First Impressions

These are my first impressions of our experience and the place we now call home in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. I am sure with time, these will change, but for now I will leave you with this slice of our new life as I see it.

# 10 Havaianas Flip Flops are a wardrobe essential for the most casual place on earth…
I love that we NEVER have to dress up – everyday is a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops kind of day. If you NEVER get out of your swimsuit, it’s a good day too!

#9 Many processes are very different, like banking and mail….
We had to pay our car insurance the other day. Instead of mailing a check or paying on-line, you must go to the bank to make your payment to the car insurance company. The bank is like going to the Secretary of State – a waiting game. It is a room full of tellers behind a glass wall along the perimeter of the room with seats in rows in the center of the room. You pull a ticket upon entering the bank and you wait for your number to be called. By the way, there is no home mailing service here either- can’t say I miss junk mail, but I do find myself dreaming of an Amazon Prime order from time to time. I have yet to see a post office, although I know they exist, they must be far and few between.

#8 Tico Time is a real thing…
While you will never meet a Tico without a smile or a helping hand, it is best not to count on them for punctuality. Rarely are people on time and you can’t count on things getting done when they say they will be done. Afterall, it might have been a great day to catch the surf and that is more important. This can be a bit annoying, but it is helping me realize most things can wait and this way of thinking is a sure path to pura vida.

#7 While generally more affordable than our life at home, Costa Rica is not inexpensive…
Our conclusion is that many goods and products are expensive and many services are very inexpensive. In an effort to save money, we try to shop and eat like locals, not tourists. We don’t buy products that are imported. We are learning how to cook and prepare locally grown produce and we don’t eat at the touristy restaurants, but we go to the sodas – a local restaurant. We notice our new lifestyle is also less expensive – we drive one car, not two. We don’t spend money on Starbucks, the movies, or umpteen kid’s activities. We work and do school from home, so we eat all our meals at home.  Our entertainment is spending time together in nature and being active outdoors. A few examples of the lower costs for services: a. men’s haircut $6  b. veterinarian home visit $30 c. house cleaning $3 /hour plus bus fare.

Tonight’s dinner: Gallo Pinto Empanadas served with homemade guacamole.

#6 We will never get tired of the sunsets…
Being close to the equator, the sun sets early, around 5:30 pm every day. Your days are often planned around this sacred time. Being on the Pacific Coast, we are in prime sun set watching territory. It is generally not a good plan to be driving the Costa Rican roads past dark, so there is no excuse not to park yourself on a beach, with a drink in your hand and within walking distance of home.

#5 Despite temps in the 90’s most days, we have not turned on the AC yet…..
Out of the direct sun, the air is cool and dry (at least now in the dry season December -April). We have a great breeze that blows through our house and our outdoor space is shady. Evenings are cool and comfortable here in Costa Rica – awesome sleeping weather! The night skies are clear and amazing for star gazing.

#4 Buying a car is not an easy proposition for an expat, but we succeeded…
You can’t rationalize the money you will spend for the age, mileage and condition of the car you will get…it will make you crazy. The only saving grace is that cars seem to hold value longer, so hopefully if and when we have to sell, we will recoup our spend. The roads and salt are not kind, so we pray we have good fortune. It is important that you know the language proficiently and know something about cars if you are going to negotiate a good deal – we know neither of those things.  We lucked out and found a nice family that was moving out of the area and we were saved from having to hire someone to accompany us to Liberia or San Jose. We got a 14 year old 4X4 SUV with 180K miles and a few scars from the Costa Rican roadways.  It met all of our requirements including extra seats, so we have room to pick up our parents when they visit.

#3 Canadians love Costa Rica…
I have met so many Canadians here! I was curious about the draw and did some research. I found this fun website:

Ok…I get it, after all, Michigan and Canada are neighbors and I am here!

#2 Paradise doesn’t mean everything is beautiful or perfect…
People call this paradise and it is, but my husband and I have decided that paradise is a sum of all the parts. There are positives and negatives to everywhere. I am in constant awe of the beauty but equally disturbed by the amount of trash I see. I love discovering the wildlife, but check our towels and shoes for scorpions (we have killed 3 so far). I look forward to hiking in the mountains and exploring the rain forests, but have too many mosquito bites to even count. I look forward to frequenting our local establishments for live music and adult beverages, but annoyed we have to set our house alarm and worry about petty theft.


#1 Pura Vida except when driving…
I have already explained the way of life here as being slow, chill, no hurry, and no worries…..that is all true EXCEPT when you are behind the wheel. If you are going too slow, you will surely get the horn and will be passed on the curviest, most narrow roads imaginable. There are no sidewalks or shoulders, so I’m scared for pedestrians and bikers everyday here.

Pura Vida friends!


Next blog: homeschooling the kids – please email me your questions in advance!


6 thoughts on “First Impressions

  1. Shannon and family-
    So glad to hear your settling in to the new environment and enjoying the layed back lifestyle!
    Looking forward to reading more from your blog.. Thanks Myra


  2. Shannon, what a great way to stay connected! Thanks for taking the time to share your adventure with us. I can’t even imagine driving. You are so brave! Miss you!


  3. Shannon and family – have you been to the national park in Manuel Antonio yet? Our son got married near there. It’s worth a visit. Sounds like you are settling in nicely. Thanks for the update!
    Kathy Wright


  4. I am a long time friend of your mom. I was so impressed with your ” First Impressons”! I have considered being an ex-pat in Costa Rica myself. Don’t know if I could handle killing scorpions though! Love seeing this through your eyes!


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