Move to Costa Rica because life’s not fair
Do you remember when you were a kid? It seemed no matter what happened in my life, my parents always told me the same thing. Mom, how come Johnny has new skis and I don’t? All the kids have cars, Dad, can I get one too? Why do I have to rake leaves and my sisters don’t? “Life’s not fair Mike, get used to it!” It used to drive me nuts. Borderline Homicidal. But somewhere along the line, I realized they were right, and I figured I would do something about it.
So I have spent the majority of the last few decades turning the tide in my favor. So now, when people talk about Michael, it’s the other way around. It dawned on me this morning, the first day of 2014, how incredible my life is since I made the move to Costa Rica and what a fantasy world I live in. I turned on the weather channel, just to remind myself WHY I don’t live in North America. “Bitterly cold New Year throughout most of Canada and the Mid-West USA” was the headline. Below freezing temperatures, massive wind and 12-18 inches of snow predicted. Many airports will be closed and highway driving deadly! Parts of Toronto are still without power after one of the coldest storms in history put the city in the dark over Christmas. Can you imagine living on the 20th floor of a high rise building and having to walk
half a mile up and down those stairs with a flashlight carrying your groceries? Sounds like good training for my Everest assault. No thanks.
While most of these people will be spending the first day of the rest of their life, shoveling snow and scraping ice off their windshields, I sat on my back terrace admiring the view, sipping on a nice cup of 1820 Costa Rica Java, spiked with my favorite liqueur Don Braulio. The Cortez Amarillo trees have started to bloom and you can see yellow flowers as far as the eye can focus. The volcanoes were in perfect view and a nice breeze cooled the balmy 88 degrees. There were packs of monkeys hooting and howling, still a tad pissed off from last night’s fireworks show and flocks of parrots were dive bombing my swimming pool taking small sips of water. Life’s not fair. Get used to it.
I woke up with a bit of a hangover today (phasers on stun), like most people, having stayed up late to ring in the New Year. The neat thing about living here is you have so many fantastic options for celebrating. One year, about 12 of us rented a 40 foot sail boat, went out into the bay, and spent the night under the stars. Truly romantic. There is always a gathering of friends on Hermosa Beach, where a bonfire roars while the crashing waves create the perfect background music. One of my favorite times was when I lived in Vistas del Pacifico in Playa Panama. The most amazing community pool is located on the very front point of the development with spectacular views of Bahia Culebra and all the resorts.
Each New Year’s all the owners gather for a big bash that ends with firework shows from the Four Seasons, Hilton and Occidental hotels. INCREDIBLE. Now, if you are into partying, well, you came to the right country. Playas del Coco puts on a street party that’s a small version of Times Square NYC. They close off the downtown street and tens of thousands of young Costa Ricans converge to the center, like Carnival or Mardi Gras. You have never seen anything like it in your life. But I will tell you WHY it is such an awesome time. Even though the place is going ballistic, as the wave of people carry you in various directions, the music changing every 50 meters as you pass a different bar, everyone is respectful and in a good mood. Where else in the world can you put 25,000 people in one place and not have dozens of fights, assaults and arrests? Only Costa Rica. It’s a thumping bumping gyrating sweaty pile of love. KILLER. Life’s not fair. Get used to it if you move to Costa Rica.
But this year I decided to do it Tico style. You see every small town in Costa Rica has a local FIESTA the week leading up to New Years. It is 7 -10 days of celebration and they really do it up. There are TOPES (horse parades) and beauty pageants, where they crown some adorable little girl the Princess of the town, with stages of live music and dancing. Everywhere you look someone is peddling street food and cervezas, bakery goods and tamales. You just gotta love a country where you can walk down the street, sucking back a cold beer and eating fish on a stick watching a parade go by in December. Life’s not fair. Get used to it.
So for New Year’s Eve I took my worker Pablo and we went to watch the rodeo and the Toros, where brave (stupid) young men play chicken with an 800 pound Bull. We bought our tickets and grabbed a couple beers and headed to the stands and started to look for a place to sit. There was this entire section with no one in it, and I thought to myself how nice it would be to stretch out my legs and relax, while watching the carnage below. I am usually pretty sharp and you would think I would question WHY there were 12 full rows of empty seats, but I guess I had let my guard down or perhaps the Pilsens had taken over the analytical side of my brain. Sure enough, we found out pretty quick why this part of the bull ring was a total ghost town.
The first rider came out of the shoot, atop Butch the bull, bucking and kicking, determined to rip his head off, his 8 seconds came to an end. KABOOOOOM! The fireworks station was located directly below my seat and when Hiroshima exploded, we must have jumped 3 feet in the air, spilling half my beer in my lap. It scared the living S&^% out of me, I have to say, and the entire town of Sardinal erupted in laughter and applause. I could just imagine what people were saying to their little kids: “look at that stupid gringo with his pet Nicaraguan!” Costa Ricans LOVE fireworks; as a matter of fact they love anything with fire, and for the remainder of the night, hundreds of explosions filled the air. I would imagine that if a Tico watched Cast Away with Tom Hanks, they would stop and replay the beach scene over and over, giggling each time. I HAVE MADE FIIIIIIYEEEEEERRRRRRRR!!!!
I have to tell you I had a blast. I love the little town of Sardinal because it’s where most of my Costa Rican friends live and it’s authentic. It’s not a beach town. As a matter of fact, there was only one other gringo there besides myself and he was obviously VERY out of his element. He was a rather large young man, pasty white, no tan, wearing his Vancouver Canucks Hockey Jersey. Seriously? Hilarious. Remember, its 80 degrees out. He was obviously a tourist, probably dragged there by his tour guide and he stood out like a sore thumb. But he would probably stand out anywhere he went dressed like that. I found myself thinking, “Do you actually wear that out back home too?” Women can’t be attracted to that can they? If you want to meet a Tica, wear cowboy boots and a hat, and they will line up around the block. You know the saying, the lights are on but no one’s home? Ding Dong. No answer. Ding Dong Ding Dong. Still no answer. Ding Dong Ding Dong Ding Dong Ding Dong, Knock Knock Knock Knock Knock. And then you finally hear a slight rustling noise like someone’s just waking up? That was this guy. Life’s not fair. Get used to it.
There were a few thousand people at this little event, most of them with their families, spending some quality time together. One of the funny things you notice when you go to a local town is that there is a fried chicken place on every single corner. Literally there are a dozen of them. Go to a gringo town and every other restaurant serves pizza and they all have the same sign. Best Pizza in Coco. Cracks me up every time. Chicken for Ticos, Pizza for Gringos. Go figure.
If you move to Costa Rica, you have to have some flexibility or you won’t make it. My friend and I went out to dinner a few weeks ago to a BBQ on the beach. I had been bragging to him about how great the pork chops are in Costa Rica, they are truly something to die over. So we didn’t even need a menu, I knew just what to order. I asked the waiter, “how are the pork chops tonight?” and he said they were great. “Two please with all the fixings”. He went on to tell us that the pork loin was also phenomenal and that you could cut it with a butter knife, but we stuck with our original plan. A few minutes later he returns to tell us that they are out of the pork chops. OK, we will go with Plan B, bring on the loin. Sure enough, he returns again to inform us that it too has magically disappeared as well and he drops off a menu for us to look at. T-bones sound wonderful, my friend says, we’ll take two. Sorry Senor, NO steak. My friend looks at me like a deer in the headlights and I had to take control of the situation. “Let’s try this again” I said. “What DO you have?” Ribs he replies. FABULOUS, we love Ribs. Can we get a side of garlic bread to hold us over, we are starving to death. The waiter returns with a plate that has 3 pieces of bread on it. THREE. There are two of us; do the math. The next night we go to a different restaurant and my friend orders spaghetti. They bring him 6 pieces of bread, for one bowl of pasta. Crazy stuff man. That’s Costa Rica. Life’s not fair. Get used to it.
Actually this entire week has been something of a dream. I was invited over to Chad and Teresa’s house on Christmas day for a brunch that would rival the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. I am drooling again just thinking about it. They had about 10 people there and we spent the day, drinking Bloody Mary’s and Mimosa’s, while feasting on everything from Belgium waffles to lemon pie. They own this spectacular house on top of a cliff, with a 180 degree view of the Bay of Coco and all the boats, and you can actually see the waves breaking below. Life is definitely not fair. Get used to it. They invited another couple over, also good clients of mine, and these 4 people have become like family to me. They also own a house on a hill that could make the cover of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.
Life’s not fair FOR SURE.
Both of these couples came on an exploratory trip to see if they wanted to move to Costa Rica. They felt the energy the very first day, and bought a house the second. Within a few months they had both sold everything back home, packed up their belongings and made Costa Rica their permanent home. Like many people, they were just tired of the rat race and wanted a better way to spend their life. When you know it, you don’t need to test the water. Just jump right in both feet first. Ask them if they would ever go back. They were so excited about their new adventure in life, his sister and her better half followed them here as well, and they brought another 3 or 4 couples with them too. The listing agent back home must still be scratching her head that half the neighborhood packed up and moved overnight. That tends to happen a lot more often than you think. But I still tease Mike and Cathy about the very first day that we met.
Mike was totally stressed out, wound way too tight, the pressure of running his Texas business had finally caught up with him after all those years. His wife Cathy had actually been the one emailing me and I guess she forgot to tell him they had an appointment with a realtor. So when I showed up, Mike greeted me at the door like a father guarding his teenage daughter on Prom Night. “Who are you and what do you want?” I remember thinking, this is going to be a real challenge, but Cathy jumped right in. Honey, this is our real estate agent and we are looking for a piece of paradise. We set up an appointment to view properties the next day, but I took them around for an hour or so first to give them the nickel tour on the town. I pointed them at the nicest grocery store and bid them good night. When I came back the next day, Cathy had a tad of a different attitude. “Oh my God, food is expensive!!!!” she cried out. I let out a chuckle, because I hear that from everybody, and asked her if it was ok if I rustled through their refrigerator and cabinets.
Low and behold, it had gringo written all over it. Every single product, except for the milk and eggs, was manufactured in the good old USA. From Doritos to sandwich meat, Jack Daniels and California wine; they had Philadelphia cream cheese and Old El Paso hot sauce; Ben and Jerry’s chunky monkey ice cream and they even had EGGOS frozen waffles. But what really killed me was the case of Diet Dr Pepper and Tropicana Orange Juice. Now think about this for a minute. They are visiting a country that grows citrus products as one of its biggest exports, you can pick fruit off any tree 365 days a year, and they sell a gallon of fresh squeezed OJ for a couple bucks on every corner. Instead, they buy a brand of juice that was squeezed 3000 miles away. They have to keep it cold on a refrigerator boat while it floats past Central America, then put it on a refrigerated truck and drive it 250 miles over the volcanoes just to get it to the store. Of course it’s $15.00!!!! HELLOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! So many people talk about how expensive the food is, but they are almost always buying American made products. Trust me, the Costa Rican stuff blows it away, and it’s a fraction of the price. But the reality is, if it is something you WANT, who cares? You have worked hard your whole life to GET to paradise, enjoy it! Don’t worry about the price. My friend Julian sums it best when he says “Cry me a river over that extra dollar for bacon. My TIME is the most important thing I have, and living here allows me the quality of life I could never get back in America.” Life’s not fair, that’s for sure. Get used to it.
You wouldn’t recognize Mike now; he is the most laid back, carefree guy you have ever seen. He has a tan that would make George Hamilton jealous as he spends half his day “naked” in the pool, has recently taken up scuba diving and hasn’t missed a sunset in 6 months. When I grow up I want to be just like him. Personally, my entire holiday week was one of the most relaxing I have had in a long time. Massages on the beach, every single day, is how I want to spend my “winter” while scoping out the hottest women on the planet. I mean some of these girls could bring a heathen to his knees prayin’, life is absolutely not fair.
We had the Hermosa Music Fest, where the DREAM MACHINE rocked out to hundreds of people, under a sky filled with thousands of stars. It was one of the most beautiful nights you have ever seen. But I am actually looking forward to it finally coming to an end and getting back to work. I am excited about 2014 and all the new friends I will make. It seems more and more people are figuring it out. And I look forward to getting our little beach town back too, as all the holiday crazies go home. Back to the cold and snow, work, taxes and stress for all the North Americans, while the San Jose crowd, will have to fight the traffic home, like the road to Baghdad from Kuwait. And me? I am off to the beach with the fur children.
Life is DEFINITELY not fair; or so they say. Get used to it.
PS I am going to reach into my pocket and pull out a little hope for you. Hope to see you soon.