At first glance, it didn’t seem like there would be a whole lot of action when we pulled up to The Festival Of Lights event this year in Cobano. Small pockets of chatter & intensity are sprinkled across the main drag. Vendors selling red Santa hats with flashing lights on them. We set up camp in front of Super Maya and sit down on the curb. Anna & I figure it’d be nice to check out the holiday scene while Violetta parties with a few of her schoolmates, kicking off her Summer vacation with a bang. A definitively festive buzz swirls in the air, and rather quickly that buzz morphs into a frenzy of color, music, flying candy, and fevered dance performances. Sidewalks and street corners fill and pack in with a deceptively exponential swell as the front hem of the crowd spills forward onto the glittering asphalt course. Out of the joyous masses, my daughter manages to pluck a few sugar plums. Several of her friends happen to be on the same stretch of observance. No formal plan or rendezvous had been made. Warm greetings amongst the parents and playtime commences. The dazzling procession rolls out 45 minutes late, led by a couple of Jeepmas Trees adorned with vibrant Christmas lights. Bus loads of band members march melodiously, forming a pulsating musical snake which stretches to the back of town, tail coiling around the community center, the birthplace of the parade. Drumming the holiday into proper perspective, trumpeting in the start of Costa Rican Summer and the ecstasy of vacation. Marching bands from all over the country traveled to Cobano as did performers from Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Each band bringing tremendous passion and flavor, with the Hondurans being especially saucy to close out the show. What an extravaganza!!! Once the gyrating tail of the musically lit BoaConductor disappears around the corner of the main intersection, the elated crowd begins to slowly disperse. Hoping to beat any likeminded patrons to the proverbial punch, we hug and kiss our tribe goodbye and streak across the street to snag some crispy fried chicken with tangy hot sauce and soft corn tortillas. Seated and served the “food crack” first and just ahead of a gaggle of half-starving stragglers, satisfaction reaches a pinnacle. Ice cold beer to wash it all down and we skip and sing all the way back to Tambor Beach. Traffic thick with the sugar of celebration, the music from the gargantuan collection of after-parties on the main road booms across the landscape as children ricochet within bubbly bounce-houses and adults dance the night away on shiny tiled floors, lights flashing overhead. The warm glow of the holiday season washes over everyone in attendance, and we are truly blessed to be counted in that grouping. We will certainly be making formal plans for The Festival of Lights next year- a rendezvous has been earned What a beautifully powerful event for the whole family- my senses are still tingling with joy!!! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Blessed Kwanza, Happy Holidays, and Festivus For The Rest Of Us – to you and yours from The House Of The Rising Sun, Tambor Beach, Puntarenas, Costa Rica!!! PEACE
Who wants to visit an island cemetery on Halloween night? 🌊🎃🌴⚰️☠️👻… My lovely wife pushed for this magic ✨ to happen, so off we went! Isla Cabuya is only accessible on foot at low tide. Hang in serenity for a spell with the dearly departed, but make certain that you head back to the mainland before the sea encircles the cemetery again and you’re there for the night… A swill of vodka in honor of the dead 💀 as the crabs ticker and snicker past, rustling in the jungle brush. The sun simmers in the reflective pools of the vacant sea as the moon presses to outshine us all. Until next time, Isla Cabuya. Rest well.
This is a “relaunch” of the first blog I ever wrote back on May 29th, 2011. I’ve added a bit more onto the end of the post to freshen it up and bring everything up to speed. ∞
“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.
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 and he has a wonderfully laid-back attitude- 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 paid the balloon-payment that was due on our Buffalo house, paid 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 2010. 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- August 9th, 2017. Going on seven years living full-time Pura Vida. 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 100 times out of 100, if given the choice. In many ways we’re even happier now than when we originally moved down here to paradise. I sold my real estate company in San Ramon de Alajuela after operating it for over 5 years, and now the family and I are living a spoiled existence on the beach in Tambor. We’ve traded in a cool climate and crisp mountain air for an energizing heat, the salty taste of the sea, and the grit of warm sand between our toes. Our time in San Ramon is something that all three of us cherish, and it’s quite possible that we may return there to live one day again, but life at Tambor Beach is peacefully thrilling and we welcome this new adventure with open arms (arms that become more tan by the day, jajaja). Rising Sun Realty is now open for business and The Costa Rica Gillespies expect to be enjoying life on The Peninsula for many years to come. I am so very blessed to have the opportunity to work from home every day with my wife 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.