Every time I speak to someone from my home country and explain that I live in Costa Rica, I normally get quite a reaction. Normally, it is kind of a mix of surprise and curiosity.
The “surprise” is probably related to the fact that I look totally American and don’t really fit the profile of a tropical adventurer. The curiosity stems from either:
- How the heck did I actually make the logistic move, or
- What demons possessed me when I decided to move; or,
- How have I managed to last so long?
The Logistics of Moving to Costa Rica
Making a tactical and well planned move to Costa Rica, or any foreign country, is no simple task. In fact, it comprises many, many tasks. Each task also has dependencies and then you need to sprinkle risk and uncertainty into the equation. Sound Easy? NO!
My move actually required about one year of planning before I was ready to pull the trigger. What where some of the major milestones?
- Selling my home
- Finding economical storage
- Developing a budget
- Saving as much money as possible. I came down with enough disposable to income to live for one year without work.
- Making some hard career decisions
- Developing an income strategy in Costa Rica
I’m not anywhere near retirement, so the latter item is really important, if you want to survive longer than your savings.
Selling My Home
Selling my home was really easy back in 2006. Even though I say it was easy, it actually took me about 8 months. I also need to lower the price on two occasions on the advice of my Realtor. This was at the peak of the real estate boom and I eventually found a buyer and made some good money. In fact, a lot of the profit I made went into the home I live in today in Costa Rica. The home I bought in cold hard cash.
I traded in a 30 year mortgage. I made a profit in the process. I bought a new house in cash. The house is better than my former home in Chicago and big enough to shelter my new family of 5 in Costa Rica.
Does this sound like an easy task? In hindsight, it sounds like I played the lottery and won. In today’s market, most people are not looking at selling their homes for a profit. Many are looking at losses. So, if this idea sounds crazy today. You should note that this all unfolded at the peak of one of the largest real estate booms in history.
Finding cheap storage is not easy anywhere. I suppose I got lucky by finding a unit that costs $125 per month. Think of storage as a long-term expense similar to rent or taxes. Unless you own nothing, you can’t really live without it. If you do own nothing, and come down here with nothing but the clothes on your back, you probably need to step-back and take a look at your life as a whole. There is no security blanket in Costa Rica. There are no welfare programs. There are no easy jobs that pay a reasonable wage. There are jobs, but you are going to have to have residency, or a specialty skill to get one. There are also grey market jobs like working in Sportsbooks. However, you probably should talk to a bookie before you go down that slippery path.
If you want to jump in with both feet, then you can move all of your belongings down here. I got a quote on my belongings, which is about 1 full storage container, and it will cost $7,000. I would assume that on average you should plan on $5,000-10,000 in shipping costs. If you want to go “all-in”, be sure to include this in your budget.