As much as frustrated, over-stimulated people have been leaving big cities for decades in search of fresher air and friendlier faces, 2020 was the year that really fired off the urban exodus to Costa Rica, among other rural destinations.

The coronavirus pandemic had an immediate – and possibly lasting – impact on work, education, and lifestyle. However, there are few coherent strategies to address the issues we face today in health, homelessness, rising crime rates, pollution, etc. Cities are reckoning with the pandemic’s economic fallout, which has affected housing prices, tax revenue, job opportunities, and cultural vibrancy. As a result, city dwellers have had to face a hard reality and populations are reordering.

Some believe that the movements of the last two years are just a momentary spike in long-term trends, stalled by lockdowns, a slow economy, and immigration restrictions. In 2019, right before the pandemic, there were quite a few people who wanted to invest in Costa Rica but not necessarily move and leave their lifestyle. Heading into 2022, though, there is definitely a huge increase in people willing to leave their city lives for rural Costa Rica. And the more people who move here, the more confident that others are that this is in fact a place to live, not just invest.

In our popular but still largely rural South Pacific region of Costa Rica – where the mountains meet the sea – there are many wide open spaces that are sparsely populated, with lots of wild jungle separating developments. There are thousands of migrants from all over the world who have made Costa Ballena their home and so many more continue to arrive every day, buying homes or building on the many vacant lots available for sale. They are coming for the tranquil lifestyles that are afforded by large properties surrounded by nature.

Many more people are realizing the benefits of rural living and are turning their temporary urban exits into a long-term change. They are shifting their focus to the things that really matter to them amid the peaceful charms of rural life. Costa Ballena, Costa Rica happens to be that tranquil dream destination for many expats from all over the world. Read on to find out why.

Better Health

For many, leaving the city is considered a health decision. COVID-19 has many fearing for their lives and the mismanagement of the pandemic has affected many individuals’ trust in the population density of urban living.

Lisa says that she is in Costa Rica because she wants to start a B&B in a beautiful place, continuing her journey of health and wellness while meeting new people, living in a beautiful home, and experiencing new places, culture, and people.

Ron, who lives in Dominical with his wife, says “we were thinking of moving to Central America from the U.S. for years (affordable health care mostly) but after Covid stopped our business in its tracks, we were able to slow down and put some serious thought into actually moving.” After eight months of living in Costa Rica, he says that he has no regrets about making the leap, and the fresh air, smell of the ocean, vibrant wildlife, fresh food, and more outdoor living have improved his health. “I sneeze much less and don’t cough as much.”

Lower Cost of Living

In the last few years, urban areas have become so expensive with housing prices, taxes, and living costs all increasing significantly. Many people are being priced out of the lifestyles they were accustomed to up until the pandemic hit. Store and business closings have resulted in high revenue loss for commercial landlords and asset holders are now looking to diversify their real estate portfolio. And there is now an increasing demand for homes and land in Costa Rica because the prices for properties and goods are still far less than what people will pay in urban centers around the world.

Kevin from Boston says that he and his wife bought a home in Costa Rica last year over the internet. They flew down to Costa Rica and stayed for ten days, having never been before. They are retiring in the coming May and are moving to another home they bought in Costa Rica, saving the first for a rental. They plan to move here because “Costa Rica has beautiful people, awesome weather, numerous animals, flowers, waterfalls, beaches, medical, dental, the list goes on and on. For all of these benefits, the cost of living in Costa Rica is very attractive.”

Increased Safety

Urban centers have high density populations but social distancing is causing increased distance between neighbors. This turbulent era has brought with it a significant increase in crime rates and social unrest around the world. Globally, political dissatisfaction is at an all-time high. We are watching as cities around Europe and North America reach their tipping points of social disorder and many are deciding to separate themselves and their families from urban areas and their social, political, and moral unrest.

Jessica and Ed are both expats who moved to Costa Rica to escape tense climates in their cities. Ed, who comes from Texas, says he had never visited Costa Rica before but moved here after conducting extensive research on the country. “The primary reason I chose Costa Rica to escape to is because it has no military but does have socialized health care. In the U.S., one small illness can make you homeless, which is a terrifying thought and not one that most other developed nations need to worry about.”

Jessica, who moved to Costa Rica from California, wants to provide her kids with a healthier upbringing physically, mentally, and spiritually. “Our goal is to slow down and eliminate certain constraints and stressors that plague us living in the western landscape.”

More (and Better) Space

After a number of shutdowns and quarantines, people have become daunted by the possibility of again being locked down in small quarters. Worldwide, the shutdowns impacted urban areas the most. Orders to shelter in place have become a cue to flee and societal escape is seen as a better option than social distancing. People who came to Costa Rica in the last two years for a brief escape are wondering what their rush is to return.

Forced quarantines have created a tectonic shift in how and where people want to live. Many have moved to virtual learning and working environments. It is this “untethered class” of people that has the highest percentage of people wanting to move out of the urban centers. These are the people who have a remote-friendly occupation, no school-aged children, and earn higher-than-average salaries. Income is a big factor in who is able to move out of urban centers and it is the young and highly-educated who are moving out in droves.

People are hitting the breaking point of living in their small bubbles after COVID-19 descended. The closeness and confinement has made people crave more space. They want to walk in nature and have their kids run around outside in a small and safe community.

Being stuck in a 500-square-foot apartment in the sky with no green space and nowhere to go has shown Sarah from Boston the value in buying a proper home outside of the city. “We decided we wanted to leave the states for so many reasons and we settled on Costa Rica because of the ease of flying back and forth to visit family, the similar time zone for work, and the slower lifestyle.”

For Susan, the good broadband connectivity in Costa Ballena offers the ability to tele-commute from Costa Rica to her work hub in the Midwest. She likes that it feels like there are less restrictions in the smaller communities thanks to the fact that there is more space. “The seaside has the cure for city ills like congestion. I do miss friends but not the traffic or crowded spaces. I like the people and the slower paced environment here. And being from the Midwest, the beach doesn’t hurt either.”

Self-Sufficient Living Opportunities

Lockdowns and shortages have created a huge movement towards self-reliance. People instinctively want to get out of highly populated hot zones during signs of unrest. The goal is to not need to rely on anyone else for basic necessities like shelter (warmth), water, food, and personal security. And city living with its cramped, concrete spaces make this level of self-sufficiency difficult.

For some, the choice to move to Costa Rica is more about peace of mind than the magical views. In some places, a move to a rural area might mean giving up nice restaurants, better healthcare, entertainment options, and other amenities. But in this tiny nation of Costa Rica, you can live a secluded life in the green mountains while remaining in close proximity to any services you may want or need.

Coming from New York, Gina says that she chose Costa Rica “to get back to basics, have some peace, and less stress. Not rushing, just enjoying a simple life.”

Chris came to be in a country where simple life is the norm. “I moved to Costa Rica to be in a place where people are a lot more self-reliant. People here are resourceful and take responsibility for themselves and family. It’s not paradise and has its own problems, but a slower pace, with a focus on a tranquil, more natural setting outside of the big cities is appealing to me.”

A Different Culture

Urban centers can have very cold, self-absorbed populations. Pat and her husband came to Costa Rica from Denver to experience nature with tours from the locals showing them the beauty of their country. “When you are living in a city of a few hundred thousand or even million people, you become a cog in a machine rather than an individual person. Costa Rica is an environmentally progressive nation and is very inviting to visitors. We liked what we saw in videos, articles and people’s stories of their reason to relocate. We have been here for four months and love the pace, food, people and the culture. It’s very different from the States, and we are loving it.”

Lynn has been traveling to Costa Rica from Toronto for the past ten years and has fallen in love with the people, nature, culture, fresh food, laid back culture and minimalist lifestyle without all the brand names. “Costa Rica is truly an amazing place. The people are kind and we plan to be involved with the community and give back. Retirement here is a dream and we are looking forward to escaping the deteriorating U.S. politics and polarization of people. Ticos (Costa Ricans) are warmer and more welcoming in addition to the great beauty of the southern Pacific.”

For Jack and his family, the goal is to get out of the rat race. “I want to raise our children in a culture that has less value in material things, and more value in engaging in nature. Costa Ricans are so friendly and I’m blown away by how authentic their kindness is. This is such a wonderful culture for my kids to be exposed to as they develop and mature.”

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