147. Why Did We Choose Costa Rica?

Once upon a time, many moons ago, Dana and Ramie went on their first big vacation together, it was their Honeymoon Cruise, an 11-night cruise that stopped in many exotic places in Central and South America. One of those stops was on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica in the port of Limon. They chose a rain forest tour excursion that took them on quite an adventure in nature, and that is when they initially fell in love with the country that, unbeknownst to them at the time, would become their future home.

During that first visit to Costa Rica, we truly did fall in love with it here. We spent the day exploring the jungle in the pouring rain. Everyone else in our tour group had either an umbrella, a rain jacket, or both but Ramie and I didn’t bother with that and got soaking wet- and actually didn’t mind at all! The rain was warm and it just added to the experience. We absolutely loved everything about this place, and ever since then, I have said that the rain forest that we were touring reminded me of a real-life version of the movie Avatar.

We knew after spending that one day in Costa Rica that we would come back for a land-based vacation one day and explore much more.

OMG, we looked so young back then!

Soaked, but having so much fun in the pouring rain
Fast Forward to February 2019. Taylor was getting ready to graduate from high school and we wanted to take her on a vacation as her graduation present. We looked at cruises (which was our preferred vacation in the years since the Honeymoon) as well as land-based vacations to different places. Costa Rica was still always in the back of our mind from our trip years earlier, and when we did the research, we discovered that we could get the most “bang for our buck” on a vacation here. We could spend nearly 3 weeks in Costa Rica for the same price we’d spend on a 7 day cruise. It looked like this would be our opportunity to get back to Costa Rica and explore the country some more. Ramie, Taylor, Granny Janny, and I spent about 18 days touring around different areas of Costa Rica including some of the most popular tourist destinations including the Monteverde, where there was a cloud forest, and the beaches of Quepos, Jaco, and Uvita. The places we visited were much different from the Avatar-like rain forests of Limon, but we had a great time and loved it once again. This time we got to see so much more of the culture, the way people here lived, and, of course, the beaches in addition to the jungle. We made so many memories and, just like after our last trip, vowed that we would make our way back to Costa Rica again for another vacation and to see more of the country and culture. 

This was a treehouse restaurant that we stopped at. Literally built in and around a giant tree.

We’ve always been the type of couple that gets super depressed the moment we get home from a tropical vacation and almost immediately start planning the next one, and that’s exactly what we did. Shortly after our return to MN we started preparing for the following year’s winter vacation and we decided that we just loved Costa Rica so much that we would go back again and explore some more. We knew we wanted to see new places that we hadn’t been to before, but we also liked the beaches in Quepos and really loved the small beach-town feel of Uvita. The following winter, February 2020, Ramie and I came back to Costa Rica and spent our time between La Fortuna (Arenal Volcano), Quepos and Uvita. It was during this trip that we met Daniel in La Fortunata (who we told you about in our blog post “134. All About Costa Rica: An Introduction” a few months ago), stayed at Villa Balcón Ballena in Uvita, owned by Mike (who we have also talked about in prior posts) and met Loren who manages that house and many other houses on that same mountain. It was during this stay in Costa Rica that we really fell even more in love with the Uvita area.  
Relaxing in the hot springs in La Fortuna

On a nature hike on one of the old lava flows from Arenal Volcano


Eww, again!

Aside from our winter vacation trips to Costa Rica, Ramie and I had some other plans brewing in our life. We had been making plans to set off on a very different adventure. Through one of his employee's Ramie learned about a YouTube sailing channel where a regular guy sold everything he owned, bought a sailboat and started sailing around the Caribbean. His story was pretty interesting and we found other YouTube channels where couples did this same thing. Seeing other people doing things like this got us thinking…Life is too short! There has to be more to life than “work, eat, sleep, and repeat” and there is no way that this is what we are supposed to do with the rest of our lives.

We talked and talked for quite some time about what we wanted to do with our lives while watching what these other people were doing with theirs. They were just regular people who decided to make a big change and went for it, why can't we? We both love to travel and see new places, and what a great way to do it! After some more talking we decided that we really wanted to see what this was all about and started learning and researching more about the sailing lifestyle.

Our initial goal was to live on a sailboat and sail around the Caribbean for a couple of years while we learned the ins- and outs- of living aboard and literally traveling in our home, and if we ever got tired of that territory there was the possibly to set off around the world like so many other cruisers do. At some point during the planning we set a goal go-date of June of 2021 (although my caveat was “with the option to extend an additional 3 years”). If we didn't set a "go date" would we ever actually do it, or would we just talk about it and eventually regret not ever actually trying it? 

Beginning in 2019 we took sailing courses and got our certifications, did lots of research, and learned as much as we could about everything sailing-related and were bound to make this happen. One of the major concerns and steps we had to take was to find insurance, after all, all of our worldly possessions would be on this boat and the boat itself would take quite a chunk of our life-savings to purchase. Ramie reached out to several insurance companies to find out what would be needed to qualify for liveaboard insurance once we purchased a boat, and made sure we had a good idea of what to expect as far as the cost and rules associated with having that insurance.

In December of 2020 we even took a trip to Florida to look at potential sailboats, or at least to get an idea of the differences between the types and narrow down our preferred makes and lengths. We really did enjoy sailing and were ready for this adventure. It would be a lot of work and a huge learning experience but would also be a fun adventure. 

With our originally planned go- date approaching we were ready to start moving forward with the steps we’d need to take to make it happen. We had a big garage sale in October 2020 where we got rid of so much of the non-essential “stuff” that we owned. It’s amazing how much of that stuff accumulates and you don’t even realize it (and you don’t particularly miss it after it’s gone). Next, in January of 2021, we parted with our first major item. Ramie sold Grimace, our 1971 Plymouth Scamp. Ramie’s baby. We bought this car together, the two of us (with some help and a place to do the major overhaul work from his brother) completely rebuilt it together and we enjoyed many miles in it together. It was a hard day for us to watch this bucket of blood, sweat, tears, and so many memories be loaded onto a trailer and head to its new home.  

Good bye, Grimace!

Even through all of our sailing planning and preparation, Ramie had stayed in touch with our new friends Mike and Loren who we met during our Feb 2020 trip to Uvita, and when it was time to book our next, and maybe last, winter trip, we researched cruises, but once again found the “bang for your buck” just wasn’t there in the cruise industry so we decided to go back to Costa Rica in February of 2021. This time we reached out to Mike directly to rent his house for a nearly 3 week stay.

In February of 2021 Ramie, Taylor and I all came back to Uvita for the majority of our vacation with a few days also spent in Quepos to spend some time at our favorite beach up there. We thought that this might be our last trip to Costa Rica, at least for a while, because it was later this year that we planned to dive into the sailing adventure. We didn’t do a lot of the touristy stuff during this trip, we really just took it easy and spent the time together. 

Even while we were here on vacation, we were working to finalize our plans for the sailboat. The next-to-final piece of that puzzle (just before actually buying the boat) was to find a company that would insure us as liveaboards and cover us both in US waters and international waters. We had determined what boat we thought would be good for us: a 36-38' Island Packet. This is a good, heavy, blue water boat with plenty of room inside. We had looked at some of these during our trip to Florida a few months earlier and it was by far our favorite of the ones that we looked at while also still being in our price range.

pic courtesy of https://marinesource.com/

This insurance search was becoming quite a difficult task because during the last hurricane seasons in the Caribbean, so many boat owners left their boats to be destroyed that most of the biggest boat insurance companies had gone out of business and the few that remained were exceedingly selective on who they decided to insure. Needless to say, we kept getting a big thumbs down from the companies Ramie had already talked to 6-9 months ago and who originally assured him that getting insured wouldn't be a problem. Something oddly interesting that Ramie found was that multiple companies told us that they would insure us for about half the price of what he had originally been quoted but there was one big catch… At no time may our boat ever enter US waters; this means the continental US, and its territories including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Unfortunately, that's just not going to work for us since we want to be able to bring our boat to a US marina for hurricane season and spend time in the US Caribbean Islands. We did consider using one of those international companies but were not comfortable with taking off across the Caribbean and being unable to come back to our “familiar home country” in our first season. Midway through our Costa Rica vacation we received the response back from the last insurance company on our list and while they agreed to insure us for one season, they were not obligated to continue coverage year after year, that was just the way their insurance works, it’s a one year at a time kind of thing. That means that after the first season we may not be able to get coverage for the second season. That just wouldn’t work for us because we couldn’t risk owing and living on a boat that may not be insured after a year, and it was at this moment that our sailing plans were sunk. We were very disappointed since we put so much effort and time into this, but we wouldn’t let this stop our plan for a life-changing adventure!

Costa Rica had always kind of been an un-planned Plan-B. We knew we wanted to do an adventure. We now knew we wouldn’t be able to do the sailboat thing (at least not right now). We knew we loved Costa Rica… so let’s put Plan-B into motion. It was on the balcony at Villa Balcón Ballena overlooking Uvita’s Whale’s Tail that Ramie and I decided that we would quickly change course and instead of moving onto a sailboat this June, we would move to Costa Rica in about 3 months instead. With less than a week left on this vacation it turned into a scouting mission. 

We sat down with Loren and Nancy for several hours and picked their brains about everything we could think of, we contacted a realtor to start looking at properties, and we started checking out places that tourists wouldn’t go but were necessities for locals; places like the hardware stores. We even made a trip to San Isidro to see some of the things that were available there.

After this vacation and scouting trip, when we made it back to MN, our plans were still more or less on track. We still had to get ready to sell all of our stuff including our house, vehicles, and most of what we owned, but we were able to hold on to a few more things with this plan than we would have been able to with the sailboat plan. We also had to do a lot of new research about how to move to Costa Rica since all of our prior research was about how to live on a sailboat. We spent the next couple months going through everything we owned, deciding what would be parted with, what would be saved for future shipment to Costa Rica, and what would be saved for long-term storage for the eventual possibility of moving back to Minnesota. So much moved so quickly from March through May of 2021. Our personal belongings were becoming fewer and our house was getting emptier as we were constantly selling things on Ebay, Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist. It was actually liberating getting rid of all the “junk” we thought we needed to have but truly wasn’t adding that much value to our life. 

In mid-May 2021, about 2 weeks before our 1-way flight out of the US, I worked my last day for my employer of 12 years.  Ramie stayed at his job of 23 years until just a few days before we left. Neither one of us had any prospects for earning any future income.  Also in May we had our big “moving and estate” sale where all of the things that weren’t getting stored (either short-term or long-term) were sold, and we were left with an empty house.

The only things we had were a borrowed blow-up mattress, a single couch that would be donated, and the items that we would be carrying with us on the plane to Costa Rica. 

That's it, our life in bags

Breeze must have been wondering what was going on!

Don't get me wrong, we questioned our decision a LOT. Thankfully Ramie and I were always on opposite sides of our doubt. When he would start to have second thoughts, I would assure him it was going to work out, and when I started questioning our sanity, he assured me that we would be able to get through this. I think if we both would have ended up with negative feelings at the same time we might have backed out and never taken this leap. We also had a lot of reassurance and support from co-workers, friends and family (although our families really didn't want us to leave them, they supported our decision). So many people told us that it was amazing that we actually had the guts to do it, that they hear of people doing “crazy” things like this all the time but never knew someone who actually did it. Some of them even wished that they had the courage do something like this but admitted that they were way too chicken. The overwhelming majority of people did agree, though, that they liked our plan to move to Costa Rica better than they liked our original plan of sailing.

From MN, sometime in March or April, we coordinated with Loren in Uvita to help us find a house to rent when we moved down here. We joined all of our trusty Costa Rica Facebook groups to do some fast learning and research. We sold nearly everything we owned, we quit our jobs (which may have been the scariest part… how often can someone say that they are voluntarily unemployed with no prospect of future work and actually be happy about it!? Unless, of course, it's real retirement!), and we packed what we thought would be the most essential items to transition from our current life to our new Costa Rican life. We packed those essential items into 6 checked bags, 4 carry-on items, and the travel kennel to bring our girl Breeze with us, and on May 28, 2021 we left Minnesota for our new adventure in life. 
And Away We Go...!!

From here on out, the rest is history! For anyone who hasn’t been following along since the beginning, you can read all about our adventure starting at blog post #1- the day we left Minnesota!  1. Welcome to our New Life  By the time you are reading this blog post, it will be about 2 years and 11 months since that fateful jumping-off day. 

Pura Vida!