If you live in the U.S and are as worried about this next election as we are, you’ve probably already started to consider where to move in 2017. With serious issues like health care, education, women’s rights and religious freedoms at stake, this election could really effect life as you know it in the good ol’ U.S. of A. Trump is the obvious candidate to fear winning the election, but many people feel Hillary Clinton in the White House would be just as dangerous for the future of the U.S. (We agree.) So unless Bernie makes a surprise comeback, here are the Top 5 Reasons Central America is your Post-Election Escape Spot.
1) The obvious reason: warm weather year round! If you’ve dreamed of living in the tropics, waking up to exotic birds chirping and falling asleep to gently crashing waves – here’s your chance. Costa Rica and Panama both have excellent weather, and many micro-climates within each country so you can choose exactly what’s right for you. Want to be a beach bum? There’s miles of coast line and beach communities of all kinds along the Pacific AND Caribbean coasts! Prefer the cooler mountains, or dream of your own small farm? Maybe a lake at the base of a volcano? These are all options here! Since we love to travel, we recommend planning a road trip, and experiencing all the areas for yourself firsthand before you decide. Check out some of our other posts to read about places we love.
2) Expat-friendly communities and immigration policies. You’ll still be referred to as a gringo, but Costa Rica and Panama are very expat-friendly countries, and there are plenty of well-established expat communities to join if you’re not particularly adventurous, or need some time to learn Spanish. We live close to Tamarindo, a beach town in Costa Rica, which is tourist and expat central. Even the Ticos (Nickname for Costa Ricans) speak great English here, and there are all kinds of North American style conveniences and luxuries. If you’re more of a city person, Panama City, Panama is like an up-and-coming Miami, with a large expat community, amazing international restaurants, and English pretty widely spoken. We do STRONGLY recommend learning as much Spanish as you can though, it’s just rude not to. (Don’t be an ugly American.)
Aside from your gringo friends waiting for you, it’s fairly easy to be a “perpetual tourist” in both countries, while you decide where to settle down. Costa Rica gives Americans a 90 day tourist visa, and Panama a generous 180 day tourist visa, which many people renew simply by leaving the country for a quick trip and returning in a few days. Once you are sure you want to stay, the path to residency is relatively simple in both places, by way of purchasing property, starting a business, or even having a baby! (Make sure you really think about the long term commitment of that last option…)
3) Quick and cheap flights to the States. You may still have to return to the U.S. and brave the new administration to visit family, renew your tourist visa, or for business trips. So it’s a serious bonus that flights to Central America are relatively short from most of the U.S.; not much longer than the common NYC > LAX trip in most cases. San Jose (SJO) is the main international airport in Costa Rica, and Liberia (LIR) in the popular Guanacaste peninsula where we live, is rapidly expanding. Both have great deals and lots of direct flights to major cities in the U.S. like New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Miami, Boston and more. Panama City’s airport (PTY) is larger and has even more international flights, plus their own large airline, Copa, which has flights to the States and the rest of Latin America for plenty of exotic long weekend trips (extra bonus for travel-lovers!). So tell Mom and Dad you’ll still be home for the holidays (if you’re not opting for a white-sand-beach-Christmas instead).
4) Business opportunities. If you have an entrepreneur’s spirit like we do, Central America is ripe with opportunities involving travel and toursim, and just about every other industry! These are developing countries with a market of foreigners and locals who have expendable income and are looking for North American style products and services. Owning a hotel or hostel, retreat center, or tour company are some of the typical go-to businesses that new expats start or buy when they first move here. But if you’re creative, once you live here for a while you will see business opportunities everywhere! You could open a restaurant or shop with a unique twist that hasn’t been done before here, a service that your expat community is missing from their (spoiled) American lives, or get involved in importing/exporting goods. It just depends where your talent and experience lies. Once you have your idea, remember to call us to help develop your branding and build you a website. 😉
5) You’ll remember how to LIVE! Last but definitely not least, moving to Central America will incite an amazing sense of freedom and adventure you can’t find on a weekend hike or ski trip, or even your “exotic” vacation to that all-inclusive resort you went to last year. (I know, you got that pic drinking a coconut with a dark skinned hotel worker, you’re adventurous…) Living abroad is an eye-opening, life changing, soul awakening experience! Because it involves some risk and throwing yourself into the unknown. YES, you will be faced with challenges, put in some uncomfortable or confusing situations, and feel uncertain about the future. You may even miss your old life in a cubicle working for corporate America for a brief moment (not likely), but then you will say, “F*#K THAT, I’d rather be broke and sleeping in a hammock on the beach than go back to that, because at least I feel ALIVE!” Hopefully you will be able to afford at least a bed and a roof over your head. But you will see, once you’ve had a taste of freedom, that not much else matters. You’ll also see that there are people in the world who live with not much more that that, and that will put things in perspective and make you think about what you really need to be happy. (Hint: its not the iphone 7) This is a blog post all it’s own, so stay tuned to hear more about our realizations and revelations on life and happiness since living here.