Living Well for Less in Costa Rica

We came to Costa Rica by chance. Open to house sitting anywhere in the world, Luke and I were fortunate enough to find a temporary home in the mountains overlooking San José. We don’t have much – a close to empty bank account, a backpack each, and just a couple of ideas between us. After 10 days living in Costa Rica, we’ve realised that we don’t need much more than that. We’re living a good life for much less than you would think.

Incredible Views on your Door Step

When the sun rises at 5 AM, we wake up to incredible views outside the bedroom’s wooden double doors. It’s green season at the moment, so the mornings are lush green with bright blue skies. In the afternoon, the whole picture is swallowed by rain clouds rising up from the valley. At night, the scene is pitch black, but the lights twinkle across San José below. 

Morning view from house sit Costa Rica
Woken up by this sunrise.

Organic Food Fresh from the Farmer’s Market

We buy a whole weeks worth of fruit, veggies, and beans from the Saturday Farmer’s Market. All organically grown, each little stall has only what that farmer has planted – nothing imported, nothing mass-produced, all natural. The mangoes are juicy, the avocados are gorgeous, and the rice and beans sure are filling. We first went with the family we’re house sitting for, and they told us that buying food there actually works out cheaper than buying from the supermarkets, so it’s best to stock up once a week.

Breakfast traditional costa rican
Eating gallo pinto, a traditional Costa Rican breakfast, at the Farmer’s Market

The Neighbours are Friendly

In our little barrio, the milk comes fresh from the cow and the eggs come straight from the chicken, brought to our doorstep by our neighbour, Ester. There are always far more eggs than two people could ever eat – but sharing is caring. Another elderly neighbour grows bananas in his front yard. Yesterday, when we were walking down the road, he practically jumped over the fence to give us some.

Fresh eggs thanks to our neighbour, Esta
Fresh eggs thanks to our neighbour, Ester.

Doing the Simple Things

When you’re house sitting, making sure that everything is perfect around the house becomes essential. You care for someone else’s home, their garden, their pets. Simple things in life, like tending to a garden and feeding the fish are fulfilling. Whilst Mary-Lou, the lovely local lady comes to do laundry and tidy up, Luke and I have been making ourselves useful elsewhere. Luke has been re-potting plants and watering the herbs. I, on the other hand, have been clambering up onto a hot tin roof with a wooden stick and a bag to clear out the gutters. Who’d have ever thought it? Turns out I’m capable of much more than I realise.

Luke gardens in Costa Rica
Luke’s gone all green fingered.

Never Stuck for Company

Sure, we’re house sitting in quite a rural area. We don’t have a car, it’s a half-hour walk to town in the heat, and we only have a few neighbours – but it doesn’t matter. We’re looking after eight dogs and a cat, and that’s enough to keep anyone company! When we wake up, they jump up. When we walk (away from the road), they join us. When we work in the house, they sleep at our feet. When we sit on the porch, they sit with us. When we get up, they steal our seat.

Sadie & Max
Sadie the dog and Max the cat.

I Don’t Need Much to Lead a Good Life

The more I travel, the more I realise that I don’t need much to lead a good life. When I was interning in London, I remember someone just a few years older than me saying to me:

I know people say it’s materialistic and that things don’t matter, but to me they do. I want nice things, good clothes, a swanky apartment – and that’s okay.

And it is okay. In fact, for a long time, I thought that’s what I wanted too. When I started travelling, I realised that I can live well without those things. I don’t want to be tied down to a house, I don’t want to fill it with nice things, and I certainly don’t want to work more than full-time in London to get there. I already feel like I’m living well for much less here in Costa Rica.

Me in the morning
Standing on the porch rubbing my eyes at 5 AM.

Costa Rica: Less Stress, Less Worry, Pura Vida

The biggest worry I’ve had in the past 10 days is running out of wine. And if that’s you’re biggest worry in life, then you know you’re onto something good. We work for a British-based company online, so we don’t have to worry about taking away local jobs. We may not earn a lot, but we earn enough to eat local food, do a little travelling when we can, and enjoy living in a Costa Rican barrio for now. The beginning of our indefinite travel adventure is going well, and we really are living well for less.

Charlie Marchant

Charlie is a long-term traveller from the UK who writes about simple ways to travel sustainably, including how to become a house sitter and slow traveller, eating local and vegetarian, and making responsible travel choices.

51 thoughts on “Living Well for Less in Costa Rica

  1. Eating at farmers’ market is one of the best ideas ever. You can not only save a lot of money, but also get high quality organic products that are healthy for you! Well done Charlie! :)

  2. Costa Rica scared me away with its high costs, though I was staying in the touristy places doing the touristy things. From the sound of it you had a much better experience there and achieved true “pura vida” :) Nice read!

  3. Hey Charlie! Welcome to Costa Rica. Looks you’re settling in well, great to hear! Let me know if you are ever in the Coco area, we’re actually going to San Jose this weekend but just for a couple days. Cuidate :)

  4. This sounds pretty much like the housesitting experience we had in Spain, we stayed in a very rural area but we loved it and embraced everything it had to offer. I must admit 8 dogs and a cat sound like heaven to me.

    1. Then Spain must’ve been awesome! It’s definitely about embracing the good aspects. They are heaven, until you want to leave the house (a few of the dogs run after cars and try to bite through their typres argghh scary!)

    1. Our first house sit is 6 weeks, but we’re hoping to continue travelling around by house sitting for chunks of the time :) It makes travelling cheaper and means we get to actually enjoy the lifestyle.

  5. An absolutely fabulous read and a life style worth pursuing. Well done to both of you for having such insight at an early age and making every day count.

  6. “The biggest worry I’ve had in the past 10 days is running out of wine. And if that’s you’re biggest worry in life, then you know you’re onto something good.” ~ I think this pretty much sums it up, huh!? :)
    Absolutely wonderful housesitting impressions and I can imagine that you could get used to view and the wee microcosm you are taking care of at present…
    I look forward to following a bit more of your adventures and your site might become a great resource as well one day in the hopefully not too distant future… ;)
    Have fun and take care, Oliver

    1. Hi Oliver – thanks for your reply, I’m glad that you’re going to follow along with my adventures :) :)

      Oh yeah, well this week the wine bottle smashed when we were pulling the cork out – that was my biggest worry this week… Slightly bigger than last! Yes, house sitting here is incredible for sure. Are you thinking about house sitting?

      Happy travels, Charlie

      1. Oooh yes, it’s certainly an option for the nearer future. To be honest, your lifestyle seems to be pretty close to my imagination of the ideal conception for life: slow travel, extended stays abroad and a somewhat location-independent work and income and pondering over wine bottles… ;)
        Just kidding, I find it amazing to see your path of life and may joy, happiness and tranquillity pave the road… :)
        Happy travels for YOU and speak soon!

        1. I’m only just beginning though! We had a really lucky break with the first house sit in Costa Rica and really appreciate the woman who trusted us to come over from England.

          Yes, I much prefer travelling that way. We’ve done the short term travel thing, of course, which can be nice for a weekend in Europe, but it always just felt like rushing around to us…

          You kid, but that’s a little bit like us bahaha. Except we can only afford one bottle of wine per week! :p

          Happy travels to you too, I look forward to our chats and reading more of your blog.

          1. Even better Charlie! So I can basically follow your first steps on this new terrain actually. And as you said, the beginning looks very promising indeed…
            I completely understand what you mean when it comes to “short term escapes”. To me travel starts when you actually leave a place behind for good, or at least with this mindset. So basically cutting the imaginary bungee rope (work, flat and so on) that may pull you back once the strain seems to much. Only then we probably can truly arrive at a strange place…
            I hope get by without any wine bottle mishaps and continue enjoying the magic of the beginning. I’m sure we will keep in touch… :) Take care!

          2. Wait until I get a few months in before you start following!! Otherwise I’ll feel terrible if it all goes terribly wrong haha.

            Yes, definitely. It’s hard to “forget” those things when you’re just on short-term holidays I think.

            Where are you living/working currently?

            Yes, we shall indeed! Take care too. :)

  7. I think you’re doing everything right, and it shows, because I can feel you are happy. ;) Photos are beautiful, especially the “Standing on the porch rubbing my eyes at 5 AM.” one – love how your red hair contrasts with the sky and the deep long view. Cheers!

    1. Thanks for the support, you two! :)

      You know, yesterday I was just saying to my partner, Luke, that I don’t think my hair is reddy/gingery enough so I liked your comment about my red hair! It’s a kind of reddish brown really, so sometimes I think it looks a bit too brown.

  8. Looks awesome! I’ve been wanting to go to Costa Rica for some time. The nature is unparalleled there. So neat you landed such an amazing housesitting opportunity. (Found you via Notes of Nomads.)

  9. Wow, this sounds like such a wonderful life you’ve created for yourselves right now. While worrying about ones wine supply is a common problem, if it’s your only one that’s a great sign you’re doing something right :)

  10. Aww the dog and kitty look adorable. House sitting seems like such a good option for travelling cheap and living local at the same time. For how long have you been doing the house sitting thing? And where do you find those gigs? It all sounds very interesting :)

    1. They are adorable! Well, that kitten isn’t adorable when it wakes you up in the middle of the night haha, but mostly her is :p

      Yes, we’re really enjoying it. This is our first official one abroad – just did a few bits helping out here and there in the UK before. Amazingly though, we’ve got a 2 month one lined up after this and will be back at this very one in November. We’ve had to turn down about 7 already because their dates clash. It’s very popular over here in CR.

      Where? I’m going to write a post about it eventually, but the quick answer is we had no luck on mindmyhouse.com, instead we got this one on Craigslist and we post in all the expat forums on Facebook with a link to our housesitting webpage. We also have a free ad in the local English newspaper online here.

      1. Wow thanks for all the info, that sounds great! And congrats on all the housesitting jobs you are landing :) I should really look into this, as I’m about ready to settle down into a slower travel style.

  11. This is wonderful. We started housesitting last year as a way to travel and its changed travel forever for us. We’re trying to get to Costa Rica now!

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