By Sharon Puckett, International Living,

Minimalism was a concept I never thought would fit me. But retiring and moving to Costa Rica has changed me for the better. I no longer buy “things” to be happy.

Through our move from Colorado to Costa Rica in November 2015, my husband, Wes, and I exchanged our 2,700 square-foot home and three-car garage for a home with under 1,000 square feet. But more importantly, we reduced our mortgage payment by almost 50%. We selected quality of life over quantity. Our anxieties associated with all the “stuff” from our home was eliminated after having an estate sale.

When planning our move, we decided to rent instead of buy a home. In our research, we discovered that it is best to rent for an extended period of time during both the dry and rainy seasons. After 45 years of marriage and homeownership, we would now be renters, another new experience along with finding an agreeable micro-climate, which has been an adventure in itself.

We recently moved to our fourth rental in our 16 months living here. Our new home is a Tico (local Costa Rican) style two-bedroom, two-bathroom house, 15 minutes outside the city of San Isidro de General in Costa Rica’s Southern Zone. Tico houses are simpler but also less expensive than homes built to please the foreign renters, and they have lovely interior patios. This area creates a place for gatherings even in the rainy season. We are fortunate to have an awesome carport/patio along with a nearby rancho where we entertain. A rancho is the equivalent of a gazebo you’d find in some yards in the U.S.

Our rent is $490 a month, which includes trash disposal, internet, and a landline telephone. Our house sits on 2.7 acres of land with coconut palm trees, banana trees, mango, and other tropical fruit trees. We have neighbors, but cannot see them. There’s a beautiful view of the Santa Rosa valley and the surrounding mountains, which we enjoy every day while listening to the howler monkeys and watching the toucans and other tropical birds.

Playa Dominical is 45 minutes away from our home. It is located off the beaten path on the South Pacific coast. Now that I am retired, I rise and shine early for beach walking time. The beauty that I witness at Playa Dominical makes it worth getting up early to drive down to the beach. The smell of the ocean never gets old and the dawn breaking is such a magnificent time of day, with the first orange hued rays of sunrise kissing the waves and the soft sand. Playa Dominical is also well known around the world as one of the best places in Costa Rica for surfing.

Both my husband and I are more socially active than we were in Colorado. Free time is more abundant, and we have developed a group of friends who enjoy getting together and just enjoy life. I belong to the Perez Zeledon International Women’s Club and am the club’s photographer. Each year PZIWC selects a service project to benefit the community. Last year we added books to various grade school libraries and this year we will be working with a girl’s orphanage.

Wes enjoys gardening and has a green thumb, which is great to indulge in Costa Rica, as the country’s rich soil and moderate climate makes it easy for plants to grow. It’s been said that “you can throw a toothpick at the ground here and it will take root.” This is only a slight exaggeration.

When eating out, we favor charming little soda places (family-run Tico restaurants) or inexpensive miradors(semi-outdoor restaurants with a view) where we have eaten delectable meals and sipped the famous Costa Rican coffee.

Nowadays, we live on less money, with less “stuff,” but feel a whole lot richer. We are very happy in Costa Rica.

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