Many people compliment Steph and I on following our dreams. Thank you. Even more people joke about leaving the US after this election. Yet, moving to a Central American country has been our goal since we were both 21. I wanted to move to Argentina, and Steph wanted to move to Nicaragua. But, I wouldn’t really call it a dream. We knew it was going to happen. When I think of dreams, I think of flying on a carpet or having a conversation with my deceased grandfather.
Moving to another country is just not as difficult as many people think.
It takes money and patience.
We moved three dogs and a relatively large amount of stuff to the jungle.
Here is our break down in costs for moving to Costa Rica:
- 20 foot shipping container – $9,000 (if you can’t fit all your shit in a 20 foot shipping container, you should probably get rid of some shit. We barely filled one, and we stuffed in a gym, yoga studio, and pretty much our entire two bedroom home). Thanks to everyone who made fast work of putting 1 million pounds of weights and furniture 4 feet up into a semi-truck.
- Flights for 4 people and bag fees – $1,400 (We brought two friends because it was cheaper to pay for their tickets than the extra bag fees). Plus we needed Teo’s mechanic skills, Spanish skills, and rugged Hispanic looks to get us a better deal on our first vehicle. It worked.
- Pet fees to get into the country and to fly – $1,000 with vet appointments in the US.
- 10 person van to transport puppies and people to destination – $200
That’s pretty much it. So 10 to 15k and you are there, and much less if you don’t want or need a shipping container.
I wouldn’t recommend just doing this on a whim. Steph and I took a few month-long test drives to see if it was really feasible for us to live here. And we have been researching and reading about moving out of the country for years. Happier than a Billionaire is a good place to start, and there are many other books. For the nitty gritty stuff, there is also ARCR for Costa Rica, which is a membership site for expats that is amazing.
Also, you should never just move to a country and just expect everything to be ok. There are a lot of rules and red tape around immigration. As an American we can’t just bull our way in and think everything will be alright. Tread carefully and smile to everyone (this is can be a struggle for me as I am quiet and people tell me that shit is intimidating). You are a guest, leave things better than you found them.
After the initial move, you are obviously going to have the same initial expenses that you would if you just picked up all your stuff and moved somewhere in the US without a vehicle.
- Rent – Ours is around $700 plus some utilities for a 3/2 fully furnished.
- A Car and all the expenses that go with it – You can’t finance anything as a non-resident, so you have to pay for vehicles and land outright. Good. No debt. With import taxes, cars, trucks, motorcycles, and quads are expensive, but repairs are far cheaper, so you will regularly see cars that last until 400,000 miles. We met a cab driver with an odometer that read 800,000 on a Toyota. Just a different mindset. I bought a clean used car with Teo’s help for $9,500 and full insurance is about $700 a year. We don’t want or need something fancy as we maybe drive 90 miles a week, and I can get pretty much anywhere I need to go on the moto, so we will likely not need two vehicles here. Gas is also about double, but this makes us drive less, which after half a decade of driving in Austin feels like freedom.
- Food – here is one of our biggest savings. Steph and I averaged at least $350 to 400 a week in groceries in the US (that’s not going out to eat). Here, we both easily exist on $200 with a silly amount of local organic fresh produce. For example, yesterday I ate 1 onion, 3 peppers, 6 cucumbers, 1 banana, 2 apples, 5 handfuls of Kale, a couple handfuls of basil, a bunch of cherry tomatoes, and probably some other vegetables I am forgetting. I don’t track what Steph eats; I know better than that. Eating like this in the US was just not possible financially. Also, our food comes from down the road instead of picked early and shipped across the world.
But after you are settled comes the most difficult and fun adventure – learning how to live without Amazon prime and anything you want a 15 minute drive away. Wants vs. needs and likely learning to live on a very different budget. People say the half-life of Ex-Pats moving here is five years because they get bored. Life is much slower, and if you didn’t have a passion or a hobby, I can see how people turn to alcohol and food as daily vices. However, Steph and I have been working towards making this feasible since we stopped popping bottles in our early twenties. And honestly, it is not that different than the weeks where I wouldn’t leave our house in the hills.
Life is cheaper here, and if you are retiring, you may be able to have a burn rate of forever. That’s what my parents and I are trying to figure out for them. Steph and I have no plans on retiring…ever, and we both have fairly successful online based work that has allowed us to take this jump so relatively early in life. However, I am still banking on her yoga famous-ness allowing me to be a stay at home research dad. And I think she is banking that my doctor-ness allows her to be the most educated stay at home yoga mom ever. Both are highly unlikely; I don’t see either of us stopping “working” anytime in the 21st century.
That’s the story so far. I will write and catalog the experiences and adventures as they come.