One question that I frequently get asked is…so, Scott, how did you end up in Costa Rica? What’s your Costa Rica expat story?
I usually respond by asking how much time they have. Well, here’s my Costa Rica expat story in a nutshell.
Caution: I don’t necessarily recommend that anyone else out there follow my route to the dream life in Costa Rica…
I was practicing law back in the late 90’s in Charlotte, North Carolina when I got the idea that I wasn’t really cut out for the legal profession. After much soul-searching I came up with the idea of starting a company that would help small business owners execute exit strategies. That company was called Live Oak Capital Advisors.
Over the ensuing years I served as advisor to companies of many types, from technology to manufacturing. One day, as fate would have it, I stumbled upon a deal with a privately-owned university in San Jose, Costa Rica (a referral I received from an attorney in Greensboro, North Carolina, of all places). That was in 2001 and this deal brought me to Costa Rica for the first time.
For some reason, the owner of the university (known at that time as Universidad Interamericana) took a liking to me and ended up hiring my small firm to help him find a buyer. Two years later the deal closed and Universidad Interamericana, with campuses in Heredia, Costa Rica and Panama City, Panama, became the property of Laureate Education (formerly Sylvan) of Baltimore, Maryland, a publicly-traded education company with campuses around the world. Since then Laureate has gone on to make several more acquisitions in Costa Rica, Panama and Honduras and as a consequence has become the major player in private education in this region.
During the course of the ups and downs in that deal many things happened to me both on personal and professional levels. On a professional level during the time spent here I began to notice that Costa Rica had the potential of becoming a tourism juggernaut in this region of the world. Therefore, I got the idea of launching a travel company, which I still own and operate, Package Costa Rica.
On a personal level I found myself, as a consequence of poor decisions on my part, divorced and homeless. So I moved to Costa Rica permanently to pursue life and love. And the rest, as they say, is history.
I began Package Costa Rica in 2004 and since then we have brought well over 1,000 tourists to this country. Following the explosive tourism growth we have also experienced a real estate boom. That has been both good and bad. Good in the sense that it has brought much foreign capital to a country that needs it. Bad in the sense that uncontrolled growth, and some of it has indeed been uncontrolled, threatens the very reasons that so many people are drawn to this country to begin with. That is, its unrivalled natural beauty and overwhelming biological diversity.
I am now tapping my past experience in business, tourism, marketing, law and deal-making to assist those who would like to transition to the Costa Rica expat life. However, in my role as consultant I will seek to work with folks that possess a “sustainable” mindset in terms of their Costa Rica expat objectives.
That is, “sustainable” in terms of sustaining the resources that make Costa Rica so special, its natural splendor and its people, so that generations to come will be able to enjoy this country in the way that I have had the privilege to enjoy it.
You see, I may have come here in 2001 with nothing in common with the ticos (Costa Ricans). However, now I consider myself (as we like to say here) “mas tico que gallo pinto.” That is, more Costa Rican than the typical meal known as gallo pinto that is served at almost every breakfast.
An Amazing Country…
If you read blogs about Costa Rica they usually focus in on the writer’s daily experiences, good or bad. There are some really good ones out there, but if you pay too much attention to what is being said, you could get the wrong impression.
Often, since many expats live in or around San Jose, you get a constant stream of gripes about life in the city. About the crime and the grime, the traffic and other daily annoyances. All that is legitimate and true, but to capture a real vision of Costa Rica, I believe you have to step back for a moment and take in the bigger picture.
First of all, “Costa Rica” is not San Jose, nor is it Jaco or Tamarindo, or those places where people tend to gather. It is, as I have written in the past, the “smallest big country” in the world. While being tiny in geographical comparison, the country is overwhelmingly rich when it comes to diversity, especially bio-diversity and geographic diversity. And therein lies the amazing fact about this country that I have grown to love so deeply.
I was traveling around a while back in pursuit of an indigenous project, making art buys in places like Guaitil, Guanacaste and Guatuso, Alajuela. These are remote little gems that most people never get to see and experience, but are well worth the effort. You see, to really get to know this country you have to get a little bit dirty and that ain’t going to happen sitting in one of the bourgeois barrios of San Jose, like Escazu or Santana.
You have got to take to the open road and then park and walk a little. Doing so is good for the body and the soul and in doing so amazing discoveries can be made.
Those of you out there who are considering coming here to live as a Costa Rica expat, go ahead and read up, but I am here to tell you that often what you are reading belies the truth of the bigger picture, a picture that is nothing short of amazing!
For that, you’ll just have to come and see for yourselves.
Take My Costa Rica Expat Tour Before You Buy…
If you’re visiting this page you’re likely considering the idea of either investing in Costa Rica, or maybe even becoming a Costa Rica expat. I probably don’t need to tell you this, but you can get yourself in a world of hurt by investing here without “doing your homework.” There are graveyards littered with bodies of dead investments everywhere these days. Usually it is the result of thinking that “tip” from a “friend”, or slick marketing schtick of an unscrupulous developer looking to get in, make the big hit, and leave poor suckers like you with a lot that you need a helicopter to reach, is all you need to drop a few hundreds of thousands into a piece of Costa Rican paradise.
And many actually do this without ever having even set one toe onto Costa Rican soil!
A good way to ameliorate your risk is to take my (or someone’s) Costa Rica expat tour. It’s kind of like taking a working vacation. First, I have to find out what your Costa Rica expat objectives really are. For instance, many tell me they want to operate some online business here, while living somewhere deep in the jungle, with a great ocean view, of course. Well, wouldn’t that be nice…to have high speed internet while conversing with the mono congos each morning.
Problem is, there ain’t much high speed internet in the jungle, silly!
So knowing your Costa Rica expat objectives is the first step in planning the tour.
During your Costa Rica expat tour I will serve as your private guide. We will spend time in areas that I believe present opportunities that best fit your main objectives for buying in Costa Rica. I also make sure we have a lot of fun…just ask Susan and Michael Duell, who recently did my Costa Rica expat tour…in addition to great investing information, Michael learned firsthand that the best rum comes from Nicaragua!.
Every Costa Rica expat tour is 100% customizable, to find that perfect fit that is just right for you.
If you’re interested in taking a Costa Rica expat tour, please give us a call.