In the heart of rural Panama, nestled in the crater of an extinct volcano, El Valle is a place of orchids, rainforest greens, and canary-yellow flowers. Though it’s relatively unknown beyond Panamanian borders, locals argue that no other town can match it. And not just because of the singular beauty of the velvety-green mountaintops.
There are a lot of practical advantages to living in Costa Rica that I've discovered during my two years here. A big one for my family is the savings on medical care. When my son was born in June of 2012, we paid just $3,000 for the birth at a private hospital, including all the doctors' fees and an overnight hospital stay. That's cash, no insurance. We would have paid $15,000 to $20,000 in the U.S. When, at six months, the baby developed some health issues, testing and treatment was cheap too.
Costa Rica has a lot to recommend it: low cost of living, bargain real estate, the "Pura Vida" lifestyle, great weather, fabulous beaches...the list goes on and on. But one of the biggest benefits for retirees, business owners, and other expats is the health care. In a time of rising costs in the U.S., not to mention a contentious political debate over insurance and medical care, Costa Rica's take on the issue is refreshing.
I have a pretty standard morning routine. I’m awakened very early by roosters but stay in bed for a while as the sunrise filters into the bedroom. I start the coffee, open the sliding doors, step out to my deck, and look down into the valley below. I usually see hummingbirds buzzing around my flowers, sometimes a blue-crowned mot-mot.
Shopping like a local in Costa Rica often means forgoing trips to the supermarket in favor of the feria (farmers’ market), mercado central (central market), and roadside stands, especially for fruits, vegetables, and other fresh foods.
It’s a line you hear a lot on Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast. “We thought about Panama—we almost bought in El Valle. Then we came down to Costa Rica’s Southern Zone and fell in love.
Whether coming with suitcases or loading a container, people relocating abroad fret about what to bring along on their new adventure. Precious keepsakes, favorite books and photos…there’s only so much room. Well, I can recommend eliminating one thing...
Are you for real? Do you have any kids? Do you like squirrels? How old are you? What does that do? Can I wear your hat? How did you get this job? Is your teacher pretty? How much do you get paid? Can I drive? Is John your real name? Can I toot your horn? Answering questions. It seems I have been doing that for most of my adult life.
I’ve always been fascinated with South America. So when my wife Dana and I contemplated the “second half” of our lives, it seemed natural to look in that direction. A few episodes of House Hunters International, featuring U.S. expats in Latin America, particularly piqued our interest.
Every time you turn around, another travel piece appears about Ecuador’s capital city, Quito. Mainstream travel writers, it seems, are just now discovering what we’ve known for years…that the city is a worthy destination that blends new and old in alluring ways. It doesn’t hurt that Quito is one of the world’s most affordable cities, where you can still take a taxi anywhere in town for $1 to $5 and find a menú del día…usually a four-course meal of soup, salad, meat/rice/vegetables, dessert, and beverage…for $1.50 to $2.50.