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6 Sep

My Golden Years in Grecia, Costa Rica

My husband Charles and I retired the 1990’s.  It was impossible for us to understand all of the immediate and future lifestyle changes we would face in our “Golden Years.”  In the autumn of life, we wanted to fully embrace that season. Create a second childhood filled with titillation, activity, excellent health, and longevity.  We could not visualize some of the positive and negative challenges that would be faced due to aging.

For before final retirement, Charles and I moved into a senior living apartment complex in Southern California.  Most of the older tenants in the complex wanted to live the quiet life.  No noise, no children or excitement.  The best conversations seemed to be held in the laundry room.  Ironically, this senior complex was approximately four blocks away from a graveyard.  After a year of quiet living,  I realized that one day I would have plenty of quiet time in a cemetery just like the one up the road.

My husband and I began to grasp the idea that retirement mean exploring new interests, pursuing new passions, getting our creative juices flowing.  We needed to find ways to routinely think outside of the box.  With those new concepts in mind, we purchased a motor home and traveled the US.  Waking up in a new city, town or state frequently, learning to be impulsive became the norm.  During those travels, we came across several other mobile retirees who were eager to share their stories and ideas concerning the “Golden Years.”  During one of our stopovers, there was an extensive discussion about living in Central America.

Previous to our retirement we believed the big switch from traditional pensions to self-directed 401(k) plans in the 1980s would guarantee our retirement goals.  In 2001 there was a market crash that significantly affected the 401 (K) plan we believed in.  Not only was the crash an economic game changer but also forced us to contemplate who would care for us in the future.  If we needed outside assistance, what were the costs associated to care as we aged?  We had not considered the cost of additional care previously as at that time we were both still very vibrant, energetic and in the best of health.

One morning in San Diego, California, gazing out onto the dock of the Bay.  I began to consider what my former RV travel buddies mentioned about Central America.  Traveling the US in a motor home was fun, but we began to desire to be in a fixed location. My husband and I enjoyed each other’s company greatly.  However, the time came for him to have a relaxing man cave, and I needed my unique space.

As we had trained ourselves to be impulsive and still wanted to seek adventure, I booked two tickets to travel and explore Panama.  That visit to Panama put us on the road to Costa Rica. Visiting those two countries established a different kind of adventure and excitement back into our lives.  At that time May 2002,  we found Costa Rica to be very unusual.  Not the third world but the second.  The visit forced me to recall how people use to live in the 1950-60s in the US.  We found modest grocery stores on several corners with fresh chicken, fresh fish, fresh vegetables.   In Grecia, we concluded that old-time hustle and bustle. We saw things and heard sounds that over the years we both had grown unaccustomed to living as modernized, technology savvy suburbanites in the US.

La Terraza Guest House B&B in Grecia we rented for one year before purchasing.  Once the decision was made to settle permanently in Grecia, the move impassioned us.  We got excited all over again as we began new challenges learning the language, exchanging money, learning new products, culture and a new way of life for us.   Little things I learned were so important such as eating out of the can is expensive in CR. One day I picked up a can of beans that cost over $2.00 vs. $0.89 cents at home. Doritos, Lays, Pringles, things we take for granted are priced as luxury items.  You quickly learn to live without them.  Processed foods are expensive in Costa Rica while fresh foods are a lot cheaper.  Passing by a bakery smelling the aroma of fresh bread, just a couple doors down are the meat markets selling fish that earlier that morning came in straight from the ocean.

During the first year, we learned as permanent residents of Costa Rica health care is less expensive, in-home assistance is also drastically cheaper when compared to home.  There are many qualified persons you can pay to come to your house clean and cook for you even when you are in need of 24-hour services.  The Dr’s in Costa Rica still make house calls. On a bi-weekly basis, i can afford simple luxuries such as massages, manicures, pedicures, aromatherapy even hair cuts.  All of these services are performed at my house versus traveling into town.   In my Golden Years the average DR in home visit is around $60.00.  You don’t need to dash to the ER and wait for hours if the problem is not life threatening.  If your particular Doctor can’t come, he will send a colleague to tend to your needs.  They have many DR’s who speak English and if they
motor home older couple 2don’t a local in your neighborhood will willingly help you out with translation.

When we first settled in Grecia, we put fear aside and jumped into the deep end of our community. We began attending a church even though we could not even speak the language.  While enjoying the services and the spirit of the church we built new relationships.  The congregation was very welcoming and jubilant that we came to their village church.

Socializing at church, with neighbors, being friendly and reaching out is how we found reasonably priced personal services.  House cleaning, auto repair, drivers a gardener, etc.  Ladies I don’t know about you, but I did not retire to clean the house.  My husband did not retire to cut the grass.  We love a clean home and beautiful gardens, but we knew we needed that type of help to maintain a carefree lifestyle. Most of these services are very inexpensive in comparison to the US. For the first time in our married life, we could spend time doing what we wanted to do together and not what had to do separately.  Part of our new move to Costa Rica was to create a new relationship, we wanted to be boyfriend and girlfriend again, and it worked!

Fresh eggs and farm fresh raw milk, jams, honey, vegetables, even a freshly plucked chicken can still be delivered daily directly to your doorstep.  In Grecia, they have some of the best tasting sour cream and yogurt delivered to your home.  Each small city seems to have its farmers market.  Our farmers market in Grecia is open on Friday and Saturday mornings every week almost all year long.  We do have organic vegetables and fruits.   When the electric gate is open to the compound as the guest sometimes forget to close it, my neighbors when driving pass call me immediately and tell me to lock the gate.

Charles passed some time ago.  Now more than ever I’m grateful that we were not interested in how cheap we could live in Costa Rica but how high the quality of life would be while he was around, on this present date and moving into the future.  It took many years of hard work and plenty of sweat equity to have an incredible “Golden Years.”  I’m living the actual life of worry free retirement and loving it.  My name is Jeanetta Owens  When you come to Grecia, don’t be shy, stop by and join me for coffee on the veranda!


“Pura Vida”


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