Happier Than A Billionaire

Costa Rica Cost of Living Update: 15 ounce Country Crock margarine — $3.33

It’s been just over five years since the official release of my book, Happier Than A Billionaire. Some things have changed, while others have stayed the same, and this may cause some confusion to many who are new to our story. This post is a short recap to clarify why we started this journey, how it has changed along the way, and where we hope it will take us.

So why did I name my first book Happier Than A Billionaire? After working seventy hours a week in order to live the American dream, we were still stressed out and miserable. We had no time for each other or anything else outside of work. We started to suspect that more stuff was not the key to finding real happiness.

Studies prove this, and it is evident by stories like those of the Tyco executive who stole his company’s cash to fund lavish parties, complete with Jimmy Buffett playing guitar and an ice sculpture of Michelangelo’s “David” urinating Stolichnaya vodka. The executive was later convicted of embezzlement and spent six years in jail, where I’m certain his urination issues did not involve vodka or ice sculptures. And our suspicions were correct. We moved to CR with a few suitcases and started living the happiest times of our lives. We were not billionaires, but happier than the ones we read about.

Happier than a Billionaire is about making the most of our resources and being grateful for everything we have. It was never our plan to be “living in a van down by the river” although we did live near a river, where Rob tested our handgun that he had just set on fire after hiding it in our fireplace. He shot into the ground, blew out our water pipes, and at that point, I’m sure our landlord would have preferred we lived in a van down by the river.

So what has changed and what has remained the same? From the very beginning, we had the dream of owning our home in Costa Rica. While we were very happy renting, that dream never died. Even when it took a heavy hit years ago as we lost most of our money in a bad real estate investment. I discussed some of the problems with that property in Happier Than A Billionaire: The Sequel. It took eight years and four books to recover those losses. But we are back on track and proud to say we do in fact own a home in Costa Rica today.

So our adventure took us to The Happier House. A place where we can share what we have learned from living here, as well as assist others in their quest to explore this amazing country. Our dream was put on hold while we saved and struggled and rode our scooter to get back on our feet. Rob still rides it today. A friend recently said, “I think I saw Rob riding his scooter with ten bags of dirt between his legs. Is that possible?”

“Did he also have a mango tree balanced on the handlebars? Because if so, that was definitely him.”

We still live on a tight budget of around $1400 to $1500 per month and the two of us manage as many aspects of house maintenance, as we can (cleaning, gardening, and preparing for our guests). We still own our red 1998 Mitsubishi, and the good news is that the parts are not glued on anymore. The bad news is that they have all fallen off, one by one, at a time when there is positively no room in the budget for a new car. But Rob insists he can keep it running, and he did so by hitting the battery with a hammer the other day, which surprisingly started the car. I’m always amazed by this and think it is an excellent approach to mechanical repairs.

Some of this behavior is by necessity, but some of it is because we have become accustomed to it. We enjoy getting things done in the most inexpensive, least wasteful, and most productive way possible. It is safe to say we have learned a lot, and respect immensely, the ways of the local people.

In the end, the struggle was worth it. Writing about these adventures and debacles has created the strong connections I have with so many of you. It turns out that Rob and I were never alone in this struggle. We had all of you behind us reading our books, sharing our story, and emailing us with encouraging words the entire time.

Although a few things have changed over the years, so much has remained the same. The love and optimism of my husband continue to be my foundation, and my unrelenting neurosis insists that I record all of our hijinks down on paper. We look forward to making more of our shows, songs, books, productions, and hopefully in time Happier Than A Billionaire the book will become Happier Than A Billionaire the movie. If this ride ends today, we are happy knowing that this journey has taken us further than we could ever have imagined. We often say we have lived more in the past eight years than we had in the previous thirty, and we believe that with every bit of our hearts.

So a huge hug and thank you to all who have followed us on this quest from the beginning, and to all who are new to this story we have this simple message:

No matter how impossible it may seem, follow your passion to the end of the world if that is where it leads you. Never stop believing, because truth be told, there are more non-believers out there than there are believers. And all those non-believers are eager for you to RSVP for their annual  Rain On My Parade Party. It’s a delightful event that includes parlor games like: “You are going to fail miserably,” “Have you lost your minds?” and my favorite, “You’ll be back in a year.” The door prize is regret and trepidation.

So if you have an idea to start a sushi and scooter repair stand in Costa Rica, give it a shot. It can’t be any worse than spending your life doing something that makes you unhappy. It’s going to be a transition, but no matter what your dream is, don’t let anyone try to convince you it’s not worth it.

I know it is, and I’m Happier Than A Billionaire for following mine.