I Moved to Costa Rica to Escape Trump
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
While 23 percent of Americans said they’d consider leaving America for political reasons, how many have? We found two.
By Mary Wallace
An exclusive OZY/SurveyMonkey nationwide poll found that while 13 percent of Americans would move abroad for a romantic relationship, more would do it for politics, including 38 percent of Democrats who’d leave because of the political climate.
Like most people, we thought Trump was pulling another publicity stunt. When it became clear that he was going to be the Republican nominee, I warned my husband, Jim, that if Trump won the election I was moving to Costa Rica. We had friends who’d vacationed here and loved it, but we’d never been.
On election night I sat in stunned disbelief, and then the tears came. Just before going to bed to cry myself to sleep, I told Jim once again that I refused to live in a country where Trump was president. I reiterated that I planned on leaving the States. He looked at the tears rolling down my face and promised that he would go with me.
I’m a lifelong Democrat, though I did vote for John McCain — I admired his service and appreciated that he picked a woman to be his running mate. I also voted for Mitt Romney, for which I have no excuse. Hillary Clinton was always my favorite candidate though, and I thought Barack Obama had stolen her nomination.
Jim considers himself a moderate Independent. We met when we were both 40, and he liked Ronald Reagan while I avidly supported Jimmy Carter. Jim was attending the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, when we met in October 1980, and we were married six months later, despite our political differences.
We ended up in Rockport, Texas, surrounded by Trump people when Hillary lost. Jim and I both had been slowly doing research on everything required to move to Costa Rica in case Hillary lost, but the paperwork was complex. I researched other possibilities and came up with Portugal. It sounded wonderful, but after spending two weeks there we knew the climate was too cold for us.
So Jim started putting together the necessary documents, some of which were ordered by mail or online, but others we’d have to get in Alabama, where we used to live: renewed passports, our marriage license, my birth certificate. None were cheap.
… [W]e have yet to meet anyone else who came here to escape Trump like we did. I keep expecting to see some of the movie stars who said they would, but so far none have appeared …
We put together all the paperwork we could, bought an RV and, in late July 2017, we packed up and headed for Canada via Alabama. We’d always wanted to see Eastern Canada and decided we’d better do it before Costa Rica. On August 25 we learned our Texas home had been hit hard by Hurricane Harvey, so we cut our touring short and made the most of our trip back, not knowing what to expect once we reached Texas.
It would be early December before we could finally escape Texas because of so many homes being damaged or destroyed. Jim just this week returned from Austin with news that Rockport, where we’d lived, had still not recovered. Our house was, thankfully, rented, but we will never live there again.
After more travel to see friends and family, we flew out of Atlanta on March 27, having acquired all of the documents we’d need. The FBI report was the last to arrive.
Upon arriving in San José, Costa Rica’s bustling capital, we checked into our hotel and the next day rented a car. San José is an enormous city. The streets are potholed and complicated by life-threatening car, truck and motorcycle drivers, all in a hellacious hurry. The cyclists dart through any opening, up and down the hilly streets. It was thrilling, scary and also very confusing. The avenidas go one way; the calles go another. It’s very easy to become entangled in traffic jams with no apparent cause other than too many drivers are headed in the same direction at the same damn time.
Costa Rica is big on security, with more security companies than police stations. Most homes are fully barred, and many yards are too. The crime rate, we soon learned, is high. Those who can afford to live in gated communities do, but we hated the first condo we lived in, a concrete jungle of modern, boxy homes, all without screened-in porches or decks, but surrounded by lovely mountains. After only two months there we knew we had to get a place much more to our taste.
Costa Rican real estate agents handle all types of rentals, as well as home sales. Our real estate agent has become our closest friend here, and today the owners of a bed-and-breakfast where we spent a week came to visit us. We have met some other people but were advised not to limit ourselves to befriending expats, since some are here only to make money, any way they can.
I have made Facebook friends with some, but we have yet to meet anyone else who came here to escape Trump like we did. I keep expecting to see some of the movie stars who said they would, but so far none have appeared, not even Cher. Maybe they prefer the Pacific Coast, and we live inland in the lush Central Valley. I am aware of a group of Trump haters, but Jim refuses to join.
Our attorney is charging us $3,000 to file for our pensionada. We cannot open a bank account here until we receive proof that we have applied. To buy our 2012 Audi, Jim used ATMs to stockpile enough cash, winning some at a local casino playing blackjack and a weird kind of poker. It’s red and very sporty for a pair of old people, and we love it. Groceries cost a lot here, so we joined PriceSmart and buy in bulk, though we still shop the farmers markets for local produce, which is very reasonable.
We’ll remain here as long as the U.S. is in chaos, though part of me wants to return now to join in protesting. But that desire is fleeting because I’m in love with our 60-year-old casa and the gardens that surround it, and I hate the thought of leaving here. The people are patient with expats who don’t know Spanish, like us, but at 77, we’re learning as we go. We are, despite a few setbacks, living the good life. Now.
- Mary Wallace, OZY Author Contact Mary Wallace