Costa Rica Expat: Casey Halloran
Place of Birth: Coudersport, PA
Current Home: San Jose, Costa Rica and Panama City, Panama
Lives with: Solo
Has lived in Costa Rica: 10 years
What is your occupation? How did you get started here?
I am co-owner of a travel business in Costa Rica, www.vacationscostarica.com and manage a division of that firm in Panama. We also operate a real estate agency there, www.panamarealestatepros.com.
I got started in Costa Rica nearly a decade ago as a web marketing consultant. I worked with mostly tourism and real estate related companies. After a year of solo work, I saw an opportunity to begin my own travel business and my roommate and I became partners.
What other groups or activities are you involved in here?
My real estate firm in Panama belongs to the association of realtors. Our travel agency belongs to the association of Hotels.
When did you decide to move to Costa Rica?
I did a lot of research on the Internet in 1998 while I was still working for my first and only post-college job in Richmond, VA at www.trainingforce.com. The dot-com bubble had just begun, I was working 50+ hours per week and knew I wanted more. I’d studied abroad in Spain and considered moving there, but simply couldn’t afford to start a business there. After a short list of countries including Mexico, Venezuela and Argentina, Costa Rica seemed the best fit for my skills. Luckily, I guessed right. The neat thing is, all these years later and my former boss in Virgina and I still do business together.
How did you deal with the need for a work visa, residency status, and/or health insurance?
Work visa is a nightmare. Fortunately, Panama gave me my investor’s visa after I was able to have the funds to start a business with a sizable amount of startup capital. Costa Rica has been an ongoing challenge and continues to get more cryptic for retirees and those who would desire to work legally. Health insurance is easy and affordable. Healthcare is one of the fantastic points of savings in day to day life in Costa Rica.
Do you speak the local language and do you think it’s important?
I do speak Spanish fairly well and think that being able to communicate in a local language is a vital part of success and happiness in a foreign country.
Do you miss people or particular aspects of your home country?
Sure, there’s plenty I miss. The weather…not so much, except for those fantastic late Summer and early Fall days on the east coast. I miss many family and friends, but since I work in travel, I get plenty of visitors. I recently “imported” my parents to assist me in opening a small B&B near the beach in Panama, so we’re seeing more of each other than I’d ever thought possible. I miss high-level business thinking and opportunities, but so long as one is willing to slow down and search for the thinkers…there are high concept things happening in Costa Rica. The forced slower pace of life certainly has benefits…Ticos live a LONG time.
Do you have other plans for the future?
Plenty of business plans, to be sure. Expansion into other Central American markets via franchising is atop the list, along with starting a real estate trust for Costa Rica and Panama. Business is always on the forefront of my mind, although I have had some thoughts of settling down and picking a country (Panama or Costa Rica) and heading into my 30’s, a lifestyle that resembles that of a grown man. I recently bought a condo in Panama City but sold it a year later while the market boomed, so now I’m back to renting like a college kid. I still rent in San Jose because it’s so cheap and I’m not too crazy about owning in the Central Valley for a handful of reasons.
What is the cost of living here?
After 10 years of being asked this question, I think I can safely say that the cost of living is probably 60% of a similar sized U.S. city. Healthcare savings taking a huge part in that. One can live comfortably, with no dependents, on $30,000 per year.
What do you think about Costa Ricans and how they treat foreigners?
Ticos generally are pretty darn nice people. They certainly have a different perspective on life and business and some of that is good and some can be annoying. I genuinely care for most Costa Rican people I know well and have learned plenty from living among them. I’m not sure if another culture would have been able to make a nut like me feel so at home.
What do you think of the Expat community in Costa Rica?
It’s a very interesting crowd to be sure. Plenty of thieves, opportunists and crazies find their way to the warm weather of Costa Rica. The old expat joke is that it’s “the land of the wanted (by the law) and the un-wanted (by everybody else)”. However, along with the occasional miscreants, there are also plenty of highly educated, creative individualists who have a fresh perspective on life.
What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Costa Rica?
Positive: Opportunities, weather, people, landscape, eco-consciousness
Negative: Taxes and tariffs, poor security, difficulties finding supplies for anything
What is your favorite place to visit in Costa Rica?
Tough to say, but I really enjoy Manuel Antonio and Playas del Coco in Guanacaste.
Do you have any tips for our readers about living in Costa Rica?
Be wary. Use 3x the common sense you did back home. The rules of law don’t apply here…for better or worse. Study, study, study before you invest in assets or people. A bad girlfriend can be as costly as a bad business partner. Avoid the “dark side” of expat culture. You must be PATIENT to survive in Costa Rica.
|Written by Claire Saylor|
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Filed under: Expat Interviews on February 11th, 2008