Living off the grid is a hot topic for young Americans moving to Costa Rica in 2020

The U.S. economy is changing with—and because of—demographic changes in American society. On average, the U.S. population has grown older. This aging makes a big difference to the median income because retirees typically live off savings and generate little income. Retirees looking to stretch their pensions and nest eggs have been coming to Costa Rica for decades. And now, young preppers looking to live off-the-grid or professionals and families wanting to live differently are taking notice of this and many other draws that their parents’ generation have seen for years.

Most buyers of Costa Rica real estate will turn their vacations into mini-scouting trips. They will typically meet casually with a real estate agent to “just look” at a few properties. It is on these casual scouting trips that we realtors often witness love at first sight. After seeing several properties, it becomes clear what people want they can have here. If they want to be in a modern, hillside home with an ocean view or a massive farm with rivers and impressive waterfalls—we can find it for them.

Familial Connections

A good portion of the young adults who move to Costa Rica have been visiting the country with their expat parents for years. They have seen the benefits that living in a tranquil tropical country has had on their parents and they want that for themselves—the sooner the better. They will use their social sphere to make their way into the country and to pull their friends and family in, too. This is a destination of insiders who want to keep their life investment secret from those who would take advantage of the magic of this region.

Family Gains

Moving to another country—whether Costa Rica or elsewhere—is a great way to increase yours and your family’s social and cultural capital. Living in another country like Costa Rica brings great opportunities to socialize with like minded people while learning new skills, cultural knowledge, behaviors, and passions. Those who choose to move to Costa Rica with young kids tend to find that their children are calmer, more mindful, more active and more curious than most North American children. There may not be all of the same opportunities available in rural Costa Rica, but there is an air of adventure that is truly inspiring to developing minds.

Getting Off-Grid in Costa Rica

Young couples are increasingly choosing a rustic lifestyle that is very different to the life they left behind. Those who choose Costa Rica as their setting love that they came here to actively work a homestead and to be largely self-sufficient. In the mountains of South Pacific Costa Rica, expat farmers are growing their own greens, spinach, lettuces, okra, beans of different sorts, herbs, cassava, sweet potato, onions, and fruit trees. There are many remote mountain forests to go fishing and hunting with the locals. Some expats choose to raise animals for meat and/or cheese.

De-Stressing and De-Cluttering

People from small towns and big cities around the world are migrating to Costa Rica and doing a 180-degree transformation. Moving to Costa Rica means leaving a lot behind — and that’s not always a bad thing. Leaving the stress of a busy life, including weekend work calls and jam-packed schedules can be a total game changers for young couples and families who feel stuck in a rut. Working demanding, stress-filled days in the city takes its toll on most everyone. Those who come here to escape are looking for something more for their lives than just existing to work for others or living to pay a mortgage on a condo. 

Being possibly a bit more adventurous and frugal than their elders, 40-somethings will tend to choose to drive down with their possessions, making the long odyssey across several borders. Since it is a fairly sizable endeavor to move your life to another country in any way, those who come to Costa Rica will often enjoy the surprise benefit of downsizing and de-cluttering their everyday spaces. Having the ability to spend more time outdoors thanks to the delicious tropical weather shows most of us that don’t need a bunch of things surrounding them to make us feel happy. The transitioning yet reliably similar natural landscapes provide plenty of decor for our eyes and hearts to appreciate.

Socializing in Costa Ballena

Expats in Costa Rica often tell us how much they love meeting the welcoming people here. Everyone has easy icebreakers because we all have a story for why and how we came to Costa Rica. Sure, the Costa Ballena region might not offer opera or world-class ballet, but you can find some more simple forms of entertainment like watching hummingbirds feeding on multi-colored porterweed. There are also many options for the more traditional forms of entertainment like bar games and bands at the local cantinas and barbecues and potluck dinners with friends. Join a local culture group choosing from family get-togethers, foodie friend restaurant excursions, exercise groups like beach volleyball, softball, yoga, and more, as well as numerous volunteer opportunities. It’s also easy to travel to other parts of the country for a quick weekend getaway to a different setting like in the mountains around Chirripo or to the beaches of the Osa Peninsula.

Budgeting For Expat Life

An increasing number of Americans are investigating their options for better living outside the U.S. They are realizing that their budgets would provide for good-value living in Costa Rica and they could afford to retire much earlier than if they stayed home. Our office is seeing a massive surge in queries about moving out of the U.S. and the first thing people want to know is if it’s even possible to do. It is—and it can be easier and more affordable than most people realize. It costs so much less to live well in Costa Rica than it does in the States and some are finding that they can afford to live here or even to retire much sooner than they thought possible. 

Most American, Canadian, and European expats in Costa Rica spend much less money on day-to-day expenses than they would in their home countries. Cost of living, of course, depends on lifestyle. But in many ways Costa Rica is much more affordable than back home. A single person can live on between $1,400 and $1,700 a month. Many retired couples live well on $2,000 per month and even better on $2,500 to $3,000. That includes all costs like housing, transportation, medical care, utilities, food, and entertainment. Real estate, whether you rent or buy, is more affordable in Costa Rica, with North American-style homes in fantastic tropical locations reasonably priced.

Medical care is high quality and low cost, with legal resident expats enjoying use of the government-run universal healthcare system known as Caja. For a low monthly fee based on income, you get doctor’s visits, prescriptions, surgeries. Any medical or dental care you need is free. Private clinics and hospitals are also a fraction of the price if you pay cash—and well-priced insurance is available, too.

When it comes to food, it pays to shop and eat out like a local. The feria, or weekly open-air farmers’ market, is an institution in just about every Costa Rican town or village. This is where the locals come to stock up on fresh fruit, vegetables, and spices. You’ll also find farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood, beef and chicken, eggs, dairy products, bread, coffee, and more. And you can fill your fridge for about $30 per week for a couple. 

Working in Costa Rica

When Costa Rica got its start as an expat haven more than three decades ago, it was all about retirees. But over the years, the great weather, stable government, and low cost of living have also attracted those too young to retire (or those who never want to). And they’ve found plenty of ways to support themselves—and their families—while living in a tropical paradise.

From those who are pre-retired, you may meet deep-sea-fishing boat captains, flower shop owners, English teachers, yoga teachers, surf instructors, bird-watching tour guides, wedding planners, rental property managers, restaurant owners, videographers, freelance writers, online business owners, and digital nomads working remotely. No matter your skills, experience, or interests, there’s probably a way for you to make a living in Costa Rica.

The tourism business owners in Costa Rica tend to have low start-up costs and a wide range of opportunities for offerings to provide. Those who choose this path tell us that they can work much less than they would have to in a similar business in the U.S. This allows them to spend more time with family and doing things they like to do. And once they’ve gone past the start-up stage, they can hand over the day-to-day operations to employees and live an even more relaxed life.

Reliable high-speed Internet is available almost everywhere—from rural mountain villages to jungle-lined beaches. This means that expats can work online without any issues. When your laptop is your business—you’re truly portable.

Something that unites all the “working” expats of Costa Rica is that most aren’t in it to get rich…at least financially. They’re after a life rich in community, friends, and new experiences. They have a desire to embrace the pura vida lifestyle this country is known for, which means less work and more fun. And they find it in Costa Rica.

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