Life is an Adventure – Dominical Video

This awesome video filmed recently in the Dominical area of Costa Rica is a perfect example of what an adventure packed vacation to Costa Ballena includes.  Or better yet this could be your daily life in paradise!!!

I hope you enjoyed this taste of life in the Southern Zone!  Come on down and see for yourself why this is a truly special place to live or visit. Please check us out at: www.DominicalProperty.com

Costa Rica Independence Day, Pass the Torch

The Costa Rica Independence Day is celebrated on September 15th every year with parades, flags everywhere, and activities in all the schools around the country.  On September 15th, 1821 the Central American countries were given independence from Spain and this day is celebrated throughout the region.  The most popular celebration that everyone looks forward to is the “faroles” or homemade torches representing the light of freedom.

Each child brings a homemade torch and at 6pm on the eve before Independence Day they light their individual torches and take to the streets singing the national anthem and songs of independence.  It is a fun sight to see and we have gone the last few years to our niece and nephew’s parade, but this year our daughter is in pre-school and we are looking forward to seeing her school’s activities.  I have always thought this was not the best idea to give a bunch of kids a torch made of plastic, wood, and paper with a candle in the middle and let them parade around, but fortunately I have not heard of any accidents and all the years I have lived here.  It is fun activity for all and a sight to see these torches parading through the local streets.  The torches of Independence Day represent the spreading news of freedom throughout Central America (which took a month to reach Costa Rica in 1821), and there is even an annual torch that is carried town to town from Guatemala to Costa Rica.

On Independence Day the school kids gather to sing the national anthem and parade in the streets in their uniforms waving the blue, white, and red flags.  Then much like the U.S. Independence Day, families gather for some home cooked meals or BBQs and enjoy their time together.  I personally am looking forward to our daughter’s first Independence Day activities and performances.  We got her “farole” ready, but I may walk along side with a fire extinguisher just in case.

Costa Rica is Once Again the Happiest Place on Earth

Once again Costa Rica has been determined the Happiest Planet on Earth in the annual Happy Planet Index (H.P.I.) by the New Economic Foundation.  The study ranks countries in terms of life expectancy, the amount of well being experienced by the local population, and environmental impact.  Costa Rica has been in the top 3 since the formation of the first H.P.I. in 2006 and has been #1 for the past 2 years.  No wonder so many people come from all over the world to experience the “Pura Vida” or “Pure Life” and immerse themselves in nature and stunningly beautiful scenery.   The top 10 results for 2012 are as follows:

2012 Happy Planet Index

Country

H.P.I.

Experienced Well-being

Life Expectancy

Ecological Footprint

Costa Rica

64

7.3

79.3

2.5

Vietnam

60.4

5.8

75.2

1.4

Colombia

59.8

6.4

73.7

1.8

Belize

59.3

6.5

76.1

2.1

El Salvador

58.9

6.7

72.2

2.0

Jamaica

58.5

6.2

73.1

1.7

Panama

57.8

7.3

76.1

3.0

Nicaragua

57.1

5.7

74.0

1.6

Venezuela

56.9

7.5

74.4

3.0

Guatemala

56.9

6.3

71.2

1.8

*New Economics Foundation’s annual Happy Planet Index (HPI) 2012

Costa Rica constantly scores high in the H.P.I. rankings for many reasons including high life expectancy, forward thinking in terms of environmental protection, genuinely happy local people, and it is a peaceful country with no military.  Life expectancy in Costa Rica is among some of the longest in the World and it was determined to be a “Blue Zone” country by Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN.  The country also actively protects its environment with 25% of its land mass dedicated to reserves or National Parks.  Plus Costa Rica has a goal to be the World’s first carbon neutral country by 2025.  The local people are very happy and you can see this walking down the street when they smile or nod at you for no particular reason.  Try smiling at someone as you walk down the streets of New York City and see if they respond so kindly.  Another contributing factor is that Costa Rica abolished its military in 1949 and remains neutral in global conflicts, thus its nickname the Switzerland of Central America.

So come see why Costa Rica is the Happiest Place on Earth and enjoy the “Pura Vida” in paradise!  If you are interested in purchasing a property, home, or just renting long term to try out the retirement lifestyle in Costa Rica, contact me at Dominical Property for more information.

Learning Spanish…. “Donde esta la sopa?”

Learning a new language is very challenging and overwhelming at times, but if you can speak some of the local language it will help you transition to a new culture more smoothly.  This is true around the World and Costa Rica is no exception.  Although many locals speak some English and I know many foreigners that have gotten by for years without any Spanish skills; I still feel learning some of the language will only benefit you in the long run.  The locals will appreciate any effort to learn their language and are very helpful; often times they will want to practice their English while you practice your Spanish.

When I first moved here I enrolled in a Spanish school in Playa Dominical for 3 hours per week and for 3 months total.  This was not much in reality, but was a good base and I was constantly practicing with locals and of course my girlfriend at the time, who is now my lovely wife.  She helped me tremendously and that is the best way to learn by immersing yourself in the language and speaking it as much as possible.  I realize not everyone can fall in love with a local and learn that way, but before moving here you could get Rosetta Stone or go to Spanish class upon arrival.  Plus there are plenty of daily interactions and opportunities to practice.

One of the most important aspects of learning any language is to not be afraid to make mistakes and practice daily.  True story: after living here just a few months I knew enough Spanish to be dangerous and went to a local store looking for some soap.  I proceeded to ask the person helping me if they had any “sopa” (which was my way of saying words I did not know, just add an ‘a’ at the end and it may sound Spanish enough).  She then toke me to the soup aisle and I said no, “sopa” and begin to make motions like I was in the shower soaping up.  She began to laugh historically and then toke me to aisle with soaps, shampoos, and personal hygiene products.  Turns out the word for soap is “jabon” and my made up word for soap, “sopa” was way off and actually the word for soup.  But be careful not to ask for “jamon” when looking for “jabon”, because you will get some slices of ham instead of the soap you are looking for.  The moral of the story is: if you are too scared of saying the wrong thing, you will end missing chances to practice and learn from your mistakes.

The process of learning Spanish fluently will take a year or even more; so be patient, immerse yourself in the culture, and most of all have fun.  And if all else fails know that 90% of communication is non-verbal and good old hand signs and acting things out can go a long way!  Feel free to share any funny stories about when you learned a second language!

Dia del Nino

On September 9th Costa Rica will celebrate “Dia del Nino” or Children’s Day.  This is a day to celebrate children around the World.  It was created by the U.N. in 1954 in order to bring attention to children’s rights and healthy child development around the globe.  The official day of celebration in October 20th, but countries celebrate on various dates that are convenient for them.

Today, the last Friday before September 9th, most schools are providing fun outdoor activities for the kids to participate, as well as a special lunch.  The actual holiday will be spent with family and some parents will even give their children a gift.  I do not remember ever celebrating a Children’s Day growing up in the U.S., but seems like a fun holiday for all the kids and the inner kid in all of us!

How to Move to Costa Rica with Only $50,000 USD

Most people dream about moving to a tropical paradise and enjoying the beach and beautiful scenery while living a laid back lifestyle.  Then reality strikes and they think it is an impossible dream only for the wealthy and they go back to plugging away at the ‘rat race’.  Well, this dream can become a reality and for less than one would imagine.  In this blog we will discuss on how to leave it all behind and move to Costa Rica on a budget of $50,000 USD.

First you will need to find the right land for an affordable price.  This is surely the most important aspect because this will be your largest investment in the process and the more you can save here, the better for building and living expenses down the road.  We have affordable lot listings starting at $25,000 USD and keeping it under $30,000 USD will be essential to making the numbers work.  Properties in this price range are tough to find and are usually undeveloped or with bad access, so finding one that is ready or close to ready to build will be an important factor

This titled property is only $25,000 USD for 2.14 acres with jungle views and bordering a small mountain creek at the bottom.  Actually a good amount of land and plenty of it usable as well.  The property has decent access, a finished building site, and plenty of its own forest which you could have a hiking trail down to the stream.   Wildlife and nature all around, plus only 15 minutes to Dominical and the beaches.

Now you got the property you need a home, so build yourself a YurtWhat is a Yurt?  It is an octagonal home that is easily constructed in days, not months.  The basic ‘Enduro’ is base priced at only $15,000 for delivery and construction including windows and door.

Let’s say $20,000 to $22,000 USD once you build a platform for it, buy light fixtures, water faucets, toilet, furniture, and maybe add a few upgrades like wood paneled ceiling pictured above.

So far we are invested $45,000 to $47,000 USD and have titled property and a finished roof over our heads.  Now it’s time to plant your organic veggies and fruits and raise some free range chickens that also lay eggs and possibly dig a Tilapia pond (which could be done on the property above using the creek as the water source).   Corn, papaya, bananas, platanos, yucca, tomatoes, squash, cucumber, lettuce, and more all grow fairly quickly.  Tilapia and chickens both grow large enough to eat in just 3 months!

Here comes the frugality part, live modestly one whatever savings you have left while your fruits, veggies, chickens, and Tilapia grow enough to sustain your life in paradise!

*Price of vehicle for transportation not included in $50,000 USD.  A cheap car, decent ATV 4-wheeler, or good motorcycle could be purchased for around $5,000 USD; otherwise it’s walking and catching the bus to get around.

Why it’s Safe to Live and Travel in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has been a favorite destination for tourists, retirees, and second home owners for many years.  It is perfectly safe to travel and live full time in this country.  Of course you have to use caution in certain areas of the San Jose due to crime concerns and use common sense to avoid petty theft when travelling with cash, passports, and electronics throughout the country.  In tourism areas there is always petty theft of thieves breaking into cars and taking wallets, cameras, and cell phones or snatching an unattended bag in a crowded public place.  In the capital city of San Jose crime is of greater concern and many home owners have bars on their windows and live in gated communities with 24 hour security.

I have lived here for over 7 years and been traveling here since 1998, over 14 years.  I have not ever felt unsafe or threatened.  Crime rates have increased during this time, but out where we live in the rural area around Dominical it is not as much a concern as in other areas.  There is also the C.A.P. (Crime Awareness & Prevention) on Crime of Costa Rica that was founded in Playa Dominical. They have taken many steps to reduce crime in the area and have even installed cameras at many local area establishments and near the beach.  Below are some good tips published by C.A.P. on how to travel safely around the country.

  1. During your stay here use caution when contacting unknown people.
  2. When swimming or playing in the ocean, make sure someone is watching your valuables.
  3. Use caution when visiting remote locations or isolated beaches.
  4. When in restaurants, markets, or other public areas NEVER leave your valuables unattended.
  5. When you travel by car, always lock the doors, and never leave your personal items in sight.
  6. When staying in hotels use the safety boxes to keep cash, jewels and documents protected.
  7. Lock doors and windows in your place of lodging.
  8. Keep a photocopy of all documents/passports in order to facilitate the retrieval of any lost item.
  9. Don’t be a victim.  Be aware of your surroundings and know WHERE you are at all times.
  10. Do not wear valuable jewelry that can draw attention to you.
  11. In the city carry small backpacks in front of you.
  12. Stay alert if someone approaches or pushes you, or you feel that you are being followed. Notify the nearest police officer or walk into the nearest public establishment.
  13. To exchange money only use banks or authorized exchange windows.  You will need your passport for all bank transactions.
  14. Use ATM’s that are located in public and well lit areas.  Avoid help from strangers.  Withdraw, count your money, and put it away before leaving.
  15. If traveling by bus keep all carry-ons in your possession.  Verify you have all items before departing bus.
  16. In the event of an emergency always call 911 first.  Ask for an English speaking operator.  Identify your local police station and/or town.
  17. If during your travels you feel lost or experience any difficulties you can call 800-TURISMO.

Costa Rica is a safe and peaceful country with the exception of a few bad apples.  As long as you follow these suggestions above you should have a fun vacation or be able to live here tranquilly.  If you are interested in donating funds towards preventing crime, then visit the C.A.P. on Crime website for more information.