The moment that I emailed the Nosara Yoga Institute (NYI) to confirm my wife Anna’s enrollment in their 200-hour yoga teacher training course, I knew that our life was about to become dramatically different. Classes were scheduled to begin on November 7th, 2010 and we had two lifetimes worth of belongings to consolidate, sell, donate and put into storage…Unlike many others, we were not simply taking a working vacation for a month to Nosara to complete the yoga course. Anna & I had made the decision to load up our two dogs and take a leap of faith, as they say. We were moving to Costa Rica for good. Selling our house. Closing our real estate company. Bringing along only the items deemed necessary and figuring out the rest along the way. Scraping together what little money we had and working hard to make it stretch. Waving goodbye to Buffalo, New York and embracing the magnetic Pura Vida of this beautiful country. Clearly, this stands alone as the best decision we have ever made.
Flashback to February 2010: My wife Anna & I were sitting in our livingroom discussing how best to approach our future. We owned a house and a small real estate business on the West Side of Buffalo, NY. Life was good but we were trying to figure out how to make it better and live the type of life that we had always dreamed of- a simpler, slower-paced, family-centered type of life in a warmer climate. Anna & I had been talking about moving to Costa Rica for a few years already, and it was such a serious endeavor that we had purchased a nice little farm house overlooking the ocean in San Ramon. There were some improvements that we planned on doing to the casa over the course of a few years and then the general plan was to split each year between Buffalo and San Ramon until such a time arose where it made sense to move to San Ramon permanently… The housing market in the US was certainly recovering little by little, but we were struggling in Buffalo because our livelihood depended largely on the decision making of bank underwriters. After working within this system for about eleven years apiece, my wife and I could plainly see that the banks were operating under an “every man (or bank exec) for himself” model of underwriting and that many economically viable loans were being rejected daily. Once the banks got bailed out by the federal government they promptly turned their backs on the American people and began to recover their losses (in other words pad their already monumental gains). This is the way Anna & I viewed the situation for what it’s worth. Between the banks and the State of New York, it was quite a challenge to own and operate a small business and do well. I could go on and on about banks but that is a topic for another blog… Combine that with the insane amounts of money that we had to pay for health insurance every month out of pocket, the high-paced lunacy that people engage in to “get ahead”, and the material-mindedness of America at large, we decided the time had come for a change. We love the United States, but Anna & I agreed that we would prefer to raise a family elsewhere… So, Anna & I are in our livingroom. We were in the process of refinancing our house to pay off a balloon-payment that was due on it in May 2010. The house was worth $160,000 and we only needed to refinance for $35,000 to pay off the balloon… we had already been rejected twice for no good or clear reason at all, but paid for 2 appraisals ($400 USD apiece). The bank had made their money to keep their appraisers afloat, and I suppose that’s all they were really concerned about. I had just handed over another $400 to our refi loan officer in a desperate third and final attempt to refinance before the balloon-payment was due and to avoid us losing the property that we had invested our blood, sweat, and tears in for 3 years while restoring it to glory. My wife and I looked at each other and something clicked! We both realized that by putting our fates in the hands of bank underwriters yet again, we were very likely to go through a world of stress only to lose another $400, the final 3 months we had before the balloon-payment was due, and ultimately our house. I grabbed my mobile phone and rapidly dialed our loan officer’s cell. I asked him to please turn around and return our $400. He asked me what we were going to do- so I told him that we planned on putting our house on the market that very day, selling the house to a cash buyer only -so as not to deal with banks at any stage, and then we were moving to Costa Rica to start a new life… When he was done laughing out loud I told him I had to go because I needed to put the sale sign on the lawn.
We stuck to our guns. Of course, we showed the house to everyone who wanted to see it because you just never know- but ultimately we had a high-quality product, very strong convictions, and were blessed enough to receive a cash offer for asking price. The transaction closed the day that the balloon-payment was due to the previous owner… WOW!!! Anna & I were thrilled with the young man who purchased the property- such a nice guy. Alex is an entrepeneur himself but has a wonderfully laid-back attitude and a very cool demeanor. As part of the terms of the sale, we were able to stay in our apartment upstairs for 6 months so we could wrap everything up properly for our move to Costa Rica. The proceeds of the sale went to pay the balloon-payment that was due on our Buffalo house, were used to pay-off our mortgage on our casa in San Ramon, and were employed to eliminate almost all of our credit card and student loan debt. There was just enough left for us to physically make the move to Costa Rica, buy a used vehicle here, and pay for Anna’s yoga teacher training. For so long we had talked about trying to free ourselves from debt and wanting to minimize our lives… now that opportunity presented itself and we couldn’t have been more thrilled!!! Starting anew from the ground level in an enchanting foreign country is just what the doctor ordered. There was so much to prepare and take care of in the six months that followed, but everything went quite smoothly overall. The move wasn’t nearly as daunting as we imagined. Just put one foot in front of the other and do what you can each day. Hold some garage sales, pack a few bags, and hug your friends and family when you see them. Before you know it, you’re on the plane drinking ginger ale and listening to “Where the Streets Have No Name” by U2. Or maybe you prefer “Aquarius” (Let the Sun Shine In) by 5th Dimension? Perhaps “Easy Ride” by The Doors is more your bag… They all rocked my playlist. The point is this- anything is possible. Refuse to limit yourself. Think outside the box and live the way you want to live for as long as you’re alive. Age doesn’t factor in at either end of the spectrum. Desire for another way of life, designs on international business or investments, a retirement strategy, or just flat out wanderlust and adventure addiction- these are all great reasons to consider Costa Rica. The most difficult aspect of the move for us is being so far from our friends and family- but it just gives them a great reason to book a trip to visit us in a tropical paradise!!! Also, we have made so many wonderful friends since we arrived in November. There are plenty of friendly Ticos/Ticas, Americans, Canadians, Europeans, etc. to spend time with here. The previous owners of this site, Steven Freidmutter and Janet Shure, were the beautiful people that plugged us into the life here in Costa Rica and we are so very appreciative of that. They sold us our casa, showed us the ropes and introduced us to key people, and ultimately selected us to be the new face of Paradise Management. It is truly a blessing to be in this position and my wife and I are here to assist in the transition for anyone who is ready to take a Leap of Faith… Pura Vida!!!