From New York to New World

 

The moment that I emailed the Nosara Yoga Institute (NYI) to confirm my wife Anna’s enrollment in their 200-hour yoga teacher training course, I knew that our life was about to become dramatically different. Classes were scheduled to begin on November 7th, 2010 and we had two lifetimes worth of belongings to consolidate, sell, donate and put into storage…Unlike many others, we were not simply taking a working vacation for a month to Nosara to complete the yoga course. Anna & I had made the decision to load up our two dogs and take a leap of faith, as they say. We were moving to Costa Rica for good. Selling our house. Closing our real estate company. Bringing along only the items deemed necessary and figuring out the rest along the way. Scraping together what little money we had and working hard to make it stretch. Waving goodbye to Buffalo, New York and embracing the magnetic Pura Vida of this beautiful country. Clearly, this stands alone as the best decision we have ever made.

Flashback to February 2010: My wife Anna & I were sitting in our living-room discussing how best to approach our future. We owned a house and a small real estate business on the West Side of Buffalo, NY. Life was good but we were trying to figure out how to make it better and live the type of life that we had always dreamed of- a simpler,  slower-paced, family-centered type of life in a warmer climate. Anna & I had been talking about moving to Costa Rica for a few years already, and it was such a serious endeavor that we had purchased a nice little farm house overlooking the ocean in San Ramon. There were some improvements that we planned on doing to the casa over the course of a few years and then the general plan was to split each year between Buffalo and San Ramon until such a time arose where it made sense to move to San Ramon permanently… The housing market in the US was certainly recovering little by little, but we were struggling in Buffalo because our livelihood depended largely on the decision making of bank underwriters. After working within this system for about eleven years apiece, my wife and I could plainly see that the banks were operating under an “every man (or bank exec) for himself” model of underwriting and that many economically viable loans were being rejected daily. Once the banks got bailed out by the federal government they promptly turned their backs on the American people and began to recover their losses (in other words pad their already monumental gains). This is the way Anna & I viewed the situation for what it’s worth. Between the banks and the State of New York, it was quite a challenge to own and operate a small business and do well. I could go on and on about banks but that is a topic for another blog… Combine that with the insane amounts of money that we had to pay for health insurance every month out of pocket, the high-paced lunacy that people engage in to “get ahead”, and the material-mindedness of The United States at large, we decided the time had come for a change. We love the United States, but Anna & I agreed that we would prefer to raise a family elsewhere… So, Anna & I are in our living-room. We were in the process of refinancing our house to pay off a balloon-payment that was due on it in May 2010. The house was worth at least $160,000 USD at the time and we only needed to refinance for $35,000 to pay off the balloon… we had already been rejected twice for no good or clear reason at all, but paid for 2 appraisals ($400 USD apiece). The bank had made their money to keep their appraisers afloat, and I suppose that’s all they were really concerned about. I had just handed over another $400 to our “refi” loan officer in a desperate third and final attempt to refinance before the balloon-payment was due and to avoid us losing the property that we had invested our blood, sweat, and tears in for 3 years while restoring it to glory. My wife and I looked at each other and something clicked! We both realized that by putting our fates in the hands of bank underwriters yet again, we were very likely to go through a world of stress only to lose another $400, the final 3 months we had before the balloon-payment was due, and ultimately our home. I grabbed my mobile phone and rapidly dialed our loan officer’s cell. I asked him to please turn around and return our $400. He asked me what we were going to do- so I told him that we planned on putting our house on the market that very day, selling the house to a cash buyer only -so as not to deal with banks at any stage, and then we were moving to Costa Rica to start a new life… When he was done laughing out loud I told him I had to go because I needed to put the sale sign on the lawn.

The Fannadome

 

We stuck to our guns. Of course, we showed the house to everyone who wanted to see it because you just never know- but ultimately we had a high-quality product, very strong convictions, and were blessed enough to receive a cash offer for asking price. The transaction closed the day that the balloon-payment was due to the previous owner… WOW!!! Anna & I were thrilled with the young man who purchased the property- such a nice guy. Alex is an entrepreneur himself but has a wonderfully laid-back attitude and a very cool demeanor. As part of the terms of the sale, we were able to stay in our apartment upstairs for 6 months so we could wrap everything up properly for our move to Costa Rica. The proceeds of the sale went to pay the balloon-payment that was due on our Buffalo house, were used to pay-off our short-term, owner-held mortgage on our casa in San Ramon, and were employed to eliminate almost all of our credit card and student loan debt. There was just enough left for us to physically make the move to Costa Rica, buy a used vehicle here, and pay for Anna’s yoga teacher training. For so long we had talked about trying to free ourselves from debt and wanting to minimize our lives… now that opportunity presented itself and we couldn’t have been more thrilled!!! Starting anew from the ground level in an enchanting foreign country is just what the doctor ordered.  There was so much to prepare and take care of in the six months that followed, but everything went quite smoothly overall. The move wasn’t nearly as daunting as we imagined. Just put one foot in front of the other and do what you can each day. Hold some garage sales, pack a few bags, and hug your friends and family when you see them. Before you know it, you’re on the plane drinking ginger ale (or perhaps something stronger?) and listening to “Where the Streets Have No Name” by U2. Or maybe you prefer “Aquarius” (Let the Sun Shine In) by 5th Dimension? Perhaps “Easy Ride” by The Doors is more your bag… They all rocked my playlist. The point is this- anything is possible. Refuse to limit yourself. Think outside the box and live the way you want to live for as long as you’re alive. Age doesn’t factor in at either end of the spectrum. Desire for another way of life, designs on international business or investments, a retirement strategy, or just flat out wanderlust and adventure addiction- these are all great reasons to consider Costa Rica. The most difficult aspect of the move for us is being so far from our friends and family- but it just gives them a great reason to book a trip to visit us in a tropical paradise!!! Also, we have made so many wonderful friends since we arrived in November. There are plenty of friendly Ticos/Ticas, Americans, Canadians, Europeans, etc. to spend time with here. The area that we have chosen to live in, San Ramon de Alajuela in the Central Valley/ Occidente, offers a wonderful blend of locals and expats, a close proximity to many places of interest, a consistent and comfortable year-round climate (averages 64 degrees to 82 degrees, so no need for air conditioning OR heating systems), relatively inexpensive real estate and living costs, and breathtaking views of the Gulf of Nicoya and the Pacific Ocean. These are some of the important “boxes that we checked off” in choosing where to live. The very low incidence of violent crime was another huge draw for us. Who wants to worry daily about the possibility of being a victim of a gang initiation, hit accidentally by flying bullets in a drive-by shooting, or find yourself the target of some even more random and unfathomable acts of violence (school shootings, movie theater shootings, bombings, etc., etc., etc.)? Costa Rica has not had an army since 1948 and it’s people are a peace-loving, non-violent, and helpfully smiling bunch. We like that.

Fast forward to today, March 9th, 2016. My wife and I are still living in San Ramon in the very same neighborhood that we originally moved into almost 5 and 1/2 years ago. Now we also have grown our family to include our 4 and 1/2 year old daughter, Violetta, who was born here in Costa Rica (thereby earning us our permanent residency), 3 dogs, 2 cats, and 2 egg-laying chickens (soon to be quite a bit more). We do not regret our decision to leave New York for this new life in the least, and we would do it all over again if given the choice. We are in many ways even happier now than when we originally moved down here to paradise. I have sold my local real estate company here in San Ramon after operating it for 5 years, and now my wife and I run a small, family, farm to table Sicilian Fusion restaurant out of part of our home and I am also finally free to pursue my passion for writing. We are not rich in our bank accounts, but we are rich where we believe it truly matters: quality of daily life. I am blessed to have the opportunity to eat three meals a day with my wife and daughter and to watch in awe while Violetta develops and grows like a beautiful flower in front of my eyes. That’s something special, right there. I’ll take that to the bank. Pura Vida in it’s truest expression of the meaning of the phrase for us. For those who are of a like mind, Costa Rica must be considered as a place to hang your hat. If you desire a change, you must be the person to commit to taking the necessary steps to create that change. There will always be reasons and excuses to delay your freedom, but the reality is this: There is no better time than right now to start living your life the way you would like to, or to at the very least begin working towards your vision. God gives no guarantees about longevity of life or the quality that life will hold over the course of time. Be the best version of you that you can be each and every day and cherish all of the moments you have been granted. As the Beastie Boys’ tune “Futterman’s Rule” warns, “Time is runnin’ and passin’, passin’ and runnin’, and runnin’ and passin’, so you all better get right at this time… Because it might be no next time y’all”. PURA VIDA & PEACE.

9 Comments

  1. Dorothy Pickens said,

    June 29, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    Frank and Anna!! This is so awesome! I feel a road trip coming on! Lol ! I am so happy for you guys . Follow your heart and dreams…. You both are quite amazing. Ps. Paying for health insurance alone is a friggen crime. I know !!

  2. Frank said,

    June 30, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Thank you so much for your comments, Dorothy!!! Whenever you’re ready to come check out the Costa Rican Experience for yourself, just let me know. We are extremely happy with our decision to move here and we get excited when we have an opportunity to share our love for Costa Rica with others. It really is a special place…

  3. Jessica Herlihy said,

    July 7, 2011 at 8:07 am

    What a great story!! I didn’t really know all of this and was surprised but excited for your move. I love hearing of people who grab the bull by the horns. You and Anna rock and will do amazing things down there!!
    <3

  4. July 7, 2011 at 11:02 am

    Looking great Frank. Keep up the good work!

    Andrew

  5. Dyan said,

    September 15, 2011 at 7:22 am

    Inspiring F. I knew most of your story already, but you so eloquently wrote it here. We do miss you in B-lo, but are so happy for your new life. Cheers!

  6. December 25, 2011 at 10:34 am

    Wow, was I ever lucky to connect with you and Anna, Frank! You had related some of your personal story in person, but it was still very enjoyable to read about in greater depth. Sorry to say that I didn’t escape the U.S. with quite the financial ease and smooth unfoldment that you experienced, but whatever loss I sustained from the ill timed sale of my home was worth it. The banking “cartel” will one day (soon I hope) get just what they deserve, which to my mind would be nothing less than annihilation! By the way, you are an excellent writer!

  7. Frank said,

    January 8, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Thank you so much, Cynthia! It has been a pleasure to spend some time with you. Hopefully, you are enjoying your transition to San Ramon. Our community welcomes you with open arms!

  8. marsha said,

    November 8, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    Hi Frank,
    I like what you said at the very end of your story…”take a leap of faith”. That is exactly what it takes in this life!
    As we live in such an uncertain world, especially now in the USA after this election. I’m really feeling that my husband & I best get out of this country. There is a property that I emailed you about that looks so peaceful & beautiful. Hope to hear from you soon…and I’m happy for you & your wife that you made the move 2 yrs ago with that leap of faith! Look forward to hearing from you soon.
    Blessing to you,
    Marsha

  9. Kaye said,

    February 9, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    What a great story. I am originally from NE Ohio & we are considering the leap of faith also. We will arrive in April to look at rental homes & your story is so encouraging.

    Kaye