Now that the honeymoon portion of our adventure was over (literally, not figuratively:-), Doug and I had to find a place in Costa Rica to settle into. Finding a place to call home and making a commitment to one place was tougher than we thought. Especially after all the fun we had last month bouncing around every few days to explore a new place. We falsely thought that we would just “feel” that one right place when we were there, but the country has so much to offer that it didn’t end up that way.
One problem was that even with all the gallivanting across Costa Rica, we still hadn’t really figured out if we were beach, rainforest, mountain or city people. We reviewed all the wonderful places we had been to; what we liked, what we didn’t like and what we wanted. But we pretty much talked in circles trying to decide while our deadline was quickly approaching and we would soon be homeless.
This is what we knew so far:
1. We love outdoor living spaces with a view. We loved it all; ocean, mountains, jungles. Everything in Costa Rica is just so beautiful. Some of our favorite times so far is when we are enjoying a glass (or two…ok maybe four) of wine or eating breakfast together outside on our porch while soaking in a spectacular view of a volcano, a breathtaking sunset over the ocean or watching a family of monkeys chasing each other through the trees…well that doesn’t really narrow anything down!
2. We will not have a car for the remainder of our trip, so we’ll need to be in a location where we could walk into town…as I had just mentioned, a place with a view is really important to us. Unfortunately for us views come with a price, and not just monetarily. The best views that we found so far are up a mountain, which will require a car and some even require a 4×4. We’re starting to get in a pickle here!
3. We love relaxing on the beach or learning to surf, and the whole laid back vibe of beach towns…but then again I can see Doug melting and burning in the sun. There are some really beautiful beaches here, but in places that are freakin’ hot. Maybe we can get the best of both worlds and live in a home close to the beach but up in the mountains where it’s nice and cool. Hmmm, but then how do we easily get to the beach without a car?
4. We loved our time in the jungle and experiencing nature firsthand right outside of our home, so maybe a jungle home is the answer!…but then again, I’m going to have to get use to being attacked by bugs inside my own home and really work hard at not freaking when finding lizard poop on my pillow.
5. We want to experience a new culture, a true Tico life and learn to speak Spanish…this may rule out some of the major touristy areas and push us out to more remote places that have much less variety.
6. We’re here during the Green Season…which means the rainy season. Rainy season doesn’t just mean that it rains a little more; it means that without fail, everyday it will pour. And coupled with not having a car, this means we need a house that we actually want to spend lots of time in.
7. We need to find a place that works with our budget!…this was our most important requirement, but we were finding everything to be a lot more expensive than expected. Especially in touristy areas, popular beaches towns and areas with a large expat community.
We went through a couple rounds of this and never ended with a clear winner. You would think that after traveling to all the different parts of Costa Rica we would have narrowed down a place by now. But each part of Costa Rica is so different from the next and each has it’s own pros and cons for trying to make it home. We needed to at least decide on an area to start house hunting and came up with a very brief pro and con list of the areas we visited.
So after all of our travels and talking in endless circles, which of these places on our list did we end up at? Well after all that work we still couldn’t pick just one of those places and we ended up in a place that we had just arrived at a few days before, the small town of Atenas.
At the time of our deadline we were in Atenas because it was centrally located to all the places we were considering. I hate to admit it, but it may have been out of convenience that we ended up here. Then again maybe it was because it was still a new place to explore versus venturing back to a place we had already been to. Maybe it was because a National Geographic study awarded Atenas as having “The Best Climate in the World”. For whatever reason, we ended up staying here and decided to check out some houses for rent to get an idea of what we would get with our budget. This in itself would prove to be an even difficult process.
When we first set our budget we were fully aware that we would have to make some sacrifices, and part of the reason for our adventure was to downsize and live a simpler lifestyle. However, finding a fully furnished house that was in our budget but also wasn’t a complete shock to our system was a challenge. Evidently we were not quite ready to give up as much luxury as we thought.
Also, I think another part of the problem stemmed from how I define and connect to a place I call home. It turns out that while I’m laid back about a lot of things, picking a house with other people’s stuff in it that I can commit to calling home is not one of those things. While I don’t consider myself to be an overly materialistic person, I do find that I make emotional attachments to the feeling of home through my stuff. The bookshelves with pictures of family and friends, my memory foam pillow that I know no one else but maybe Archie or Doug has used, our bedding that I so meticulously picked out, and our couch that’s the perfect size to cuddle and watch movies in provides me that comfort and feeling of being home. Well all my stuff is locked up in a warehouse right now, and house hunting and trying to make an emotional attachment to a stranger’s home started to make me feel a little homesick. Even when we did find a beautiful little one bedroom home that hit everything on our checklist, I still had to work through some slight OCDs and anxieties, but nothing a bucket of bleach and a day of cleaning, followed by an incredible day with an amazing man (Yes, Doug, I’m talking about you) and an amazing mountain view didn’t soon resolve.
So long story long, it’s taken us a bit more than expected to find our home here in Costa Rica. We may have ended up at Atenas by default or maybe something drew us here; either way we ended up finding the place perfect for us and it’s been great to unwind for a bit and take a break from living out of our suitcases.
We are finding our little one bedroom home to be very comfortable and with some American amenities to slowly immerse us into Tico life. It has a nice pool and patio to relax in, and to take in the beautiful scenery and spectacular mountain views. It’s close enough to walk into town (if by close you mean 20 min each way hiking straight up and down hills), and best of all, after negotiating the price it’s within our budget (barely).
The town of Atenas has held up their end as well for offering authentic Tico culture, a good mix of restaurants and shops, great climate, friendly locals, an expat community and a convenient location with easy highway access to the San Jose area one way and the beaches the other way.
We’ve really enjoyed settling into our new life here in Atenas. We truly found a place that we can call home even without our own furniture, decor and mementos. I have my soulmate reading in the pool chair next to me, a fresh fruit smoothie in my hand (amazing fresh fruit compliments of the local Farmer’s Market) and this beautiful scene in front of me. All I need now is little Archie snoring next to me and I’m officially HOME.