Living in Costa Rica

A woman describes how living in Costa Rica has taught her and her family to appreciate a slower-paced life enriched by growing their own food and the loving support of friends and neighbors.

| November/December 1974

If you're still looking for a place to spend that "retired" six months of the year — or if you'd like to live on a modest independent income instead of taking a job to supplement it — here's an answer that works for thousands of bargain-conscious expatriates: Try living in Costa Rica in a friendly, slow-paced Latin American village.

When Dick (my husband) returned from the U.S. with a small grant to write a book, we found that life on our Costa Rican mountain farm didn't allow him easy enough access to the excellent research facilities of the country's capital, San Jose. We thought awhile, and came up with the perfect solution for Dick's problem and our family's comfort: We rented a lovely little home in the village of Villa Colon, near the city, and settled into the Latin American equivalent of small-town life.

Our house has three bedrooms, a large, breezy kitchen, an indoor toilet (rarity of rarities), a huge living room and — best of all — one-quarter acre of land on which we quickly got permission to garden. Included in the monthly rent of $35.00 are a three-room henhouse and a dozen bearing mango trees. And this is one of the more expensive rentals! A couple of MOTHER EARTH NEWS-found friends came here looking for land to homestead (got it, too!) and took a house a block from us for just $12.00 a month, including electricity and some minimal furnishings. Since the last rent we paid in the U.S. was $225 plus utilities, Costa Rican prices seemed right to us.

Low rents are just the beginning of the savings in cost of living we've found here. For example, there are no heating bills in this area of 75° days and 60° nights . . . yet that second figure means you don't need someone to sit up past midnight and fan you with palm leaves to keep you cool.

Many areas of the Central American highlands boast a similar delightfully moderate climate. Friends in the higher altitudes of Guatemala report the same year-round comfort we enjoy here . . . and that's quite different from the popular myth about the "sweltering" tropics.

Then there's transport. The excellent bus systems found in these tiny republics mean that you don't need a car to get to most of the places you'll want to go. In our case, sturdy and punctual public conveyances will take us from our village to either coast — Caribbean on the east, Pacific on the west — as well as north into Nicaragua and south to Panama. That's important, with gasoline selling for about 40¢ a gallon . . . although I've noticed that the gap in gas prices that used to exist between the States and Latin countries is rapidly narrowing as U.S. rates keep rising. (Sharon wrote this article about a year and a half ago, in mid-1973 . . . in case you hadn't guessed. — MOTHER EARTH NEWS.) 

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