Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Countdown Begins: Phase I, The Plan to Check Out Costa Rica (We'll See)

We began discussing how we could survive as retired people about a year ago. Costa Rica came up a lot in those discussions because of its weather and because, most importantly, of its highly rated and economical health care system (both public and private). 
I've just finished re-reading Unraveling the Mysteries of Moving to Costa Rica: Real stories from real people, what we've learned and how it can help you! which is an incredibly long title for probably the most helpful book I've found so far about retiring in Costa Rica. The author, Arden Brink, surprisingly no longer lives in Costa Rica, but is still involved in a Costa Rican shipping company. I wrote her a few months ago about MOLD (as in, what's the deal with mold?) since I'd figured that Costa Rica being a tropical country with lots of rain, mold has got to be an issue. But it certainly isn't one that is openly discussed on any of the hundreds of blogs, websites, books, forums ... . 
Arden, however, was quite forthcoming (from her new dry perch in Utah) and said that mold was a terrible problem that had ruined all of her dad's art canvases (among other things). When I told her I thought I had health issues relating to MOLD, she strongly cautioned against moving to Costa Rica. 
For a while, I took her cautions to heart, and began searching other options in the U.S. But then I learned that my COBRA health insurance was going to cost more per month than my entire school retirement check, so I took a new tack: researching about how people cope with mold in CR. 
Open closets, heated towel bars, plastic containers ... these were a few of the ideas. There is also some kind of ozone machine that's made specifically for Costa Rica (so that the parts don't disintegrate in a few months like the U.S. machines apparently do ... hmmm ... There doesn't seem to be a price anywhere on the website -- granted, I haven't looked at ever page, but most other ozone generator sites have big "ON SALE NOW" notices as soon as you click on them -- and those seem to cost about $400. Might they not be listing the price because it's closer to $4,000? We'll see. 
So in one week we'll be boarding a plane in Phoenix, flying north to Denver and from there, flying south to Costa Rica. This seemed a better option than flying across the country to Miami and then to Costa Rica. There don't seem to be any direct flights to Costa Rica from here, at least in our price range.
Once in Costa Rica, after crashing at the Melrost B&B in San Jose (because our plane lands at 5:30 a.m. and we'll definitely need a nap!) we'll spend three days at the resort Leaves & Lizards near the Arenal Volcano and about a three-hour drive from the capital, San Jose. 
There's a kind of convoluted reason why we're spending three days at Leaves & Lizards. Because I am certified as an Equine Specialist in Mental Health and Learning and have spent the last six years volunteering in equine therapy, I was very curious about whether there was anything similar in Costa Rica. I stumbled upon The Horse's Bond or Vinculo con Caballo, which appears to be the ONLY equine therapy center in Costa Rica. It is run by the woman who owns Leaves & Lizards. She invited us to visit and discuss how I could possibly get involved in Vinculo con Caballo after we move. I'm really excited about this.  I hope that the place is not so far removed from where we may end up living that it won't be feasible to work with her. We'll see. 
After that, we head back to San Jose, stay a night at the Melrost again and on Sunday morning get picked up by George Lundquist. George conducts these highly recommended tours for people who have no interest in retiring to a million dollar American-style McMansion in a gated community full of expats. In other words, for people like us who want to explore whether we can live a more satisfying life on not a lot of money. 
We've Skyped with George (who, by the way, has one of those afore-mentioned ozone machines in his house) and it looks like at this point, there will be seven of us on his June tour (maximum of 12). He'll take us to communities in the Central Valley, which is an area within about 60-90 minutes of the capital. Because Costa Rica has some 27 micro-climates, there's kind of a pick-and-choose idea of the kind of climate you want to live in (okay, no ski areas, but it's not all tropical jungle either). Getting back to Arden and the mold issue, I'm wondering if where she lived -- and based on the pictures in her book, it looks pretty darn "jungle-y" -- was just extra-moldy. We'll see. 
After our "George Tour" we have two weeks on our own to more deeply delve into where we might want to settle, or even if it's feasible.