Horses, Dragonflies, and Waterfalls

Rincon de la Vieja

Costa Rica Cost of Living Update: One Day Pass at Rincon de la Vieja Adventure Tours— Ninety dollars

It’s always great when friends come to visit. We love to plan big excursions they’ll remember for a lifetime. And our visitors certainly remember this adventure, mostly because one of them had back surgery and Rob recommended we all go horseback riding, zip-lining and swimming under a waterfall.

I’m not sure why Rob would ever suggest horseback riding since it never ends well for him. Every horse my husband has ever ridden was eager to get him off their back. There has never been one that thought, “I like this chap, let’s take the scenic route.” They’ve all acted as if it were a rodeo, and it’s their turn to buck the jerk. I, on the other hand, have never ridden a horse that didn’t lazily saunter away, start eating grass and fart… Simultaneously. They’ve all been about as underachieving as my equestrian skills.

Enjoy this chapter from Happier Than A Billionaire: The Sequel. Maybe one day you too will ride off into the Costa Rican sunset with your friends.

 

Waterfalls & Canyon Walls

“Do you think you’ll be okay on a horse?” I ask.

“I hope so,” Matt replies. “But I haven’t been on one in twenty years. I stopped riding after my back surgery.”

“I doubt she’ll bounce you around, tourists ride them every day,” Rob says as Matt strokes the horse’s face. The man holding the reins nods his head in agreement, but I can tell he doesn’t understand English. I recognize his befuddled expression because I pretty much look like that all the time. I was recently at the post office where a clerk was trying to explain my package hadn’t arrived yet. Instead of moving out of the way for the next person in line, I just stood there nodding like a big, dopey bobblehead. I remained there for a good five minutes before a nice person in line told me I had to come back the next day.

Matt examines the saddle and looks over the stirrups. “She looks like a nice girl, so why not? I’m already here, right? I didn’t come all this way not to participate.” Continue reading “Horses, Dragonflies, and Waterfalls” »

By | August 11th, 2017|Categories: Tourism, Uncategorized|Tags: , , |2 Comments

Panama vs Costa Rica

Bocos del Toro Panama

Costa Rica Cost of Living Update: Bus Ticket from San Jose to Panama City — Under one hundred dollars

There has always been a debate on whether Panama or Costa Rica is a better choice for expats. People will hunker down with their opinions and list all the many ways one country is better than the other. You would think it’s the World Cup. No one has flipped any dumpsters yet, but these discussions get pretty heated.

“Bananas are cheaper in Panama,” someone yells.

“Yeah, but look at our beach towns and lifestyle. Ticos really know how to enjoy themselves!” another responds.

I just sit back, eat to my slightly more expensive banana, and stare into space. I have no dog in this fight. Unlike what many people think, it’s not my mission to convince anyone to move anyplace. Happier Than A Billionaire is about finding a happier life, and mine just so happened to take place in Costa Rica. If it occurred next to an oil drum in Bayonne, New Jersey I would have written that version of my story.

The truth is that becoming an expat has many variables. Success has more to do with your attitude than what particular country you are moving to. Learning a new language will be difficult, reinventing a new life is challenging, but the biggest obstacle is always going to be yourself. To assimilate into a new culture often means you have to experience things on the fly. And that means letting go of who you had previously defined yourself to be.

Take Kay Bratt; author of The Pursuit of Panama, a wildly successful writer who, with her husband, went through their own adventures in Panama. For two weeks, they explored the country wondering if moving abroad was the right decision for them. In her journey, Kay wrestles with her version of happiness. The question she set out to answer was whether or not Panama was going to be her happy place. She was inspired in part by reading my books and hopefully learned not to let her husband shove twelve thousand dollars into his underpants during their travels. Or hide any guns in a functioning fireplace.

We are all looking for that happy spot in life. It’s a moving target. A place that was once warm can grow cold. When that happens, it’s time to move on, and moving on could mean moving out, changing jobs, or even leaving old friends behind. This line of sight is never straight, and often means you have to bend in the wind in order to hit the bulls-eye.

People often ask me how I got the courage to leave my old life behind for a new one in Costa Rica. A foreign place, a foreign language, and with no guarantee it would work out. But there was this moment when I realized it was riskier not to do it than to take a chance. I knew if I didn’t break out of that stifling lifestyle, I would look back at the moment and have profound regret. I saw a beacon of light through a foggy time in my life, and its soft beam gave me hope.

I still follow that beacon even though there is little fog left in my life today. The skies are bright in Costa Rica, and the sunshine lightens up even the darkest corners. But at night I still see it. The beacon calls out for me, reminding me to keep dreaming, to keep being happy, and to keep remembering that life is in constant flux.  Ebbing and flowing is always the best way to ride a wave, but you have to paddle out to sea before you can go with the flow.

So if someone chooses to debate me on whether Bocas del Toro has better snorkeling than Playa Conchal Costa Rica, which it does, or if they have more volcanoes to hike, which they don’t, I’ll just rock in my hammock and continue staring up at the powder blue sky.  I’m not here to argue, or convince anyone that their ideas are wrong. There is room enough for everyone on this journey, and I’m still bending in the wind on mine.

If you are thinking about a move to Panama, or even just dreaming of what such a change might be like, you can find Kay’s latest book, The Pursuit of Panama, here on Amazon. I’m sure you will be inspired by Kay as well. http://amzn.to/2w2Qd0L

And while I’m not here to convince you to move to Costa Rica, if you would like to come along with me on my hilarious journey please read Happier Than A Billionaire and The Sequel. If you are inspired to join me in Costa Rica, you may also enjoy my guide to living here with everything I’ve learned over the past nine years, The Costa Rica Escape Manual.  http://amzn.to/2eQeO5g

 

Thorny Tales From The Garden

Rob's Garden

Costa Rica Cost of Living Update: Magic Root for making bushes from clippings— $5

It’s the rainy season here in Costa Rica which in my house means I will only see my husband in the morning when he drinks a cup of coffee. After that, he is off to the garden. I would describe him as having a green thumb. Or more accurately, a swollen green and purple thumb because he constantly gets stuck with bougainvillea thorns.

“Don’t you think all these plants are overkill, Rob?” I ask.

“I’m making a double layer security fence, so I’m planting red, white, and pink bougainvillea mixed with hibiscus. But not all sloppy and mixed up.”

“Of course, Rob. That would be insane.”

He ignores me and continues talking. “There needs to be two meters of red, two meters of white, two meters of pink, and two meters of mixed red and white… in that order. That pattern will continue around the entire property.”

This is quite the attention to detail. Continue reading “Thorny Tales From The Garden” »

By | July 23rd, 2017|Categories: Garden|14 Comments

A New Yorker Gardening in Costa Rica

Happier House Garden

Costa Rica Cost of Living Update: A Thousand Bougainvillea Plants—Free when your husband is a lunatic

The weather has been beautiful in Costa Rica with the perfect mix of rain and sunshine. We have amazing lightning shows at night, with claps of thunder so loud it rattles the windows. Mornings begin with misty clouds drifting across the hilltops; temperatures so cool it feels like I’m still living in the mountains.

I think often about my time in Grecia, where this whole journey started. Rob and I didn’t know what to expect when we moved to Costa Rica. The idea was risky, ridiculous, and romantic. Little did I know, it was the beginning of something great

Below is a chapter from Happier Than A Billionaire: The Sequel. It chronicles the move to the beach and the beginning of our next adventure, one which included a truck full of plants.

Rob knew we would have a garden one day. He has a way of seeing into our future. Continue reading “A New Yorker Gardening in Costa Rica” »

By | July 14th, 2017|Categories: Mountain House, The Happier House|Tags: , , , |7 Comments

A Happier Father’s Day

Fathers Day Costa Rica

Costa Rica Costa of Living Update: Repairing one busted rear spring on an SUV — $125 for parts and labor

For those who have read my books, you know that I love to talk about my family, especially my father. He’s a Renaissance Man: one versed in literature, Roman history, and the ability to find the best deal on cases of C & C Cola. He never buys bottles, only cans because it’s it easier to stack them dangerously high in the garage behind the lawnmower and hedge clippers. This becomes a suburban version of The Hunger Games when you’re thirsty.

So for this Father’s Day, I’m sharing with you an email exchange with my dad that I included in my second book, Happier Than A Billionaire: The Sequel. Writing and sharing my work has been quite a journey for me, and I can always count on my dad to come to my rescue when I’m feeling down:

From: Nadine

To: Dad

1:13 PM

Subject: The Worst Book He Ever Read

I got a one-star review today. He said it was the worst book he ever read:

“I’m halfway through and struggling to finish it: it is simply one of the worst books of any genre that I have every tried to read. Nadine, in particular, is what would be called an “ugly American” by many ex-pats living in Costa Rica (or other foreign places). Instead of appreciating and blending into the culture, she appears as a bull in a china shop in nearly every chapter.

My wife and I are contemplating a retirement move to Costa Rica (or the Caribbean). My father built a house in CR in 1995 and we have made many trips to the country. Likewise, the Caribbean where I have almost thirty years’ experience as a visitor. Trust me, this book has almost nothing serious to offer the person seeking good information of making such a move. It is a serious undertaking, with many pitfalls that will happen to you if you don’t understand the culture…”

And it doesn’t stop there, it goes on and on and on. He practically wrote a book about how much he didn’t like my book.

Seriously Dad, the worst book of any genre? Is it the worst book in any language in the world? How about the worst book in every universe on every Starfleet?

Because if that’s true… it sounds like a pretty shitty book.  Continue reading “A Happier Father’s Day” »

By | June 18th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|21 Comments