“Roughing It” in Costa Rica

Written by Michael Simons on . Posted in Newsletters

newsletter edition no. 4

It’s Monday morning and back to work. Rough life I have. I am writing this newsletter as I eat my breakfast at the beach front restaurant of El Velero. This is where the whole journey started for me 12 years ago. (How did you come to Costa Rica, you ask? Another blog I promise) I came to Costa Rica in search of a new life and stayed at this little hotel. I met the owner Big Mike and bought my two lots in Hermosa from Tres Amigos Realty, which I am now the owner.

I knew right then and there that this would be where I would spend the rest of my life; I just had to work my plan. I love this little hotel. The waves are crashing behind me as I eat my fruit plate and I don’t even have to pay here. I have a running tab. Whenever it gets high enough that I become a flight risk, Janet asks me to settle up. Usually when it hits $500 for the month, they stop me at the door. Pay up Gringo!!! In the old days, I was spending that every week, as dozens of my clients were staying here and the drinks were always on me (they still are by the way).

My record in 2006 was 11 contracts in one day. I wrote them all right here at the El Velero (which means The Sailboat in Spanish by the way, as they have a gorgeous boat you can take out around the bay here in Hermosa). Big Mike still tells the story of me jumping from table to table with a contract and a pen. I am glad those crazy days are over actually, as I never seemed to have enough time to enjoy Costa Rica like I do now. I never found time back then to spend a weekend in the rain forest or spend a day out fishing. Back then there was so much greed (I was guilty of that too) and most of the buyers never even really made the money. They just woke up one day and had equity in their homes and told everyone how much they had earned it and deserved the good things in life.

It’s different now. The down turn in the economy was like a big FLUSH of our toilet. The builders who ripped people off are gone. The taxi drivers, tour operators and attorneys who pretended to be Realtors are back doing what they should be doing. The restaurants who served bad food are closed and businesses who just wanted to make a buck and not look after their clients are no longer IN business. The dozens of real estate agents who made money because there was so much low hanging fruit, left.

They all came into town riding a big white horse firing their guns[more…] in the air claiming to be the next Sheriff. They sold that horse for bus money and left with their tails between their legs. But the best part is that the buyers now are REAL. These are people who WANT to be in Costa Rica not just looking to make a buck. They are tired of all the negativity back home and want to make this their lifestyle. They want to Experience the quality of life we are all fortunate to enjoy every day and are a big part of the local community.

People ask me all the time, “What do you love most about Costa Rica?” One time, as I was walking into this same hotel, the clients I was with that day asked me that same question. As I started to answer, I looked up and saw two gentlemen sitting at the bar. They were two friends of mine, having a beer. I should say, having their 12th beer. They were hammered. It was obvious that they were out all day fishing, as they were covered in goo; Smelly, fishy, stinky and drunk. LOVE IT. One of these men is the VP of a major US corporation and makes tens of millions of dollars a year. He could buy every house in Playa Hermosa twice over. The other guy is a retired electrician, and barely has two nickels to rub together. He rents a little apartment here and lives on Social Security. Yet here they were, laughing, hugging and having a ball.

THAT is what I love about Costa Rica, I said. Nowhere else in the world would you see two people, that far apart in income levels, hanging out spending the day together. In the USA, the rich stay in one area, and the not so rich stay in another. In Costa Rica, nobody cares. There is no “keeping up with the Jones” and nobody cares how much money you have, or how big your house is. It’s all about being in Costa Rica. As we say, check your ego at the door. Everyone is accepted here, because we all have one thing in common, WE LOVE THIS PLACE!

It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, young or old. Nobody cares where you went to college or if you even graduated high school.

It makes no difference what country you are from, or the religion that you practice. Ticos hang out with Gringos, Europeans mix with Americans, Republicans actually talk to Democrats. We have all walks of life. We even have the cheap Canadians, and we accept them too even though their national sport is curling (just kidding my Northern friends). There are retirees and Millionaires and even young people in their 20s and 30s starting new lives in paradise. Yet we all mix and mingle, all respect each other, and nobody judges, because we are ONE. We are Lovers of Costa Rica. Tomorrow is the perfect example. We will celebrate July 4th as if we were in the USA, and everyone is invited and they will all come. There will be fireworks on the beach, and a typical American BBQ. We still love the USA; we just choose to live in Costa Rica, because it’s a better place to be.

One time some clients of mine were staying at the El Velero hotel. They are quite wealthy and could easily afford to rent a suite at the Four Seasons hotel. But they were moving into their new house and wanted to get a feel for the local flavor. I went to visit them and ran into the wife as she was heading to the beach in her bathing suit. I asked her if everything was ok with the hotel, as I was a little concerned. This was an older couple and the El Velero hotel is more of your rustic Costa Rican hang out, surely not the 5 star hotels they were used to. She grabbed me by the cheeks, gave me a big kiss, looked me in the eye and said “it’s ok honey, we are roughing it!!!!!!!!!”

I thought that was the funniest stuff. But these are the type of people who come to Costa Rica. They want to Experience something different; they want a new culture, a new lifestyle. They are people who are able to adapt and not complain about the littlest things. If you wake up and the water goes out, you just jump in the pool, put on a baseball cap and start your day. If the electricity goes out for an hour, you learn to celebrate it, as here is your excuse to go grab a beer at the beach or sit by the candles with your loved one and enjoy a quiet glass of wine together.

We still have our Haagen Dazs ice cream, Eggo frozen waffles, Philadelphia cream cheese, Frosted Flakes and Rold Gold pretzels at the grocery stores, we are not doing the ‘Robinson Crusoe’. But we also learn to appreciate all the little things and take extra time out of our day to ENJOY LIFE. We try to never miss a morning walk on the beach, an evening sunset or a run with our dogs.

You know what else I love about this place? It is real, it is simple. There is nothing fake about this place. The good is good and the not so good is not so good. But nobody hides it. This place isn’t perfect, it’s not Disneyland. But it sure beats the alternative. You couldn’t pay me to go back home. I especially love the pride that this country has. Do you know that there are NO welfare or unemployment benefits in Costa Rica? I love that. They tell you, get a job, or move back in with your parents, but we are not going to pay for you sit on your ass all day doing nothing. Grab a machete and go door to door, I am sure someone needs a lot cut. But they do have disability benefits and every person gets a Social Security pension. They take care of their injured and the old, but they don’t give handouts to the lazy. Too many freeloaders in the USA are killing the system.

You won’t see a beggar on the street here, they have too much pride. Instead, their entrepreneurial spirit will kick in. They will buy a glow in the dark vest, stand on the street and ask you if you want them to watch your car while you shop. They aren’t hired by anyone, they just do it. And everyone tips them. I would rather pay someone to “watch my car” than have them beg for a dollar or hold up a Will Work for Food sign. THEN WORK IDIOT. Nobody works in the USA anymore. They are all “Professional” Poker Players. I asked my Mom what happens when it snows, do any of the neighborhood kids come by to clear the driveway?

When I was a kid I did anything I could to make a buck. Shovel snow, mow lawns, rake leaves and deliver papers. I baby sat, and watched peoples dogs, I cleaned people’s cars and took care of their houses when they went on vacation. I had a full time job at 14 and still managed to get good grades. My mom told me she hasn’t seen a neighborhood kid in 10 years. The Mexicans come by though, and are happy to work for the money. There are 30 million people living on welfare in the USA and 30 million illegal aliens from Mexico. I say trade ‘em. Give the USA the hard working Mexicans and send the welfare idiots over the border.

In Costa Rica, I have a full time care taker. He spends 10 hours a day in my yard, and it looks like a Botanical garden. And he is singing the entire time. My maid travels over an hour by bus to get here every morning at 7 am, and she is as happy as can be. She spends the first 20 minutes of the day, hugging my dogs and grooming little Millie.

The Costa Ricans have their priorities straight and that I believe is why they are the happiest friendliest people on earth. Family and Faith, comes first. They never miss a Sunday gathering. They enjoy every holiday, and go to everyone’s weddings and funerals. They put in a good days work and make sure to be home to spend it with their loved ones. They party like rock stars and spend all their free time outside, not in front of a video game or a TV.

I gave a ride this morning to a gentleman from Venezuela who lives here now. He made a very powerful comment to me. He said that in Venezuela they have all the riches in the world. Oil, Iron Ore, Diamonds, Gold and Natural gas; but the people are horrible. He then said that Costa Rica has very few wealthy resources but the PEOPLE are why he lives here. He said that when he talks to his friends back home and tells them he is sitting in the Centro Park of Liberia at 9 pm having a coffee, they can’t believe it. In Caracas, he said, “They would kill you.” I had to agree with him as I have never felt safer and more welcome anywhere in the world.

People are nice to you here and I love the simplicity. You know there are no addresses in Costa Rica and the mailman rides around on a motorcycle. He usually just comes to my office and drops off all the mail for the area. We then call everyone up and tell them to come by and pick it up. It’s actually quite nice as it gives us the opportunity to see people on a regular basis. I lived in homes in California, Texas and Florida and never even knew my neighbors. Everyone went home every day, pulled into the garage and went into the house, and you didn’t see them again. I know all my neighbors and have them over on a regular basis.

Deciphering Costa Rican Addresses – Wall Street Journal Article

Every year I throw a huge party to thank everyone in the community for being my client, being my associate or being my friend. You should plan to come this year, it is truly an event. I had over 650 people last year and I imagine it will only get bigger this year. But everyone is that way. Everyone waves to you, invites you to their table and offers to buy you a drink. Neighbors have each other over for BBQs and everybody takes time to stop and say hello. It’s probably like the way my parents grew up, and now I know what they meant when they said “the good old days”

Costa Rica IS the good old days.

So I ask, “What’s stopping you?” Stop talking about doing it, and put it into action. JUST DO IT, as Nike says. Start living. Start NOW. Come to Costa Rica and lose your heart. I look forward to seeing you here soon. The weather is always warm here at the beach and the beers are always cold, and the friendliest people you will ever meet are waiting here to greet you.

See you down here in Paradise!

Pura Vida,

Michael Simons

If you have had a great experience with my office and Costa Rica, I want to hear about it. Please send us a video of yourself telling us WHY and I will post it to my website for everyone to see. Or send me an email and I will put it in my Testimonials. I appreciate your business and that you have decided to read this Newsletter more than I could ever tell you. THANK YOU.  Please take a little more time and check out the entire site. We have added a lot of information lately that I am sure you will find helpful. Also, please forward this to any friends you think might be interested in learning more about Costa Rica. Is there a story behind Tank Tops and Flip Flops you ask? Of course, but you have to stay tuned for another Newsletter. I hope all is well. Stay healthy. God Bless you and your families. Stop procrastinating and hurry back!

Check Out My Full Website at  www.tanktopsflipflops.com



Why are you still There and not here?

Written by Michael Simons on . Posted in Costa Rica Living, Newsletters

Newsletter edition no. 3

Every day I wonder why everyone doesn’t move to a place like Costa Rica.  Now don’t get me wrong, I really don’t want EVERYONE to move here.  Then it would be like there, and I would have to leave – and I have no plans to go anywhere.  But there is so much negativity back in the USA and Canada that I don’t understand how people deal with it.  Whether it’s the Auburn school shooting or the Penn State abuse case, there never seems to be any good news.  

Life in Costa Rica is simple and everyone is happy.  I drove to work the other day, and there was this man on his bicycle.  He had to be 60 years old, just riding along without a care in the world.  I watched him for a minute as he went by.  He was smiling and singing like a little kid.  Then all of a sudden he popped a wheelie, went about 15 yards and the bike slammed back down.  He then proceeded to peddle as fast as he could and took his hands off the bars and threw them up in the air.  It reminded me of when I was a kid.  “Look Mom, NO HANDS!!!…and I did a WHEELIE!!!!”  But he was 60, not 16.  Fortunately, he didn’t slam into a bus.


I went home to visit my family over Memorial weekend.  I was there 6 days and I was very anxious to get back home to Costa Rica (I have to be really careful what I write here because my Mom reads my Newsletters and I NEVER want to insult my Mother) I mean, it was great to see the family and I had a wonderful week, but the whole experience reminded me WHY I moved to Costa Rica.  


Everything is a big ordeal back home.  It takes forever to go anywhere. And, you can’t just go out for a drink in the USA because you have to worry about being arrested for DUI.  You don’t even have to be drunk; you just have to have MORE than one cocktail in a one hour period.  Hell, who only drinks ONE cocktail an hour?  What is the point of drinking, if you are only going to have one drink an hour?  


My Dad told me a story about a client of his who got pulled over by the police.  He had 2 drinks.  TWO !!!!  They arrested him for drunk driving. If I got arrested every time I had two drinks, I would be in prison for the rest of my entire life.  REALTOR GETS LIFE IN PRISON.  I drink two drinks, FOR LUNCH waiting on the waiter to show up at my table. Not only did this guy get all the things you expect with a DUI, suspended drivers license, huge fines, alcohol class etc, they made him attend Anger Management Class. This is the stuff that kills me.  Anger Management – For Drinking?  Are you kidding me?  You know what makes me angry,  SENDING ME TO ANGER MANAGEMENT FOR HAVING TWO DRINKS.  But because of a couple of idiots, we all have to pay the price.  


That’s the problem in the USA.  Because of the irresponsible actions of a few the majority has to pay the price.  Can you say Sub Prime loans?  No thanks.


In Costa Rica, a cop once pulled me over, saw the beer in my lap and said “Señor, be careful.  That is a good beer.  You wouldn’t want to spill it.  Drive safely”  Besides, I definitely wouldn’t want to take a taxi home anyway.  Way safer to drive.  I mean, have you ever been in a taxi in Central America?  These guys drive like Mad Max.  No thank you.  It is much easier to just give a couple bucks to the cop if he pulls you over.  At least you know its going to good use.


Speaking of being pulled over…[more…]  I was driving back to Guanacaste from San Jose one time and a cop pulled me over for speeding.  Now, they don’t pull you over like they do in the USA, where they get behind you and turn on the lights.  NO, in this country they just jump out from behind a shady tree, into the middle of the road, put their hand up and force you to stop.  I always wanted to just blow by the guy and keep going, but I heard some horror stories of Costa Rican prisons.  I always wondered how many of them got plowed over because some tourist was reading a map.


So, the cop comes up to my car and asks for my Passport.  They do this to prove I am legally in this country.  Why a police officer can’t do this back home without being considered racist is beyond my comprehension (Reason number 846 not to live in the USA).  I show the officer my Permanent resident card and he has this look of disappointment in his eyes. He thought he had pulled over a Gringo. It is much harder to hustle a bribe out of a Tingo (Tico Gringo) than it is a tourist. There is actually a great story about the origin of the word Gringo; yes you guessed it, coming soon to a Newsletter near you.


He asks me out of the blue “do you ever go back to the USA?”  Of course I answer but I am curious why he asks this.  He motions for me to get out of my car and follow him so I do.  If a cop did that in the USA I would be totally panicked that I might never see the light of day again.  He goes back to his police car, which by the way is usually a tow truck so they can impound your vehicle if they need to, and pulls out his wallet. He proceeds to hand me over $100 CANADIAN DOLLARS and asks me if I know where he can exchange these.  


I had to hold in the laugh because I knew what happened. Somebody from Canada got pulled over earlier, and paid this guy $100 bribe in


Canadian dollars.  What’s so hilarious is the tickets are only about $20 if you take the ticket.  But of course most tourists panic; cop, gun, Spanish, TOW TRUCK and they give a big bribe to get out of the ticket.  The police offer asks me if I would BUY back the Canadian dollars for either US dollars or Costa Rican Colones!!!!



Now the fun begins.  I am in control.  He has no idea who he is negotiating with.  I do this for a living.  Make a long story short, I pulled out my calculator and we began the back and forth dance of the value of the Canadian buck.  I told him it was useless, he thought it was gold, and we ended on a fair price for the exchange.  I actually made about $16 FOR GETTING PULLED OVER.  Man do I love Costa Rica.  Can you imagine even offering a cop a bribe in Colorado? They would Rodney King you.  


I actually found myself being bored in the USA.  You have to plan everything and with traffic it can take hours to get anywhere.  Meet me here at such and such a time with so and so.  Texting back and forth.  Emailing.  Calling.  Trying to make plans around everyone’s schedule.  

In Costa Rica, I just drive into town, walk into any restaurant or bar and run into 20 people I know.  Who needs plans?  Or jump in my truck and go to anyone of a dozen beaches to hang out for the day.  You will get invited 10 times to go out fishing with people you don’t even know.  Yes I did go out to some wonderful dinners with my family when I went back home and I also saw the Van Halen Concert and had a great time.  David Lee Roth is still my hero.  I also took my family to a baseball game; it was my niece’s first game.


Now, understand she is 9 years old. Baseball is hard enough to get excited about when you are 40.  But when you are a 9 year old girl, with the attention span of a rubber band, this has potential for disaster written all over it.  I remember praying to God on the way to the game.  Dear Lord, please don’t give me a 1-0 pitchers dual.  Can you imagine?  By the third inning she would be totally bored out of her mind.  Thankfully, 7 runs were scored in the first inning.  She hugged me.  “I LOVE baseball Uncle Mike”  So we proceeded to buy everything with sugar that has ever been made on the earth.  Carmel corn, Cotton Candy, Ice Cream, Sodas, M&Ms, Hamburgers, Hot Dogs and we might as well end it with a Snow Cone. I mean, why not?  But at the end of the day, the entire experience cost over $500!!!


Now, I can afford it, but seriously, how does a family of 4 pull this off?  The USA is just totally out of control.  


By the way we have a couple local baseball teams here.  When we found out that the team was lacking in some essentials, a group of local people stepped up with donations of gloves, balls, etc.  One of my good clients is a big wig with Miller Beer.  He called another big wig at the Milwaukee Brewers.  Next thing you know, a small container arrives in Costa Rica with baseballs, bats, hats, uniforms, gloves, catcher equipment, the works.


Now the Sardinal Brewers are stocked up and ready to play.  They might not be as good as the Colorado Rockies but they are just as much fun to watch and the tickets don’t cost a week’s pay.  There are dozens of examples where we give back to the community.  I get asked all the time about helping with local Charities and I promise this will be in a Newsletter soon as I know many of you want to know where you can help.


It blew my mind how expensive everything has gotten back home, but the thing I noticed the most, is how everyone was in a bad mood.  No matter who I talked to, they were miserable.  I was depressed just talking to people.  The first thing everyone notices the moment they set foot in Costa Rica, is how wonderfully happy, positive, friendly and nice every body is.  You very rarely ever see anyone in a bad mood.  The saying Pura Vida really makes sense after you land in this paradise.


Talk about landing at airports.  If I never have to go through Customs in the United States of America ever again, it will be one day too soon.  Dear God, what a nightmare.  It doesn’t even feel like the USA anymore, but Communist Russia.  They grill you when you get to the window.  Where have you been, Why were you in Costa Rica, What are you doing there, Why are you back, What do you want, What are you carrying?????????? Dude, I am just coming back to see a baseball game.  


They practically strip search you, make you go through 2 or 3 X-ray machines, and ask to see your ID about 14 times.  It takes 3 hours to get through the whole ordeal and you almost miss your plane.  Then when you are boarding the plane, some Homeland Security Agent asks you if you are carrying more than $10,000 in Cash.  


I remember once coming back from Las Vegas they asked me that. I said, “Nope left it all at the casino.  You should have searched me coming in.”  Needless to say they didn’t find that so funny and I had to go through another body search.  Going through the airport in Costa Rica is a breeze.  Everyone smiles at you, says Welcome to Costa Rica.  They ask how your day is going.  And they let you check extra baggage, over weight and usually don’t charge you.  I love this country.  But of course I did a bunch of shopping in the USA and stuffed it into my bags as we are always bringing something back from the USA.  My first thought was “How am I going to get this through Customs in Costa Rica?”  This takes tremendous skill and of course we have perfected it.  That’s right, you guessed it, and it’s for another Newsletter.


I was so glad to be back.  Just walking through the new Liberia airport and out into the evening sky, all the stress I felt before was gone.  It was a perfect evening, and you could see thousands of stars in the sky.  I bought a beer and opened it, and drank it on the way home.  The next morning, on my way to work, I was reminded again why I love this country.  I had to sit in a Costa Rica traffic jam as some cows crossed the road. I saw a family (yes a family) on their moped riding through town.


Everybody smiled and waved at me as I drove by.  There were monkeys and birds in the trees and I saw a couple dozen kids playing soccer in the park.  There was even a horse tied to post in front of a bar, like the old Wild West.  I had my coffee in my hand and I was off to have breakfast on the beach.  It was another perfect day in paradise and I was ecstatic to be home again.


Anyway, I am off to town.  I will just walk into any restaurant or bar and there will be a dozen friends to hang out with.  I can guarantee you this much.  I won’t be bored and I won’t take a taxi home.


See you down here in Paradise!


Pura Vida,

Michael Simons


If you have had a great experience with my office and Costa Rica, I want to hear about it. Please send us a video of yourself telling us WHY and I will post it to my website for everyone to see. Or send me an email and I will put it in my Testimonials. I appreciate your business and that you have decided to read this Newsletter more than I could ever tell you. THANK YOU.  Please take a little more time and check out the entire site. We have added a lot of information lately that I am sure you will find helpful. Also, please forward this to any friends you think might be interested in learning more about Costa Rica. Is there a story behind Tank Tops and Flip Flops you ask? Of course, but you have to stay tuned for another Newsletter. I hope all is well. Stay healthy. God Bless you and your families. Stop procrastinating and hurry back!


Check Out My Full Website at  www.tanktopsflipflops.com


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