Last weekend, I took my girlfriend back to the airport in Costa Rica. But we took a few days first to visit some areas of Costa Rica that I didn’t know very well.
Our first stop was the “Museo del Oro” or the Pre-Columbia Gold Museum in San Jose.
Although some of it was enjoyable, I expected something a bit more impressive. There was an interesting story of gold in Costa Rica, from the money used in Colonial times (which was gold and silver coins from Spain), to the actual ridiculous system of paper “money” (with no gold standard) that depreciates at the rate of 10+% per year.
That was the most interesting part of the museum. The rest featured collections of golden artifacts used by natives in Costa Rica.
Fruit Eating Monkeys
After this visit to the museum, we stayed at a friend’s house in Escazu, who happens to own two beautiful capucin monkeys. They have a fairly large cage where they can play all day, and are fed pretty much only fruit.
It was so cool to feed them fruit and see their little hands carefully peel it and eat it.
Their favorite was “Star Apple”, or caimito in Spanish. Perhaps because they don’t get to eat it so often.
Watching them eat fruit, it was so obvious that as the more advanced primates we are… fruit SHOULD BE our main source of nourishment. It was obvious to most people to feed these monkeys fruit… but what about feeding us the same diet?
Ok, we’re not monkeys. But something tells me when I look at my hands that those were meant to peel and eat fruit.
Zarcero and San Ramon
The next day, we were supposed to go all the way to La Fortuna to see the volcano (which I have yet to see), but we decided that it was too far and we didn’t have enough time. So we planned to go to the town of Ciudad Quesada, where great hot springs were supposed to be found.
Strangely enough, I was speaking in Spanish to the taxi driver who took us to Escazu and asked him what was his favorite spot of the Central Valley. He told me “San Ramon” (which is another name for Cuidad Quesada). I told him… “we were planning to go there tomorrow”.
I asked for his number, and then gave him a call later that day. He gave us a good price to take us to San Ramon the next day, where he was going to see his brother.
In fact, we got to meet his daughter and father, who also travelled with us. It was fun to travel with him… and that can only happen if you actually talk to the locals and have some real conversation (which in turn is only possible if you make the effort to speak their language).
On the way to San Ramon, we stopped in Zarcero, where we got to see the most beautiful park in Costa Rica. Something strange in this park: they cut the trees in all sorts of strange shapes. With the church in the background, it’s absolutely stunning.
Arriving in San Ramon, we stayed at the beautiful “Agua Termales El Bosque”, where we got to soak in the nicest hot springs. Temperatures ranged from 35 Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) to over 45 Celsius (115 Fahrenheit) in one pool (granted, it was a small one).
On Sunday, a lot of people were coming, but on Monday, we were the only ones. Plus, it started raining and got fairly cold, at least for Costa Rica. So it was amazing to soak in the springs and watch the rain fall.
Right when we were about to leave, I saw the most beautiful bird EVER!
It was sitting right in front of us, and we got to take some pictures. Then we learned from the guy working there that the name of this bird is “popo” in Spanish. He even ate in our hands! (Unfortunately, I didn’t get that on camera).
When we got back to Escazu, the temperature was downright chilly (again, by Costa Rican standards). Apparently a cold wind blew over the Central Valley.
But funny… just a few minutes away, in the town of Alajuela (also called “the City of Mangoes”, the weather was beautiful and sunny!
Also, when I got back home, in the Southern Zone, I asked people how the weather had been lately. They told me: “sunny and beautiful, as usual!”
That’s a strange thing about Costa Rica… you can really fine tune your climate by changing your elevation. There are many micro-climates to choose from… and likely there is one that will work for you!
Last weekend, I went on a new “exploration” trip in Costa Rica to discover new areas that I didn’t know before.
I went all the way to the beach resort of Jaco, taking the road to the Pacific. But the real purpose of my trip was the town of Orotina, which has been called the “fruit capital of Costa Rica.”
I needed to see it for my own eyes!
Unfortunately, I missed the farmer’s market by a few hours, but got to taste some of the delicious fruits on sale there.Things like:
Cashew Fruit — One of my favorite. It’s the fruit from the cashew nut. The fruit has a delicious, refreshing juice and a unique flavor. As I’m writing this, the amazing smell of cashew fruit is all over the room. It’s wonderful!
Star Apple — Called “caimito” in Spanish, it has the rare quality of being purple/blue inside, but delicious and sweet, with a wonderful aroma.
Soursop — called “Guanábana” in Spanish, this is one of my favorite. We bought 4 huge fruits! The white flesh is a bit acidic, but also sweet and delicious, and it has one of the best flavors of all fruits. I like it blended, as a pudding.
At the farmer’s market in Alajuela, I also got some of the best mangoes I’ve tasted this year, “sweet” lemons, delicious papayas, and more. I also bought a breadfruit for 30 cents!
If you ever come to Costa Rica, I encourage you to make the trip to Orotina. The farmer’s market is on Friday morning.
Answering Your Questions About Moving to a Tropical Paradise
What Is Holding You Back?
Are you worried about hurricanes? If so, make sure you choose a place below the hurricane belt, such as Costa Rica.
—Do you seek a place that is family friendly? If so, go to family-oriented places such as Bali and Costa Rica.
—Do you need long-term residency? I think that most people who are thinking about relocating to a tropical paradise are over evaluating the importance of acquiring residency.
In most cases, you DON’T want to become a resident of the new country. Residency only becomes important if you’re thinking about a long-term move, and you’ll only make that decision once you spend a significant amount of time in the country.
That being said, some countries make it easier than others to acquire a resident status, especially for those considering retiring in these countries.Panama is an example.
—Health Care — If accessibility to modern hospital facilities is important to you, then find the right country for this, and more importantly, relocate in the RIGHT area of the country.
For example, in Costa Rica, you probably want to be near the central valley to access the best hospitals of the country. I personally live a few hours away from the capital, but there’s a central hospital nearby in case of an emergency.
In general, in countries like Costa Rica, Panama and Thailand, health care is much more advanced than you imagine. For example: Costa Rica has a lower infant mortality than the United States.
You can get a high-quality insurance to cover any possible emergency at a fairly low-cost, compared to what you would pay in the USA.And if you need dental care, you can get it in those countries at about 50% of the price you would pay back home, and get the same high-quality service.
—Language: The ability to communicate is important. A lot of people are not comfortable with the idea of learning a new language, or learning a complicated language. If that’s your case, don’t relocate in an area where the language is very hard to learn, such as Thailand. Instead, stick with Spanish speaking areas, or consider English-speaking countries such as Belize.
Alternatively, you can locate in an Spanish-speaking country where you’ll find a lot of English speakers and expats, such as the Central Valley of Costa Rica, or Panama City.
—Poverty. How comfortable are you with poverty around you? If you are more of a “pioneer” spirit, you could relocate to a place like Nicaragua for much less money than you’d spend in more affluent places. But if you don’t like the sight of poverty, then stick to affluent places like Costa Rica or even Panama.
Granted, the standard of living is not the same as in America, but you won’t see beggars in Costa Rica — nothing like Nicaragua. Costa Rica is an affluent country for Central America.In a big country like Brazil, poverty is generally centralized to the suburbs or “favelas” of the city. As soon as you leave these places, you’ll find the country to be generally very affluent and poverty-free.
—Bugs — Do you hate bugs as much as I do? Then do yourself a favor: choose a place in the city, or with some elevation. If you’re right at sea level near the beach, you’re more likely to encounter mosquitoes and bugs. If you live a bit above sea level, you’re more likely to be mosquito-free.
—Local Feelings Towards Foreigners. How do people perceive Americans and other nations? This tends to vary a lot from country to country. In Costa Rica, although North Americans are affectionately called “gringos”, the locals definitely enjoy our presence and harbor no negative feelings towards us. In fact, they welcome us with open arms!In French Polynesia, the Tahitians tend to resent the French. That was not to my advantage because I spoke French, so they thought I was French.
Of course, this is for historical reasons and is not a generalized feeling, but a tendency in the culture.I would say that all of the stereotypes of “American-hating” nations are not true.Even the French, who are supposed to be rude and hate Americans, are generally very friendly with Americans, or other nations.
Here’s what happens: you have the typical “ugly” American who travels abroad. Picture a loud guy from New York, who travels for the first time to Europe.He doesn’t bother to learn “please” and “thank you” in the local language, and talks to everyone very fast in heavily accented New York English and expects and DEMANDS to be understood. He doesn’t want to learn something from the local culture… in fact he looks down upon it.So in other words, you’ve got your stereotyped American traveling abroad.
The same guy will come back home and tell everyone that “Europeans are rude and hate Americans”.So I think you can start to get an idea where the idea comes from.
—Crime — A lot of people are concerned with crime in foreign countries. This is certainly a genuine concern. Certain areas of the world are dangerous. And also, certain areas of a particular country can be dangerous.
For example, let me tell you about my trip to Brazil.I started getting anxious before leaving because everyone was telling me how dangerous Brazil is. They talked about all the murders in the city, and that I shouldn’t go to visit.And in fact, they are right. Some areas of the big cities like Rio de Janeiro can be quite rough.
But did I go there?
I travelled all over the country and found it to be perfectly safe. But I didn’t not go hang out at night in a “favela” to see what would happen.Some areas of the USA can be quite dangerous. But does it mean that traveling to the USA is dangerous?
Certain countries as a whole are safer than others.
Costa Rica is safer than Guatemala, or Mexico — for example.But it also depends where you travel in those countries. San Jose, in Costa Rica, is more dangerous than a rural town in Mexico.
Safety is very relative, but bottom line is you can travel very safely if you stick to safe areas and countries.
Folks who consider moving to a tropical paradise, full-time or part-time, eventually consider Costa Rica or Panama. So the question pops up: which one is better as a place to live?
The debate still continues. When I first considered moving more permanently to Central America back in 2006, I did some research to find out which one of these countries would be best.
All of the oversea retirement experts, including International Living Magazine have been recommending Panama over Costa Rica for many years in a row.
In fact, most of these publications barely talk about Costa Rica nowadays.
The talk is all about Panama, Panama, Panama.Last year, I even attended a week-long “relocation and investment” seminar in Panama City, to get the final word on the subject.
So what’s the big deal about Panama?The big deal is the strong and booming economy, lower cost for real estate, but mainly a more attractive “pensionado” program, which is the retiree program.
It’s definitely easier to obtain residency in Panama than in Costa Rica, and “pensionados” get many tax-free breaks and even discounts on restaurants and public transportation!
The infrastructure in Panama is better.When I first visited Panama from Costa Rica, I felt like in a different world.
Modern highways, fast and efficient bus systems, and a much more “Americanized” feeling everywhere.
And Panama City is simply the most modern city in Central America. While I’ve never seen Skyscrapers in Costa Rica, Panama City is full of them. The supermarkets are filled with imported goods, including lots of “health food” types of items I had never seen in Costa Rica, such as organic baby spinach (imported from the USA), organic fruit bars, and items you regularly seen in your health food store.
Panama City is just a more modern city, period. And Panama in general has attracted more wealth and saw huge improvements in its infrastructures from US presence.But what about Costa Rica then? Why am I here?
Here’s a few more positives about Panama:
– Buying a car is much cheaper
– Alcohol is much cheaper (but I don’t care cause I don’t drink)
– Imported goods in general (such as clothes) are cheaper
– The country has more islands! More scuba diving possibilities… 🙂
– English is spoken more widely (but is it true? So I’m told. I’m not sure because I speak Spanish).
– The country uses US dollars (and not the funny Costa Rica currency with a constantly changing exchange rates that forces you to perform maths everywhere you go to figure out how much things really cost).
Now some negatives:
I found Panama City too hot for my taste. The weather is in the 90s, and very humid too. I don’t see anyone living comfortably there without air conditioning.
Overall I found much more agreeable climates in Costa Rica, although if you go a bit in the mountains in Panama you will find cooler climates. But I just wouldn’t imagine living in Panama City for now. Too steamy, too much of a city for me. Great to visit, but I prefer to live somewhere quiet.
And try to find a cheap, modern apartment in Panama City right now! Just look on Craigslist and you will find what I’m talking about.It seems there’s been increased demand for housing, but not enough supply. So the prices are totally inflated, and it will take a while for them to normalize as more apartments and condos are made available.But there’s more than monetary considerations.
I found Panamanians friendly, but the Costa Ricans (Ticos) are friendlier. In fact, they may be some of the friendliest people in the world.In Costa Rica, I feel more at home.Yes, the roads are bad in some places, but to me that’s almost part of the local charm.
Things might take more time in Costa Rica to get done. You want a cell phone? You need to be a resident or own a corporation (which is easy to set up, by the way).
And to get phone lines and Internet access in some places can take months.But if Internet access is important to you (and it sure is to me!), you’ll find it. Just make sure you don’t relocated to a remote area.
Here in Costa Rica my connection is fast enough for what I need. I get the equivalent of a standard DSL connection.And you can get up to a 2 MB per second line.
Sure, in Canada I get an even faster connection, 10MB per second type of cable setup, but it’s mostly a luxury because I can do just fine on a standard high-speed connection.From my personal experience, Costa Rica has more charm. The people are friendlier, and there are so many gorgeous places it’s unbelievable.
I haven’t fully explored Panama, so I cannot tell you for sure, but after two trips, my experience is that for someone into raw foods and health, Costa Rica is a better place.
There’s lots of fruits and vegetables grown, and you can find organic. You’ll also find a wide range of tropical fruits, and more importantly, there’s an established network of raw-foodist and natural health enthusiasts.
For me, that was the deciding factor. I just KNOW more people here, and I happen to really enjoy the country.
The Ticos really enjoy the company of North Americans. In Panama, I would say that this feeling is not as widespread (without saying that they are not welcoming people).
Like I said, I just felt more “at home” in Costa Rica.
But Panama has so much to offer, that my solution is to live in Costa Rica (at least part of the year), but also take trips to Panama: it’s right next door!
Although it might be more difficult to get residency in Costa Rica, it’s also easier to easily move there part of the year.When you enter the country, you automatically get a 90-day visa. This visa can be then renewed for another 90 days by just leaving the country for at least 3 days and coming back. (That’s when you’ll want to take your trip to Panama).
Technically, you are allowed one extension and then after you should leave for at least three months, but the law is not enforced and there are many visitors that have been living here for years and just renew their visas every 90 days.
In Panama, you only get 30 days, and then you can only extend it to 90 days.So for me the choice is easy: Costa Rica, with visits to Panama.The only way for you to know for sure is to come down here and check it out for yourself.
The Brutality of the Cold Winter Exposed
*Do What You Love E-mail Tips*
I don’t think I’m much of a winter person anymore. Actually, I don’t think I ever was.
I was raised in the province of Quebec, Canada, where snow and cold appears to be part of our nature. The famous French-Canadian poet Vignault said “Mon pays ce n’est pas un pays, c’est l’hiver”. Loose translation: “My Country is Not a Country, It’s Winter”.
I never could relate to that.
When I discovered raw foods in 1996, I changed my diet to a mostly raw food diet. I was excited to discover new fruits like mangoes and papayas. I started dreaming of picking my own fruits in the trees.
In 1997 I packed everything and bailed for southern California, where I stayed for about 3 years.
Since then, I’ve tried to get away from the snow and the cold every winter.
But over the years, I’ve grown to dislike even just a few months of this cold.
I was in Canada in the last few months and we got hit by a mountain of snow just last week. It was brutal.
On Thursday I landed in Costa Rica where I’m going to stay until April at least.
As soon as I got here, I could feel my body relax. Like every time I leave the cold winters to come to a tropical country, I feel more alive as soon as I arrive.
The smells of flowers, the sunshine and cool breeze, the Latin music, the friendliness of people, the juicy tropical fruits, and the promise of beaches and waterfalls awaken something in me, a life-force and happiness that makes me think always “How was I even able to survive all those cold winters without going crazy?”
A lot of my readers feel the same way, and would like to find a way to live somewhere warm or at least be able to get away every winter.
Who knows, maybe you already live in a place like that, but you’d still like to be able to travel and discover new places.
It certainly is a worthwhile goal.
Let’s look at what’s needed to make this happen.
First, you’ll need some financial resources to make that happen. How much? Well, honestly, in my experience, that usually isn’t the problem.
Costa Rica is certainly not the cheapest place you can stay in the world, but to give you an example, my cost of living drops by about 50 to 70% when I’m here.
So if you spend $2000 per month to live in the US or Canada or Europe, then it could cost you probably less than $1000 per month to live here, and significantly less in many other countries, for the same standard of living or better.
If you pay rent at home, you could technically keep paying the rent while you’re away and still end up spending less than if you had stayed at home.
So that part is really not a big issue when you look at it that way.
The biggest obstacle that prevents most people from even considering doing something like that, is their current work commitment.
If you’re like most people, you work from 9 to 5 or something similar in a place that you call your “job”, and if you’re lucky you can maybe take off for 4 weeks per year.
That’s the part to be handled.
If you want to experience complete freedom and be able to work and live anywhere, you have to handle that work part and get rid of your *job* or reshape it completely so you can be gone for several months per year if you want.
Here are some good steps to get started:
1- Know the numbers. Figure out exactly how much you currently spend per month, down to the penny. Keep track of all your expenses for at least a month, and establish your cost of living.
Then, consider how much it would cost you to live a few months or more per year in a beautiful, exotic place. Ask people who have been there.
2- Design your life on paper. What would it look like?
When I did that process, I realized the following:
– I wanted to be at least 5 months per year in a place where it’s warm, safe, inexpensive, with access to tropical fruits and where I could go scuba diving or snorkeling every weekend if I want.
– I also wanted to spend 6 months per year (only the best months) in Canada, and stay in the countryside and go to lakes and mountain hikes every weekend.
– I realized that in order to do that I needed a place that was inexpensive, had Internet access and where I could easily go back home or have friends come over to visit.
So that made Costa Rica the best choice for me. But there are many other possibilities.
But maybe you’ll come up with some different choices. But start by brainstorming, dreaming and writing it down on paper, and know exactly how much it would cost you per month.
3- Next, you need to be able to work from anywhere.
The best way to do that is to earn a living online.
When I started creating that dream, I was still going to the post office to ship my books. So I moved to a fulfillment company that now handles all of my orders.
I got an e-Fax number to receive faxes on the Internet, and I started working with virtual assistants to outsource some work.
At this point, all I need to work is a laptop computer, an Internet connection and a portable printer.
Most people have no idea how to create a business like that. Start with the beginning, because it’s not as hard as you imagine.
If you really want it, you can make it happen. At this moment it’s too late to sign up for my course, but you have other options.
– You can sign up for my monthly newsletter and coaching program, the “Do What You Love Success Group” where I share all my strategies on how to make this happen. To sign up, go to: http://www.dowhatyouloveuniversity.com/new.html
– You can register for the next edition of my course, happening in March 2008, by going to: http://www.fredericpatenaude.com/makealiving.html
NOTE: The page has not been updated yet, but if you sign up, we’ll put you in for the next course.
*Courage and Action*
So far I’ve talked about the obvious elements to make that dream happen. But I need to mention one last thing that really is what makes you not live your dreams: fear and inaction.
Yes, it’s not always easy to leave what you know to try something new. Because your ego is afraid, it’s coming up with all of these reasons *why* you can’t do it.
– I’m too old
– My family won’t let me
– I’m not smart enough
– Maybe I’m not so bad here after all
And so on and so forth… does that sound familiar?
To get over that, start taking some baby steps. No need to change everything overnight.
If your dream is to live several months a year in the tropics, start by taking a one-month trip. Then go from there.
If you’d like to get my system for earning a living doing what you love, also consider signing up for my course “How to Make a Living in the Natural Health Movement.”
Read the stories from our students by going to: http://www.fredericpatenaude.com/makealiving.html