We left the U.S. for Costa Rica and live much better here on $30,000 a year with 2 kids

We left the U.S. for Costa Rica and live better here on $30,000 a year with 2 kids

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Kema Ward-Hopper never ever envisioned she ‘d raise her kids in the middle of a jungle.

But in 2018, after Hurricane Harvey ruined her Houston home, a journey to Costa Rica with her other half Nicholas Hopper and after that 9-year-old child Aaralyn ended up being an irreversible relocation.

“The housing market was just insane in Houston because of so many people losing their homes to the storm,” Ward-Hopper informs CNBC MakeIt “At the time, we were living in a small garage apartment above a neighbor’s home, with no relief in sight.”

Hopper recommended they home hunt in other places. “I thought he meant we should move to a different city in Texas or a different state, but he looked at me and said, ‘No Kema, let’s leave the country,'” Ward-Hopper, 41, remembers.

From Hopper’s viewpoint, transferring to Costa Rica was a no-brainer.

The couple got wed there in 2016 and had actually been itching to return, however life– whether it be costs, tasks or household commitments– kept postponing their strategies.

“When we returned to Houston [after the wedding], we both had this peace about us, and I seemed like we were losing out on something by remaining in the states,” Hopper, 43, states.

In July 2018, after investing 6 weeks scoping out various areas along Costa Rica’s northern shoreline and disputing if they were all set to end up being expats, the Ward-Hoppers signed a 1 year lease on a home (or “casita” in Spanish) in the middle of the jungle on Costa Rica’s NicoyaPeninsula

The Ward-Hoppers’ pet, Heidi, takes pleasure in the view from their yard in Nicoya.

Photo: Kema Ward-Hopper

The two-bedroom, one-bathroom home rested on 7 acres of land in the middle of the jungle near Playa San Miguel and included an outside cooking area in addition to breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean– plus, lease was just $500 a month.

“Ten years ago, I would not have believed you if you told me that this is where we would be,” Ward-Hopper states. “But it feels like luck or fate led us here.”

Fast- forward 6 years later on, and the Ward-Hoppers are now long-term homeowners of Costa Rica, without any strategies to return toTexas “We’re a lot happier living here than in the U.S.,” Ward-Hopper states.

Finding a much healthier way of life for body and soul in Costa Rica

Another turning point in the couple’s choice to leave the United States was Ward-Hopper’s cancer healing.

In April 2016, simple months before her wedding event, Ward-Hopper found she had phase 2B breast cancer.

“Undergoing chemotherapy was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life,” she states. “I only completed half of the prescribed infusions because I felt like if I did any more, it would kill me.”

Ward-Hopper stopped briefly treatment right before her wedding event. She anticipated to feel ill throughout her event and honeymoon however, much to her surprise, Ward-Hopper states she felt much better than she had in months while vacationing in Costa Rica.

“Suddenly I had enough energy to get up in the morning and do yoga and go on hikes, I was eating more,” she states. “I really felt like I was healing while we were there, in no small part because of the fresh fruit, clean air and water.”

The Nicoya Peninsula is among the 5 initial Blue Zones, home to the longest-lived individuals and greatest life span, according to durability scientist Dan Buettner.

Some of the elements that make Nicoya a Blue Zone, Buettner found, are the Nicoyans’ diet plan, that includes fresh fruit, veggies and entire grains in addition to their concentrate on household and neighborhood.

Both Ward-Hopper and her other half state that they saw instant gain from residing in a Blue Zone for their health consisting of getting ill less, slimming down, feeling more stimulated and less stressed out.

An included reward was the birth of their child Nico in 2020, even after physicians stated chemotherapy had actually rendered Ward-Hopper not able to develop. “I got pregnant within 13 months of living here, which I thought was impossible,” she states. “It was a small miracle.”

The Ward-Hoppers reside in Costa Rica with their child Aaralyn, 15, and child Nico, 3.

Photo: Alejandro Ferlini

Nico’s arrival likewise presented another aspect of stability to their lives by making the whole household eligible for citizenship in CostaRica Previously, the Ward-Hoppers remained in Costa Rica on traveler visas, which suggested they needed to leave the nation every 90 days, time they utilized as chances to check out nearby nations like Nicaragua or check out household in the U.S.

Ward-Hopper’s physicians in the U.S. stated they no longer spotted cancer hires her body in 2017, and in 2021, her medical professional re-affirmed that she was cancer-free, a result she associates in part to her choice to reside in CostaRica For lots of breast cancer survivors, the danger of reoccurrence 5 years post-diagnosis substantially reduces, according to the American Cancer Society.

“Health-wise, I did a complete 180 after moving here,” Ward-Hopper states. “I healed both physically and emotionally.”

Ward-Hopper likewise credits Costa Rica’s health-care system for her enhanced wellness.

As residents, the Ward-Hoppers get their healthcare through the CAJA system, a government-run program that grants 100% protection for all medical treatments, visits, health center sees and prescription drugs. The Ward-Hoppers invest about $83 monthly on their household’s health-care strategy.

Even when they were uninsured, Ward-Hopper states their medical expenditures were minimal at finest. “I remember one visit I had to the emergency room for chest pains and anticipating a bill that would cost thousands of dollars, as it would in the U.S., and it was less than $200,” she includes.

Living easily on $30,000 a year

Right before they transferred to Costa Rica, the Ward-Hoppers stopped their business tasks as a research study expert and home mortgage broker, respectively, to pursue brand-new professions as business owners abroad.

Navigating their brand-new professions– and lives– in Costa Rica didn’t include much of a language barrier, Ward-Hopper states, as a lot of Costa Ricans speak English, and she and her child excel inSpanish Hopper, on the other hand, is registered in a novice Spanish course.

Ward-Hopper now stabilizes 4 part-time tasks: She’s a health and wellness coach, a Spanish instructor, a host for health retreats and, most just recently, an author. She self-published her very first book, “For my Beloveds: An End-of-life Journal for Guidance & Wisdom,” in September 2023.

Last year, her various earnings streams made her about $10,500, according to monetary files examined by CNBC MakeIt

Hopper, on the other hand, runs his own remote logistics service, which made him about $19,500 in 2023.

“Living here has allowed me to explore my passions so that my methods of earning income don’t feel like a job, it just feels like I’m getting to do the things that I love to do, which is to be of service to others,” Ward-Hopper states. “We make less money, but we’re still living pretty comfortably … our money definitely goes further here than in the U.S.”

In May 2023, the Ward-Hoppers transferred to a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath home in Nicoya to be closer to Aaralyn’s school, which is public and tuition-free.

Here’s a month-to-month breakdown of the Ward-Hoppers’ costs (since November 2023):

The Ward-Hoppers’ typical month-to-month costs

Mithra Krishnan for CNBC Make It

Food: $1,200

Rent and energies: $628

Discretionary: $330

Nico’s school tuition: $284

Phone (U.S. phone strategy): $223

Insurance (health, life, cars and truck): $99

Subscriptions and subscriptions: $78

Gas: $67

Total: $2,909

Daily average: $97

Finding their permanently home abroad

For the Ward-Hoppers, the greatest difficulty of moving to Costa Rica has actually been being far from their friends and family in the U.S., and likewise losing access to particular American resources and items, like Reese’s peanut butter cups, a household preferred they have not discovered in regional grocery stores.

But by a lot of procedures, the Ward-Hoppers have actually discovered the certify of life to be “much better” in Costa Rica than in the U.S.

“I’ve had great experiences in the U.S., but we can’t deny the way that people of color are treated there, and we have not had that experience here at all,” Ward-Hopper states. “In Costa Rica, I feel that people are treated as humans first, people are incredibly respectful and kind here.”

In banks and supermarket, for instance, Ward-Hopper has actually observed that individuals will motivate pregnant individuals and senior consumers to avoid to the front of the line. “While it’s not impossible to get that in the States, the baseline isn’t this theme of love, acceptance and community the same way it is here,” she includes.

The Ward-Hoppers state they prepare to remain in Costa Rica for the rest of their lives, even if they prepare extended journeys to Africa, Europe and other nations in SouthAmerica

“This is where we always want to return to,” Hopper states. “Ultimately, our objective is to develop our cost savings and develop a good finca [the Spanish word for “estate”] for our household here.”

Hopper states the lower expense of living and neighborhood in Costa Rica has actually far surpassed any sensations of homesickness he’s felt because the relocation.

He includes: “I’m definitely happier living in Costa Rica than I used to be in the U.S. I’ve gained my family back being here, I’ve gained the opportunity to spend more time with them and not only create more freedom in myself but also more freedom within our family to explore our dreams.”

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