In considering destinations, three have floated atop the list: Costa Rica, France, and Spain. I know, all of these things are not like the others. Not to say that other locales won’t pop up on the list, but in our short round of investigations, these are simply the places that initially ping our hearts.
Short disclaimer… we have read and heard amazing things about places in Asia, especially Vietnam and Malaysia, but right now, we are turned off by both their vast distance from the U.S., as well as the hot and humid climates.
But Costa Rica is tropical, I know. Still, it has a vast range of ecosystems (12 to be exact!) and can be much cooler in the mountains. Even on the beach, those steady Pacific breezes help to mitigate the oppressive heat. Plus, not so humid. Much of Costa Rica is a dry forest. Like putting a rain forest in Arizona. Not near the humidity of the South Pacific.
Right now, Costa Rica tops the list—well, my wife’s list. It’s a short hop from the states (3-hour flights from Houston or Miami), has very amenable visa and residency programs, and is a paradise of beaches, sunsets, animals, and jungles. For instance, for a country essentially the size of West Virginia, they have more species of birds than the U.S. and Canada combined. Plus, much of it is a “blue zone,” regions of the world where, it is claimed, a higher percentage of people live longer than average lives due to diet, environment, and lifestyle. They have a world-class healthcare system and a low cost of living—not for Central American standards perhaps but definitely compared to the US. It also helps that my wife is fluent in Spanish. It looks like they are opening to U.S. tourists again in November, so this may be our first opportunity for a scouting mission. Haven’t yet narrowed down a locale, perhaps by the beach on the Nicoya Peninsula in Samara or Nosara, or more into the Central Valley where the temps are cooler. I do like the idea of sharing my homestead with monkeys, iguanas, and toucans. Being near the equator means no hurricanes and consistent weather throughout the year. They have a national motto: “Pura vida,” which means the “pure life.” This serves both as a response to “How are you doing?” as well as just a way of going through life. Life is super laid back. To be on time is to be rude. This can drive “gringos” nuts, but you get used to it quickly. Think eco-surfer-latino-paradise.
France is atop my list. Super expensive, you’re thinking. Turns out, if you get away from Paris, prices come down sharply, especially for things like rent, transportation, healthcare, and food. Both France and Costa Rica have vibrant farmer’s markets and a culture of buying and preparing fresh food instead of fast and processed ones. I confess to loving French culture—wine, patisseries, fromage, crepes, and the general joie de vivre. Places like Bordeaux, Lyon, and Sarlat-la-Candeda are of interest. Plus, I love seeing the seasons change. It may be a little more costly than Costa Rica, and a longer and more difficult journey to obtain residency status, but the cost will still be less than the U.S. They have a strong deference to respect the elders in their culture. This means discounts for travel, entertainment, and transportation for those 60+. Being anywhere in France means you can easily get on a bullet train and go all over Europe cheaply and conveniently.
Spain is a bit of a wild card. We are attracted by the low cost of housing and general cost of living if you stay away from Barcelona and Madrid. Like France and Spain, they have world-class healthcare at a fraction of U.S. rates. We are intrigued by the cities of San Sebastian on the northern Atlantic coast near France and Alicante on the Mediterranean. Not as much to say here and rather unsure why it fell to third, but we probably have some more investigation to do.
Doing the research and dreaming is definitely the fun part. Soon, we can begin our scouting missions to get a feel for the places. But in these dreary days when it seems like there is nothing to look forward to, this is my refuge.