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Expat Interviews: What the First Two Weeks of Living in Costa Rica Are Really Like

costa rica

Costa Rica Curious

We Did It!

For the past year and a half, my wife and I had been plotting. Plotting and planning and preparing and finally the day had come.

We did that thing that everyone talks about but, seemingly, no one ever does. We left successful careers and in our early 40’s, sold damn near everything: the cars, the grand piano, the too large for two people house, and whittled it all down to 9 suitcases and 2 backpacks, and moved to Costa Rica.

Our first 2 weeks in the country held some surprises, some of which were painful in more ways than one.

It’s a good thing I don’t believe in omens. On the day of our departure our 4 p.m. flight from DFW to SJO was delayed – we were told for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes it was delayed again…and then again. Then the flight was rescheduled for 6 p.m. At 6 p.m. the dinner vouchers were passed out as an apology for the delay.

It now seemed that too much time had passed for the original flight crew to be used, so a new one had to be summoned.

In the end, our 4:00 flight left at 9 p.m., very much impressing our ride, our new landlord, who was picking us up at the airport, now at 2 a.m. instead of 9 p.m. Pura Vida – right?

Excellent coffee and new friends: Days 1 and 2

costa rica

Costa Rica Curious

Our first 2 days were filled with all of the new and shiny things of paradise; we had fruit trees in our backyard – various shades of citrus all just waiting for us to pick.

We made quick friends of others staying at the apartments and they showed us hiking routes with beautiful vistas, amazing birds, more fruit trees, and even an avocado tree that was bearing fruit.

The views from the pool allowed for glorious sunrises and coffee with our new friends each morning. These same friends eased our apprehension of getting on the bus for the first time by showing us the ropes and taking us into town.

Maybe I should have looked in my shorts first: Day 3

It’s a good thing I don’t believe in omens. The day started great as I opened the shades and wondered at the wondrous view. I walked to the kitchen to pour a cup of coffee that my wife had already brewed and, in preparation of our morning ritual of coffee with friends by the pool, I started looking for a pair of shorts to put on.

I find a pair but where was my belt? It was there in a pair of shorts on the floor. I sat on the bed, picked up the shorts and laid them on my lap to remove the belt.

That’s when it hit me.

Well, hit is the wrong word, stung – yes, stung me is the right combination. Even without seeing the culprit I knew what had just happened.

I had read about scorpions in Costa Rica and had wrongly thought that at the elevation we were living, 4700 feet, that scorpions were not around.

It looks like I was mistaken. More important than the pain of the sting on my thigh, which was similar to a bee sting, was this – what was I going to tell my bug-a-phobia wife? We moved to Costa Rica with Jen’s biggest concern being; not the language barrier, not being away from family and friends in the states and not knowing a soul here – no, it was (and still is), BUGS.

That’s right a bug-a-phobia and her husband chose the bug capital of the world to retire in.

After the split moral indecision, I threw the shorts on the bed and marched in the kitchen and told her what had just happened. I was very proud of myself for my moral fortitude.

Her response was unexpectedly rational. “You killed it, right?”

Oops, I got right that.

Shortly after the Scorpion King episode, we resumed our ritual of sitting by the pool, enjoying the company of newly met friends and conversation that had a bit more bite…er, sting to it.

Wifi was finally working, but it brought me some bad news: Day 3 continues

One of the luxuries that we refused to give up when we moved to Costa Rica is the iEverything suite of Apple products.

We brought iPads, iPhones, iPods and a couple of MacBooks and these were our communications center, at least if we could get them to work. Part of it was the wifi where we were staying going in and out, and part of it was just getting everything networked right.

Regardless, I did not see the text messages, the missed calls, or the FaceBook message saying to call my sister ASAP. When I finally was able to connect, I was informed via text message that my dad had passed away.

My dad had been ill for the past 2 years and very ill for the past year. This was a huge consideration when we were making our plans to move and we still chose to move. Now we were dealing with the ramifications of being in a new country, with not so great communication ability.

We finally got in touch via Face Time with my mom – probably would have been better if it were just a phone call – and were told of the plans being made for the funeral.

We just got here, but now I’ve go to back (for just a bit): Here’s how the rest of the week panned out.

costa rica

costa rica curious

The balance of our first week, really 5 days, in Costa Rica was spent making arrangements to travel back to the States for a couple of weeks.

Making sure our all of our stuff here – mostly still unpacked – was kept safe and that we had a home to come back to. We found the most REASONABLE (see takeaway #3 below) flight back and began making plans for our return trip. I took long, solitary, walks. Cried a bit, drank a bit and waited to head home.

While the rose-colored glasses were ripped from our face that first week, I can’t imagine not being here in Costa Rica. We have since learned to expect the unexpected (and to shake out my shorts).

That first week we also learned a couple of things that are worth passing on; here are a few takeaways from our first week:

  • It may make sense to upgrade to Business/First Class. For us it would have been a wash as flying coach we were allowed 2 free checked bags at 50#’s each. We paid a little over $550 for our checked luggage. Flying business class we would have been able to check 6 bags free with a weight limit of 70#. If you are moving here by luggage as opposed to shipping – do the math and fly to your new home in style.
  • If (when) you get a scorpion sting, vinegar will take the stinging sensation away. Urine will do the same thing but I doubt you are going to pee on yourself or get someone to do it for you.
  • Bereavement Flight Benefits only exists for domestic flights. If you are in a different country you are screwed not only having to pay for an international flight but having to pay for one that is scheduled same day or a couple of days away.

Editors Note:
Greg Seymore

At the age of 41 Greg Seymour quit his job and retired with his wife to Costa Rica, trading his business suit for a bathing suit. In addition to writing about his experiences in Costa Rica on his blog,, Greg enjoys photography and getting to know his new home.




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7 thoughts on “Expat Interviews: What the First Two Weeks of Living in Costa Rica Are Really Like

  1. 1

    Nicely done, Greg. Thanks for sharing your roller coaster of a first week. I could feel your excitement and the reversal of the crushing news of your father’s passing. That was a tough one and the timing is never good. Thank you for writing this honest and sensitive piece.

  2. 3

    I think for expat/ retirees the most important questions are often left unanswered – which is ok as some certainly are personal. For me at at 62 —in any expat move / living– its trying to figure out
    —how 2 do people in 40’s quit their jobs and move to new country with no mention of new jobs/incomes when they arrive ?
    —how much in their monthly budget in CR ?
    —how were they planning on earning a viable income (unless they are so rich they are retired?)
    —had they been there before ? where they planning on renting or purchasing a home?
    —after many months there – are they living within planned budget ?
    So the bottom line questions for most retirees is about finances…..are they living very frugally or moderate home or in luxury ?
    For me all articles boil down mostly to whats the cost of living generally for housing, food, electricity, internet , services available , whats the weather really like, does population speak any english or decent sized expat community…etc……
    Appreciate the courage they showed to pack up and move to totally new place 🙂 but would love to see more details about costs , etc as well 🙂

    I see all types of blogs but the authors rarely address the hard facts of —can the reader afford living there ? can the expat communicate with some of locals ok ?, is housing elect, internet available and affordable etc

    A couple I know just got back from 2 weeks in Costa Rica (was given to them for free from rich relative!)……they wanted to retire there but came back disappointed. They found basically two tiers in housing areas, very poor and very expensive and very little in between so they ended up staying in USA and living off 2 SS checks instead they said.

    • 4

      Hi Dave,

      Thanks for your response and questions. Certainly, all of your observations and questions are valid, albeit outside the scope of the article I was asked to write. As I add content to my blog, listed above in my bio, I try to answer many of those questions. I would pin our budget in the frugal to moderate category. We live on between $1200 – $1500 a month including a rental payment. We utilize public transportation and entertainment is typically a non-cost activity such as hiking and photography. I hope this helps a bit.


  3. 5

    Since you and your wife are quite young to retire, I was curious how you will meet your income needs. You obviously created a cash fund from selling everything, but I’m curious how you will fund your new life going forward. Thanks for the candid sharing.

    Michael C

    • 6

      Micheal, thanks for are some ideas on how to generate an income while living an expat life.

    • 7

      Hi Michael,
      There is indeed a gap from when savings run out and when retirement (401k) funds are available. It may sound shocking, but we are not too worried about it right now. I have managed a business before and I imagine at some point in the next couple of years I will start one. As it is, because neither my wife nor I are idle people, we have already turned hobbies into a bit of cash. Our current budget is rarely over $1500 a month, so that is all we really need to replace, which I think will be doable without reverting back to my 12-14 hour, on call always, career.


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