despite going through some difficult times themselves. Their unwavering support was calming and reassuring, they simply enveloped us with their goodness and love. Your wings, Marcella and Mike, are without any doubt of archangelical proportions!
During our last few weeks in Costa Rica, we tried to hang out with as many people as we could between sorting belongings and canceling services, strengthening bonds and even forging new ones. A lot of hugs remained unhuged because I got pretty sick and had to step back from human contact for a lot longer than anticipated. Nevertheless, we generated many lovely memories with our friends in Atenas, especially with a certain couple in Roca Verde, who would restore our joie de vivre with their signature Negroni cocktails and lovely dinners every time we thought we had lost our spunk for good. Thank you, Judy and Neal!
Costa Rica is well known for its incredible bio diversity. When you live there, you’re never really alone. You share your space with untold members of the living world, sometimes a little too closely, but more often than not, a delight to observe.
“Nothing makes the earth seem so spacious as to have friends at a distance; they make the latitudes and longitudes.” Henry David Thoreau