In a recent blog post about retiring abroad, I stated that I didn't want to live in Costa Rica because an American student disappeared in a national park near Liberia in August 2009, according to Carole Moore's compelling book, "The Last Place You'd Look: True Stories of Missing Persons and the People Who Search for Them."
The truth is, people disappear all the time here in the states. I just used that as an excuse because, despite its beautiful countryside, warm and friendly people, and diverse flora and fauna, I don't want to live in Costa Rica during retirement. But plenty of Americans do.
Recently my husband Kevin and I spent 10 days in the jungle near Nosara, where the Pacific Ocean provides a steady supply of consistently good waves. We stayed at the Harbor Reef, a comfortable, rustic lodge designed to provide basic amenities for the surfers who travel there.
Some choose to retire in the area, despite the lack of infrastructure -- the roads near Nosara are unpaved, the electricity tends to flicker and the area has "sensitive septic systems." But the beach break at Playa Guiones and the point break at nearby Playa Pelada beckon surfers from around the world.
3 who took the plunge
Kevin met three expatriates in the water during the occasional lull between sets. Richard, age 55, said he and his wife moved to the area eight years ago and own two properties, one in Guiones and another at Playa Pelada. They stay at one and rent the other, but Rich, who once worked for the Drug Enforcement Agency, says it's expensive to live there and he's just happy to have enough food on the table for him and his wife and their dog. Even though he seemed to be complaining about the cost of living, he told my husband, "I surf all the way to the bank."
One morning when I was standing on shore with camera in hand waiting to catch Kevin on a wave, I saw someone paddle over to him and strike up a conversation. That turned out to be Paul, 62, who hails from Stuart, Fla., where he used to work in a marina. He rents a place in Guiones, having moved a year a half ago. In order to establish residency, he arranged for a monthly annuity of $1,000 to be directly deposited to a bank near Nosara, he told Kevin. He plans to begin collecting Social Security this year, and seems to have modest needs. He said that he's happy to have a radio and a flat-screen TV.
Another surfer, Pete from Pensacola, Fla., kept dropping in on my husband. "Dropping in" is a term surfers use when someone takes advantage of a wave that another person is entitled to. Yes, surfers are territorial about waves in the open seas. But Pete apologized and urged Kevin to consider living in Costa Rica. He himself admitted it was an impulsive decision. Pensacola Pete used to be in the hurricane shutter business and is now building a home in Guiones. He and his wife also own a beachfront house in Pensacola, which he rents out most of the year.
These surfers are living their retirement dreams, doing what they love to do most. For them, the most important retirement tool is their surfboard. I got a little worried that my husband would want to follow suit. Fortunately, after 10 days of playing in the surf, Kevin decided he would get bored after a while.
Whew! I'm glad we were able to avoid that retirement planning conflict or I might have had to pull a disappearing act of my own!
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